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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Tachyon Anorak > Test Report by Kurt Papke

MontBell Tachyon Anorak Windshirt

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - March 28, 2012

Field Report - June 12, 2012

Long Term Report - August 14, 2012

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 58
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 235 lbs (107 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking background locales are a combination of Minnesota where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona where I moved to take a new job about three years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I carry a windshirt on most hikes since moving to Arizona, as they provide a great warmth/weight ratio and reasonable protection against the (normally) brief rain showers we receive in the Sonoran desert.

Initial Report

Product Information

Manufacturer: MontBell Co. Ltd.

MontBell Tachyon Anorak

Photo courtesy MontBell

Model:
Tachyon Anorak
Year of manufacture: 2012
MSRP:
US $ 99.00
Manufacturer website: http://www.montbell.us
Color tested:
SSOG (Sunset Orange), also available in Fresh Green and Sax
Materials:
7-denier rip-stop Ballistic Airlight nylon
Size tested:
XL, also available in small, medium and large
Weight:
Listed: 2.3 oz (65 g) - Medium

Measured: 77 g (2.7 oz) with stuff sack,
74 g (2.6 oz) without the sack

The Tachyon is a new windshirt in MontBell's Light & Fast series; elements of this product line are optimized for light weight and small size, with some feature and durability compromises.  The Tachyon is the epitome of what a manufacturer can come up with when trying to satisfy an ultra-lightweight consumer.  I cannot imagine a windshirt getting much lighter or smaller than this without a substantial sacrifice in durability.  With the Tachyon, MontBell has produced a jacket that fits in my pocket, and weighs about as much as one of my bandanas.  All I can say is "wow."

The features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • 10 in (25.4 cm) front zipper (see callout in above photo)
  • Draw cord hem and hood adjustment (not visible, both on inside of garment), neither of these adjustment cords have elastic stretch
  • Elastic cuffs to seal out draft (see callout in above photo)
  • Reflective logo on body (see callout in above photo) and back
  • Stuff sack (see photo below), note that the stuff sack is not attached in any way to the jacket
  • 100-wash rated POLKATEX DWR treatment

Many jacket manufacturers are now building the stuff sack into the garment, i.e. creating a pocket that can contain the whole enchilada.  I can understand MontBell designing a separate sack to allow the minimalist to save a few grams by leaving the sack at home.  I've also found I can use clothing to fill voids in my pack, something that a tightly compressed Tachyon in its sack would not do.  That said, I would hesitate to do so with this garment as I would be concerned with puncturing or tearing it, and it is so tiny it wouldn't fill much of a void.

Features not listed by the manufacturer, but notable in the product include:

  • Hook-and-loop helmet strap on top of hood
  • Stiffened visor (see callout in above photo)

Initial Inspection

It fits!The first thing I had to do when I opened the package was attempt to stuff the windshirt into the microscopic-sized sack.  MontBell claims it packs down to 2.8 x 0.8 x 3.5 in (71 x 20 x 89 mm).  That's about right.  And it does it without any cramming.  It's a miracle.

To accomplish this feat MontBell has to use some pretty lightweight material.  I can say without actually performing the test that if this jacket tangles with a fishhook barrel cactus on one of my hikes, the jacket will lose bigtime.  I think I'm also going to have to be mindful of leaning against an abrasive log at a campsite.  I often layer my windshirt or rainshell over a fleece in the evening to trap as much heat as possible, which subjects it to a lot more wear and tear.

After removing the jacket from the stuff sack I visually examined it, and as I have come to expect with MontBell products the workmanship is exquisite.

I slipped the garment on.  It went on effortlessly, seeming to glide over the shirt I had on.  The zipper worked well to secure me snugly inside.  The drawcord adjustments worked nicely to tighten up the fit.  The elastic cuffs fit closely around my wrists, but were not constraining.  Overall the fit is very good, though it is none too long.  I am very long-waisted, and I normally have to buy Tall sizes to get garments to fit well, but MontBell seems to tailor theirs a little longer in the back to keep drafts out.  In this case the windshirt fit well, but when I bend over I have a bit of an exposed lower back.

One of my concerns before receiving the Tachyon was that the windshirt is unlined, and I was concerned it might be rough against my skin.  These concerns evaporated into thin air as soon as I put it on; the fabric is so light and smooth that I hardly know it is there.

Color: I like the orange, as I want to be able to use it as a safety garment when riding my road bicycle.  Visibility is a good thing.  It will also match my brown hiking pants nicely.  The color does seem a little bit darker than that depicted on the MontBell website and catalog; note the difference between the first picture above I copied from their website, and the one at left that I took myself, and at least on my computer monitor, the latter is very true to my garment color.

Care Instructions

Care instructionsI found the care instructions on a tag sewn onto a lower-left seam of the garment (see photo at right).  I sought them out as I really wondered if/how I was going to clean this fragile-looking jacket!  I cannot imagine ironing it to get the wrinkles out -- I would think the wrinkles would be right back as soon as I put it in the stuff sack, but I guess if I want to take the jacket out on a night on the town I could do so.  I certainly would not throw it in the dryer...

Some hikers wear a windshirt right over their skin.  I have extremely oily skin, so I always wear at least a T-shirt underneath.  This should prevent having to wash the Tachyon too often, though I do sweat profusely so I expect it will still have to get laundered every hike or two.

Trying It Out

I often wear my windshirt on morning bicycle rides.  They effectively keep me warm with little bulk.  On Sunday morning the wind was very calm, temperature about 50 F (10 C).  I donned the Tachyon and off I went.

Perfect.  It kept me at just the right temperature until I was ready for the last hill climb home, when I removed the windshirt, stuffed it in its little sack, and stowed it in my tiny seat bag.  Normally I carry a small backpack when I ride with a jacket so I have someplace to stash it when I get warm.  It was great to not require the pack, and just store the Tachyon in a small bag.

One thing I did notice during the ride is the sleeves really flap in a strong breeze, i.e. while riding down a steep hill at a high velocity.  I'll have to see if that is also a factor on mountain tops.

Summary

I am excited to get the Tachyon out into the backcountry and put it through its paces, though I certainly do not travel at lightspeed.  Some initial reactions include:

Kudos:

  • Stunningly small and lightweight.
  • Nice feel to the fabric.
  • Good fit.
  • Pleasant color.

Concerns:

  • Potentially fragile.  I really don't want to do a destructive test to find out how fragile it might be, hopefully I won't find out accidentally.
  • The fabric is light enough that it flapped in a strong wind while bicycling.  May or may not to be an issue when backpacking, experience will tell.
This concludes my Initial Report.  Stop back in about two months for my report from the backcountry.

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Terrain/trail type
Weather
Altitude range
March 30-April 1, 2012
Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Arizona
Romero Canyon
19 mi
(31 km)
Sonoran Desert to Ponderosa pines
Sunny, nighttime lows about 45F (7 C), daytime highs 90 F (32 C)
2600-6200 ft
(790-1890 m)
April 20-22, 2012 Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona Miller/ Heartbreak Ridge
23 mi
(37 km)
Sky Island ridgelines: from rocky desert canyons to Ponderosa Pine woodlands 40-95 F (4-35 C), sunny, light evening & morning breeze 4240-7920 ft
(1290-2410 m)
June 21-23, 2012 San Francisco Peaks in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona Mt Humpreys
25.6 mi
(41.2 km)
Forests to mountain peak tundra Sunny, 50-80 F
(10-27 F), very windy especially near the peak
8050-12562 ft
(2450-3830 m)
July 27-28, 2012 Santa Rita Mountains in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Arizona Vault Mine Trail
5 mi
(8 km)
Sky Island canyon Partly cloudy, 60-85 F (16-29 C), rain at night 5500-7300 ft
(1675-2225 m)

Field Report

Romero Canyon

This is the first trail I ever hiked in Tucson, but all my prior trips were day hikes which limits how much I can see.  I wanted to get out for a weekend and didn't want to drive too far, so I drove to the trailhead just 10 minutes from where I work on a Friday afternoon for a two-night/three day backpack trip.

The first item of note is the Tachyon pretty much disappears in my pack.  No problems stowing this little guy, just toss it in a compartment and smoosh it down with other gear.

I used it the first night out on the trail as a top layer over my fleece after the sun went down.  I could immediately feel the boost in warmth, and I warmed up another notch when I put the hood up.  I felt I had to be a little careful in camp to not snag it on anything.  On Sunday morning I wore it while having breakfast and breaking camp:

Tachyon with a cuppa joe

As can be seen in the photo, no problem wearing a headlamp over the hood.  It was light enough that I didn't need the lamp anymore, but I forgot I had it on.  BTW, the black gloves in the photo are my lightweight Windstopper hiking gloves, a great complement to the Tachyon windshirt.

I kept the Tachyon on after breaking camp and for about the first hour of hiking:

Getting ready to head out of camp

The windshirt was perfect while I was still warming up, I wore it directly over my hiking shirt with no insulation layer.  The fabric is very slippery so I did not worry about my pack shoulder straps abrading the jacket, however it was not so slippery so as to cause issues with shoulder strap movement.  I was plenty warm, and as soon as the sun rose over the top of the pass behind me I had to take it off.  It stashed nicely in the front pocket of my pack; I appreciated not having to open up the main compartment to stow the gear.

Overall a very successful maiden voyage for the MontBell Tachyon!  I was a happy camper.

