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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Thunderhead Jacket > Test Report by Josh Moffi

MONTBELL THUNDERHEAD JACKET

Test Series

Initial Report - June 13, 2008

Field Report - August 21, 2008

Long Term Report - August 21, 2008

Tester Information:

Name: Josh Moffi
Age: 37
Gender: Male
Height:  180cm (5 ft, 11 in)
Weight:  95 kg (210 lbs)
Email address: joshmoffi AT gmail DOT com
City, State, and Country: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada



Backpacking Background:

I have been backpacking since I was 3 years old, owned my first pack at the age of 4, my first tent at 9. I have backpacked in various locations New York, Vermont, Ontario, Michigan, Oregon and Alaska. Once I introduced my wife to backpacking, we expanded our activities to anything that gets us out into the woods. I usually carry the heaviest pack in any party I hike with. I have recently started getting rid of some excessive weight from my pack. I am expanding my range of activities by to include winter backpacking and camping.


INITIAL REPORT
Pic of MontBell Thunderhead Jacket
Image courtesy of MontBell

Product Information:

Manufacturer:

MontBell

Website:

http://www.montbell.us

Model:

Thunderhead Jacket 

Style #:

2328491

Manufactured In:

China

 

Listed:

Measured:

Weight:

 

Jacket:

320g

(11.3 oz)

(Medium)

357 g

(12.6 oz)

(Extra Large)

Stuff Sack:

Unknown

357 g

(12.6 oz)

(Extra Large)

Jacket & Stuff Sack:

Unknown

357 g

(12.6 oz)

(Extra Large)

Compressed Size:

(Included Stuff Sack)

9.14 x 9.14 x 16.0 cm

(3.6 x 3.6 x 6.3 in)

(Size Unknown)

12.7 X 12.7 X 22.86 cm

(5 x 5 x 9 in)

(Extra Large)

Colour:

DPGN(Deep Green)

Fabrics:

100% Nylon

30-denier Ballistic rip-stop nylon with 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell

Shoulder/Elbows: 20-denier Ballistic rip-stop nylon with Stretch Gore-Tex Paclite

Size:

Extra Large (U.S. Sizing)

Year of Manufacture:

2008

MSRP:

325.00 USD


The materials used in the Thunderhead Jacket are state of the art. The jacket is a 100% nylon fabric which MontBell is calling Ballistic rip-stop nylon with a 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell. The shoulders and elbows are 20-denier Ballistic rip-stop nylon with Stretch Gore-Tex Paclite. This is the brown-green coloured fabric seen on the arms of the jacket in the photo. The Stretch Gore-Tex Paclite allows for stretch along the length of the arm but not along the width.  All zippers are water resistant Aqua-Tect zippers which have become common on many backpacking products.

The Montbell Thunderhead Jacket has many features, which like the materials used, are becoming popular. The Aqua-Tect zippers on the pockets have hoods that the zipper pull fits into to help shed water from the top of the zipper.  The pit zips are 33 cm (12.99 in) long and run from midway up the side of my body to the mid of my upper arm, thus allowing for a large amount of air flow.  The cuffs are tightened with a combination of  elastic and Velcro in what MontBell is calling the Alpine Cuff System, allowing for the cuffs to be tightened down while still allowing for stretching and mobility. The most interesting feature on the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket has to be the one-handed 3-way adjustable hood. The adjustments are made with a shock cord on each side of the head and a Velcro adjustment on the top back of the hood. The 3-way adjustable hood is intended to be adjustable in such a way as to provide wind and rain protection in all conditions. The seams are sewn with what MontBell calls Smart Sewing Technology. Smart Sewing Technology is intended to reduce weight while maintaining seam strength.

Initial Impressions:

The first thing about the Thunderhead Jacket which grabbed my attention was the weight. The Thunderhead Jacket is surprisingly light compared to other hardshell jackets I own. The fabrics feel comfortable when worn, even with just a t-shirt under the jacket. The colour of the jacket is Deep Green (DPGN) and is very close to what is shown on the MontBell website.  All of the seams appear to be well sealed. 

Initial Fitting:

The Thunderhead Jacket fits well considering that when I picked my size I could not find a sizing chart on the MontBell website. I have since located a link for sizing charts off of the FAQ(Frequently Asked Questions) Page. The MontBell catalogue which the company sent with the jacket also has a sizing chart. These charts confirm that the extra large size I chose is indeed what the company recommends. The fit of the Thunderhead Jacket is very nice, it fits close yet allows me room for layering.

The one feature I had been wondering about was the one-hand 3-way adjustable hood. The cords to tighten down the sides come out the back, I found this strange as they are usually located at the front sides of the head. The Velcro adjustment is similar to what I have seen on many other jackets. But once I got the hood up and started playing with the adjustments I had to go and stand in front of a mirror just to see how the hood changed shape, I could tell from the way it fit that changing the adjustments was changing how the hood fit. I was stunned at how adjustable the hood was. While I have yet to master the one-handed aspect of hood adjustment I have determined that this is probably the most adjustable hood I have seen. I am able to fit the hood to my head in may ways such as loose, one side cinched down, booth sides cinched down and the top pulled back, to list a few. I am looking forward to having such a variety of hood adjustments and learning how the hood will protect against the elements.

I am going to wear the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket when biking, running, around town, doing yard work, on day hikes, while backpacking and any other activity I feel it would be appropriate for. I will be checking the jacket to determine how it wears with different items layered underneath, how the jacket sheds water and protects me against rain and wind as well as how well the jacket holds up to general use.


This concludes my Initial Report on the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket. Please check back towards the end of August 2008, for my Field Report.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell for allowing me to be involved in this test series.



FIELD REPORT

Test Conditions:

I have worn the MontBell Thunderhead jacket around town, while on day hikes, and on two over night trips. Activities I wore the Thunderhead jacket during were walking the dogs, paddling my canoe, while performing camp chores and running errands around town. This has seen the MontBell Thunderhead jacket worn on about ten different days with a total wear time of about thirty hours. The weather the Thunderhead jacket was exposed to was sunny, cool and windy, to rainy and still. Temperatures ranged from 10 to 20 C (50 to 68 F). 

I have stored the MontBell Thunderhead jacket hanging in the closet or on a peg along with other jackets . While camping and paddling the jacket was stored in the stuff sac provided by MontBell, often in the top of my backpack for easy access. I have done nothing to treat the jacket with extra waterproofing. 

Test Results:

When wearing the MontBell Thunderhead jacket while running errands around town the jacket was exposed to rain as I went from the house to the car and in and out of stores. I found the jacket was comfortable to wear over a T-shirt. The MontBell Thunderhead jacket did not stick to my arms. I found that the jacket was very waterproof, water actually beaded on the arms of the jacket. When I was in stores I found that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket did not cause me to get hot. Often by the time I got home after spending five to ten minutes in the car I found that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket was dry.

While out walking my dogs I am often in an area where I am exposed to very high winds.  I have worn the MontBell Thunderhead jacket during these outings and found that it provided great protection against the wind. I have found that the
3-way adjustable hood is very versatile. The 3-way adjustable hood allows me to adjust the hood so that the side of my face in the wind is protected while the leeward side of my face can be open allowing me to keep track of where the dogs are.

While out walking the dogs one day I was wearing the MontBell Thunderhead jacket and I found that I was getting very warm. I thought that I had opened the pit zippers before I left the house. I checked the pit zips thinking I had only partly opened the zippers. I found the pit zips entirely closed, so I opened them all the way. Within a few minutes I found that I was cooling down but the Thunderhead jacket was still providing protection against the wind. For the rest of the trip I did not feel any wind blowing through the jacket yet I did not get warm again.

When wearing the MontBell Thunderhead jacket while paddling my 4.88 m (16 ft) canoe I found that the jacket did not restrict my normal paddling action. I found that the
Alpine Cuff System on the Thunderhead jacket was very comfortable, it fit tightly around my wrists but did not feel tight. The way the the Alpine Cuff System combines elastic and Velcro works very well to provide a cuff which fights tightly yet still allows movement and comfort.

I also wore the MontBell Thunderhead jacket around camp. I found that the jacket allowed me free movement regardless of the action I preformed. I was able to comfortably reach above my head while tying ropes to trees and the MontBell Thunderhead jacket moved with me while still providing protection against the wind. I was also able to work in close to my body while getting things ready for my meals. The body of the MontBell Thunderhead jacket moved well with me. When hunched over the Thunderhead jacket did not feel tight across my back and the
3-way adjustable hood stayed close to my head providing nice protection against the wind. While performing activities around camp I found that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket provided more protection against the wind than other jackets I own. 

Things I Like:

I  like that the Thunderhead jack is light weight while still providing solid protection during adverse conditions. I know that if it is in my backpack I will be protected without having to carry a lot of weight. I like the Aqua-Tect zippers on the MontBell Thunderhead jacket. I have found that the Aqua-Tect zippers are very good at keeping water out of the Thunderhead jacket. The thing I like most about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket is the 3-way adjustable hood. I have found that the adjustability of the hood effective at keeping wind and rain out of my face and not allowing it to get down into the body of the jacket. 

Things I Do Not Like:

There is only one thing that I do not like about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket is related to Aqua-Tech zippers on the pit zippers. I found that I have to apply extra pressure to the fabric until the zipper pull is part way along the zipper. I have found that it does not take much pressure on the jacket to get the zipper moving. I think that this is strictly due to the fact that the Aqua-Tech zippers seal so well. I have found this is an easy problem to overcome, I simply hold on to the bottom of the jacket or bending of an elbow depending on the direction of movement. While this is a mild inconvenience I would rather put a hand on the waist of the jacket than worry about a zipper that leaks. 

Over All:

I found the MontBell Thunderhead jacket a nice jacket to have in the closet. I like the way the Thunderhead jacket fits and does not impede my movements. I have found the light weight of the jacket means that it does not add much to my backpack weight while it provide me a lot of protection against adverse weather conditions. I really like the MontBell Thunderhead jacket, it has become a part of my regular wardrobe and not just a piece of field gear.

Continued Testing:

As fall approaches I am hoping to get the MontBell Thunderhead in heavy rains with stronger winds. I am also interested in seeing if the waterproofing on the jacket continues to perform as well as it has. I will continue to use the stuff sac provided by MontBell when taking the jacket when the Thunderhead jacket is in my backpack.

Me in the MontBell Thunderhead jacket
Me in the MontBell Thunderhead jacket:
Put the camera away it is too early!
 

LONG TERM REPORT

Test Conditions:

During the Long Term period of this test I have worn the MontBell Thunderhead jacket while out boating, while canoeing, on a three day camping trip and around town. This has seen the Thunderhead jacket worn for about fourteen days over the last two months. Over the entire test I wore the MontBell Thunderhead jacket for a total of twenty four days and about seventy six hours spent with the jacket on. This period of the test saw the jacket worn in temperatures down to 0 C (32 F), giving me a temperature range of 0 to 20 C (32 to 68 F) for the entire test period.

I have stored the MontBell Thunderhead jacket hanging in the closet or on a peg along with other jackets . While camping and paddling the jacket was stored in the stuff sac provided by MontBell, often in the top of my backpack for easy access. When I was out boating with the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket, if I was not wearing the jacket, I stored the jacket in a large stuff sack with my spare clothes. I always made sure the Jacket was dry before putting it into a stuff sack. After four months of testing the MontBell Thunderhead jacket I have still done nothing to treat the jacket with extra waterproofing. 

Test Results:

While I was out SCUBA diving I wore the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket while in the boat. The boat was a flat bottom john boat and I was sitting behind the bow deck, this resulted in my catching a lot of spray off the bow. I sat with my back towards the bow, with the Thunderhead jacket on with the hood up and the front open. I received a lot of driving spray on the back of my head and body. I found that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket shed all of the water. Even with the spray being of large size and being driven in to the jack, the Thunderhead jacket absorbed no water. I could actual feel the water running down my back. I know that if the MontBell Thunderhead jacket had not hung straight down my lower body would have been soaked from the amount of water running off the jacket.

When wearing the MontBell Thunderhead jacket while on my last canoe trip I had to spend twenty minutes paddling directly into the wind across a large body of open water. The temperature was about 6 C (42.8 F) and the wind was a cool northerly which resulted in me becoming chilled even though I was paddling solo. I put on the Thunderhead, zipped it up, pulled the hood up and opened the pit zips. I found that I quickly warmed back up but the open pit zips kept me from getting too hot. The MontBell Thunderhead jacket kept my dry, shedding any spray and water off my paddle. I really enjoyed paddling in the MontBell Thunderhead Jacket. I found that it moved great, I did not feel like I was wearing a jacket at all.

While out on my three day camping trip the temperature was right around freezing in the mornings. I found that the
MontBell Thunderhead jacket did not stiffen up at all with the low temperatures. The morning that it was just above freezing and rainy the jacket preformed well. The MontBell Thunderhead jacket shed the rain even at low temperatures. I found that there was plenty of room for me to put on a heavy hooded sweatshirt under the MontBell Thunderhead jacket with the sizing that the MontBell website recommended. With this extra bulk under the Thunderhead jacket I still found that the jacket moved very nicely, it did not feel constricting while I preformed my camp chores. I did find that with a T-shirt and the sweatshirt on under the MontBell Thunderhead jacket I stayed warm down to 0 C (32 F). I even found that I at those low temperatures I had to open the pit zips to stay cool while performing camp chores. I tried taking the MontBell Thunderhead jacket while working around camp to see what would happen. I found I became chilled with just the T-shirt and sweatshirt on. Even though there is no insulation to the MontBell Thunderhead jacket it is effective at breaking the wind and giving me that little bit of extra warmth.

When wearing the
MontBell Thunderhead jacket under my backpack I found that the jacket moved well. The fit of the Thunderhead jacket was not affected by my shoulder straps or my waist belt.  It did not bunch up or get pulled out of place at all. While backpacking with the MontBell Thunderhead jacket I found that if I warmed up all I had to cool down was to open the pit zips and possibly lower the main zipper a bit. I found that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket continued to shed water, the pack straps, waist belt and spots where the pack rested on my back did not result in the jacket absorbing any moisture.

Things I Like:

I  have a slight change of heart as to what I like about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket. I really like how well the Thunderhead jacket has continued to shed water. Water is still beading and quickly running off of the MontBell Thunderhead jacket, it has out preformed any of my other rain jackets, with the exception of the gear I wear on the Bering Sea.  The next thing I like about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket is the fact that it is such a light weight item. The last thing I like most about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket is the 3-way adjustable hood. I have found that the adjustability of the hood effective at keeping wind and rain out of my face and not allowing it to get down into the body of the jacket. 

Still beading water.

Water still beading on the MontBell
Thunderhead  jacket  after four months of use.

Things I Do Not Like:

I have also found that the things I do not like about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket have also changed since my Field Report. I have come to find that I now operate the pit zippers without thinking about what I am doing. I now find the only thing I am not liking about the MontBell Thunderhead jacket is the fact that there is no small pocket in the jacket higher up on the body of the jacket. A small pocket would be handy for things that might get crushed if put into the hand pocket. 

Over All:

I am very happy with the MontBell Thunderhead jacket. I have continued to find its light weight and small packed size really nice. Then add in the fact that the MontBell Thunderhead jacket has provided very reliable protection against the elements and this jacket is a solid piece of gear for backpacking. I know that I will continue to reach for the MontBell Thunderhead jacket when I expect the weather to be an issue.



I would like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be part of this test series.



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Josh Moffi

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Thunderhead Jacket > Test Report by Josh Moffi



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