If Montane were a person, you’d say they’d spent a couple of years doing a bunch of mountain running, but were starting to get back into bigger mountain stuff taking some of the fast-and-light lessons they’d learned on the trail to the higher peaks.
So when I popped up to their Lake District showroom for a run through of what’s new for winter 2018 with Montane’s affable product guy, Wim Stevenson, it was all about insulation – it’s winter right, so it’s cold – and fast, light insulation in particular.
So what’s new exactly? Here’s our pick of the new season range from warm jackets to ice climbing gloves via a neat, lightweight mountain shell.
Men’s Starlight Pull-On – £150
You know the weight-saving’s got serious when there’s no collar on your jacket, which in turn makes the ultra-lightweight, down-filled Starlight Pull-On instantly distinctive. It was developed with Montane’s talented sponsored climber Tom Ballard and named after his ‘Starlight & Storm’ project to solo all six major alpine North faces in winter.
The Starlight contains just 80g of traceable 800+ fill power, hydrophobic down housed in the dinkiest micro-baffles – the compartments the down lives in – we’ve ever seen. Total weight is a claimed 239g for a medium, so just 160g-odd off that is fabric. That, if you were wondering, is something called Featherlite 150, it’s a super-fine, rip-stop fabric with a water repellent treatment. The idea of the missing collar and the absence of a hood, is that the top layers better under or over other kit and doesn’t add bulk or complexity. There are other features too, erm, an internal chest pocket to warm your electricals, a half-length zip, and two venting zips at the sides to keep your more comfortable on the move.
In a blog piece about the development of the top – https://www.montane.co.uk/blog/2018/09/starlight-pull-on-designed-by-experience/ – Ballard muses that it might have kept him warm on a winter benightment. Which sounds optimistic, but if what you want is minimal weight and bulk, but just enough warmth on the move, it could be the badger. Most of us would probably be better off with something a little heavier, but also a little warmer, but then most of us aren’t speed-soloing alpine north faces in winter.
The Shizz: Very light, very stuffable, just warm enough – hopefully
Icarus and Phoenix ThermoPlume Insulation Family
Not entirely new, but definitely worth a look are the Icarus (men’s) and the women’s Phoenix family of down-like synthetic insulated tops. They use similar dinky compartments to the new Starlight, but stuffed with PrimaLoft’s down-like ThermoPlume fill. It’s a synthetic insulation that’s been engineered to mimic the structure and performance of natural down and can be ‘blown’ into baffles in the same way rather than existing as sheets. The biggest claimed advantage it has over down is improved loft when wet and easier all-round care. No careful tumble-drying with live hamsters required. It also has a really cool full name: PrimaLoft Black Insulation ThermoPlume with a vague whiff of the occult. Ad of course, it looks cool like down.
There are three variants: the existing Jacket, which has a hood, the new Micro Jacket, which is the same thing, but without a hood and the new Vest, which is effectively the Micro with the sleeves hacked off. They all share the same insulation, micro-baffled, stitch-through construction and a lightweight Pertex Quantum Eco fabric recycled outer with a water repellent finish. The insulation fill-power is reckoned to be in the same ball-park as 550 fill power down, so not quite in the same league as the Patagonia equivalent, but certainly competitive with mid-range down.
The jackets are £150, the Micro is £130 and the Vest £110. Weight for the men’s versions: 547g, 504g and 349g. They all get a sporty fit, hand-warmer pockets and a chest pocket – external for guys, internal for the lasses.
Looks like a handy, UK-friendly, knock-about all-rounder with down-like good looks.
The Shizz: Cool down looks and down-like performance with synthetic wet tolerance.
Icarus and Phoenix Flight Jackets – £160
The new Flight versions of the Icarus and Phoenix are, let’s face it, the slimmed-down, sexier, lithe little brothers and sisters of the mainstream versions. The big question is, are you? Joking aside, the basics are familiar, same insulation and main fabrics along with an insulated, under-helmet hood. They even weigh the same, give or take a couple of grammes – 536 of them for this one. But the Flight versions are cunning hybrid affairs with stretch side-panels and inner sleeves made from stretchy Thermo Stretch Pro fleece instead of the standard version’s teeny tiny down baffles.
Why? ‘Refined silhouette’ is the posh description, but the idea is that you get a closer fit, which means better layering under technical shell jackets. Plus the increased breathability of the fleece panels means the jacket overall should be more forgiving when you’re giving it maximum pasty up some steep alpine approach. The downside, we suspect, will be reduced wind resistance particularly if you’re side-on to the breeze. But then hey, time to pull on a shell.
The Shizz: Like an Icarus/Phoenix, but more streamlined and FOR CLIMBERS!
Women’s Prismatic Jacket – £125
This one’s only available for women and it’s mooted as the successor to the classic Prism Jacket , Montane’s long-standing synthetic warmer, that’s starting to look a little long in the tooth. Watch for a men’s equivalent coming next year. Like the Prism, the Prismatic uses PrimaLoft insulation, 40g Silver Eco if you were wondering, but it’s a cleaner, more streamlined, modern design. The outer fabric has a less shiny, matte sort of look and is Barrier LIte 20D rather than Pertex.
The fit is apparently close and the idea us you can use it either on the move or for stops. There’s an insulated hood and hand-warmer pockets, though unlike the Prism, these aren’t insulated, so they’re probably more hand-pockets than hand-warmers. Claimed weight is an impressively light 314g.
