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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > MontBell Convertible Jacket and Pants > Test Report by Duane Lawrence
MONTBELL CONVERTIBLE RAIN GEAR
BY DUANE LAWRENCE
INITIAL REPORT- MAY 19, 2016
FIELD REPORT - JUNE 17, 2016
LONG TERM REPORT - SEPTEMBER 14, 2016
I have been an avid outdoor enthusiast for the past 25 years. I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including mountaineering, day hikes, multi-day backpacking trips, river and ocean kayaking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and rock climbing. I have climbed and hiked throughout British Columbia, the United States and when opportunity presents itself in Europe and India. I carry a wide variety of gear depending on the type and length of trip. I am a Search and Rescue team member in the Southern Rockies and am part of the swift water, rope rescue technical teams and ground search team.
Design & Materials
MontBell has used a 3-layer DRY-TECH Technology with a 15-denier Ballistic Airtight rip-stop nylon fabric in both the rain jacket and pants. The Dry-Tec technology is a 2-ply waterproof breathable fabric that utilizes a laminating process which bonds fabric to a microporous membrane. The micorpores make the fabric impervious to liquid water while still allowing water vapor to pass through. The manufacture reports that performance does not change after 20 washes. The Ballistic Airlight is an ultra-light nylon developed through the heating and stretching of nylon fibers which improves the strength and stamina of the fabric. The use of both of these technologies together creates an ultra-light, water proof breathable fabric.
The jacket design incorporates opposed zippers which allow the removal of the sleeves, is fully seam taped, with a 7 in (16 cm) chest pocket and roll away hood. It has an adjustable cuff with slightly articulated arms, weather resistant Aqua-Tect left hand zipper and a draw cord at the hem for adjusting the jacket. Similarly the pants incorporate opposed and knee length zippers allowing for the transition of the pants to shorts. They are fully seam taped with an elasticized waist with a draw cord and an ankle closure system. Both the jacket and pants note that they use smart sewing technology for saving weight although I was unable to determine what this exactly is. They also come with individual stuff sacks.
Breathability and Water Resistance Rating
With ratings of 15,000g/m2/24hrs (632oz/yd2/24hr) and 20,000 mm (656 ft) I would expect this rain gear to be highly water resistant as well as breathable. Readers shall have to wait and see what my findings are but for rain gear I am hoping for the best. A guide for the testing for water repellency and breathability can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterproof_fabric. They have done a great job explaining the ratings and what it all means, better than I could do within this report.
The tags indicate that the user should not leave the product wet and tumble dry on the low setting. Not surprisingly ironing is not recommend.
Without a doubt this is the lightest rain jacket and pants that I have every tried on. They both fit very comfortably even over a fleece jacket and jeans. Both appear to be very well made even though there is minimal stitching, I am assuming this is what they refer to when noting the smart sewing technology. The fabric is nice to the touch and although I haven’t tried them out while doing any type of exercise yet they seem to be very comfortable. The hood has three different adjustment points that allow for good versatility. I personally like the brim of the hood quite far back and the Velcro adjuster allows me to pull it back nicely. The arms are a nice length and there is ample room in the shoulders and body of the jacket to allow for layering. The one item that struck me immediately after I put the jacket on was that there were no hand pockets, just a chest pocket. I like having pockets especially on cold rainy days as it gives me somewhere to put my hands and keep them somewhat warm. Not sure what I am going to do with my hands since the rain paints don’t have pockets either although I did not expect them to. I would say this is a personal preference but it would be something that I would look at when purchasing any jacket. The pants are comfortable with the same minimalist stitching. I like that they incorporated both an elastic waist and draw cord as well as an ankle cinch cord.
Now, on to the convertible aspect of this product. I must admit that I would have never thought of the idea of convertible rain gear. That being said it is an interesting concept which I am, hopefully, going to enjoy testing. The jacket sleeves zip off to create a short sleeved rain shell and the pants also zip off to create knee length rain shorts. The rain paints (shorts) have a knee length zipper which allows for easy removal of the lower portion of the pant. The jacket sleeves are also easily removed with one hand. I was even able to put them back on with one hand, nice zippers! I also noted that I didn’t really notice that the jacket or pants had zippers which was very nice.
