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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Nomad Parka > Test Report by Jason Boyle

Montbell Climapro 200 Nomad Parka

Test Series

Initial Report – October 20, 2008
Field Report - January 6, 2009
Long Term Report - March 6, 2009

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 31
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 180 lb/ 82 kg
Chest: 42"/ 107 cm
Neck: 16"/ 41 cm
Sleeve: 28"/ 71 cm (from the middle of my chest to my wrist)
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Kodiak, Alaska, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 20 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked all over the Southeastern, Northeastern, and Northwestern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside on Kodiak Island in Alaska home of some of the worst weather and most beautiful scenery around. I look forward to putting gear through the paces here on the Emerald Isle.

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Montbell
Model: Climapro 200 Nomad Parka
Size: Small through XL available, XL received
Color: Royal Blue, Black, and Thyme (Green)
Year of Manufacture: 2008
URL: www.montbell.com
Listed weight: 1 lb 4 oz/ 570 g for a medium
Measured weight: 1lb 7.75 oz/ 670 g for an XL
MSRP: $139 US
Fabric: Clima Pro 200 and Polkatex in the main body. Breeze DryTec in the hood and the wrist cuffs.
Country of Manufacture: Made in China

Nomad front Nomad Back

Product Description:
The Montbell Nomad Parka is a soft shell/hard shell parka that is supposed to be versatile enough to handle multiple weather conditions. The outside of the jacket feels smooth and has a nice hand. The fabric has a little bit of stretch to it, but not too much. The inside of the jacket is fleece and it feels very soft and comfortable against my skin. The fleece covers approximately 80% of the interior of the jacket. The two panels that make up the front of the jacket have a different type of inner material. It is almost like a fleece mesh. This fabric is in both handwarmer pockets, in the chest pocket and runs from top to bottom on the front panels. The hood, wrist cuffs, wrist pocket, and bottom hem of the jacket are all made of Breeze Dry-Tec, a waterproof/breathable proprietary fabric made specifically for Montbell. The Breeze Dry-Tec feels like a typical waterproof/breathable shell material but is a bit softer and quieter than some of the others I have used. All of the seams are well sewn and there are no loose threads or pulls. None of the seams are taped.

The jacket is full of features. There are four zippered pockets on the jacket. Two handwarmer pockets, a chest pocket on the left side, and laminated wrist pocket on the left arm. The hood has three adjustment points – a hook and loop tab in the center back of the hood and an elastic cord and lock on each side of the hood. The brim of the hood seems to be a small plastic tube of some sort. It is not moldable, but does offer a little bit of support to the brim. Each cuff has a little bit of elastic and a hook and loop fastener to seal off the cuffs. Inside each of the handwarmer pockets there is an elastic cord with a knot in the end. This elastic cord in each pocket can be pulled to tighten the hem of the jacket. Each of the zippers has a small pull that can easily be grasped with light gloves on.

Here are the fabric descriptions taken from the Montbell website:

“Clima Pro – Offering the perfect balance between lightness and warmth, CLIMA PRO fleece provides two times the windstopping ability of regular fleece. A water-repellent treatment on the surface helps the fleece to shed rain and snow, so you stay drier on the outside. This treatment does not interfere with the fabric’s ability to breath, however, so you stay drier on the inside too. CLIMA PRO fleece retains its bulk even after repeated washings, and it features a special weave to prevent pilling. Clothes made with CLIMA PRO fleece are ideal for activities that involve a lot of start-and-stop activity, such as trekking, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Polkatex - Did you know that ever time you wash a water-repellant fabric, you are reducing its effectiveness? Or that the natural oils from your skin and hair can also wreak havoc on your water-repellent apparel? That’s why MontBell has taken water-repellent technology a step further with Polkatex, its permanent water-repellent fabric.

Unlike other water-repellent fabrics, Polkatex will retain its ability to keep you dry wear after wear, wash after wash. Here’s how it works: Polkatex is treated with a water-based fluorine finish that adheres to the fibers of the fabric, providing excellent water resistance. Polkatex also contains a cushioning agent that “fills in” the molecular bonds, giving them a unique elasticity. This elasticity allows the bonds to rebound from the excess wear and tear that can result from harsh detergents and oils. Water-repellent and abrasion resistant, Polkatex lasts.

Initial Impressions:
Montbell is well known for their high quality gear and this jacket is no different. Montbell jackets usually have an athletic cut, so I decided to go up one size to an XL that would allow me plenty of room to layer an insulating piece underneath of the jacket. The XL is much larger than I expected and leaves me plenty of room for an insulating layer. All of the pockets are very nice. The sleeves are long on me, but the elastic and hook and loop fasteners on the cuff allow me to adjust them to fit. I like all the pockets on the jacket. I can easily store larger items like liner gloves, and a beanie in the handwarmer pockets and a iPod or cell phone in the chest pocket. I have never used a wrist pocket, but it would easily fit smaller items like a key or lip balm. All the zippers are smooth and operate easily, but the lack of a zipper protection has me worried that this might be a potential leaky point in bad weather. I have had the chance to wear the jacket some in the past week and it fits well and is very comfortable. It has also shed some light rain and wind over the past couple of days.

The cleaning instructions are pretty simple – machine wash warm on a gentle or delicate cycle, do not bleach. The jacket can be ironed on low under a damp cloth. Do not dry clean, do not wring, do not tumble dry, instead line dry in the shade.

We are entering the cold, dark and wet months of winter here on Kodiak Island. I expect to use this jacket while backpacking and day hiking here on the Rock. I expect temperatures to range between 45 F and 25 F (7 C to -4 C) over the next four months and an average of 8 inches (20 cm) of precipitation a month. The jacket should get to experience some pretty fun weather.

Field Report – January 6, 2009

Hatcher Pass 1

Summary:
Thus far the performance of the Montbell ClimaPro 200 Nomad Parka has been very good. I have used it in a variety of conditions – light rain, heavy rain, snow, windy, and bitter cold and it has performed as advertised. The numerous pockets are well placed and hold plenty of gear, though I don’t care for the wrist pocket since it takes two hands to operate. The jacket is very breathable, however, I do find it to be a little too warm to do any strenuous trips in unless the temperatures are dipping below freezing or I wear a short sleeve base layer. Overall, I am happy with the performance of the jacket and look forward to seeing if it will continue to handle the challenging winter conditions here on Kodiak.

Field Conditions:
I have used the jacket on two overnight backpacking trips and a car camping trip here on Kodiak Island. These trips took place in the Monashka Bay region of the island. The trails in this area are basically game trails that have been used by the natives and hunters on the island and are in fairly poor shape. There is some elevation change in this area of Kodiak, but nothing more than several hundred feet at a time since the trails stay fairly close to the shoreline. The temperatures on Kodiak have ranged from 10 F (-12 C) with a -2 F (-19 C) windchill to the upper 30’s F (3 to 4 C). Winds experienced have been from calm to 70 mph (113 kmph). I also used the jacket during a snowshoeing trip to Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Range outside of Anchorage on the mainland of Alaska. During this trip, I climbed Skyscraper Mountain, elevation of 4500 feet (1300 m) and the temperature stayed at 20F (-7 C) with winds around 10 mph (16 kmph). I had an early December trip to Washington DC where I used the jacket on a day hike on the Difficult Run trail in Great Falls Park. Temperatures were fairly mild, but did have an hour long rainstorm to hike through. In addition to my backpacking trips, I wore the jacket during my 2.6 mile (4.2 km) roundtrip walks to work and during my numerous wood cutting adventures. Overall, I have worn the jacket for a total of 37 days since the Initial Report. I have experienced light and steady rain, snow, high winds, and the occasional clear and sunny day.

Report:
As I said in my summary I am please with the performance of the jacket. I evaluate jackets on four main criteria – Fit, Durability, Warmth, and Usefulness.

