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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Ultralight Wind Jacket > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
The MontBell Ultra Light Wind Jacket, here after referred to as the jacket or the Wind Jacket, is part of MontBell's Light and Fast line. It is made of 100% Ballistic Airlight nylon and has a very smooth and silky feel. The jacket has a full length front zipper that extends up to the top of the collar. (Pictured on the bottom right) There is light weight elastic on each cuff and in two spots along the sides of the bottom hem. There is a small pocket on the bicep area of the left sleeve. (Pictured on the top right) The pocket is shallow and opens and closes with a concealed zipper that cuts diagonally across the pocket. There are two reflective logos, one on the pocket and a second on the back of the jacket just below the collar. Finally, the stuff sack, which closes with a draw cord, is made of the same material and is the same color as the jacket.
The MontBell U.L.Wind Jacket arrived on Thursday Aug. 16th. Shortly after arrival I made an initial inspection of both the stuff sack and the jacket. They each look to be in perfect condition. I did not notice any loose threads or inconsistencies along the hem lines or on any of the seams and all elastic functions as it should. The main zipper works as does the zipper for the sleeve pocket. The cord lock and the fabric of the stuff sack also are in good working order. It's ready to wear right out of the package.
The Wind Jacket had a cluster of three hang tags attached to it; one with specifics about the jacket (name, color, size, etc), one with a short explanation of the Ballistic Airlight nylon and the other with information about the Polkatex water-repellent treatment, both produced by MontBell. The last tag gave instruction on how to care for the jacket's DWR coating. Missing was the jacket's weight, which I find helpful when I'm browsing in a store. The weight is listed on the manufacturer's website, however. Since there really isn't a need for "directions" as such with this piece of gear, I found the included informational material perfectly sufficient.
The MontBell U.L. Wind Jacket is almost exactly what I was expecting after having viewed the manufacturer's website several times. There are only two discrepancies, the first is super minor and has to do with the color of the zipper and trim around the zipper. The picture shows these in black, my jacket has them in white. The other has to do with the fit of the jacket. Because I am a tall woman I rarely find women's garments with long enough sleeves so I chose the men's version of the Wind Jacket over the women's option. After looking at the sizing chart on the website I ordered the men's large assuming it would be a little bigger than my actual size (men's medium) giving me room to wear the jacket over other insulating clothing. Despite ordering what I thought would be one size up, the men's large actually fits just right. I tried it on over a 100 weight fleece pullover and it was doable so I think I will be okay to wear it over a couple of thin layers. This isn't a complaint, I'm only mentioning it so potential buyers will know it might run a little smaller than what is listed on the sizing chart.
I like the look of the jacket even though the white color makes it nearly see-through. It's silky and I hardly notice I'm wearing it it's so light. So far, I haven't noticed any static build up on the fabric either, which is surprising to me but a huge plus. The sleeve pocket is so small I'm not sure what I will use it for. It would probably work well for an iPod or a travel size package of tissue. Right now, I've been storing the stuff sack there so I don't lose it. I'll experiment with a few things and post my findings in the Field Report. Speaking of the stuff sack, this one is plenty spacious, maybe overly so. My measured stuffed size of 5.75 in x 3.5 in x 2.25 (14.5 cm x 9 cm x 5.5 cm) is nearly twice the size as the manufacturers listed dimensions. While I'm not a fan of having to spend unnecessary time coaxing a piece of gear into its stuff sack I do think it could be a little smaller and when squished down further in the sack, the dimensions are much closer to MontBell's.
Lastly, I think the most interesting feature of this garment is the Durable Water Repellent finish. MontBell uses a treatment called Polkatex that they claim "is so durable that even after 100 washings, it still retains 90% of its original water repellency." I don't believe I will be able to get anywhere near 100 washes within the short four month span of this test series but I will certainly be reporting on how well the DWR works during any bouts of precipitation I encounter while in the field. I will also be careful to follow the care instructions so as to preserve the Polkatex and prolong its repellency.
This is the second of three reports; all opinions and observations in this section have been gathered after two months of use in the field.
I have worn the MontBell Ultra Light Wind Jacket on several day/night hikes and around town for a total of 21 hours. It is wonderfully light and I have quite often forgotten I'm wearing it. Packability is great; I have on more than one occasion walked with it crumpled into a cargo pocket so I could get it out quickly when needed. All zippers are in good working order and the fabric is in good shape despite a few run-ins with tree branches. Performance has been top notch, even in high winds and in chilly temperatures. The jacket has done a fine job of keeping me warm and protected.
