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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Trail Action Parka > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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Photo courtesy MontBell

MontBell — Trail Action Parka

Test Series by Derek Hansen

TESTER INFORMATION

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NameDerek Hansen
Age37
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
Email Address pix-obfuscated
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical overnight pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), each of which includes food and water. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer MontBell, Co., Ltd.,
Year of Manufacture 2013, made in Thailand
Manufacturer’s Website montbell.us
MSRP US$79
Listed Features
  • 4-way stretch
  • CLIMAPLUS Stretch fleece
  • Flat lock seams for comfort and easier layering
  • Full coverage hood
  • 2 zippered hand pockets
  • 2 interior drop in pockets
  • 1 zippered Napoleon pocket
  • Open bottom hem
Manufacturer Recommendations

Designed as a "light mid-layer under a hard shell or a toasty base in colder winter temps."

Measurements
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight 13.9 oz (394 g) 14.1 oz (400 g) for Medium
Center Back Length 28 in (71 cm) 28 in (71 cm) for Medium
Colors Cactus (Green), Black, Dark Blue
Accessories None


INITIAL REPORT

1 Jan 2014

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The MontBell Trail Action Parka is designed as either a light mid-layer or a base layer depending on conditions. The parka is designed with a sculpted hood that fits tightly around the head and face allowing a helmet to fit over top. There is a chest pocket (Napoleon pocket) over the left breast, and two hand pockets on each side. The center zip has a draft liner that runs the length. There are no draw cords.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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Trying It On - The material is soft and very breathable. The interior feels plush while the outside resembles a soft shell. When I wore the jacket around my house, I never really warmed up too much or overheated, something that worried me a little (I was hoping for more heat retention).

On a day hike, when my body temperature was worked up, I felt comfortable except along my forearms, which were cool, but not uncomfortably cold. The parka breathes so well that it seems to lose heat quickly. I found on a second hike that by adding just a lightweight wind shell, the parka worked very well as an insulating layer. This combination worked in temperatures at freezing like a charm.

Fit - I picked the medium size based on the measurements I took and the fit is snug. I'm not as "athletic" formed as I guessed, but the fit isn't tight. Knowing this is to be used as a base layer or with some light layers underneath, I think the fit is just fine.

Pockets - The first thing I noticed after getting the parka on was the location of the side pockets. They felt about 1 inch (2.5 cm) higher than where I would naturally slide my hands in. It was mildly annoying, but after putting on a backpack, I see that the pockets are designed more with a hip belt in mind as the pockets easily clear the belt and are usable while wearing a pack.

There are two interior pockets that are formed out of the lining of the side pockets.

Hood - The hood is fitted and snug, which is nice for adding layers above. The thing I noticed, and liked, is that when wearing the hood I can still hear well. Often, when wearing hoods on jackets, sounds are muffled and scattered. I like this hood because I can keep it on for warmth, I retain my peripheral vision, and can still hear well.

INITIAL SUMMARY

PRO—Very breathable. Nice fitted hood.

CON—Pockets are a little high for everyday wear.

FIELD REPORT

9 Apr 2014

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've used the parka on a few backpacking trips, trail runs, and a few day hikes.

Jan 31-Feb 1: Cinder Hills, Flagstaff, Arizona. This was a quick overnight backpacking trip on the Cinder Hills surrounding Flagstaff. We've had a record-breaking dry spell with warm temperatures all winter (so far), but it began to snow this weekend so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Low temperature was 23°F (-5°C).

Feb 14-15: Fossil Springs, near Strawberry, Arizona. This was one of our annual backpacking trips with the troop, with an 8 mile (13 km) trail down into the canyon. The elevation was 5,500 ft (1,676 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the upper-20s °F (-5 °C).

Mar 7-8: Mormon Lake, Arizona. This was a base camp near the lake at 7,000 ft (2,134 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the low-20s °F (-7 °C).

Mar 21-22: Flagstaff, Arizona. The elevation was 7,000 ft (2,134 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the low-20s °F (-5 °C).

Mar 28-29: Flagstaff, Arizona. The elevation was 7,000 ft (2,134 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the low-30s °F (-1 °C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This jacket has really found a niche in my clothing regime. It breathes really well. This is not good when it is windy, at least when I want to retain heat and not have it pulled away. When trail running or hiking, the parka has proven perfect for ventilation and warmth.

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Appearance/durability - The parka has retained its "like new" appearance, even after multiple washes. After a trail run or camping trip, I've tossed the parka to get laundered and everything has been just fine. The zippers have worked perfectly without any snags. The hidden Napoleon pocket sometimes hides the zipper so well I really have to dig to find it.

Warmth/Wind Resistance - Most of my trips have hovered in the 20 to 30°F (-7 to -1°C) range. Usually for this temperature I would bring along a down jacket, but so far, I've been fine with just the parka and a wind shirt. This combination has been so effective that it has is turning into my preferred lightweight system. I worry less about sweating through the insulation (not good with down). I can vent or adjust my layers enough so that I can keep dry as it cools. As I mentioned before, the jacket breathes really well, so during my cold morning runs, I get a good balance of heat retention without overheating. Sometimes my arms have felt cool, but it hasn't bothered me. The only trip where I wanted more insulation was to Mormon Lake. I think one difference is that this was a car camping trip with very little activity, so my metabolism wasn't working as hard and so I wasn't producing as much heat.

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Comfort - The fit is snug and slightly athletic. The fit on my arms is tight, but not constricting, so long as I don't wear any layers underneath. I've found a wicking layer and/or a t-shirt under the parka is about the best base layer. Long-sleeve shirts don't work as the parka is too tight. I wish the parka was a little longer around my torso, maybe an inch or so, as I often find that the fabric will bunch up around my waste and leave my tender skin exposed. The parka has also been a good reminder for me to lose those extra pounds around my middle.

Pockets - I mostly keep my cell phone or small camera in the chest pocket. I've often placed bulky items in the inner pockets, such as hats, gloves, and balaclavas. Since the jacket is so fitted, I often get a nice pot belly look when I keep things in my pockets. The outside hand pockets, as I mentioned before, are sewn a little higher than I've seen on other jackets, yet they are perfectly spaced for accommodating a backpack's hip belt.

FIELD USE SUMMARY

The MontBell Parka continues to perform well and I love wearing it! I have no real complaints.


LONG-TERM REPORT

27 May 2014

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've taken the parka on multiple additional overnight trips and a few day hikes, totaling more than 20 miles of backpacking. Here are some highlighted trips:

Apr 26: Picture Canyon, Flagstaff, Arizona. The elevation was 7,000 ft (2,134 m). We caught a spring snow storm during this two mile (3.2 km) day hike into this secluded canyon.

Apr 28: Wupatki National Monument, Arizona. The elevation was 6,960 ft (2,121 m). This was a half-day exploration of various sites in the monument with short hikes. It was a warm day, in the 70s°F (21°C), but the wind was gusting, which made the temperature feel much cooler.

May 16-17: JD Dam, Arizona. This overnight base camp trip included canoeing and exploring the lake with my sons.

May 23-24: Horsetail Falls, Alpine, Utah. The elevation was 7,600 ft (2,316 m). This quick backpacking trip covered four miles (6.4 km) and 1,900 feet (580 m) of elevation gain. Overnight temperatures dipped into the mid 30s°F (0°C) with rain.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

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This jacket has really been a workhorse for me. I'm surprised at how well it has kept my core temperature in a variety of conditions. My typical layering has been a wicking t-shirt base layer and then the parka followed by an outer shell. With the addition of a shell, I've been able to hike warm and comfortable in some blizzards.

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On my hike up to Horsetail Falls, I was again reminded of why I'm glad the front pockets are sewn a little higher -- with my hip belt fastened, I can still easily access the zippers and have full access for my hands.

On this hike, we gained a lot of elevation in a short distance and I was sweating heavily. The parka was soaked by the time we found a campsite. While I made camp, I took the jacket off to dry, but it remained a little damp in spite of some good wind. I wanted the jacket to keep me warm at night, so I wore it to bed even though it was a little wet.

I was chilled for about an hour, but eventually I warmed back up and slept well. The jacket was dry by morning.

The fitted hood is also great. I most often use it when I'm sleeping, but when it is really cold, I use it while hiking.

FINAL SUMMARY

This has been one of my favorite mid-layers I've used for a while. It breathes very well, so I've been able to wear it on some vigorous hiking and it was able to keep off the chill while still keeping me warm. It is a good balance.

PRO—Visually appealing, good pockets and storage, breathable, warm, and well-designed.

CON—I wish it dried faster.


I would like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Trail Action Parka > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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