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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket > Test Report by Shawn Chambers
MONTANE MINIMUS GRAND TOUR JACKET
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).
Product Information & Specifications
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.
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.
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.
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.
Performance in the Field
Date: May 16-17, 2015
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.
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.
Date: July 27 - Aug 3, 2015
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!
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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Montane Minimus Grand Tour Jacket > Test Report by Shawn Chambers
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