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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Mistral Parka > Test Report by Gail Staisil

MontBell Mistral Parka
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
Page Contents:

Initial Report - May 27, 2008
Field Report - July 23, 2008
Long Term Report - September 26, 2008


Initial Report:
MontBell Mistral Parka
May 27, 2008

Tester Information

Name:
Gail Staisil
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 138 lb (62 kg)
Chest: 37 (94 cm)

Hip: 37 in (94 cm)
Sleeve Length: 32 in (81 cm)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman2001 AT yahoo DOT com 

For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero (0 F/-18 C) temps.


Product Information



Manufacturer
MontBell
Website http://www.montbell.com
Model Women's Mistral Parka (Men's version also available)
Color
Mulberry (Pale Indigo and Gunmetal are also available)
Shell Material
15-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
Side Gusset and Cuffs Material
40-denier stretch rip-stop nylon
Tested Size
Women's Large (S-L available )
Manufacturer  Weight for Size M
4.8 oz (136 g)
Tested Weight for Size L
5.2 oz (147 g)
Stuff Sack (Wt and Size)
0.1 oz (3 g), 6.5 in X 3.5 in x 2.5 in (16.5 cm X 9 cm X 6 cm) stuffed
Model Year 2008
MSRP $109.00

 
 


Initial Impressions and Product Description


Design/Fit
MontBell Mistral Parka
The Mistral Parka is one of several wind parkas that are manufactured by MontBell. Although it's not the lightest wind parka that they market, it has some advanced features that the lightest one doesn't offer.

The Mistral arrived in perfect condition with a small stuff sack, both in the color of Mulberry. The shell color appears close to what is represented on the website (and darker than my pictures show). Although I had read about the stretch panel inserts in the parka, they were definitely easier to see on the actual parka than on the website picture. 


Like most new clothing, I was anxious to try on the Mistral Parka. I had requested a Women's Size Large according to the measurements on the MontBell sizing chart. Checking their size chart is key to finding the right fit because in general I find the MontBell garments to be smaller in size than many other manufacturers (I wear a size Medium in most clothing).

In addition, this particular parka is advertised as being semi-fitted "for better layering". I tried it on while wearing a tee shirt and a long sleeve lightweight hoody. While the shoulder and chest girth are adequate for adding even more layers, the hip girth was limited in allowing that on me. I will have to experiment more with different layering options in the field.

In my opinion, I believe most women would have to size up on this parka in order to be able to layer any clothing. The sleeve length is about right. If I pull the sleeve edges down as far as they go, they fall a couple of inches below my wrist bones. This is really perfect as the elasticized edges keep the sleeves in place just below the wrists anyway. 

The exterior of the parka is very silky smooth and is fabricated with two types of materials. The majority of the parka is made with 15-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon. This very shiny fabric is reported to be durable and 1.5 X "more abrasion resistant than similar weight fabric". Stretch panels (with a flat finish) that are made out of 40-denier stretch rip-stop nylon are inserted into many areas (see below for more information).


More Features

Polkatex Water Treatment

Although technically the Mistral Parka is not labeled as a waterproof parka it reportedly has a high degree of water repellency. The materials used in the parka are treated with Polkatex.
The manufacturer claims that Polkatex "is treated with a water-based fluorine finish that adheres to the fibers of the fabric". Reportedly this makes the fabric a "permanent water repellent fabric" that lasts through at least 100 washings. 


Stretch Panels

Several areas of the parka are fabricated with stretch material. According to the manufacturer, this would allow greater durability in high wear areas as well as providing comfort. Those areas include not only the two wide gusseted areas on the front lower edges that extend all the way to the underarms but also on panels that are inserted into the lower sleeve edges and run up the underside of each arm. In addition they are used for a circular area around the neck and for the side edges of the hood. 


Hood Features

The shaped hood features a very small visor in the center section with an enclosed stiffening wire. On each side of the center section, a drawcord is enclosed in a stretch panel casing with an adjustable one-handed pull. The end of each pull is covered by the fabric tunnel but
can be accessed by slipping my finger into the tunnel to retrieve it. There is also a hook and loop closure adjustment feature on the back of the hood.

Hood feature
Pockets, Zippers and Hem Adjuster

Two pockets are featured on the lower front of the parka. The vertical zipper opening for each pocket is approx 6 in (15 cm) in length but the inside of the pockets are quite large. The mesh backing on the pockets extend about 13 in (33 cm) in length and are more than 7 in (18 cm) wide (basically a good portion of the front of the jacket).

