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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Mistral Parka > Test Report by Brett Haydin

MONTBELL MISTRAL PARKA
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 05, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Denver, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)
WAIST: 35 in (89 cm)
SLEEVE: 33 in (84 cm)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

MontBell Mistral Parka
Photo courtesy of MontBell
Manufacturer: MontBell
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.montbell.us
MSRP: US$ 109
Size tested: XL (available in S-XL)
*NOTE: I normally choose XL jackets
Listed Weight: 5.6 oz (159 g) for medium size
Measured Weight: 6.5 oz (184 g)
Colors available: black, maroon and thyme
Measured packed size: 7 in x 3.25 in (17.75 cm x 8.25 cm)
Warranty: Lifetime of product for original owner

Other details listed on website:

  • Semi-fitted for better layering
  • 100-wash rated Polkatex durable water repellant treatment
  • 2-way adjustable hood
  • Reverso main zipper
  • Zippered mesh lined core vent pockets
  • One hand hem adjuster
  • Reflective logo
  • 15-denier Ballistic® Airlight rip-stop nylon
  • Side Gussett and Cuffs: 40-denier stretch rip-stop nylon
  • Compresses: 1.1’’ x 0.8’’ x 1.6’’ (stuff sack included)

The MontBell Mistral Parka, hereto referred as "parka", is a lightweight wind and water resistant nylon jacket. It arrived with two hang tags attached to the sizing label; one the manufacturer's label and the other a label describing the Polkatex water-repellent treatment. The stuff sack was attached to the left pocket. The parka looks exactly as it appears on the website and is as expected.

I chose to test the XL size based on the size chart available on the manufacturer's website. I generally wear XL size outer layers to accommodate a couple of layers underneath as well. The maroon color jacket that I chose is similar in color to what I saw online. The only slight difference was in the brighter red color. It seems a little deeper shade than I thought, but certainly could be lighting.

Packed
The Mistral Parka in its stuff sack.
The Mistral is constructed of two different types of nylon, a 15-denier rip-stop nylon featuring Ballistic Airlight fabric and a 40-denier stretch rip-stop nylon. The 40-denier is used in those areas that I would expect would be subject to more wear, which according to the manufacturer's website is the intention.

The parka has a full-length zipper sewn into the front. The two side pockets have zippers that are seam taped rather than sewn in that open up a mesh interior pocket. The pocket is a good size and provides the only alternative ventilation other than the main zipper in front. The interior mesh lining which makes up the pocket is 16 in (40.5 cm) high by 9 in (23 cm) wide. The zipper opening is 6.5 in (16.5 cm) long. The pull tabs match the darker, maroon color.

The sleeves are tapered down to the cuffs, which are fitted with elastic for a snug fit. From approximately my elbow to the cuff, the stretch fabric is used on the back side of the sleeve, but fully wraps around the cuffs.

The hood is constructed of the Ballistic Airlight 15-denier fabric. It is adjustable via a hook and loop tab that controls the depth of the hood (front to back). There is also an adjustable cord that can be cinched to further protection from the elements.

The parka also touts a water-repellent treatment called Polkatex. According to the hang tag, it is a "water-based treatment with a fluorine finish that adheres to the fibers in treated fabrics to provide excellent water resistance." Of significant note is the claim that even after 100 washings, this treatment should retain 90% of its repellency.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My first impression of the parka was how remarkably light the parka actually was. I have never owned a jacket or parka that is as light as this one. I like that I won't have to pull it over my head, and can also adjust how much air I can let in by opening the jacket up.

The Ballistic Airlight fabric is a soft, remarkably thin material that seems to be equally as strong. I am impressed at the feel of this fabric, but am also curious to see how well it holds up over time. Close inspection of the seams reveal exceptional craftsmanship with no signs of manufacturing defects.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There are a couple of different places that provide instructions for care. In the interior of the jacket, attached to the left mesh pocket, there is a tag with general care instructions indicating to wash the parka in warm water on a gentle or delicate cycle. It also states not to tumble dry or to use an iron directly on the fabric. Furthermore it states that if dry cleaning is used, to only use a petroleum solvent.

The other care instructions are noted on the Polkatex hang tag. These instructions state to rinse the parka off and to hang dry, but not in direct sunlight. This will preserve the water repellency, according to the hang tag.

The final place I found instructions for care was on the manufacturer's website. The care instructions online are more verbose, but interestingly enough contradict the other instructions in regards to drying. The websites explains that the DWR treatment, of which Polkatex is, is heat activated. It recommends drying on low heat, and to not hang dry the items. I will be sure to get clarification before I wash and dry the garment!