Hatcher Pass 2

As the owner of two other Montbell Jackets, I found that their jackets ran a bit on the small side so I opted to go up one size for the Nomad to an XL as mentioned in my Initial Report. The XL large is quite a bit larger than I expected and I had some concerns that the additional sleeve length and bulk would be an issue, but so far that has not materialized as an issue. The sleeves are too long for my arms, but the hook and loop fastener on the cuffs allows me to adjust the sleeves to fit me, and the extra bulk of the sleeves has not interfered with my arm movement or hindered my movements in any way. The extra room in the jacket does allow me to add multiple layers underneath without any concern of compressing my insulating layers. I routinely wore the jacket with a long sleeve base layer and a lightweight fleece or a synthetic puffy jacket without any issues. The jacket has a high collar and chin guard that is very nice. I find that on me the jacket covers the bottom of my chin almost all the way to my mouth when it is completely zipped. This was especially nice on the windier days since I was able to bury my face into the jacket for extra protection against the wind. The hood is quiet large and fit easily over a ball cap or beanie. I have not had the need to use the hood with a climbing helmet, but have confidence that the hood will fit over a helmet with no issues. The hook and loop fastener on the hood is easy to adjust and the shock cord side adjustments can be operated one handed if not wearing gloves. I found that they are little bit too small to adjust while wearing liner gloves. The brim is not wire stiffened and I found that to be a minor annoyance in rainy conditions. The bill has something in it to help hold shape, but it is very flimsy and won’t hold a specific shape.
Hatcher Pass 3

The durability of the jacket has been challenged over the last couple of months. We have a brushy tree here called Alder, similar to the Alder we had in the Northwestern US. It is basically a wood bush that grows like wildfire and chokes out trails. To get anywhere on the island you have to bust through Alder so the Nomad received a workout and doesn’t show any signs of wear. I have also used the jacket while cutting, splitting and stacking wood for my wood stove and after carrying several cords of split Spruce logs the jacket doesn’t show any wear. I am very happy with these results. I have also not experienced any issues with any zippers, zipper pulls or any of the hook and loop fasteners – all are still fully functional and operate smoothly.

Since the jacket is lightly insulated I feel it is important to address the warmth rating of the jacket. There are a lot of factors that play into the warmth of a jacket including baselayers and the metabolism of the user. I am a sweat machine. Even in freezing temperatures if I am exerting myself I will sweat in a long sleeve baselayer much less while wearing an insulated jacket even one that has a light fleece lining like the Nomad. So for me this jacket has been overwhelmingly hot while backpacking even in subfreezing temperatures. I usually have worn the jacket at the start of my trips and once my internal heater kicks in the jacket gets put on my backpack until rest breaks or the wind picks up. While climbing Skyscraper Mountain in the Talkeetna’s I didn’t wear the jacket while ascending, just a baselayer, but as we reached the summit it was quickly put on as the wind picked up. I also find that I can wear it without overheating on long descents such as the descent from Skyscraper Mountain down through Hatcher Pass and back to the trailhead, about a 4 mile (6.4 km) trip. Around camp it is a different matter, the jacket seems to do a fine job with a baselayer and light fleece in temperatures to about freezing, anything below that I need to add an additional insulating layer to stay warm. The jacket is fairly windproof though in winds above 30 mph (48 kmph) I can feel wind penetrate the shell and come up underneath the hem of the jacket.

Jackets on this island need to multitask. It can be raining, then snowing and then sunny within one six hour period or less. We received copious amounts of snow in October and November and then in December we went almost the entire month with no snow, only rain since temperatures hovered just above freezing. The jacket does a good job of shedding snow with almost no wetting out of the softshell portion of the jacket. It has also performed well during light rain and the occasional harder down pour. However, the fabric will wet out in a hard rain. I found that the jacket does dry fairly quickly and can be hiked dry if the rain stops. The hard shell portion on the hood and cuffs have performed superbly with no issues.

The pockets on the jacket are well thought out except for the wrist pocket. I just don’t find that I use this pocket since it takes two hands to operate and all the other pockets can be operated with a single hand. The two side pockets are huge and will hold a multitude of gear from gloves, headlamp and snacks. I like to use the chest pocket to hold my camera or my iPod. I would like to see an internal port from this pocket to allow me to keep the cord from my iPod inside of my jacket. I used my iPod mostly for my walks to work, headphones while hiking in 1500 pound (680 kg) Kodiak brown bear country is not a good idea.

As I said I am pleased with the overall performance of the jacket. I think it could be improved by adding a wire stiffened brim and removing the wrist pocket since it is so challenging to use. Otherwise it has performed as advertised. I look forward to continued use during our challenging winter conditions. 

Monashka Bay Sunrise

Long Term Report – March 6, 2009

Summary:
The jacket has continued to perform well over the past couple of months. It has done a good job of shedding mixed winter precipitation and light rain while keeping me dry and warm on the inside. Durability is still good, with all zippers, pockets, and elastic pulls in good working condition. Overall, I have been very pleased with this jacket and it will be my go to jacket in all but the heaviest downpours.

Field Conditions:
Since my Field Report, I have used the jacket on two day hikes at Ft Abercrombie State Park, a day hike in the Monashka Bay region, a snowshoeing trip on Pillar Mountain and a two night snow camping trip near the base of Pyramid Mountain. In addition to my outdoor experiences, I have worn the jacket an additional 7 days while walking to and from work. This brings my total days of use to 51 plus. Temperatures ranged from just above freezing to 12 F (-11 C) with wind chill dropping the temperatures to the 4 F (-16 C) range. Winds experienced have been 40 mph (64 kmph) or more with a few calmer days thrown in. The jacket has experienced snow, and more importantly and nice winter mix of snow, rain and sleet as well as some normal light rain.

Report:
I was skeptical that a hybrid jacket would be able to handle the wild weather we have here in Kodiak, but the Nomad has become a great late fall to early spring jacket for me here on the island. As I mentioned in my Field Report, I evaluate jackets on four main criteria – Fit, Durability, Warmth, and Usefulness. I don’t know that jackets break in per se, but I do find that jacket to be very comfortable, almost like the way an old sweatshirt breaks in. I also find that I don’t really notice the sleeves being too long any more; I have found the sweet spot on the cuffs where I can easily slide my hand through the cuffs, but where they still hang properly on my wrist.

The durability of the jacket has been good. Through brush bashing hikes and hauling wood the jacket still looks mostly new, except for a bit of wood sap on the front of the jacket. One area where I was concerned that I might see some issues was the mesh pockets. I carry all sorts of items in my pockets; wallet, coins, keys, iPod, cell phones (I carry a personal cell and I have to carry a cell phone for work, ugh) etc… However, no issues have developed! All of the zippers, hook and loop fasteners, and elastic pulls are still in good condition with no signs of wear.

I think the jacket is plenty warm by itself for active winter use and in colder weather works well as the outer layer of a multi-layer system. As I mentioned before, I sweat a lot and while snowshoeing on Pillar Mountain I only wore the jacket during rest breaks because I was heating up. However, while hanging out around camp at the base of Pyramid Mountain, it was perfect for snowshoeing on a blustery day. One feature I hadn’t used before was the elastic pulls to adjust the hem. It was quite windy and even with a light fleece and base layer I felt the wind coming underneath the jacket. I tightened the hem using the elastic band and pulls and that completely shut out the wind from coming under the hem of the jacket.

Finally – usefulness. I think all the other criteria are important but if a jacket cannot multitask here in Kodiak it is probably going to get replaced by one that can. For me this jacket is perfect for late fall to early spring here on the island. It is a technical jacket that works well in a variety of conditions, but is comfortable and stylish enough to wear with my everyday clothes. The multiple pockets are large enough to carry an assortment of items without feeling to clunky or getting in the way of backpack straps. As I said in my Field Report, the hood could use a stiffer brim, and the wrist pocket is hard to use but overall the jacket is well laid out.

Overall this jacket has performed well and will continue to be my go to jacket until we warm up enough where I don’t need the insulation of the Nomad. This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Montbell for allowing me to participate in this test.


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