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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > MontBell Versalite Jacket > Test Report by Bob Sanders



MontBell Versalite Jacket

Test Series by Bob Sanders
Initial Report: December 15, 2013
Field Report: March 16, 2014
Long Term Report: May 19,2014

PERSONAL INFORMATION
Name: Bob Sanders BobBackpacking Background: I went on my first backpacking trip as a Boy Scout at the age of 16. Over the years I have hiked the Wonderland Trail in Washington and section hiked parts of the Florida Trail, Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail and 740 mi (1191 km) of the Pacific Crest Trail. I continue to backpack and hike year round in the Colorado mountains. I have evolved from a heavyweight backpacker to a lightweight backpacker and sometimes reach ultralight weights. My three day winter/spring solo adventures (using a tent) have me hovering around a 15 lb (6.8 kg) base weight.
Age: 55
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 210 lb (95 kg)
Email: sherpabob(at)mac(dot)com
Location: Longmont, Colorado USA



INITIAL REPORT

December 15, 2013

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Image from website)
Jacket

Manufacturer: MontBell Co, Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
www.montbell.com
MSRP:
$149.00 US
Listed Weight (Med size):
6.7 oz (190 g)
Measured Weight (XL Jacket):
7.3 oz (209 g)
Measured Weight (Stuff Sack): .3 oz (8 g)
Color Tested: Shadow (Shown above) - also available in Orient Blue, Brick Red and White
Size Tested:
X-Large (available in S, M, L, XL)
Fabric:
15-denier "Ballistic Airtight" rip-stop nylon
Waterproof:
2.5-layer Super Hydro Breeze proprietary technology
Warranty:
Covers all defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product.

Front of Jacket    Back of Jacket
Product Description:

The jacket is intended (per the manufacturer) for multi-day summer backpacking. Since the testing period is during the winter/spring seasons we will see if the seasons make much of a difference.

The jacket comes with an adjustable hood, hem and cuffs. The hem is adjustable with elastic cords (one on each side) and mini cord locks. The hood has three points of adjustment. Around the face and around the back of the head using elastic cords. There is also an adjustment strap with hook-n-Loop material on top of the hood which pulls the brim back to keep it out of your eyes. The addition of a small piece of foam rod helps keep the brim stiff. The cuffs are also adjustable with a strap and hook-n-loop material.

Cuff adjustment    Hem adjustment   Hood

The Versalite jacket comes with a full zipper on the front with a nylon cord and plastic zipper pull. It is a good size to grab on to even with gloves on. On each side of the front zipper is a nice long reflective strip. One thing I did notice about the zipper is it is opposite of what I'm used to. The zipper pull is on the left side of the zipper rather than on the right side. The website lists the zipper as "Weather resistant Aqua-Tect, (European style) left hand zipper".

There are two good sized hand-warmer pockets but no chest pocket. Both pockets have the same nice zipper pull as the front zipper. The jacket also includes two 13 in (33 cm) pit zips to increase ventilation. The zipper pulls on the pit zips are just simple knotted cords. During the testing I will be evaluating how well the jacket breathes with and without using the pit zips. For any rain jacket, breathability and ventilation are key to the usability and success of the jacket. The jacket's fabric is listed as a "15-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon with a 2.5-layer Super Hydro Breeze (non-porous polyurethane treated laminated fabric) with water resistance rated at (20,000 mm / Breathability: 20,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs).

All seams are taped and a very small stuff sack is included for storage. The stuff sack is simple with a boxed bottom, a pull strap with the MontBell logo on it and oddly two draw cords. One with a cord lock and one without. Having two seems kind of redundant. I have to say the jacket is very compressible and packs up really small.

Stuff sack


Initial Impressions:

This jacket is very light weight. At 7.3 oz (209 g) this is lightest rain jacket I currently own. The jackets fabric, although being very lightweight does seem to be somewhat robust. I gave it a yank in all directions and there is very little stretch and initially it seems pretty tough.

The workmanship and quality is impeccable, which is what I have come to expect from MontBell products. Seams are straight with no loose threads.

The size (XL) is a good choice for me. The sizing chart listed on the website was accurate based on my dimensions. It fits me well and there is extra room underneath for additional layers which I will be wearing as it is winter. The sleeves are articulated and when I raised my arms above my head the jacket did not ride up. The jacket also includes a 2 in (5 cm) drop tail so it covers my large posterior quite nicely.

Not too sure how much rain we will receive. During the first 3 months (December, January & February) of testing I expect freezing temperatures and snow. During the last month (March) we will see warmer temperatures and if it snows it will be the wet, heavy kind of snow. This would be a much better test for the waterproof/breathability aspects of the jacket.

Likes:
  • Very lightweight
  • Very compact
Dislikes:
  • None so far

FIELD REPORT

March 16, 2014


I have carried the jacket with me quite a bit. Unfortunately I have not used it as much as I would like to have. Mostly because it has not been raining and the conditions have been dry with low humidity levels.

Testing locations and conditions:

As I expected the first couple of months of testing have been cold and dry. We have had daytime temperatures ranging between 0 and 55 F (-18 and 13 C) with nighttime temperatures between -14 and 30 F (-26 and -1 C). We have had sporadic snow fall and all of it has been the dry, fluffy powdery snow. March and April will bring the wet heavy type of snow. This kind of snow requires a waterproof shell.

Day Hikes: During this test period I have been on 8 day hikes ranging from 3 to 8 mi (5 to 13 km). All of my hikes are in the surrounding foothills near my home. Elevations average between 5000 to 7500 ft (1524 to 2286 m) Temperatures have run between 20 and 40 F (-7 and 4 C). During these hikes I have been using the jacket mostly as an outer shell to block the wind.

Backpacking: Drove up to Lefthand Reservoir for a quick overnighter, one of my favorite spots on the planet. It is a short hike in on the access road. Took snowshoes but never needed them as the trail was pretty packed down. We did pull a sled so we could take some extra winter necessities and some firewood. The elevation where we camped was approx. 9500 ft (2896 m) and the temperatures were between 20 and 35 F (-7 and 2 C) during the day and at night we saw temperatures dip to 0 F (-18 C). Again I used the jacket as an outer shell over my fleece.

Performance:

My standard attire while day hiking and backpacking during the colder months seems to stay the same with adjustments or removals of the top layers. My winter layer combinations consist of a mid to heavy weight Merino Wool baselayer with a micro fleece or regular fleece on top of that (depending on how cold I expect it to get). On top of that I usually include a wind jacket or a full on shell (again depending on how cold I think it will get). On these trips I used the Versalite as my wind and shell layer. I also bring along a down jacket to put on only when my activity level has decreased and I begin to feel chilled. I have several from light weight to heavy weight. For day hikes I usually bring a lightweight version and for overnights I bring a thicker down jacket.

A typical scenario would be I drive to the trail head with all of my layers on. I grab my backpack and stow my water. At this point (depending on if I feel chilled) I will remove the down jacket and stow it in the pack. I head down the trail with baselayer, fleece and wind or shell jacket on top. I like to hike briskly so I can heat up pretty quick. To regulate my temperature so I don't sweat too much the first thing I remove is my hat, then my gloves, then I would open the pit zips, then I would open the jacket front zipper half way, then all the way. If I am still warm I would remove the jacket all the way and stow it as long as the wind was calm. If the wind was still blowing I would probably keep the jacket on and just reduce my pace. When I stop for breaks or at camp, out comes the down jacket that I put on top of everything. This layer scenario has worked out pretty well for me.

The Versalite has done an excellent job of ventilating and keeping me dry. The breathability of the jacket has been also quite good. The pit zips are long enough to create a big enough opening to ventilate well.

All of the zippers have worked well and the elastic with hook and loop wrist closures keep things snugged up. The hood adjustment works well and there is plenty of room for a pretty thick hat.

I have not been able to test how waterproof this jacket is due to no rain. When it has snowed it has been the light, powdery kind that just seems to blow off. We should be seeing some of the wet stuff in the next couple of months.

Durability has been excellent as the jacket looks brand new with no signs of wear and tear.

Summary:

I really like this jacket. It has performed really well in the cold dry winters of Colorado. Can't wait to see how well it does this spring.

Pros: Very light weight and it packs down really small.
Cons: None so far


LONG TERM REPORT

May 19, 2014

Weather has been cooperating and we have been getting a typical wet Spring. I have continued to carry the jacket with me on all day hikes and an additional 3 day 2 night trip.

Day Hikes: During this test period I have been on 6 day hikes ranging from 3 to 8 mi (5 to 13 km). All of my hikes are in the surrounding foothills near my home. Elevations averaged between 5000 to 7500 ft (1524 to 2286 m). Daytime temperatures have been averaging between 30 and 70 F (-1 and 21 C).

Backpacking: Headed down to Golden Gate Canyon State Park for a 3 day 2 night backpacking trip. Stayed in 2 of their backcountry sites. The elevation where I camped was approx. 8500 ft (2591 m) and the temperatures were between 40 and 60 F (4 and 16 C) during the day and at night temperatures dipped to 25 F (-4 C). Again I used the jacket as an outer shell over my fleece for warmth and rain protection.

Performance:

During several of my day hikes and during 2 days of the backpacking trip we did experience afternoon thunder showers consisting of simple, steady, light rain that lasted for 30 minutes to several hours. In the mornings when it was chilly I would wear the jacket over my insulating layer when I left the car, or when I broke camp. As I hiked and would warm up, didn't usually take very long, I would take the jacket off and stow it till I got chilled or if it started raining. In the afternoons when it finally started to sprinkle, out came the jacket and I would head for the car or on to the evenings camp site. Only once did I arrive at camp and it was still raining. On every occasion the temperatures were mild in the 60 to 70 F (16 to 21 C) range so I was sweating but not excessively. The only area that was very wet was my back, which is pretty normal for me. When I wear a pack my back gets wet from sweat.

Humping through the woods with a pack on you are going to sweat, but the jacket did an excellent job of ventilating, especially the pit zips. Leaving the pit zips completely open while I hiked I never noticed any leakage. After the rain had stopped and I finally took the jacket off, it was only slightly wet on the inside. I think this is pretty good performance for hiking in light rain with 90 to 100% humidity. If it was raining much harder I probably would have stopped and waited it out.

During the times that I wore the jacket and it wasn't raining I never felt clammy and when I would heat up and remove the jacket it was not wet inside.

All the zippers still work well and the jacket appears as new as when it arrived.

Summary:

I have to say that this is my new favorite ultralight weight shell jacket. At
7.3 oz (209 g) the weight is excellent and the performance has been awesome in both a cold/dry Winter environment and a wet/rainy Spring environment. The minimal weight and very small packed size will also make this a welcome addition to my travel gear and work bag.
____________________________________________________________________________________

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell for the opportunity to test this Jacket.


Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Bob Sanders

Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > MontBell Versalite Jacket > Test Report by Bob Sanders



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