MONTBELL TRAIL ACTION PARKA
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
June 01, 2014
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a light-weight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: MontBell Co., Ltd.
|Photo courtesy of MontBell|
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.us
MSRP: $79 US
Listed Weight: 13.1 oz (371 g) for Size M
Measured Weight: 12.1 oz (343 g)
Size Tested: M
Sizes Available: S - XL
Color Tested: Ivory
Other Colors Available: Black and Crimson Vista (purple)
Listed Center Back Length: 24.4 in (62 cm)
Measured Center Back Length: 25 in (64 cm)
Fabric Weight: 260 g/m2
Made in Thailand
My waist: 29 in (74 cm)
My bust: 36 in (91 cm)
My torso length: 18 in (46 cm)
The MontBell Women's Trail Action parka is a hooded full-zip jacket made of a stretchy fleece fabric which is 95% polyester and 5% polyurethane. The inside of the jacket is soft brushed fleece while the outside is a smooth jersey knit. The main zipper has a storm flap along the full length and a zipper garage at the top. There are two zippered hand-warmer pockets and a zippered chest pocket. Inside there are two open-topped glove pockets. The 'mont-bell' logo is embroidered on the left chest.
The hem is open-bottomed with no drawstring or elastic. The jacket tail is cut a little longer than the front. The hood provides full coverage with a round opening at the face that reminds me of a diver's suit.
The jacket has an athletic cut and the stretch in the fabric should provide for ease of movement. The seams are flatlock for comfort and to allow for easier layering.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
The MontBell Women's Trail Action parka is listed on MontBell's website under 'Softshell' rather than 'Fleece' although it is made from their CLIMAPLUS 4-way stretch fleece fabric. Also the website mentions wearing it as a mid-layer under a hard shell or as a toasty base layer on cold days. It didn't sound anything like a large jacket that I would associate with being a parka and I wasn't sure how a fleece jacket would function as a base layer, so I really wasn't sure what to expect.
When the parka arrived I was wearing a tank top with a pullover fleece. I immediately could see that the Trail Action parka wouldn't fit over my loose-fitting fleece so I removed it and tried it on with my tank top. The first thing that I noticed is now tight the jacket fit on my forearms (and my arms are pretty thin). I couldn't imagine having any loose sleeves underneath it and could easily see how it would function as a base layer. I was glad that I had chosen the ivory color since that would be my preference for a base layer.
The Trail Action parka has an athletic cut to it and is somewhat form-fitting although it is not tight. The fleece is soft and cozy on the inside while the outside has a smooth tight knit. The sleeves are long and would nearly cover my fingers if pulled them all of the way down. However with the cuffs being tight the sleeves stay bunched up at my wrist.
The construction is impeccable except for where the hood attaches. The flatlock seam in this area is uneven and bunched up as shown in the photo. All of the other flatlock seams are perfect. There are no loose threads anywhere.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The washing instructions say to machine wash separately in cold water on gentle or delicate cycle. Drying instructions say not to tumble dry but rather line dry in the shade.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the MontBell parka as my primary jacket all winter long from late December to late March. I used it in temperatures from 19 to 57 F (-7 to 14 C), with and without the hood and in steady rain. Overall I counted 35 days of use including two overnight backpacking trips, ten hikes, eleven pre-dawn runs, three mountain bike rides and four softball practices. I also wore it for walks and just around town.
|Nice look :)|
Rubicon Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days; 10 mi (16 km); 6,327 to 6,500 (1,928 to 1,981 m); 21 to 57 F (-6 to 15 C) with clear conditions; light breezes.
Lake Pleasant, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days; 13 mi (16 km); 6,300 to 6,600 (1,920 to 2,012 m); 19 to 52 F (-7 to 11 C) with clear conditions; wind gusts to 20 mph (32 km/h).
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 mi (6.4 km); 6,327 to 6,478 (1,928 to 1,974 m); 38 F (3 C) with clear conditions; breezy.
Multiple hikes in the Auburn Recreation Area, California: 2.0 mi (3.2 km); 2.5 mi (4.0 km) and 3.6 mi (5.8 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 43 to 58 F (6 to 14 C).
Three hikes at the Mendocino Coast, Northern California: 2.5 to 6 mi (4 to 10 km); 45 to 55 F (7 to 13 C); nearly sea-level; clear to cloudy to rainy conditions with and without blustery winds.
Pre-dawn runs were from 2.3 to 3.6 mi (3.7 to 5.8 km); 39 to 54 F (4 to 12 C): mostly dry conditions with one steady rain; occasional blustery winds.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
At the start of the test I wore the jacket a few times as a base layer but found it to be more comfortable with a short-sleeved layer underneath which is how I wore it ever since. On colder days I wore it with a long-sleeved layer underneath and with a hard shell jacket over top. Having a long-sleeved shirt underneath worked out fine even though the sleeves are fairly tight on my arms. It seems that the stretchy fabric makes for plenty of room.
|Great at the ocean too!|
I loved wearing the jacket for sleeping on our backpacking trips. The hood worked better than a hat since it kept my neck warm, didn't slip around at night and seemed to keep me overall warmer than a hat. The length of the jacket tail was great too for not riding up at night. It stayed down over my hips and kept me warm and comfortable.
On four of my hikes it was raining hard and I wore the fleece with a hardshell waterproof jacket over it. However, on my runs I wore the fleece as the top layer and encountered rain one day. It was raining steadily for thirty minutes but with the hood up I was able to keep completely dry and comfortable. The rain never soaked through to my hair. I often used the extra sleeve length on my runs too since it would seem cold when I started out. I would pull the sleeves down over my hands to keep them warm and then push them up as I warmed up. I didn't have to bother with gloves.
The jacket performed surprisingly well in windy conditions with the smooth knit doing a great job of keeping out cold winds. My typical brushed fleece jackets seem to do nothing to keep out wind, so this was a welcome surprise. On particular cold windy days the hood was a comfort-saver and I wore it up with another hat on top for additional warmth.
The light color has been working out fine. I got it muddy early on from mountain biking which didn't wash out after two successive washings but all of the mud eventually washed out. No other dirt stains have permanently affected the color. It doesn't look dingy despite being a cream color.
The durability has been excellent with no signs of wear over several washings. The parka seemed to always be in need of a washing but it was used so frequently that it kept missing wash day. In total I think it was washed eight times in cold water and hung to dry most of the time. It probably got thrown in the dryer on low once or twice by accident. Despite the multiple uses between washings I never noticed any foul odor.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The temperatures rose in this period since the testing was from late March to early June. So I had less opportunity to wear the MontBell parka but it still saw a bit of use. In the long-term period I wore it on approximately 15 days including a four-day backpacking trip, two snowshoe hikes, two hikes, one pre-dawn run, two mountain bike rides and several softball games.
Emigrant Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days; 20 mi (32 km); 6,300 to 7,600 (1,920 to 2,316 m); 38 to 75 F (3 to 24 C) with cloudy to clear conditions; gusty breezes.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 mi (5 km); 6,327 to 6,478 (1,928 to 1,974 m); 34 F (1 C) with cloudy conditions.
Wentworth Springs, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 mi (3.2 km); 5,200 to 5,700 ft (1,585 to 1,737 m); 37 to 57 F (3 to 14 C); cloudy with some sleet.
Foothills of the Sierra Nevada (California): 3 mi (5 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m); 60F (15 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
My experience was similar to the Field report period. I continued to prefer wearing a shirt underneath which in this warmer period was usually a short-sleeved shirt. And with the warmer temperatures I usually wore it without another jacket over top except for snowshoeing. I was surprised at how much I love this jacket for backpacking. The hood is fantastic for sleeping since it keeps my hair out of my eyes, keeps any draft from going down my neck and keeps my head warm. I'm thinking of trading in my light down jacket for this jacket on my trips...and that's saying something since I LOVE my down jacket. I also find that I don't really need my light gloves since I can pull down the sleeves over most of my hands on those cold mornings.
Even the light color has worked out fine for backpacking. Granted it gets a little dirtier than darker colors but the fabric isn't a dirt magnet and it comes clean in the laundry without fail. The durability continues to be outstanding with no signs of wear over several washings. It was probably washed six or seven additional times in this period.
The MontBell Trail Action parka is a versatile softshell jacket that could be worn as an outer layer, as a mid-layer under a hardshell or as a base layer for really cold outings. It is a completely different fabric and style than any jacket or fleece that I've ever owned.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
Soft fleece inside
Not a thing
This concludes my Long-Term report and this test series. Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
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Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith