BackpackGearTest
  Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket > Test Report by Marina Batzke

MONTANE TRAILBLAZER STRETCH JACKET
TEST SERIES BY MARINA BATZKE
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 28, 2015

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Marina Batzke
EMAIL: mbbp2013 (at) yahoo (dot) com
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Los Angeles County, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 132 lb (60.00 kg)

I converted from day hiking and car camping to backpacking in spring 2013. My backpacking trips are mostly weekend excursions in Southern California: desert areas in the winter months and mountainous areas in the summer months. I try to backpack one or two weekends a month. I always hike with a group and I like the gear talk when in camp. While I am looking for ways to lighten my pack, I am not an ultra-lighter: I like sleeping in a tent with a sleeping bag on a comfortable pad.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Montane, United Kingdom
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Made in China
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montane.co.uk
MSRP: 170 British Pounds (roughly US$265)
Listed Weight of the UK 12 Size: 11.9 oz (338 g)
Measured Weight of the UK 16 Size: 11.9 oz (337 g)
This jacket is available in a men's and women's version.
Available Women's Sizes are: XS, S, M, L, XL / 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 (UK Sizes).
Available Women's Colors are: Black with Alpenglow (orange) zippers and
Blue spark with Blue spark zippers and Ice white details.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

When I pulled the Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket out of its plastic bag, I right away liked the touch of its soft outer fabric (100% polyester microfiber knit) and I liked its light weight. At first I thought: wow, what a bright blue but once I put the jacket on, the blue tone looked really good and I thought: if it is already raining while I am wearing this stretchy waterproof shell, why not wear a radiant blue rather than something dark. In two spots, the Trailblazer has reflective text imprinted (VIA on the lower back, AQUAPRO Dynamic in the front right hem area). On the right upper arm, VIA TRAIL SERIES is imprinted in black. On the front upper left, MONTANE is imprinted in white.

The fabric of this rain jacket is named AQUAPRO Dynamic, a bi-component waterproof fabric, laminated with a membrane that combines the features: hydrophobic (tending to repel water) and hydrophilic (readily absorbing moisture). The manufacturer explains that the hydrophilic feature kicks in when I am sweating during high exertion: the hydrophilic component wicks moisture away from the jacket inside through the laminate to the outside of the jacket.
IMAGE 1
Montane Trailblazer in blue

The Trailblazer's inside is silver-gray colored with a honeycomb pattern. All seams are 0.59 in (15 mm) tape sealed. The various seams show a tight 12 to 13 stitch count, which in comparison to an industry typical 8 count looks like a sturdy, durable tight seal. There is a small fabric loop on the top inside seam and a bigger fabric loop on the top outside seam of the back to hang the jacket.

The 30 in (76 cm) long front zipper and the two 8.25 in (21 cm) side pocket zippers are YKK matte AquaGuard, well-sealed against moisture. All three zippers have a grab tab for easy pulling, even while wearing gloves. The zipper tops end underneath small storm flaps. The two side pockets have A-line mesh. None of these pockets double as stuff pocket. So the Trailblazer comes without its own stuff sack.
IMAGE 2
Honeycomb inside pattern

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

It is recommended to wash the Montane Trailblazer Stretch jacket in warm water at 86 F (30 C) using a mild detergent, such as Nikwax Tech Wash. Afterwards I shall drip dry the jacket. I shall neither use fabric softener nor bleach. Over time, the Trailblazer may require occasional re-proofing to maintain the DWR - durable water repellant features by using e.g., Nikwax TX Direct.

Montane guarantees its products against faults in workmanship and materials for the reasonable lifetime of the item.

TRYING IT OUT

Following the sizing chart on the Montane website and considering that I may have to wear a bulky fleece sweater underneath, I selected the UK 16 = US 14 = EUR 42 Trailblazer size. Typically I wear jackets in US size 12 or EUR size 40. When I now put the jacket on with my thick fleece shirt underneath, the Trailblazer fits really well around my core and gives me sufficient room to feel comfortable inside. I am measuring 47 in (119 cm) all around the hem. The back length (29 in / 74 cm from the hood seam to the hem) extends quite low, which I foresee as a strong plus point during heavy rain. Maybe I would have fit into the jacket one size smaller but now I know I can wear thick layers underneath and still move my body inside.

