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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Wind Blast Parka > Test Report by Richard Lyon

MontBell Wind Blast Parka
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Wind Blast

Initial Report May 19, 2015
Field Report July 20, 2015
Long Term Report September 22, 2015

PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 68 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Torso: 22.5 in (57 cm)
Sleeve Length: 36.5 in (93 cm)
Chest: 46 in (117 cm)
Waist: 38 in (97 cm)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking to reduce pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences.  I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals.  Summer activities are often organized around fishing opportunities.

INITIAL REPORT - May 19, 2015

THE PRODUCT


Wind Blast stuffed Called a "wind shell" by MontBell, I would describe the MontBell Wind Blast Parka a windshirt with a hood and a zipper. This featherlight garment is marketed as an inexpensive multipurpose water-resistant parka. [MontBell uses "parka" to refer to any jacket with a hood, regardless of insulation or temperature range] It is treated with MontBell's Polkatex® which it claims "protects insulation from light moisture and helps maintain warmth."

Manufacturer: mont-bell Co., Ltd, www.montbell.com
Center back length: listed (all listed measurements are for size medium) 28.5 in (72.5 cm); measured for size XL 30.7 in (78 cm)
Sleeve length: measured 40.0 in (102 cm)
Weight: listed 6.4 oz (181 g); measured 7.7 oz (218 g)
Size: XL; Men's available in S-XL, Women's in S-XL
Color: Hot Red; also available in Black and Navy. Women's colors are different.
Warranty: Lifetime to original owner for material and workmanship defects.
Includes: Drawstring stuff sack. Stuffed size, measured, is a cylinder 8 in (20 cm) high with a 13 in (33 cm) circumference. I could crush it smaller if I wanted to.
MSRP $59.95 US

Wind Blast - inside This is a minimalist jacket. No lining. Features are few but well thought out: tight elastic bands at the cuffs, a full-length zipper, a drawstring at the waist (thumb pulls inside the jacket), an attached hood that's large enough to fit over a helmet or one of my broad-brimmed hats, and two handwarmer pockets. The pockets, visible from the inside in the photo at left, are quite large, 9 x 12.7 in (23 x 32 cm).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

After inspecting and trying on the jacket my reaction is that, at least in appearance and fit, the Wind Blast is very accurately described on MontBell's website. It is remarkably light in weight, and (as advertised) fits slightly larger than the other size XL MontBell jackets and parkas that I've worn. I really like the long sleeves and generously sized hood, the former to fit my very long arms and the latter to accommodate a hat with a decent brim - my favorite in the summer months for sun protection. Body fit helped me considerably over this past weekend when I wore the Wind Blast when doing some outdoor chores in the rain and snow. It wasn't much above 40 F (4 C) Sunday morning so I wore a heavy sweater underneath and didn't feel the least bit cramped when splitting wood or moving outdoor furniture. The Wind Blast had no difficulty keeping the occasional light rain or snow off me.

The color as depicted on the website is accurate though in my opinion its name is not. To me it looks more like "hunter's orange" than "hot red." Which is one reason I chose it - I wear windshirts and uninsulated shells most frequently in the fall, which is hunting season here in Montana. I won't be mistaken for an elk or deer when wearing the Wind Blast.

OUT-OF-THE-BOX LIKES

Sizing is just right for me
Long sleeves
Light weight and compressibility

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT 

I've found nothing yet.

FIELD REPORT - July 20, 2015

FIELD CONDITIONS

Madera CanyonThe Wind Blast has seen mostly dayhike and front country duty during the past two months, though I did wear it on an overnight backpack in late May, up a muddy trail to Silver Lake in the Absaroka Mountains, Montana. On that trip we had light rain and fog [spoiling what I know to be spectacular views] and temperatures from about 50 F (10 C) during the day down to just below freezing at night. During the four-hour hike to camp I wore the Parka over a long-sleeve merino t-shirt, adding a waterproof-breathable (WPB) rain jacket for warmth at rest stops.

Numerous day hikes in the Bozeman vicinity or Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, occurred in various weather conditions. We had a wet spring here in the Northern Rockies, with frequent showers, though many bluebird days too. Temperatures ranged from 40-80 F (4-26 C). On these hikes I used the Wind Blast for rain or wind protection, adding it when needed and stuffing it in my pack when not. I had it in my pack on three dayhikes in the Tucson, Arizona vicinity just after Memorial Day weekend (May 24-26), needing it only once, when we stopped at the pass on the Madera Canyon Trail in Green Valley.

The Wind Blast has been extremely useful around my home and in town. Elevation at my home is 5800 feet (1600 m) and mornings can be cold - this morning was 50 F (10 C) and in May and June it sometimes dropped into the thirties F (0-4 C). For morning chores, mowing the lawn, and, more recently, walking my new puppy, I often wore the Parka over a t-shirt or pajama top. Since the end of June it's been mostly clear but there have been a few showers and a bit of fog or mist early in the morning.

PERFORMANCE

Two things about the Wind Blast really stand out. Both are good.

Ease of use. Weighing in at less than half a pound (227 g) I hardly know that I've got the Wind Blast in my pack. And in its pouch it takes up less pack space than a 1L water bottle. This happy combination means that I have no excuse, even on a cloudless day, for not packing it as emergency gear. The Parka's length is less than a true rain jacket but in my opinion just right for an optional layer in the wind or mist. Fit across my torso is snug but not constraining, even on the odd occasion when I've worn it over a base layer plus a sweater. There are no tricky adjustments needed; just pull it on and it's in service. A very handy garment.

Water resistance has been excellent. MontBell advertises the Wind Blast as water resistant not waterproof, but in mist or a true shower it has kept me completely dry above the waist. That includes my head, as the hood fits easily over a baseball cap or, with minor finagling of the brim, a bush hat. Given the manufacturer's modest claims I have always packed a WPB rain jacket any time I thought that lengthy inclement weather was a possibility. I shall continue to follow that path on every backpack but on future day hikes I think the Wind Blast will suffice.

Wind resistance has also been excellent; in fact I'd say that this is when the Wind Blast really shines. It seems impervious even to gusts on open ridges at 40 F (4 C) and when I zip it up to my neck it traps body heat to keep me warm. The fit and fabric combine to give this lightweight jacket a remarkable ability to serve as an insulating layer. That is much appreciated early on a frosty morning as I don't have to search for a sweater when taking the puppy out to do his business or on a short stretch of open terrain on a hike.

Breathability. A consequence of such stellar performance in the wind or chill is that at warmer temperatures the heat-trapping fabric starts to make me too warm and perspire heavily when wearing the Wind Blast during aerobic activity. My breakpoint is at 55-60 F (13-16 C), low enough to restrict use significantly for summer hiking. But sustained rain is rare in the Northern Rockies in high summer so I may gamble on not needing rain protection so much, at least on day hikes. Check out my Long Term Report to see how this tradeoff works out!

Durability and Care. Care has been minimal, now and then removing spot soiling with soap and water. The slick nylon fabric seems to repel dirt and grass. The Wind Blast looks almost as new despite an unexpected hazard - the new puppy has grown fond of the fabric and nips at the hem or cuff whenever it's within his reach. I can't discern any damage or even a tooth mark, so the fabric must be rather stout.

WHAT I LIKE

Simple design - very little that can go wrong.

Water and wind resistance.

Light weight and easy to pack or stuff.

POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENT

I'd like a small inside pocket for car keys. This is a personal preference as I like to use handwarmer pockets for things I use frequently - camera, pocketknife, energy bar.

LONG TERM REPORT - September 22, 2015

I have little to add to my Field Report in terms of functionality. This jacket has continued to perform admirably in sunshine as a wind shell and light rain as a protective layer. On the one occasion I was caught out in heavy rain (and hail) the Wind Blast didn't wet out in the ten minutes or so it took nature's fury. I regard it as a truly versatile and useful addition to my closet.

FIELD CONDITIONS

Two three-day backpacks in the Absaroka Mountain Range, Montana met with generally dry conditions, though there was some mist and light rain one morning. Temperatures ranged from 80 F (27 C) during the day down to about 45 F (8 C) at night. I wore the Wind Blast around camp in the evenings and early mornings, over a base layer and lightweight sweater, and on a windy afternoon fishing over just a merino t-shirt.

I estimate another dozen day hikes, from two to six hours, in the Bozeman area, on which the Wind Blast spent most of the time in my pack thanks to sunny weather. High temperatures were mostly in the low 80s F (27-28 C); the lowest temperature was on a short morning jaunt at about 50 F (10 C). I donned the jacket occasionally at rest stops and on a couple of windy ridges. I also wore it a few times when fishing, during which I met with the aforementioned rain and hail. The jacket is very useful for fishing as it fits easily in the back pocket of my vest.

Most of my time wearing the jacket occurred around the house and on evenings in town. I'd grab the jacket first thing in the morning to take the puppy for a walk and toss it into the car for an evening in town. Almost all of this use was over a t-shirt or polo shirt. Lately I've been splitting and laying in firewood for the winter, another frequent morning task. Temperatures have ranged from 55 F (13 C) down to below freezing, with the latter occurring on rainy mornings in early September.

PERFORMANCE

As noted my experience over the past two months mirrors that reported in my Field Report. Instead of repeating myself I'll focus on what I consider the Wind Blast's two best qualities.

Caught in the Act Versatility tops the list. The Wind Blast serves an everyday shell, extra layer, emergency rain jacket, and front and backcountry wind blast protection in just about every weather. Yes, it can make me uncomfortably sweaty if worn constantly about 60 F (16 C), but it's so lightweight and packs down so small that I can doff it when that occurs unless I'm using it instead of a rain jacket - something I'd never do on any trip longer than an overnighter. In this respect the Wind Blast's utility has improved as autumn temperatures set in here in the Northern Rockies. Hiking temperatures aren't often above my discomfort point at this time of year, and with its bright red-orange color the Wind Blast gives hunters fair warning.  And my main windshirt season - i.e. when I pack a layer just for wind resistance - is winter, for use when bootpacking, snowshoeing, or ski touring. All of which should mean year-round use of this jacket.

Durability rates almost as highly.  I have treated this jacket far more carelessly than it deserves. On day hikes and dog walks it's simply stuffed inside a day pack any which way, without its stuff sack and with no regard for whatever sharp objects it might lie next to. Whisper the puppy has grabbed it whenever I forget to hide it in the car or put it out of reach at home. (See picture at right - taken immediately after being caught in the act.) On or after chore duty I've been known simply to toss it on the woodpile, a chair, a post, a rock, or the wet ground. It deserves better care. Yet I've needed to wash it - non-detergent soap, cold water, air dry - only once, and  a careful inspection immediately before writing this revealed no stretching, tears, or other functional injury. Stellar performance for a garment weighing less than half a pound (227 g).

I add one new piece of praise. I think this remarkably useful shell to be exceptional value at its MSRP. Exceptional enough that I may just buy a second one solely for inclusion in my car's emergency kit, one of MontBell's suggested uses. Never know when I'll have to change a tire in the rain. But that bit of wisdom shouldn't be read as limiting the Wind Blast's usefulness as an athletic piece.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This concludes my Test Report. My sincere thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.



Read more reviews of Mont Bell gear
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Wind Blast Parka > Test Report by Richard Lyon



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