The Shizz: Clean, modern and light synthetic insulation for all-round hill use.
Fleet Jacket – £270 (men’s and women’s)
Available for men and women, the new Fleet Jacket is sort of a more developed successor to the old Spine Jacket. The Spine was properly minimal with Gore-Tex Active fabric, a single chest pocket and a competent, but non-adjustable hood. It was aimed at fast and light mountain runners who wanted decent protection with minimal weight. The Fleet, still uses Gore-Tex Active, which is decently breathable, but mixes in tougher shoulder and hip-area panels made from tougher rip-stop 40D Gore-Tex C-Knit fabric for improved wear with a pack. It also has a fully-adjustable roll-away hood, a more generously proportioned chest-pocket and two hand-pockets.
Weight is still decently light at a claimed 348g for the men’s version and just 291g for the women’s. In essence it’s a bit more ‘mountain’ and a bit less ‘stripped down running’, which makes sense, because if you’re going to use a jacket like this, you’re probably likely to be out in full-on mountain weather.
The Shizz: Light and breathable waterproof mountain shell that could work for fast and light walkers and well as runners.
Ember Pull-On – £140
By way of balance, this one’s for boys only. It’s a mid-layer come outer in still, dry conditions, that uses Polartec’s fluffy Alpha Direct insulation – wicks, dries and wicks again lightning fast – inside a Featherlite Air Nylon stretch outer. No hood and just a single pocket – we’d have preferred one at the chest rather than the waist, but hey – plus a cool colour stitching detail on the lefthand front shoulder. The insulation isn’t the heaviest Alpha out there, but based on our experience of the similar Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody, we’d say it should be an excellent alternative to a mid-weight fleece with added versatility thanks to the improved wind resistance.
One of those tops that we reckon’ll go down a storm with folk who use them.
The Shizz: Cold weather mid-layer with sometime outer layer chops.
Hydrogen Extreme Smock – £200
This is the one that got away. It’s sold so well that Montane have run out of them in their own showroom, so you’ll have to make do with a stock shot. Although it’s billed as a sort of lightweight alternative to the venerable pile and Pertex Extreme Smock, it’s actually another Polartec Alpha Direct creature. The insulation’s warmer than that in the Ember – 125g v 90g – and the outer fabric is Pertex Quantum Air with tougher Quantum Pro on the forearms. The design’s traditional smock with a front pocket, adjustable hood and twin zipped-side vents for cooling and ease of donning / escaping.
If it’s as good as Rab’s Alpha Direct Jacket or the Outdoor Research Alpenice, it should be brilliant in cool, damp UK conditions where Alpha’s ability to slam dunk dampness into oblivion rules supreme. Much lighter than pile / Pertex at a claimed 496g. More packable too. And thankfully not quite as furnace hot either.
The Shizz: If you like the idea of pile / Pertex, but find it too hot and bulky this should be the business.
Ice Grip Glove – £90
Montane’s always done a nice line in gloves and the new ice-climbing orientated Ice Grip looks like an interesting one. Its hidden ace is Gore-Tex Grip technology: in a nut-shell, strategically-placed tape attaches the waterproof Gore-Tex liner to the inside of the glove. Without it, Gore-Tex gloves have a bunch of disconcerting internal movement between glove and liner, which is quite unnerving for ice-climbing, skiing or mountain biking. Should be a good thing.
The rest of the glove uses light, tough, flexible goat hide – goats are great in the mountains – plus soft-shell fabric on the back of the hand and there’s 100g PrimaLoft insulation to keep your pinkies cosy. Montane have had the foresight to put the insulation on the back of the hand leaving the palm pretty much in direct contact with your ice-tools. Finally, fit in the showroom felt excellent to yours truly, but it’ll depend on the vagaries of hand-shape and finger proportions.
The Shizz: A well thought-out waterproof ice-climbing glove that shouldn’t slip around on your shafts, erm.
Wolf Hoodie – £135
The Wolf isn’t actually new at all, it arrived last year, I think. But… it’s one of the nicest technical fleeces out there using a mix of Polartec Thermal Hi-Loft fleece on the body and Power Grid for the sides and hood. The hood’s designed to sit under a helmet. Sleeves are high-lift and articulated for those dramatic overhead moves and, well, let’s be honest, it just exudes warm, lofty comfort.
For reference it’s 426g and you’ll probably get more warmth from Montane’s down or synthetic insulation, but if you’re after a pure, warm, layering piece that’s pretty much always going to live under a shell, it’s a nice one.
The Shizz: Technical fleece for sticking under a shell and wearing all day.
The One We Forgot…
Somehow, in all the excitement over the Icarus Flight and the Starlight Pull-On, we managed not to look at the equally new and quite nice lightweight down men’s and women’s Future Lite Hoodies. They look not unlike a Starlight Pull-On but with hoods and no stretch side-panels or vents. The down is slightly less swanky 750 fill power rather than 800+ but you still get the super micro ‘nano baffle’ stitch-through construction plus a bit more adjustability. The men’s version weighs a decently light 339g and retails for £165, the women’s clocks in at 308g.
There’s other new stuff too, an updated reversible Fireball Verso Pull-On for example and an Alpha / fleece hybrid called the Alpha Balance Jacket. You can see the full range of Montane newness at: