MONTANE TRAILBLAZER STRETCH JACKET
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
October 13, 2015
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Photo: © Montane|
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montane.co.uk
MSRP: £170.00 (259.86 USD based on the May 29, 2015 exchange rate published by the US Federal Reserve)
Listed Weight: 11.9 oz (338 g) for UK size 12
Measured Weight: 10.9 oz (309 g) for UK size 12
Color tested: Black / Alpenglow zips
Other color available: Blue spark / Blue spark zips / Ice white details
Size tested: M (12 UK / US 10)
Sizes available: 8 to 16 UK (XS to XL)
Made in China
Designed in The UK
The MONTANE Trailblazer jacket is a stretch-fabric waterproof shell. The fabric is AQUAPRO Dynamic which is 100% polyester and provides a four-way stretch along with claiming to be breathable during high exertion. All of the seams are tape-sealed and have a 12-13 seam stitch count for a strong seam versus the industry standard of 8.
The one-way front zipper is YKK matte AquaGuard which feels rubberized on the outside. There is a stormflap along the full length of the front zipper and a zipper garage at the top. There is also a grab pull for easy grasp of the zipper when wearing gloves. On the backside of the stormflap and at the top there is a section of microfleece for comfort on my face when the jacket is fully zipped.
The back hem of the jacket extends to the thigh to provide good rear coverage. The hem has a drawcord which is adjustable from either the right or left side at the inside hem and there is a snap at the front. The cuffs have hook-and-loop closures which can be cinched down to be tight on my bare wrists or to fit gloves underneath. The sleeves are extra-long and the top half of the cuff extends slightly longer than the bottom half for better hand coverage.
The hood has a built-in visor with foam and a stiffening wire. There is a floating cordlock adjustment on either side of the face along with adjustment at the top of the hood. This top adjustment also has a clip for holding the hood down and out of the way when not in use in windy conditions.
There are two hand-warmer pockets positioned a little high to clear a backpack belt. The zippers are similar to the front zipper with YKK matte AquaGuard, zipper garages and grab pulls. The pockets have a mesh lining for ventilation.
There are two hang loops: one on the inside of the jacket at the collar and one external beneath the hood.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was how light that jacket was when I opened the package. Based on the features I was expecting a more substantial jacket similar to a hard-shell, but I was extremely pleased to see all of the features while maintaining a very lightweight jacket. In fact it weighed in at a full ounce UNDER the listed weight. Wow! The stretch fabric is unique for a waterproof jacket.
Next I noticed that the size medium was a UK size 12 which is equivalent to a US size 10. I usually wear a US size 8 but found this size medium to fit just fine and was happy that it wasn't any smaller in order to fit a light jacket or other layers underneath in colder conditions.
Fortunately for my test and for our drought conditions, there were thunderstorms yesterday evening. So I quickly donned the jacket, rain pants and non-waterproof shoes and wandered around outside looking for the heaviest rain. It rained steadily for 25 minutes at which time my shoes were soaked and starting to wet my socks. The jacket performed impeccably. The water beaded up nicely. I could feel coolness on my shoulders but once I removed the jacket I could see that no water had penetrated. The temperature was 60 F (15 C) and despite walking around continuously the jacket never felt clammy although my rain pants did!
I used the hood and the built-in visor worked to keep the rain off of my face. The microfleece on the back of the chin area was really comfortable on my face with the jacket fully zipped. The sleeves are extra-long which I like in general but especially appreciate on rain jackets. My hands get cold and wet and the sleeves help to keep them warm and to keep water from wicking up my arms in longer storms.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The Trailblazer Stretch Jacket uses AQUAPRO fabric which contains a Durable Water Repellency (DWR). Clean the garment in order to maintain this.
• Machine wash in warm water at 30°C (86°F) with a mild detergent. MONTANE recommends Nikwax Tech Wash.
• Do not use fabric softeners or bleach.
• Drip dry.
• Jacket may need occasional re-proofing to restore the DWR. MONTANE recommends Nikwax TX Direct.
This direction sounds good to me since I already use Nikwax products for maintaining all of my down and waterproof gear.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I used the jacket on one overnight backpacking trip, multiple day hikes, a fishing trip and several times just for rain storms around town.
Pacific Crest/Tahoe Rim Trail, Northern Sierra Nevada (California): 2 days; 7,390 to 9,010 ft (2,252 to 2,746 m); 50 to 85 F (10 to 29 C); mostly clear conditions.
Auburn Recreation Area, California: 4 mi (6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 55 to 75 F (13 to 24 C); partly cloudy
Sun Rocks Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 8 mi (13 km); 6,080 to 6,200 ft (1,853 to 1,890 m) elevation; 68 to 72 F (20 to 22 C); sunny to partly cloudy conditions
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky: 2 mi (3 km); 728 ft (222 m) elevation; 80 F (27 C); thunderstorm conditions
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The jacket has performed flawlessly over the test period. It has completely protected me from rain during heavy thunderstorms. Water beads up on the surface with no sign of wetting out. The fabric seems to breathe well but I haven't been in a full-out hard hiking situation during the rain so I haven't yet gotten to see how well it breathes while I'm exerting myself. I'm able to adjust the hood for my comfort and protection from rain/wind. The long length of the sleeves is nice for keeping my hands warm and protected. And I'm able to cinch the wrist tight when needed if I want to keep that extra length out of my way.
I wore the jacket on a fishing trip where the temperature was 65 F (18 C) on the water but with a brisk wind blowing it felt much colder, so I was wearing the jacket over a long-sleeved shirt and was really grateful that the jacket completely blocked out the wind. We boated across the lake causing water to spray up but the fabric is so resistant to water that the wind blew the water droplets right off.
I love the feel of the fabric since this is the only rain jacket I've ever owned where it was soft and comfortable while still being waterproof. In the past I've hesitated to ever don a rain jacket until I absolutely had to, but with the Trailblazer I'm happy to wear it.
The jacket has spent many miles stuffed in a pack while hiking in dry and warm weather. It doesn't seem to wrinkle despite the abuse and always looks nice. The durability has been good so far with the jacket looking nearly new.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the jacket on three backpacking trips including two overnight trips and one eight-day trip.
McKinstry Trail, Northern Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days, 9 mi (15 km); 5,510 to 7,050 ft (1,680 to 2,150 m) elevation; 40 to 75 F (4 to 24 C). Clear with breezy conditions in late afternoon.
Sun Rock Trail, Northern Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days, 10 mi (16 km); 6,200 to 6,600 ft (1,900 to 2,000 m) elevation; 38 to 68 F (3 to 20 C). Clear with cool conditions in evening and morning.
Pacific Crest Trail, Southern Sierra Nevada, California: 8 days, 87 mi (140 km); 6,299 to 12,126 ft (1,920 to 3,696 m) elevation; 31 to 89 F (-0.5 to 32 C). Mostly clear with some breezes and some afternoon thunderstorms.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I wore the jacket for cool mornings and evenings in camp. It worked great as a wind break on some breezier evenings. I also wore it for hiking in afternoon thunderstorms where it did an impeccable job at protecting me from the rain even after a few hours of constant downpour.
The jacket breathes well and didn't cause me to get hot and sweaty while hiking. My favorite thing about the jacket is the soft stretchy fabric which is so comfortable that I don't think of this as a 'rain' jacket. I'm always happy to wear it and even found that I chose it over my down jacket in camp on several occasions. That has never happened with any other rain jacket.
The jacket stuffed easily into my pack and still looked great when I pulled it out. The fabric doesn't seem to hold wrinkles. I even carried it on business trips in my carry-on luggage and it always looked nice when I pulled it out.
I like the longer sleeves which kept my hands drier during the rain storms since I could tuck my hands up inside. The hook-and-loop also allows me to cinch the wrist if I don't want the sleeves to extend over my hands. The pockets were well-positioned for me to carry my camera in one of them to protect it from the rain while still wearing my backpack. The hood did a good job of keeping the rain off of my face and the built-in brim was a plus.
I'm looking forward to our rainy season and the opportunity to wear this jacket in more rain. I'm also anxious to wear it for snowshoeing trips.
The MONTANE Trailblazer jacket is a highly technical, well-constructed, stretch-fabric waterproof shell.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Soft and comfortable fabric
This concludes my Long-Term report and this test series. Thanks to MONTANE and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.
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Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith