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Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants > Test Report by Brett Haydin

MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - October 5, 2011
Field Report - January 3, 2012
Long Term Report - February 21, 2012


TESTER INFORMATIONAuthor

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Salida, CO, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)
WAIST: 36 in (91 cm)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.



Initial Report

Product Information & Specifications

Manufacturer: mont-bell Co., Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 
2011
Image
Image courtesy of MontBell
Manufacturer's Website:  www.montbell.com
MSRP: $180.00 US
Listed Weight: 13.3 oz (377 g)
Measured Weight: 13.3 oz (54 g) *both  pants and stuff sack
Listed Packed Size: 4.9 in x 8.6 in (12.5 cm x 21.8 cm)
Actual Packed Size: 5 in x 10 in (12.7 cm x 25.4 cm)
Fill:
90% goose down, 10% goose feather
Color Tested:  Charcoal Black
Size Tested: Large (also available in small, medium, XL and XXL)
Warranty: One year from purchase on defects in material or workmanship

Other Details provided by Manufacturer

  • 2 zippered hand warmer pockets
  • DWR Flat coil zippers
  • Snap, zippered fly, and draw string waist adjustment
  • Full-length separating side zippers
  • Stuff sack included
  • High quality 800 fill power hypoallergenic goose down
  • 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon shell & lining
  • 50-denier nylon taffeta for reinforcements
  • 100-wash rated Polkatex® DWR treatment
  • Fill Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)

Initial Impressions

image
U.L. Tec Pants in stuff sack
The MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants are an insulating layer of pants designed for mountaineering and backpacking.  The pants arrived with four hang tags, three of which advertised technologies utilized; Polkatex DWR treatment, Ballistic Airlight nylon and YKK zippers.  So YKK is a third party, but the zippers are superior! The final hang tag was product specific and described MontBell's "TEC" line of clothing and offered more details on the construction and uses of the pants.  The "U.L." in the name stands for "ultra light," which they really are!

The pants utilize a straight-forward and well executed design.  For starters, the down is kept even by a simple single-quilt design.  The front of the pants from the knee down are reinforced with a 50 denier nylon over the 15 denier Ballistic Airline nylon shell as is the backside. There are two zippered pockets, one on either side, that are lined with microfleece to help keep my hands warm.  Above my left pocket is the MontBell logo attractively embroidered.  There are also full-length side zippers so I can easily take the pants off without taking my boots off.  Neat! The bottom of the zippers also has snaps to keep them from coming loose.

The pants should stay in place thanks to both an elastic waistband and a drawstring tie.  The crotch has a zipper as well to make putting the pants on and off easier.  Finally, the pants come with a stuff sack made of the 15 denier Ballistic Airlight fabric.  It is generously cut to make stuffing the pants inside an easy task.  I should point out that while my compressed measurements were slightly larger than the listing for the stuff sack, it could easily be compressed smaller if I need to.  The image to the left shows the pants stuffed in its sack with a water bottle for scale.

Looking inside the pants, there are four tags in the back sewn into the waistband.  One is the MontBell logo with their tagline, "Function is beauty."  Another is the size of pants.  The third one has care instructions and a lot of Chinese writing I cannot read. The final one states that the product is made in China, but also has contact information for MontBell.

It is worth mentioning some of the technologies used.  Polkatex is a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish.  MontBell says that it will repel light rain and is washable.  The Ballistic Airlight is a high-tech fabric that saves on weight without sacrificing durability.  MontBell has more detailed information on their website.  

Reading the Instructions

There are a few instructions that are included in the hang tags and sewn-in tags of the pants.  Many of the instructions actually reference MontBell's website, which is easy to navigate.  The care instructions are pretty straight-forward.  While I don't have a front-loading washing machine, I do have access to one should I need to launder the pants during the test series.  

Trying it out

I have worn the pants on a couple of occasions while walking my dogs on brisk mornings so far.  On one walk, I was actually wearing flip-flop sandals.  I did notice the cuffs dragging on the ground a little so I hiked the pants up so I wouldn't damage them.  The pants are quite comfortable and warm in our mild fall weather here in Colorado.  I see snow up on the mountaintops and am anxious to go hike a mountain to see how well they do on the summit of a 14,000 ft (4,270 m) peak!  Overall, the pants are easy to get on and off.  I was a little hesitant to order the large, but the sizing is actually great.  I'm not able to pull the pants on over another layer without undoing the snap and zipper, but I won't complain!  

Summary

Winter is rapidly approaching and I am getting anxious to head out for some cold weather camping.  I love the winter and am likely going to take more backcountry snowboard trips this winter.  These pants should get a workout!

Pros: Lightweight, comfortable and should be warm.

Cons:  Legs may be a little long, but I will reserve final say until I get out in the backcountry.



Field Report

Field Conditions

coffee
A morning cup of coffee in the U.L. Tec Pants
Over the past two months I have been on two overnight backpacking trips with these down pants.  Additionally, I have also worn the pants between three and five times per week on dog walks.  Interestingly, we have had very unseasonably cold weather in Salida, Colorado with several morning temperatures at -15 F (-26 C) or lower, I have certainly appreciated the warmth these pants offer!  Because of the cold temperatures, I have also chosen to wear the down pants on a pair of snowboard outings at our local resort.

My first backpacking trip was an overnight on Mount Shavano in the San Isabel National Forest.  This is my normal stomping grounds for quick getaways.  My hike was cut short after hiking in 2.5 mi (4.0 km) due to the severe wind damage the forest withstood.  After climbing over and under trees, at times 20 trees deep, I called it quits, set up camp with my dog and relaxed.  We camped at an elevation of 10,200 ft (3,100 m) with overnight temperature at about 30 F (-1 C).  Highs during the day were about 50 F (10 C) and bluebird skies and the trails were snowy, but only about 6 in (15 cm) deep.

The other trip I took was in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness on Colorado along the Rainbow trail near Bushnell Lakes.  I have previously been up this way and after the long cold spell, the temperatures of 20 to 40 F (-7 to 4 C) were a welcome respite from what we have encountered.  Like my other trip, this one was cut short by the amount of downed trees in the area and was 7 mi (11 km) round trip.  The trail was snow packed with an average of 24 in (61 cm) and at elevations up to 9,600 ft (2,900 m).  Again, clear skies adorned this beautiful hike, making the meteor viewing spectacular!

Observations

leakage image
Down feathers on base layer after vigorous use
The MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants are an incredibly well made insulating layer for camp use.  I have experienced a fair amount of down loss when using the pants in moderate to vigorous usage.  I first noticed the down leaking after my first trip snowboarding at the local resort.  With wind chill temperatures well below -15 F (-26 C) I felt like a down layer was well worth the effort.  Since MontBell's website listed backcountry "ski touring" as a suggested use, I felt pretty good about using the pants.  I was surprised when I took off the pants and noticed a large amount of down on my base layer (pictured at right).  These are the first pair of down pants I have owned so was not sure if I put too much strain on the pants, which was entirely likely (I do ride pretty aggressively...).  However on subsequent uses, including lounging around at the Rainbow Trail site,  I also experienced similar down leakage.  So far this has not impacted the warmth of the pants.

I should also point out that when I camped along the Rainbow Trail, I slept in the pants and also saw similar, albeit less, down-loss overnight.  I do toss and turn in my sleep, but I can't imagine that it is that much!

When it comes to comfort, these pants are the "bomb!"  I can honestly say that I have not gotten the chills while wearing these down pants.  They are great for light hikes and for at camp use.  While hiking vigorously, these are just too warm.  In wind, light snow and just sitting still, these are great pants all around.   What I really appreciate is the side zips that allow me to take the pants off in a pinch if I am getting too warm. This was great on Mt Shavano when I was really pushing myself hard and climbing over downed trees.  As I got closer to where I had intended to camp, it was easy to put the pants back on when I wanted to relax without adjusting multiple layers.  After wearing these, I simply won't even consider another shell or insulating pants layer that doesn't have this feature.  

I had mentioned in the initial report that the pants seemed long to me.  Frankly, I would like to retract this observation because they seem perfect with boots or even snowshoes.  They seem to fit my body just right in the field; both backpacking and snowboarding.  One thing that I noticed was that the draw string cord is a great touch.  While the pants tend to slip down if I don't tie the draw string, the pants do stay in place when properly secured.  This was true both when snowboarding as well as backpacking.

Summary

The La Nina weather system is calling for a dryer, somewhat warmer winter overall.  This doesn't bode well for my ski pass, but certainly is great for my backpacking trips.  I have a few winter summits already on the books for the next couple of months so I am looking forward to seeing how these pants do not only as lounging pant, but also on some high altitude endeavors.  

Likes so far: love the lightweight, packability and exceptional warmth.

Dislikes so far: I am somewhat concerned about the loss of down so far.  


Long Term Report

Field Conditions

Despite some crazy backcountry snow conditions (for the worse) I have managed to get out on another three overnight trips since posting my field report.  

The first trip I took was in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness on the Simmons Peak Trail. Overnight snow persuaded me to forgo a morning summit due to the shaky snow conditions in the region but the temperatures were reasonable; between 20 and 40 F (-7 and 4 C). I camped at Salamander Lake at 11,000 ft (3,350 m) which was about 3.5 mi (5.6 km) from the trailhead. The trail was snow covered; plenty of it in fact!

My second trip was a hike to La Plata Peak in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado.  I camped about 1 mi (1.6 km) from the trailhead but made it only about 2 mi (3.2 km) more after gaining the ridge at 12,300 ft (3,750 m).  It was quite cold with overnight temperatures at -10 F (-23 C) although the afternoon temperature reached about 25 F (-4 C).  The skies were mostly blue and snow covered just about everywhere I looked.  Go figure, this is Colorado in the winter!

My final trip was a trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado along the Colorado Trail.  This was a 12 mi (19 km) out-and-back.  This relatively mellow trail hovers around 10,000 ft (3,050 m) and was a mix of snow covered trails and some brief bare spots of a rocky trail.  I had fair weather with temperatures between 20 and 35 F (-6 to 2 C) and mostly sunny skies.  

I also took three day hikes during this test period with weather, temperatures and conditions all similar to my overnight hikes. Two of the hikes were quite cold, including an earlier unsuccessful hike on La Plata Peak where the morning temperature was a mere -10 F (-23 C)! Collectively, I took 5 overnight trips and 3 day hikes.

Observations

Summit
The key to a successful summit?  Warm Pants!
Well, one thing for sure is these pants are warm!  My legs and lower body continued to remain warm throughout the test period thanks to these pants.  The image above is from La Plata Peak at an elevation of 14,336 ft (4,370 m).  My hiking partners were eager to leave the summit because it was so cold, but I managed to stay a little extra longer thanks to the warm down layer these pants provide!  I had hesitated to bring the pants along, but on top of the peak I was glad to put the pants on and then soak up the views.  

I haven't worn the pants during any seriously vigorous exercise over the past two months.  Frankly they are just too warm.  Perhaps because of this I did not notice any more significant loss of down since my last report.  Overall, I would rate the durability as excellent.  No busted seams and the zippers still work great.  I did not have a chance to launder the pants at all during the test period; however, I don't see a need to at this point.  They are not stained nor do they have any odor.

I had noted that the length of the legs was a little long for my taste in my initial report.  With boots on, I have no issue.  However on a couple of mornings after my walks with the dogs, I lounged around the house in the pants and the length did seem long without shoes on.  Despite this, I think I would rather have more coverage than less!  I have come to really appreciate the side zippers for the winter weather.  I couldn't imagine taking off my crampons and shoes on top of a mountain just to try and stay warm.  

Continued Use

I will continue to use these pants on all of my winter outings as well as the spring and fall when I expect cooler temperatures.  For the little weight it will be well worth taking along on my overnights!

Summary

The MontBell U.L. TEC Down pants are ultra-light and ultra-warm.  I can't recommend these pants enough.

Likes:  lightweight, packs easily and is very warm.  

Dislikes:  after further consideration, none.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank MontBell for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.  



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Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants > Test Report by Brett Haydin



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