The US 14 - EUR 42 jacket sleeves are so long on me, they cover my hands beyond my stretched out fingers. The sleeves do not have a restricting upper arm seam. From the hood seam to the sleeve end, I am measuring 32 in (81 cm). I do not mind the length, as the sleeve ends have shaped cuffs with a hook-and-loop adjustment. I can tighten the adjustments so that the sleeves end right above my hands. Or in the rain, I can open the hook-and-loop adjustment and have the sleeves cover and protect my entire hands. I notice that the sleeves are tailored along the elbows and upper arms.

The earlier-mentioned AQUAPRO Dynamic fabric stretches four ways. When I am wearing the zipper-closed jacket, I can raise my arms, twist as if I am putting my pack on or perform other active movements and the jacket neither constricts me nor lifts up.

The Trailblazer's hood has an inner drawstring that I can tighten on the left and right. It allows me to tighten the hood around my face, e.g., against the wind. And there is a pull string in the back that I can use to adjust the hood to different types of headwear (e.g., summer baseball cap versus winter knit hat). The hood bill has a wire insert on its slightly firmed-up lip, which should come in handy to protect my glasses from rain. I can also roll the hood to the jacket inside and - using a hook on the rear draw cord that I attach to a small neck area fabric loop - I can stash the rolled-up hood away in case of strong wind.

When the front zipper is closed all the way to the top, my mouth and chin touch the pleasant microfleece inner collar. There is also a roll-over chin guard, so my skin does not get in contact with the zipper.

SUMMARY

+ flawlessly made, no loose threads, no imperfections
+ Microfleece inner collar, soft against my chin and mouth
+ three ways to tighten hood around head and over headwear
+ soft outer fabric
+ bright blue color
+ nice long back
+ plenty of room to wiggle around inside

- no stuff sack

While writing my report, I have put the jacket on and off repeatedly and it feels so pleasant on my skin. I am keen to find out how it will perform in the field during exercise and exertion.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Beartrap Bluff, California, USA
Elevation: 5000 ft (1500 m)
2 days/ 1 night Backpack, July 2015
Temperatures: 84 - 50 F (29 - 10 C)

Mt. Pinos, California, USA
Elevation: 7500 ft (2300 m)
2 days/ 1 night Car Camp, August 2015
Temperatures: 86 - 46 F (30 - 8 C)

Little Jimmy from Crystal Lake, California, USA
Elevation: 7500 ft (2300 m)
2 days/ 1 night: Backpack, August 2015
Temperatures: 91 - 54 F (33 - 12 C)

Bicycle Tour from Bolzano to Venice, Italy
8 days August 2015
Rainday Daytime Temperature: 81 F (27 C)

Hannover, Germany
1 day Walking, September 2015
Daytime Temperature: 66 F (19 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I am completely happy with the Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket. I have used it on two Southern California backpacks while in camp and a car camp that had no rain at all but some wind. Then I used the jacket on a vacation trip to Italy and Germany and in both countries, the jacket protected me reliably against rain and wind.

On those Southern California trips, I did not take my down jacket along and solely relied on the Montane Trailblazer as jacket. In the evenings, once the sun had set, it did get cooler and I wore a fleece shirt and a T-shirt underneath. The jacket inside feels cool: it does not provide warmth like a fleece but the Trailblazer well protected me against the wind. On the Little Jimmy backpack, it was really windy in the morning and I put on the Trailblazer while taking down my tent. I am really happy I selected the Trailblazer one size up, as it gives me lots of room to move around in even with a thick fleece shirt underneath.
IMAGE 1
Taking down the tent in the morning

In Italy on the bicycle trip, we had rain on day 1. Combined with really warm summer temperatures, it drizzled at times, at other times we had a strong downpour. The Trailblazer was perfect for bike riding: I did not feel constricted leaning forward with both hands on the handlebar. The jacket torso length protected my back beyond the bike saddle. I did not put the hood on, as I was wearing a bicycle helmet. When we arrived at the hotel that first evening, after 30 minutes of final strong downpour, I felt sweaty from the bike riding but not wet from the strong rain. The Trailblazer dried quickly and I wore it again that evening when we went for dinner.
IMAGE 2
Bike riding in Italy

I wore the jacket a final day in Germany when we went to the zoo and it kept raining or drizzling on and off. Hood on, zipper closed; about ten minutes later: hood down, zipper open ... all day like that.