It has been a few months now since I began testing the Montbell Convertible Rain Gear and although I haven't found an opportunity to test the convertible rain pants as shorts I have had, sadly, plenty of opportunity to test both the jacket and pants with the arms and legs on. So far I have used them on a couple of backpacking trips including a three night basecamp trip in the Canadian Rockies at Lake O'Hara. The trip included about 34 km (21.1 mi) of hiking over three days in the alpine with on and off rain. I was also able to test the gear during my regular travels as a light rain jacket and even as a golf rain coat. In all I have used the jacket upwards of 11 or 12 times and the pants on 3 very wet occasions. During the rain events I was backpacking a light pack up and down some significant hills, between 300 m (984 ft) and 500 m (1640 ft) of elevation, so am able to provide some insights on how well it does under stress from perspiration and rain at the same time.
So here is what I have observed so far. First the jacket. It is a very light weight rain coat that can hold up under a good amount of rain. During the most significant rain event I was wearing a pack and heading down from an alpine lake and it was raining heavily for about 30 minutes or so and then mixed levels of precipitation for another hour or so. Although I did not take off the arms, as it was cold out, the jacket performed very well. No water made its way up the sleeves, no leaks in the seams or zippers, the hood kept my head dry although I did have to make several adjustments to it so that it was in the right position. I had actually forgotten about the velcro adjustment on the top of the hood which my wife pointed out and which was easily adjusted to move the 'visor' portion of the hood forward keeping my face a little drier. The draw string hood adjustments also allowed me to tighten the hood easily to get the right fit. I did take an opportunity to hike around in very light rain with the arms off. My first impression was, well, less than positive. It just seemed a very odd thing to do and I was having a difficult time determining when I would want to walk around with a short sleeve rain jacket. After using it for awhile though I found that it was just fine. With the arms off I could keep my core dry and warm and release some excess heat generated while hiking. I think I could easily use this jacket without the sleeves if the weather and rain was warmer. Up here in the Rockies it will likely occur on much rarer occasions. I did use the jacket, without sleeves, golfing and was very pleased with the results. The jacket moved very nicely with lots of range of motion. It was also very comfortable to wear and as mentioned previously kept my core warm with the added benefit on reducing any arm restrictions. The only downside is that my arms got wet even though the rest of me was dry. Not sure if I would like this unless it was really warm out.
I did want to take an opportunity to comment on its breathability. Although I always find it hard to determine how breathable a product is as I overheat very quickly and nothing seems to keep up. Anyway, at a light pace, not working too hard, the jacket, regardless of the amount of rain, did seem to keep me dry from sweat as much as from the rain. I am not sure if it would be able to keep up under a tougher workout but it can definitely keep up under a light workout. Last observation on the jacket for this interim review. When I did test taking the arms off I did find they came off easily and without assistance which was very nice. Also, to my surprise, I could reattach the arms with one hand and, again, without assistance. The zippers were easy to use and although I did catch the fabric a couple of times I was able to free the zipper and do it up all the way on both sides with no trouble at all.
On to the rain pants. I have only had the opportunity to use them in the pant mode so far but will be looking for an opportunity to use them in the converted rain short mode. As a rain pant they perform very well. Getting them on over hiking boots was easily accomplished with the knee length zipper and they were very comfortable to wear. They were able to handle walking through wet brush and rain alike with no problems. The only thing that I found frustrating was the waist tie. Although there is a waist cord that you can tighten the only option was to tie the cord in a knot. Oddly there was no adjustable toggle like all the other draw cords. Even the storage sack had cord toggles that allowed for easy adjustment. Makes me think that either the toggle was missed on this pair of rain pants or fell off. Either way without a toggle on the cord the pants slip off the hips and are really annoying. I actually stole a cinch toggle off of the storage sack which worked ok but it is definitely not the right type as it keeps coming off the cord. I will be looking in my gear repair box for a different type of toggle which will hopefully work out.
Some general observations. Both the pants and jacket are very light weight and compactable and are easily put back in the storage pouches which was a nice bonus. It has been very convenient to have the pants and jacket stowed in their own bags and the orange and black bags make it easy to tell which is which. Both are easily worn under a pack and there was no evidence of water penetrating where the pack was rubbing. It was also nice to find out that the jacket and pants dried very quickly, about an hour or so, right after a good soak in the rain. The one thing I wish was included in the jacket was pockets. If my hands are cold and I am wearing the pants and jacket I have nowhere to put my hands which is a little annoying. It would add a little more weight to the design although I personally would be happy to have pockets and carry the couple of extra ounces required to add them in. The lack of a toggle on the pants, as previously stated, was really annoying. I hope it was just a minor oversight or the toggle just fell or was missed on this pair, regardless it would be an easy fix for the manufacturer.
Rain Hood Adjustments Rain Pants Waist Cord Rain Jacket Arm Zipper
It's been a busy summer and although great for this test, not so much for getting a tan, very wet and rainy. Concluding this test I believe I was able to give this product a good run for its money. Over the last two months I spent time with the Montbell convertible rain gear exploring the local mountains, heading up to a maximum elevation of 2548 m (8360 ft) and hiking with both day and overnight packs from 5 to 20 km (3.1 to 12.4 mi) a day. All of my trips took place in the Southern Canadian Rockies and Northern Montana.
The results, for light weight rain gear this product is superb. It has the ability to deal with high volumes of rain and heavy perspiration. I hiked a 40+ lb (18.1 kg) pack up to a nice alpine lake in the rain and once it stopped raining was able to say that I was not overly wet from either rain or sweat. The ability for the jacket and pants to let out water vapor seemed quit high. I was not perfectly dry but on the whole it was not like I was wearing plastic rain gear and got more wet from sweat than rain. It did a great job actually, very happy in this regard with its performance. One thing that I also really liked was the jacket's suitability as a wind jacket. I was up on a few peaks this summer and the wind was brutal. I am not sure what the speed was but I had to hold on to the ridge rocks not to be blown off a couple of times so I would say, really windy. Anyway, the jacket worked exceptionally well as a wind jacket. Hiking up the mountain with it partially zipped and the wind battering me it was durable enough to protect me from the wind, light enough to be comfortable in the sun and wind, and the breathability was very good. Again, I was not soaked from sweat from wearing a rain coat.
The rain pants were just as good as the jacket. Very breathable, easy to put on and take off even over hiking boots. Once I added in the toggle on the draw string they no longer slipped or road down so that problem was easily solved. I am still wondering if this was just an oversight on the gear I received or not. Regardless, the addition of the toggle made all the difference. As for the convertible nature of the pants I did try it once although I must admit that this was not because I really wanted to, more just for the test. Anyway, it works. It is definitely strange and I am not sure if I would ever think about using them in this manner. The problem I found with it is that if it is raining out then I would need to wear gaiters to keep the water out of my boots. If its just warm and wet then I still have to deal with the bushes and water running off of my legs and into my boots. I did like it when I was not hiking and it was just wet out as I could still be wearing shorts on a warm wet day and could sit anywhere without getting my shorts wet from sitting on wet rocks or logs. It's an interesting feature but I am not convinced it is one that is necessary, at least in this region. If it was hot and muggy out all the time this might be a great feature, up in the Rockies though, the rain is just too cold to make me want to wear either the jacket or pants in their converted state.
As for durability I could find no discernable wear on either the jacket or pants. Even after using them on a couple of mountain scrambles and bushwhacking through some thick forests I could not find any evidence wear. The zippers are still in great shape and the seams are good. After four months of use the jacket and pants look just as good as when I first received them.
So, finally thoughts. As rain gear goes, I really like this product. It is durable, light and breathable. I would use this from mid spring until mid fall when the temperature falls and I need to start thinking about added warmth and not just keeping dry. It is a great wind jacket as well as rain jacket which is a nice bonus. Both the jacket and pants are very packable in their stuff sacks, which I actually really liked being able to do, and were light enough that I didn't hesitate to throw them into my pack regardless if I thought I was going to run into inclement weather or not. The convertible aspect is an interesting feature and if I lived in a region that was a lot warmer when it rained I think I might use them in their converted mode but out here, not so much. Overall an excellent product that I will continue to use whenever I head out on a hike or backpack.
Stuff sacks for storage
Water resistance level
Pants need a toggle on the draw string
Thank you to BackPackGeartest.org and Montbell for the opportunity to test the Convertible Rain Gear.
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