Series by Bob Sanders
Report: December 15, 2013
Report: March 16, 2014
Long Term Report: May 19,2014
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.
ft 1 in (1.85 m)
lb (95 kg)
INFORMATION (Image from website)
MontBell Co, Ltd.
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)
Weight (Stuff Sack): .3 oz (8 g)
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
Waterproof: 2.5-layer Super Hydro Breeze proprietary
Warranty: Covers all defects in materials and
workmanship for the lifetime of the product.
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.
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.
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
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.
- Very lightweight
- Very compact
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Very light weight and it packs down really small.
None so far
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.
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.
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