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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket > Test Report by Shawn Chambers

MONTANE MINIMUS GRAND TOUR JACKET
TEST SERIES BY SHAWN CHAMBERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 04, 2015

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Shawn Chambers
EMAIL: sound_foundation AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Lexington, Kentucky, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 182 lb (82.60 kg)

Backpacking Background: I love Appalachian hikes and being in the woods. My preference is for a hike that leads to a stellar view. Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina are my usual stomping grounds. I increasingly find myself enjoying longer, multi-day hikes and I try to find a good balance between pack weight and comfort. I generally have a base weight of 12-15 lb (5.4 - 6.8 kg).


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information & Specifications

Manufacturer: Montane
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montane.co.uk
MSRP: 170.00 (US $265.00)
Colors Available: Black / Aurora Green Zipper (tested), Electric Blue / Burnt Orange Zipper
Size Tested: Large - also available in S, M, XL, XXL
Listed Weight: (approx) 215.9 g / 7.6 oz for size Medium
Measured Weight: 232.5 g / 8.2 oz for size Large

Initial Impressions

I will admit that while perusing Montane's website about their Minimus Grand Tour Jacket (hereafter generally just "jacket" or "rain jacket") it sounds like an oxymoron. The details certainly seem like those found on a full-featured rain shell, but the weight class definitely pushes this jacket into the minimal arena. The Minimus Grand Tour - even the name sounds like a contradiction. I was really looking forward to receiving this jacket and seeing if such a light jacket can boast the performance of a heavier weight class in the arena of the Great Outdoors.

Fit and Fashion

The padded envelope on my stoop was a welcome sight and I couldn't wait to test the fit. I am usually a borderline Medium/Large and almost always want to try a garment on before purchasing if it is from a brand I haven't worn before, but this was not an option. Given my experience with European based companies, I rolled the dice and opted for the Large. I believe I chose the right size. The jacket will allow for plenty of layering, but it is in no way billowy. The fit is described as Active Mountain and a bit of further exploring on the company's size chart states that this is just a general fit but the garment can be adjusted to fit closer to the body.

Probably the first thing that struck me when trying it on was the length. Montane specified on their website that it was specifically tailored to work with a 50+ liter backpack, but I didn't get a true feel of the length from the stock photo. After slipping it on the coverage was impressive. At my height, the bottom of the jacket falls evenly to the crotch of my hiking pants and completely covers my rear.

IMAGE 1



As for the rest of the fit, everything seems fine and I didn't feel restricted in any way. The sleeve length was a bit longer than I would have liked. They are about 1.5 - 2" (3.8 - 5 cm) longer than other jackets that I own and wear regularly. This isn't a big deal to me because the wide band of elastic on the underside of each cuff keeps them properly in place and they don't look horribly bunched up.

I am pleased with the look of the jacket straight from the package. I am a big fan of darker colors and minimal branding. The company name is on the left chest and right arm and the company logo is on the right shoulder blade area. In addition "Pertex Shield +" is also branded on the left forearm. Fortunately, none of these are terribly big and I don't find them horribly distracting.

Features

The attached product card lists more than a dozen features. I will mention them briefly with what I generally find to be the more important items first. Many of these will be discussed again during my Field Report. The main jacket fabric is Pertex Shield+ for breathability and waterproofness. The zippers are all YKK Aquaguard and the main zipper has in internal storm flap. Each armpit boasts an 8" (20 cm) black zipper for ventilation and the left chest also has a bright green 8" (20 cm) Napoleon-style storage pocket. The areas that are most prone to rubbing from a pack are reinforced on the inside with Pertex Shield Lite for added durability. This can be seen in the photo below. The hood has a three point adjustment system to change the fit. All seams are positioned away from where a pack would normally contact them and all interior seams are micro-taped inside for increased waterproofness. The arms are articulated for trekking pole usage. The bottom hem is adjustable with an elastic cord around the back half. All toggles and trim pieces are small to allow for the jacket to be packaged in a small mesh stuff sack that was included. Whew! That is a lot to digest at once.