TRYING IT OUT

There was a significant amount of wind on the day the parka arrived, so I took advantage of the weather to give it a quick test run. It seems to function as advertised in regard to the wind. I also ran water over the arms of the jacket and the water quickly beaded off the fabric.

The parka easily accommodates my additional layers, which I had hoped it would. I tried it on over a t-shirt and fleece jacket and did not notice any restrictiveness anywhere. I put a baseball cap on and pulled the hood over, which it also accommodated readily. I did find it tough to initially pull the cord through the plastic locks, but only because there was not much to grip at first. Subsequent adjustments were easy. I also put the parka into its stuff sack. It easily fits into the sack with no problems.

TESTING STRATEGY

Over the next four months, I will be using the MontBell Mistral Parka on my backpacking trips and day hikes as my primary wind and water repellent layer. All of my planned backpacking trips are in Colorado, which has a semi-arid climate. With dry weather, little anticipated precipitation and high winds, this should be a great jacket to test out. I am excited to test the parka's long term performance and durability.

SUMMARY

I am really impressed with this parka. It is sharp looking and lightweight. I am looking forward to heading out on the trail and testing it out. I am already starting to see plenty of wind and some good rain this spring, so it will see a lot of use.

So far I really like:
-The parka is lightweight.
-It packs small
-It fits over my anticipated layers.

I will be especially interested in testing it for
-Does the Polkatex treatment provide continued water repellency?
-How well does the ventilation and general breathability perform?
-The durability of the fabric.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Lost Creek Wilderness, Colorado - Brookside McCurdy Trail - May 24-26, 2008
Elevation: 8,100 - 11,600 ft (2,470 - 3,530 m)
High temperature: 70 F (21 C)
Low Temperature: 30 F (-1 C)
Precipitation: snow flurries
Wind conditions: light winds, a little gusty at dusk

White River National Forest, Colorado - Quandary Peak Trail - June 20-22, 2008
Elevation: 10,400 - 12,000 ft (3,170 - 3,658 m)
High temperature: 75 F (24 C)
Low Temperature: 45 F (7 C)
Precipitation: none
Wind conditions: light winds

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - Longs Peak Trail - July 29-30, 2008
Elevation: 9,400 - 14,255 ft (2,865 - 4,345 m)
High temperature: 85 F (29 C)
Low Temperature: 50 F (10 C)
Precipitation: brief periods of light rain
Wind conditions: slightly gusty at times

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The weather conditions I have experienced so far have been extremely favorable so far. As such, I have had to go out of my way somewhat to use the Mistral so far in the testing period. As of the date of this report, I am in the midst of a 22 day stretch of 90 F (32 C) temperatures, which is a record. The thought of adding additional layers has this tester cringing!

However, on my backpacking trip in the Lost Creek Wilderness, I found the Mistral to be extremely helpful as a good top layer during the brisk evening temperatures. Having just a fleece jacket on over my regular clothes, I found the temperatures to work through the layers, but when I added the Mistral Parka as a final layer, I was instantly more comfortable. I did not notice any wind penetration whatsoever. I also noted that it fitted easily over the layers I had on (long underwear, shirt and fleece).

During my backpacking trip to the White River National Forest, it was much of the same experience. During the cold nights, I donned the Mistral as a barrier. It wasn't until July that I was able to test the product for any significant winds and water repellency. On a number of sections, the wind increased significantly, upwards of 35 mph (56 km/h). I was relieved to have the Mistral on to cut out the wind, which it did admirably. Again, I noticed no wind penetration.

There was a brief shower on the way up the trail while we were still under tree line, so I decided to test out the Mistral for water resistance. I was pleased to find that the jacket held up well. I did not notice any water coming through after about 15 minutes of light rain.

IMAGE 1
MontBell Mistral in use during light rain.


I have had the chance to test out the water repellency on a couple of day hikes and once on my mountain bike. I had biked to work expecting a nice day, but by the afternoon, showers had moved in, and I had to bike the 2,000 ft (610 m) home in hard, driving rain. I threw on the Mistral since I had nothing else. There was quite a bit of water penetration in the shoulders, but none elsewhere. This was a little disappointing since it had performed well on previous short rains. My bike ride is less than 5 minutes, so I had hoped it would work equally as well. On the hiking trips I took with rain, the precipitation was light and short-lived. On these trips, I remained dry.

As for the comfort and fit, I have been very pleased. The Mistral is comfortable and easily accommodates the layers I have needed so far. The cuffs on the wrist are just right for me, and the waist has plenty of room for when I need it. It is easy to tighten with one hand, but loosening it does require two. So far, I have been pleased with the breathability of the fabric as well. Because of the high temperatures, I haven't needed to wear it much. But the mesh pockets have provided adequate ventilation for me so far.

UPDATE TO CARE AND MAINTENANCE

As noted in the Initial Report, there is an apparent discrepancy in the care of the MontBell Mistral Parka. I contacted MontBell's Customer Service and received a prompt and courteous response. The Mistral Parka should be placed in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes to reactivate the DWR treatment. The CS representative knew right away what I was talking about.

SUMMARY

So far, the MontBell Mistral Parka has performed exactly as advertised and expected. The summer monsoon season is just beginning locally, which should provide some more exciting weather to test in.

Things that make me happy so far:
-Excellent wind protection
-Easily works with my layering system
-Good breathability

Things that could be improved upon:
-Does not seem to repel driving rains, even short-lived ones. Of course, it is advertised as water repellent, not waterproof. The point here is that there is a clear limit to this function.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado - Missouri Lakes Trail - August 23-24, 2008
Elevation: 10,250 - 11,250 ft (3,124 - 3,430 m)
High Temperature: 79 F (26 C)
Low Temperature: 45 F (7 C)
Precipitation: occasional thunderstorms
Wind Conditions: light to moderate winds

San Isabel National Forest, Hancock, Colorado - Car Camping Trip - August 30 - September 1, 2008
Elevation: 11,150 - 14,000 ft (2,865 - 4,345 m)
High temperature: 77 F (25 C)
Low Temperature: 45 F (7 C)
Precipitation: light to heavy rains, prolonged at times.
Wind conditions: high winds on Mt Antero
Activities: Day hikes (2), off-roading and rock-hounding

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado - Kroenke Lake and Horn Fork Trails- September 27 - 30, 2008
Elevation: 9,950 - 12,750 ft (3,033 - 3,886 m)
High temperature: 80 F (27 C)
Low Temperature: 35 F (2 C)
Precipitation: occasional light rain and snow mix.
Wind conditions: light to moderate winds

Other activities: I also took an additional 3 day hikes. Of particular note was a hike up Mt Evans to 14,264 ft (4,348 m) where the winds were pretty strong at times.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have been extremely impressed with the Mistral Parka throughout this test series, which has included 17 days camping and backpacking. The jacket still fits well, and as temperatures have gotten colder I still have room to add the additional layers I need to stay warm. I have found that the adjustability of the waist and hood is easy to operate, even with gloves on. While hiking Mt Evans, there was an impressive amount of wind at times, and the temperature was deceptively cool. I was able to adjust all the layers I needed with gloves still on. While the hood provides good coverage, I did not notice a problem with the peripheral vision. I have worn both ball caps and winter hats with the Mistral Parka. The stuff sack has gone "missing" a couple of times, usually finding its way to the far reaches of my pack, but I have always found it again. Even so, the jacket packs small and is easy to stow away.

I have found the Mistral Parka best suited for windy conditions or periods where just a just a fleece layer is not warm enough. Most of the time I have used the jacket in the evening to keep the heat from escaping the fleece jackets I own. I also love how well it works in the fierce winds on the summits. When the wind started to blow hard, I just cinched up the draw strings to keep the wind out. While on trail this jacket is much more comfortable to keep out light rains than a rain jacket. While I have kept my rain jacket handy for the heavy downpours, I have kept the Mistral Parka handy for drizzling conditions because the ventilation seems better than my rain jacket. Another positive feature has been the remarkable flexibility I have when the jacket is on. The jacket is hardly noticeable while performing camp chores.

After four months of use there are no holes, tears or loose threads. On more than one occasion I had to fight through tall bushes and vegetation while route finding. I was concerned about the fabric, but it held up wonderfully! The vegetation was normally willows, and I never encountered anything with sharp thorns. There were a few times that I needed to clean the jacket, and I have followed the instructions I received from customer service. The Mistral Parka is still performing great!

mistralev
The MontBell Mistral Parka in use.

SUMMARY

PROS
- Lightweight
- Very flexible; did not restrict my movements
- Easy to store
- Excellent wind protection!
- Durable

CONS
- It would be nice to have a self storage option

CONTINUED USE

I really enjoy this wind jacket. The MontBell Mistral Parka will have a permanent spot in my gear closet. I especially like that I can wear this jacket as an extra layer for warmth for very little weight.

This concludes my test series for the MontBell Mistral Parka. I want to thank BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell for the opportunity to be a part of this test series.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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