OUTING #1 and #2 - Becoming and Outdoor Woman retreat outside Prescott, AZ, elevation 5,200 ft (1,600 m). I participated in two night hikes during this three day retreat; both hikes lasted about two hours each. Temperatures were mild, in the upper 60's (20 C) with very light wind.
On the first night I was wearing a tank top and on the second night, a short sleeve t-shirt. Our hike passed a large meadow and circled a big pond in addition to some forested terrain. The wind jacket worked great; in fact I started to get a little too warm almost immediately. The full length zipper was nice to have (I'm used to using a pull-over), it made venting easy and quick.
This was my first official outing with the jacket, official meaning the first walk with a pack on, and I was glad to have it. In such mild temperatures I normally would not carry much in the way of insulative clothing but because the jacket is so light and compact I had just tossed it in my bag with my ten essentials and water. I was happy it was there for both hikes because I really didn't have any other "outerwear" and I did need something for both the chill and bug protection. Thankfully, it fit great. The fabric is so light it was quite easy to forget I even had it on. The sleeve and torso length is just right and although the torso girth is a bit slimmer than I'm used to, I didn't feel restricted or uncomfortable in anyway.
OUTING #3 - Day hike and trail finding mission on the Mogollon Rim near Payson, AZ, elevation 7,500 ft (2,300 m). On this trip I was looking for a trail leading into a canyon and ended up walking a forest road for a while instead. The day was filled with end of summer thunderstorms and for about half an hour I was on the receiving end of a mix of light and heavy rain. Estimated temperature was low 80's (28 C).
Again, I was thankful to have the MontBell Ultra Light Wind Jacket in my pack because between storms the wind was quite significant and since I was damp I was a little cool. Sad to say the DWR coating only performed for about two minutes under the first sprinkles then as the rain picked up it failed completely. I realize, as per the manufacturer's information, the jacket is not intended as any kind of rainwear but I was hoping for a bit more "resistance".
OUTING #4 - Short day hike up Shaw Butte in Phoenix, AZ, elevation 2,100 ft (640 m) This local mountain is a favorite for exercise and luckily on the afternoon I went I was caught up in a brief thunderstorm. The wind was significant on the windward side of the mountain, the side I chose to hike up at the start of the storm, but the MontBell jacket held it off. I was too hot to wear it for long but it worked great in those high winds.
OUTING # 5 - Long day hike in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness just outside Flagstaff, AZ, elevation 8,500 ft (2,600 m) up to 10, 500 ft (3,200 m). This was a wonderful autumn hike on the backside of Mt. Humphreys and in true fall fashion it was a fairly windy day. I don't have a wind gage but I would guess we were getting gusts up to 35 mph (56 km/h) off and on all day. The lowest temperature I noted near the top was 39 F (3 C). Interestingly enough, while hiking, I was able to get away with wearing only a t-shirt and the MontBell Wind Jacket and when I say get away, I mean I never felt like I needed more layers. Of course when we stopped for lunch and other longer breaks I put on my hat and fleece vest and sat in the sun but really that was all I needed. I was very surprised at how warm I was despite only having a thin layer of material between me and the nippy gusts. With the jacket zipped all they way up so the collar was up around my neck and my gloves (fleece liners) dropped in under the elastic on the wrists my body heat was pretty well trapped. I almost felt bad watching some of my hiking companions shivering in much thicker jackets, almost!
On this outing I wore the jacket for just over seven "on trail" hours and at least two more while in the vehicle on the way to the trailhead. I would say this trip was the most significant test of the jacket to date. I was very pleased with its fit and performance. Despite pretty much living in the jacket for the better part of the day it was virtually unnoticeable. I wore the same pack I usual use on overnight backpacking trips on this outing because I was the leader of a group that was not very experienced (I'm a trip leader for a local Parks and Recreation Dept.) and I wanted to have plenty of extra clothing, food, etc… in case someone forgot or needed something. Granted the pack was not as fully loaded as it would be on an overnighter, but it was still filled up enough to give me a good idea of how well the jacket fit under a heavier pack load. There's just something so comfortable about being able to don a light layer of clothing under a bulky pack and not feel a bit different. I love it!
This is the third and final report of this test series; all opinions and observations in this section have been gathered after four months of using this jacket.
In these final few months of testing I have had several more good opportunities to wear the Montbell Ultralight Wind Jacket in truly windy and cooler environments. In fact, it's so light and compact I've taken to just keeping it in my vehicle all the time in case I need something. I have worn it so often I've lost track of all the locations but here's a sampling of the more significant outings I can remember.
Two-day car camping trip with day hike and summit attempt of Mt. Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountains in Southern AZ. Elevations ranged from 5,500 ft (1,700 m) up to 8,300 ft (2,500 m) (I did not make the summit due to high winds). Weather conditions were rainy off and on from the trailhead, which later changed to sleet then snow above the 7,200 ft (2,200 m). The winds were significant at the upper elevations, not sure how high but I'm guessing at least 30 mph (48 km/h) with gusts even higher. The only thermometer check I made was at 7,200 ft (2,200 m); it read 34 F (1 C) there. As I climbed the snow and frozen spring I passed were clear evidence it was at least freezing and I'm sure beyond given the wind-chill higher up.
Multiple day/night hikes in the Sonoran Desert in and around Phoenix, AZ. The elevation on these trails is around 2,000 ft. give or take, with temperatures ranging from the low 50's F (10 C) up to the low 60's F (20 F). Weather fluctuated from calm to light wind up to mild thunderstorm conditions, including light rain. Time hiking varied in length from one to four hours.
Day hike into Bear Sign Canyon in Sedona, AZ. The elevations ranged from 4,800 ft up to 5,200 ft (1,450 m to 1,600 m). Wind wasn't much of a factor but I used the jacket primarily while resting and during shady canyon sections where the temperatures were too cool for a t-shirt. Not sure of the temps, I'm guessing mid to upper 50's (14 C).
The Montbell Ultralight Wind Jacket had earned its way onto my "favorite pieces of gear" list. It fits well enough for me to wear at least two other layers underneath and that has worked just fine in the conditions I've experienced. As a main outer layer it has performed well, not just as a barrier against windy conditions but also as an efficient trapper of body heat. I have had good luck wearing it over as little as a t-shirt several times in very wind and cool temperatures. Always while actively moving but I was pleased with this performance. I have also used it in more mild temperatures purely for warmth while stopped with equally good results. As part of a layering system, it has worked wonderfully as well. I have tried it sandwiched between a t-shirt and a fleece pull-over, a fleece vest, and/or a down jacket and in all situations I was plenty warm and felt I still had excellent range of movement.
Luckily, the weather cooperated with me for this test series and I was able to evaluate the jacket's performance during at least six storms of different intensities with precipitation ranging from sprinkles to outright down pours. Both the Polkatex water-repellent treatment and the speed at which the fabric dried were checked. The jacket did okay with light rainfall for short periods of less than five to ten minutes or so. Beyond that, anything with more force wet out the forearms and shoulders very quickly. This was consistent with the experience I had in September and was to be expected since the jacket is not labeled by the manufacture as water repellent.
Once wet, I had mixed results with drying times depending on the saturation level of the fabric. In scenarios where the jacket was only mildly damp, a good shake and a few minutes were all it needed to dry. On the Mt. Wrightson trip, I was in rain gear for about eight hours. I had the Montbell jacket on just below my rain jacket, which I took off periodically as the drops came and went. After a full day of bombardment with either sweat from the inside or rain from the outside the wind jacket was noticeably soggy. That trip was a car-camping overnighter so I had access to a dry vehicle to hang the jacket overnight. It was still damp in the morning after about 15 hrs of dry time. In all fairness, the storm raged through the night so conditions outside my vehicle were muggy and cold, which I'm assuming contributed to the longer than expected drying time.
After the Mt. Wrightson outing the jacket was pretty stinky so I washed it for the first time. Since the jacket is machine washable I just tossed it in with other delicates and it was good to go. No problems with this process whatsoever and the jacket looks and smells good as new after its bath.
Despite the many hours I have spent in the Montbell Wind Jacket and its appearance of delicacy it is holding up great. I have not noticed any sign of wear on the garment, not even along the shoulders, hips or back section where my pack contacts it. The main zipper and the one on the pocket continue to be in good working order and I have not had problems catching either of them on any nearby material.
My favorite aspect of this jacket is by far how useful it is for its tiny size and weight. As I have already mentioned I found myself just tossing the wind jacket into my car or pocket of a larger jacket because I could. It packs so small I can carry it in a cargo pocket of my pants or shorts for quick access if I need it. Even in non-windy conditions it provides enough extra warmth to justify having it around all the time. And the fact it's a full front zip jacket, as opposed to a pullover, makes it easy to vent, which is another feature I really liked especially on humid or warmer treks. The stand up collar is nice too. I always hike with my hair in a ponytail, which leaves my neck exposed, but the Montbell collar worked well to remedy any chills I would ordinarily have whipping across that area.
In all, it's been a fun item to test and I will definitely continue to carry it with me as part of my regular "must have" gear. My thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Montbell for the opportunity to be part of this test series.
Aspects I like…
Aspects I feel could use improvement...
- Jamie J. DeBenedetto
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