IMAGE 2
Lighter area is reinforced & note micro taped seams


Summary

This jacket is marketed as an "ultra distance backpacking shell jacket" and nothing so far tells me that it would not be great for that. I love the inclusion of pit zips, the large chest pocket, the weight and packability, and fit. Nothing is clearly jumping out at me as a negative, but usually it is only in use where I find shortcomings. I did not have a chance to wear the jacket out at all during this initial inspection, but I look forward to trail testing it on some long multi-day hikes.

IMAGE 3
Packs small for travel




FIELD REPORT

Performance in the Field

Date: May 16-17, 2015
Location: Sheltowee Trace, KY
Distance: 38 miles (61 km)
Temperature: 65 - 85 F (18 - 29 C)

Date: June 4-7, 2015
Location: Mt Rogers, VA
Distance: 23 miles (37 km)
Temperature: 56 - 81 F (13.3 - 27.2 C)

Date: June 20-21, 2015
Location: Sheltowee Trace, KY
Distance: 33 miles (53 km)
Temperature: 69 - 76 F (20.6 - 24.4 C)


I had received the jacket only three days prior to my scheduled May hike along the Sheltowee Trace and had just enough time to give it a solid once over and jot down my impressions before the coming weekend. I usually have a longer wait before hitting the trail with a piece of new gear, but the forecast was calling for rain so I figured I might get lucky and be able to use a rain shell. This is one of the few times when I considered potential rain as "lucky"!

Shortly after arriving at S-Tree Campground to meet my fellow hikers, I felt some light drizzle and pulled out the Grand Tour Jacket in a hurry. We ended up having an extended wait for a shuttle so I was able to stay dry and use this pre-hike time to check out some of the jacket's features a bit more.

One of the first things I noticed was the placement of the chest pocket. It was lower down than on my other jackets and fit nicely between my sternum strap and hip belt as seen in the photo below. I like that I won't have to undo my sternum strap to zip and unzip this pocket.

IMAGE 1
Nice chest pocket placement



Since the rain was also misting up my glasses, I had the hood on and spent a few minutes tinkering with the adjustments. Another nice feature is the brim of the hood has a piece of wire encased inside so it can be shaped to a user's preference. This was a nice touch!

I didn't get much more than 30 minutes wearing it in the morning since the skies cleared and our shuttle arrived. Since the jacket was wet on the exterior and it was likely I may need it again, I just folded it up loosely and secured it under my pack's roll top compression strap.

The temperature rose fairly quickly and after hiking roughly 9 miles (14.4 km) I was already very sweaty and warm. When the first light drizzle started it felt nice in the 83 F (28.3 C) temperature. It persisted, however, and I seemed to be hiking into the storm so I finally had no choice but to cover up. For nearly an hour I hiked along with the chest fully zipped, hood up, and pit zips open. As I expected, I was very hot and clammy feeling in my short sleeve t-shirt inside the jacket.

Per Montane's website the Pertex fabric in the body provides "exceptionally high fabric breathability at 25,000mm MVTR with a 20,000mm hydrostatic head." What? I can't ever wrap my head around the numbers companies use for stating breathability in rain jackets. Doing a bit of reading I learned that this test tells how much water vapor can pass through the fabric in 24 hours. Even if I had known that ahead of my hike it wouldn't have made me any cooler!

Standing still in the parking lot during the cooler temperatures I felt fine, of course. By the time I pulled the jacket out on the trail I had already worked up a real head of steam and the day was already hot and humid. There was just no way for me to vent all that accumulated heat in a downpour. I'm sure the long pit zips helped, but it was only when the rain slowed enough for me to shed the hood and partially unzip the chest did I begin to cool off. I also felt like if I had just been hiking without a pack (or at least without a hipbelt) that some of the heat might have escaped out from the bottom as long as I kept the hem drawstring loosened, but the hipbelt kept the jacket snug against me. Likewise, the elastic cuffs did not allow any heat to vent out of the arms either.

I will say that I have never once bought a rain jacket based on how breathable it is supposed to be. I look for features, weight, fit, and, of course, my estimation of how well it will keep me dry. I have owned many rain jackets (and still do) and to me being hot in a rain jacket is just par for the course.

The waterproofness of the jacket was excellent. In the absence of side hand pockets, I took full advantage of the zippered chest pocket and stored my GPS, phone, map, and a snack inside. Nothing received so much as a drop of moisture through the YKK Aquaguard zipper. Upon removing the jacket, I inspected the interior for any wetness penetration especially along any areas that my pack contacted. I saw no evidence of soak through except in the hood where I walked for a bit with it down and just a bit of expected wetness at the top chest from where I partially unzipped the front.

I will also mention that at one point I stopped for a couple minutes to pick a rock out of my shoe. I really appreciated the long length of this jacket since it let me sit on a water-soaked log without getting my pants wet or dirty.

We stayed at a public campground that night and I used the provided loop inside the jacket's hood to hang it from a lantern pole. This allowed the jacket to air dry thoroughly since after the rain I had just folded it up and kept it secured to the top of my pack.

Just a few weeks later I was back on the trail with my wife at Mt Rogers, Virginia. This area of the state is particularly beautiful and boasts some of the best views and scenery along the Appalachian Trail. With the forecast calling for 50 - 60% chance of thunderstorms all four days it was going to be nearly guaranteed that I would be able to use my Montane rain shell again.

From our campground, we connected with the Appalachian Trail and followed it around to the spur trail that leads to the wooded summit. It was at this trailhead that the sky darkened and a fine mist could be seen blowing towards us. We quickly donned our rain jackets and pushed up the final ascent to the highest point in Virginia. The rain increased in force and I was thankful for the jacket. Fortunately, the temperature was only about 78 F (25.6 C) while I was wearing the jacket so I didn't notice any real need to vent the pits or front chest zipper.

IMAGE 2
Bagging Mt Rogers in wet weather
The rain jacket stayed nicely tucked under my backpack's waist belt the entire time even when I made a few exaggerated moves to scramble up some boulders. I took a minute to sit on a boulder near the summit and, again, appreciated the jacket's long length to keep the seat of my pants dry. The rain slackened on the descent from the summit and finally turned into a cold drizzle, which was repelled nicely by my jacket. I probably wore it for about 45 minutes.

My luck was destined to run out and my June section hike on the Sheltowee Trace would be a real test. The rain started literally the minute we were dropped out of our shuttle at the trailhead and I would not be able to remove my rain jacket for the next five hours. The rain alternated between a steady drizzle to a full blown downpour. The only thing that helped was the day's high temperature maxed out at 76 F (24.4 C). I was getting sweaty, but I was able to keep the front zipper fully zipped and the hood up for full protection without getting overheated.

After about three hours I was hating the lack of peripheral vision due to the hood and finally pulled it down and stuck on a water repellant ball cap. I kept the front fully zipped. This did mean a bit of rain was going to get inside the jacket, but it was minimal. A couple hours later I was finally able to remove the jacket and get some relief from the rain.

I took the time to turn the jacket inside out and inspected the interior to see how much it had wetted through. I did see evidence of moisture inside the chest, but I was expecting that since I had the hood down for the past couple of hours. The sleeve interiors were dry and this was impressive. I had figured these might have wetted through. Since I was using trekking poles my arms had stayed in a horizontal position for most of the day. This meant a solid beating from the rain and the chance for water to pool in any wrinkles of the fabric; whereas, it was more likely to sheet off from the vertical surfaces like the chest or back.

Thoughts to date

So far with a bit more than 6 hours of trail time wearing the Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket, I am impressed with the waterproofness. I also love the roomy chest pocket to keep my map, camera, GPS, or phone protected. I find the pit zips easy to use and I have had a chance to play around with the various hood adjustments to find a fit that I can stand. I give two big thumbs up to the long length, too. I love that the jacket stays tucked under my hip belt and keeps my butt dry when I am sitting on a snack break or to retie my shoes.