Miller/Heartbreak Ridge Trails

Tachyon on the trailThis hike is a popular traverse of the Eastern slopes of the Rincon Mountains of Saguaro National Park that had been on my radar for some time.  The weather was a little warmer than the previous trip up Romero, but I was at a higher altitude. I wore the Tachyon during evenings and mornings in camp, and my first hour or so on the trail each morning while I warmed up.

The picture at left is a typical "warm-up" situation, as I had just climbed out of the saddle in the background.  I took off the windshirt shortly after the photo was taken and stashed it in the front pocket of my backpack.  That pack front pocket is none too big, but the Tachyon is so tiny when stuffed into its sack that it takes up almost no space even when the pack pocket is quite full.

So far no signs of abrasions or tears from my pack straps.  The fabric is so thin I'm a little paranoid about damaging it, but I have not treated it with any special consideration and it is holding up well.


Minnesota/Switzerland Trip

On April 27 I headed to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a wedding, and then on from there to Switzerland for a business trip.  The Tachyon rode along in my carry-on luggage as my sole jacket.  It sure was nice that it took up so little space in my one suitcase.  I did a half-hour run in Minneapolis, it was about 45 F (7 C) with a light mist falling.  The Tachyon was perfect for these conditions.  From there I flew to Zurich, Switzerland and took the train to Lucerne where I spent several days.  Again, I used the Tachyon for my morning runs with temperatures around 55 F (13 C).  Overall, the Tachyon was a functional piece of travel gear for me on this trip.

Summary

The performance synopsis from my Initial Report holds true.  In addition, my concerns about the durability of the light Tachyon fabric have so far been unfounded -- no punctures, rips or tears despite the days and nights on the trail and traveling all the way to Europe and back with me.  It has been a pleasure to have the Tachyon windshirt with me.  I look forward to using it in the months ahead.

Long Term Report

Mt Humphreys

Tachyon at base camp
Photo courtesy Derek Hansen

This was a 3-day 2-night backpacking loop hike consisting of the Kachina, Mt Humphreys and Weatherford trails in the San Francisco Peaks, including a summit of Mt Humphreys.  The photo above shows my typical windshirt use up to this point of staying warm in the morning and evenings, in this case just prior to setting out on the trail from base camp near the trail head.

At Humpreys summit
Photo courtesy Derek Hansen

In my opinion, the photo above shows what a windshirt is all about.  The temperature wasn't too cold, maybe 60 F (16 C), but it was difficult to gauge due to the high winds of about 70 mph (115 kph) and the resulting wind chill.  It was not easy to judge wind speed either for that matter; all I know is during the initial segment of my descent I was pretty much crawling on the ground to avoid being blown off the ridgeline, as I could not stand up.

The bulge beneath the Tachyon is my hat.  The wind speed was so high the strap was strangling me.  Just after this picture was taken I noticed the zipper on my convertible pants leg was torn open from the wind -- never had that happen before.  I had to take the hood off despite the chill as the wind was blowing so hard the sound of the flapping fabric was deafening.  I tried adjusting the drawcord that tensions the hood to tighten it down a bit, but it cut down on visibility too much.

The bottom line: I was warm, and no damage was sustained by the windshirt despite some severe flapping.  This experience pretty much erased any concern I had about the fragility of the thin fabric -- these are the highest winds I have ever experienced in my life.

Vault Mine Trail

I finally had a chance to use the Tachyon in the rain.  I wasn't hiking in the rain, but during the night we had quite a storm and it was coming down almost sideways and blowing into my hammock.  During a bit of a lull I put the Tachyon on and went out into the storm to pitch my tarp a bit lower to give me more protection.  A windshirt like the Tachyon is perfect for these types of situations, as I wasn't out in the storm long enough for it to penetrate through.  When I took it off under the cover of my tarp I was nice and dry underneath.  I was impressed with how little water the Tachyon retained - the fabric is so thin even after being out in the rain that it felt moist but not really "wet."

The windshirt was dry as a bone by morning despite being bunched up in my shelter.  I used it again that morning to keep warm during breakfast and breaking camp, and it did its usual great job in that scenario.

Summary

The Tachyon has survived some pretty severe conditions and survived unscathed.  At the end of four months of testing it has no punctures, rips, tears or damage of any kind.  All of my initial concerns about durability have been proven unfounded.

The Tachyon has gained a well-earned permanent spot in my pack.  I won't use it year-round; in fact it wasn't easy to find opportunities where it was really needed during an Arizona summer, but for about 9 months out of the year it will be tucked in a corner of my day or overnight packs.  The weight and space penalty of this garment is so extremely low, and the comfort and utility provided is so high, that I cannot make a compelling case to leave it at home.


Many thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Tachyon Anorak > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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