The center front zipper and the pocket zippers are color matched and feature ergonomic pull tabs. The center zipper has a folded-over piece of fabric located at the top end to presumably avoid irritation to the neck area. The high neck zipper forms sort of a gaiter over the neck area. I noticed that the pocket zippers were welded in but the center zipper is sewn into the garment.

The bottom edge of the parka has a single-handed cord lock inserted into grommets on the inside edge of the right side seam. This area appears to be reinforced with a welded gray patch of material. 


Stuff Sack and Reflective Logos


A lightweight (0.1 oz/3 g) stuff sack is provided to carry the parka for convenience. It measures about 6.5 in X 3.5 in X 2.5 in (16.5 cm X 9 cm X 6 cm) when stuffed with the jacket. The sack closes with a small cordlock.

The parka also has two small logos on it that also happen to be reflective for safety. The first is the word "MontBell" which is located on the left front chest area of the parka and the other is a multi-triangle symbol that is located on the center back of the parka just below the neck.


 
Care

When I received the parka it had two hang tags attached to it. One was a simple MontBell tag and the other referred to the Polkatex treatment. Care instructions were printed on the latter tag. It said "Rinse thoroughly when soiled to preserve water repellency. Hang dry completely out of direct sun."

The parka itself had different care instructions on a tag that was inserted into a side seam. That tag suggested to machine wash on warm or gentle/delicate, do not bleach, iron on low under damp cloth, can be dry cleaned with petroleum solvent only, line dry in shade plus do not tumble dry, do not iron logo, and do not iron zippers.

The ironing bit is the biggest difference and I wonder if it has to do with keeping the water repellency. Since the Polkatex tag didn't mention it, I really don't want to touch that but I will send a note to the manufacturer for clarity.

So far, I really like the appearance and the features of the Mistral Parka. The day after its arrival, I wore it outside in chilly May 37 F(3 C) temps with a very stiff wind. It kept the wind from penetrating through to the layers underneath. I'm looking forward to wearing the parka during the next four months for many outdoor adventures. I have backcountry trips planned and I also will wear the parka for other activities such as running and cycling.

Top of Page 
 
 
Field Report:
MontBell Mistral Parka
July 23, 2008

Locations and Conditions

During the field test period I have worn the MontBell Mistral Parka during a two-day backpacking trip. In addition, the parka has been worn for day hiking, mountain biking, trail running and cool-weather evening wear (an estimated 3 times a week or approximately two dozen times for those activities). Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to lake shores, islands and hiking trails
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m).

July Backpacking Trip:

Location: Grand Island National Recreation Area, Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 22 mi (35.5 km)
Length of Trip:
2 days
Backpack Weight: 22.5 lb (10.2 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, Partly Sunny, High Humidity, Windy, Extreme Flying Bugs
Precipitation:
None 
Temperature Range: 64 F to 78 F (18 C to 26 C) 


Dayhikes, Mountain Biking, Trail Running and More:

Location: Trails in Marquette and Houghton Counties, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA
Trail Surfaces: Mostly rocky, rooty, steep trail terrain, also dirt roads and paved two-lane backroads 
Distances: 5 mi to 20 mi (8 km to 32 km)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, Rain, Partly Sunny, Mid-to-High Humidity, Windy
Temperature Range: 50 F to 80 F (18 C to 26 C)

Performance in the Field

Comfort and Performance

So far, I have worn the Mistral Parka more than two dozen times. I especially like the fact that it is very lightweight, breathable, easy to wear and easy to pack. It can be layered with other light layers but it has an overall close fit.

During the field test period I wore the Mistral Parka for many types of activities. Soon after it arrived I found myself day hiking a rugged trail along the coast of Lake Superior. The air was very damp, it was quite windy and the temps finally settled into the low 50's F (10 C). The parka's Ballistic Airlight Nylon fabric kept the wind from penetrating through to my core. I wore an R1 Patagonia Hoody underneath the parka and I was perfectly comfortable until I climbed 600 ft (183 m) to the summit of a local peak. I then vented the parka (by opening the center zipper) but still kept it on as I was quite comfortable.
Water beads after cycling in the rain
A few days later I wore the parka for the first of many mountain bike rides. There was heavy fog when I started the approx 15 mi (24 km) ride but it soon turned in to a light misty rain. I was worried that I should have worn a rain jacket instead but the Mistral surprisingly kept my upper body clothes perfectly dry. I was certainly glad of that as the rest of me was quite wet and the temps were very chilly (55 F/13 C).

Even though the Mistral is not technically a rain parka, it sure saved the day for me.The POLKATEX DWR finish performed exceptionally well as noted by the photo of one of the sleeves that shows water beads on top of the fabric. 


This spring and summer has been unseasonably cool so I have worn the parka quite a bit for trail running as well. Most mornings are barely 50 F (10 C) and the lightweight and breathable Mistral has been invaluable for warding off the chill from the morning clouds and dampness.

Several times when I was well into my trail runs, I would just lower the parka to a position around my waist when I became overheated. I have found that I can wear the parka while doing aerobic activity well into the 50's F (10 C) temperature wise and it can be worn very comfortable into the 70's F (21 C) for wind protection for non aerobic activity.

I also wore the Mistral Parka a few times during a two-day backpacking trip. Even though the temperatures were warmer than many of my other outings (64 F to 78 F/18 C to 26 C), the parka was needed for periods of rest during the evening and morning hours. It also served as an effective barrier from biting stable flies which were rampant. This was in addition to mosquitoes and black flies.....the joys of summer!

The design features of the parka have mostly functioned well. My only nitpick is that I wish the parka had a different type of wrist closure. Although the encased elastic sleeve edges are fairly comfortable, the sleeves don't just slide off without a bit of a pull on the bottom edges of the sleeves.

Since I have small wrists (6 in/15.24 cm) and the wrist closures are 7.5 in (19.05 cm) in diameter, they don't bind my wrists but I feel they could be more adaptable. I guess I am a fan of having a loop and hook type of closure on sleeve edges so that it's easier to layer clothing underneath or to remove the parka while wearing gloves. I noticed that it was awkward to remove the parka even though I was only wearing lightweight bicycling-type gloves.

The parka has been layered over light layers including a lightweight synthetic vest. Any clothing with more bulk will simply not fit underneath even with the stretch inserts that are part of the design of the parka. However, the parka has been comfortable to wear and the shoulder area hasn't felt restricted even while wearing it for bicycling with my arms stretched out to the handlebars.

I have also discovered that I can stuff the parka into one of its side pockets to use as storage sack rather than using the separate storage sack it came with. On one of my bicycle rides I became too warm while I was wearing the parka and then noted that I forgot the stuff sack. I decided to use the pocket to store the parka inside my small bike bag. It's probably not recommended as the zipper pull remains on the inside but it does fine in a pinch.


Durability 

So far, the parka has held up well. There doesn't seem to be any apparent flaws in the fabric or findings. The zippers have all functioned well and the hood and hem adjustments have performed fine when needed. I haven't washed the parka yet but I will do so after the next trip.


Important - Care Instructions have been updated

As noted in my initial report, I was a bit confused by the conflicting care instructions for washing and maintaining the parka. I contacted MontBell's customer service and they promptly replied that the updated instructions were located on the website under DWR Maintenance. Since the former (duo set) of instructions are in great contrast to the new information, the information on the hang tags and garment itself should be ignored. There are complete directions located on the website but the main points could be summarized as:

  1. Never use all hot water or cold water when washing the parka - Always used both a warm wash and warm rinse cycles. The wash load should be also run through a second rinse and spin cycle to remove any residual detergents.
  2. Dry in dryer on "low heat" and that may be increased to  warm heat for the last 15 minutes. The DWR finish is heat activated and must be dried for at least 45 min total to reactivate the finish.
  3. Quickly take the parka out of the dryer after the cycle is complete to eliminate dryer burns.

Pros So Far:
  • Lightweight
  • POLKATEX DWR finish
  • Easy to stow

Cons So Far:

  • Close fit doesn't allow for much layering
  • Encased elastic wrist closures are somewhat limiting

During the long term period I have quite a few extended backpacking trips planned. The Mistral Parka will certainly be subjected to cooler temps at higher altitudes and the approach of autumn weather. I will closely monitor the durability and performance over the long haul.


Top of Page


Long Term Report:
MontBell Mistral Parka
September 26, 2008

Locations and Conditions

During the long term period I have worn the Mistral Parka during three different backpacking trips. They included an eleven-day backpacking/plus base camp trip, a six-day backpacking trip and a four-day backpacking trip for a total of 21 additional days. The parka has also been worn extensively for other sports activities. My best guesstimate is that it has been worn at least four dozen times during the long term period. Locations ranged over conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to lakeshores and mountainous terrain. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to over 10,700 ft (3260 m). 

Late July - August Backpacking Trip and Base Camp Trip:

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail backpacking trip (6 days) plus base camp trip (5 days)
Distance: 72.5 mi (117 km) trip total (46.9 mi/76 km) backpacking, (25.6 mi/41 km) dayhiking
Length of Trip:
11 days total
Backpack Weight: Approx 32 lb/14.5 kg (included bear canister, two-person tent)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly Sunny, Partly Cloudy, Low Humidity
Precipitation:
0.03 in (0.08 cm) Rain
Temperature Range: 36 F to 85 F (2 C to 29 C) 

Late August Backpacking Trip:

Location: Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail 
Distance: 57 mi (92 km
Length of Trip:
6 days (6 nights)
Backpack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg) 
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny, cloudy, some rain
Precipitation:
0.41 in (1.04 cm)
Temperature Range: 36 F to 79 F (2 C to 26 C)) 

September Backpacking Trip:

Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail 
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Backpack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg)  
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, sunny, mid-range to high humidity
Precipitation:
0.01 in (0.03 cm)
Temperature Range: 48 F to 73 F (9 C to 23 C)

Performance in the Field

Summary

I have found the MontBell Mistral Parka to be a great addition to my backpacking clothing. I have extensively worn it for other sports as well including trail running and mountain biking. Not only is it lightweight and easy to pack, it has proven to be both a durable wind and water resistant parka. Even though the parka wrinkles easily when stuffed or packed, the wrinkles pop out after a short time of wearing it. The Mistral Parka is truly an amazing parka in a small package!


Layers and Versatility
Tester wearing the MontBell Mistral Parka
During the long term period I have worn the Mistral Parka during many mornings for the first couple of hours of backpacking. I would usually leave camp at daybreak and the cold mornings required the use of light gloves as well. The parka was layered over a long sleeve hoody and a sleeveless or shortsleeve top. Usually by midmorning I could remove the parka but kept it handy to wear during breaks on windy ridges.

The parka was also worn every evening at camp to seal in the warmth over other light layers. It was the first addition to my clothing that I put on as soon as the temps dropped or the winds picked up. Most evenings dropped to temps below 40 F (4 C). A couple of nights I even slept in the parka and it did not restrict my movement. 

I have found the parka to be a valuable and reliable garment for my other aerobic activities. I have stuffed the parka in a pack on my mountain bike and pull it out whenever I need it. I also wear it for day hiking and trail running as it's lightness has been perfect to ward off a slight chill when I start those activities.

I have layered the hood of the parka with either a thin lycra hat or a medium-weight wool hat. I have worn the hood alone just over my hair. It has functioned well in all of these situations and the gaiter-like neck of the parka keeps cold air away from my neck when needed.

I have used the side-zipped pockets mainly to store my gloves after removing them but they have also been handy to store an energy bar or two while mountain biking. They are certainly roomy enough to store larger items such as a hat.


Performance and Comfort

The parka has continued to perform well. It's been very comfortable to wear during exertion well into moderate temperatures (65 F/18 C) with mid-range humidity (60 to 70 percent). The fabric seems to breathe well yet has kept moisture in the form of light rain from penetrating the fabric and wind from penetrating through the parka.


Overall, I have found the parka to be comfortable to wear even with its close-fitting style and I will continue wearing it until the weather becomes even colder (below freezing). As noted before, I can layer a few thin garments beneath the parka but it's not roomy enough to layer thicker garments that I need to wear in the winter months.


Care and Durability


I have finally washed the parka twice. The only visibly soiled areas were those along the sleeve edges both times. I followed the manufacturers instructions (see Field Report for details) and was very happy with the results. I carefully monitored the drying process as I was fearful that my dryer would get too hot.

The Mistral Parka has held up very well. When I first received the parka, I wondered if the light material would rip easily considering the types of rough activities that I do but it has remained in perfect condition. The stretch panels used in the construction of the parka no doubt added some durability to the parka in high-stress areas.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to pack
  • Wind and water resistant
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • Trim fit limits layering
  • Several steps are needed to launder properly

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest for making possible the great opportunity to test the Mistral Parka. This report concludes the test series.  
 
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