One thing I still want to explore more is the "heat factor". I felt hot wearing it during the first hike, but I was already hot and sweaty by the time I put it on. The cooler temps found at Mt Rogers and the short time I wore it wasn't a great test either. Even this last trip when I started the hike with the jacket on wasn't satisfactory to me since the temperature was pretty mild. I hope in the coming months I have a chance to wear it in some truly hot temperatures to test out the breathability more.



LONG-TERM REPORT

Continued Use

Date: July 27 - Aug 3, 2015
Location: West Highland Way, Scotland
Distance: 96 miles (155 km)
Temperature: 42 - 66 F (5.6 - 18.9 C)


Testing rain gear can be a bit of a challenge at times. Everything depends on the weather, of course. Like many parts of the country, Kentucky has been experiencing a pretty dry summer and none of my remaining local hikes have called for any rain at all. Thus, I wasn't able to use my Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket on any more stretches of the Sheltowee Trace or on any day hikes. Fortunately, I was able to use it extensively abroad while hiking the West Highland Way - a trail that demands a good rain kit.

IMAGE 1
It didn't ALWAYS rain!
My wife and I landed in Glasgow and the very next day boarded the train to the trailhead in Milngavie. It was drizzling already and I was able to wear my Montane jacket the majority of the time. The sky never really opened up on the first day, but I was glad to fend off the drizzle and to take advantage of the additional warmth and wind protection that the jacket provided. At camp that night I hung the jacket up and it was totally dry by morning.

For the next few days the weather was fairly cooperative and any shower was brief. I definitely kept the jacket handy at the top of my pack and did use it some as a windbreaker even during dry days.

The true test came on the fifth day when we had to hike across the utterly desolate Rannoch Moor. There is no shelter of any kind along the several mile path that crosses this moor. Within an hour a cold, driving rain started and it was made worse by a blowing wind that accelerated each drop. It was absolute misery. In addition to my Minimus jacket I employed my rain kilt, but the ferocious winds made it very difficult to keep it in place. My jacket was buffeted by the wind and I tightened the hood down and because I didn't have gloves I drew my hands into the sleeves. The pelting rain continued for the next couple of hours and there was zero shelter to escape it. My wife and I could only tuck our heads down and increase our pace to try and escape the misery.

Finally, we could see the King's House Hotel where we would be camping and it was not a moment too soon. My jacket had eventually wetted through and I was very cold and clammy. Collapsing onto a bench at the Climber's Bar was one of the best feelings we experienced on the trail. Wet rain gear was hung everywhere and my Minimus jacket joined the crowd.

In years past, many people have died from exposure on Rannoch Moor and I can totally understand why. In casual hiking, rain gear may be taken for granted, but not along this moor. Even though the Minimus jacket did eventually wet through it allowed me to continue and I felt it performed incredibly well given the weather.

Thankfully, the rest of the trip was much more typical Scottish weather and any rain was fair gentler and shorter lived. The last chance I had to use my rain jacket was for a trip up Ben Nevis where I employed it as a windbreaker and to add warmth. I was very glad to have it along on this trip.

Back home in the States, my hiking in late August and September has seen just hot, dry weather and no need to even carry any rain gear. I wish I could have had another opportunity to try this jacket in hot weather, but I did not get any further chances.

Summary

I am glad I was able to take this on a decent thru-hike, which allowed me to test it under a totally different set of conditions than I normally experience. My long term test period only reinforced my earlier impressions that this is a great jacket. Despite the lack of further testing on the breathability of the Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket in more extreme heat, I would not hesitate to give it top marks. I love the fit of the long sleeves and overall long length. It is comfortable to wear. I like the pocket placement and find the zippers very easy to use. Most of all, I just like that it works very well as protection from the elements - its primary job!

If I were to nitpick anything it would be the weight. Sure, I wish it were a couple ounces lighter since this is a piece of gear that may be carried often and never used. It is still far lighter than many rain jackets on the market and it is a full-featured jacket. Lighter rain gear often compromise on features. I see zero signs of wear on it despite the many trail miles I have already hiked in it. I feel like I will have no problem using this jacket for the next few years. I know it is trail-worthy.

Many thanks to Montane and BackpackGearTest.org for this test opportunity.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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