SUMMARY

Overall, I really enjoy putting the hood on, as my face does not touch the zipper inside. Instead that soft microfleece collar portion touches my face. I can wear several layers underneath and still move freely inside the Trailblazer. To pack the Trailblazer, I roll it up and place the jacket into its hood. Then I am using a mesh sack to keep it compact. So far, I have not noticed any signs of wear.

+ has protected me well against rain
+ Microfleece inner collar, soft against my chin and mouth
+ hood easily adjusted for appropriate fit
+ soft outer fabric
+ bright blue color
+ nice long back
+ plenty of room to wiggle around inside

- feels cool inside on cool evenings (yet this cool feeling was appreciated in hot Italy)


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Dobbs Cabin, Southern California, USA
Elevation: 7240 ft (2200 m)
2 days/ 1 night backpack 6 mile (10 km) hike in rain, October 2015
Temperatures: 51 - 47 F (11 - 8 C)

Gould Mesa Campground, Southern California, USA
Elevation: 1500 ft (460 m)
2 days/ 1 night backpack yet only used as backup clothing, October 2015
Temperatures: 98 - 75 F (37 - 24 C)

Little Jimmy Campground, Angeles National Forest, California, USA
Elevation: 7500 ft (2290 m)
2 days/ 1 night backpack yet only used as backup clothing, October 2015
Temperatures: 77 - 49 F (25 - 9 C)

Cooper Canyon Trail Campground, Angeles National Forest, California, USA
Elevation: 6300 ft (1920 m)
2 days/ 1 night backpack yet only used as backup clothing, October 2015
Temperatures: 77 - 61 F (25 - 16 C)

Catalina Island, Southern California, USA
3 days/ 2 nights hotel stay
Daytime Temperatures: 72 - 61 F (22 - 16 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

On the Dobbs Cabin backpack, our group tore down the tents under a light drizzle. We started hiking out with that light drizzle and I was wearing the Montane Trailblazer but no rainpants. The drizzle soon turned into a steady downpour. We hiked out 4 hours with a strong, at times hard rain and the Montane Trailblazer kept me dry, while my hiking pants were completely soaked all around.
IMAGE 1
Dobbs Cabin Backpack

The metal wire in the hood bill kept the hood front extended well beyond my glasses and my glasses did not get wet. Every now and then I shook my head forward-down and a gush of water dropped to the ground. Yet my glasses stayed water speckle free and I was able to well see the trail.
IMAGE 2
Left Arm Sleeve after 4 hours

I used hiking poles which kept my forearms horizontal, so they collected a lot of water. Still, the fleece shirt arms inside the jacket stayed dry. I did not fully close the front zipper to the top but kept it up to a third open when the direction of rain allowed. This way I did not overheat and felt I was able to maintain a good body temperature. When we finally arrived at our cars and got a chance to change clothes, I noticed a moist undershirt back in the area of my backpack but otherwise my fleece shirt had been kept dry by the Montane Trailblazer. I really liked how the Trailblazer performed during this long-time exposure.

On the other backpacking trips, I only used the Montane Trailblazer as '10 essentials' back-up clothing, yet temperatures were such that I did not put the jacket on.

On Catalina Island, it got windy around sunset and I used the Trailblazer as windbreaker. The jacket well blocked the wind but the inside felt a bit cool to me, even through my fleece shirt.

SUMMARY

I love the Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket because it is a very pleasant to wear jacket. It has kept me dry on those few rain occasions I experienced during the testing phase, whether walking, bike riding or backpacking. I recommend to choose a generous size (I typically wear L in jackets but selected XL here) and that allowed me to wear thick fleece underneath and still have plenty of room to wiggle around inside. I have not washed the jacket yet. I inspected it closely and it shows no signs of wear.

LIKES:
ideal for many different outdoor activities
superior rain protection
wind protection
Microfleece inner collar, soft against my chin and mouth
hood with metal wire in bill helps keep my glasses dry
good-looking bright blue color
nice long back
well covering arm length that I can adjust with the hook-and-loop closure

TO CONSIDER:
feels cool inside on cool evenings (is not a jacket to provide warmth)

I really love the Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket and have enjoyed testing it. I will continue to use it during my outdoor activities. A big THANK YOU to Montane UK and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this lightweight waterproof rain jacket.

Marina Batzke

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

Read more reviews of Montane gear
Read more gear reviews by Marina Batzke

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket > Test Report by Marina Batzke



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson