MontBell Torrent Flier Jacket REVIEW

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by the Product Review Staff | 2004-03-05 03:00:00-07

MontBell Torrent Flier Jacket REVIEW

Overview

Slipping into Mont-bell’s Torrent Flier jacket is like going to a concept car show and having one of the dealers hand over the keys. This jacket is loaded with new fabric and fastener technologies. At the heart of the jacket is a highly breathable 3-layer Gore-Tex XCR fabric that weighs about the same as the lightest 2.5 layer Gore-Tex PacLite III, which brings the jacket weight down to around 12 ounces (our pre-production version weighed 11.8 oz). The Torrent Flier is outfitted with YKK AquaTech weatherproof zippers throughout, is made with meticulous stitching and manufacturing quality, and offers a well-contoured fit. A Napoleon chest pocket rounds out a great-fitting and functional jacket for lightweight backpackers. The catch? Technology comes at a price and your pocketbook will pay.

Specifications

  • Style - hooded jacket.
  • Fabric Class - Waterproof-breathable (polyurethane laminated PTFE )
  • Fabric Description - Gore-Tex XCR 2.5 oz/yd2 (85 gm/m2). This tricot-lined 3-layer fabric is lighter than the lightest 2.5-layer Gore-Tex PacLite III. The outer shell is 15-denier ballistic nylon. The prototype tested has a 25-denier tricot lining (Most flavors of XCR use a 30-denier tricot lining). Mont-Bell tells us they are moving to a 15-denier tricot lining in the final production version.
  • Waterproofness Specification - 64 PSI, JIS L-1099 B-1 test
  • Breathability Specification - 13,500 gm/m2/24h, JIS L-1099 test
  • Actual Weight - 11.8 oz. (335 g) (Men’s M as verified on a BackpackingLight.com scale). Production models appear to be coming in about 0.5 oz heavier.
  • MSRP - $289.00.

Features

Graded subjectively on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

Ventilation Options (4.0)

Although the Mont-Bell Torrent Flier lacks mesh-backed pockets or other torso vents, the pit zips are a whopping 19-inches in length – imagine the ability to vent from the elbows to your waistline! #3 pit zippers with double sliders make it possible to isolate venting to the lower torso, the pits, the upper arms, or combination of the three. The one-way separating front zipper lacks a double slider (does it really save that much weight?) which eliminates the option to vent only the lower torso using a bottom zipper. Some ventilation can be achieved at the cuffs (which are elastic with Velcro adjustments) and at the hood and hem (adjusted by elastic shock cord and small cordlocks).

Usability (4.0)

The Mont-Bell Torrent Flier is equipped with a single Napoleon style chest pocket on the left side, access to which was difficult while wearing a pack. The pocket’s small volume make it impractical for stowing bulkier items such as gloves, a ski hat, or sunglasses.

The hood is well-shaped adjusts easily. 3-way adjustability includes a shock cord to adjust the hood perimeter, another to adjust the width of the opening (peripheral vision), and a Velcro tab to adjust the height. Using the adjustments is intuitive and a good fit is quickly achieved. The hood has a stiffened brim to direct rainfall away from the face.

YKK AquaTech zippers are used throughout. Most of these zippers are #3s, with the front zipper (#5) being the only exception (note: YKK is not manufacturing a #3 separating AquaTech zipper). In general, we fine the stiffness of polyurethane-coated zippers to be usable for front zips and pockets, but too stiff to make pit zips easily functional.

The hem uses a one-hand adjustable elastic shock cord that is adjusted with two cordlocks on either side of the front zipper. The elastic cuffs are adjusted with Velcro tabs.

Sizing (4.0)

The Mont-Bell Torrent Flier layers well over a 200 or 300 weight fleece layer. Don’t expect to stuff a thick down sweater under it without compressing loft.

The fit in the hood area is somewhat trim (a polypropylene or Powerstretch balaclava layers well, but a 200-weight fleece balaclava will be tight). The tight fit of the hood puts the tricot lining of the shell against the chin skin, which some may find a bit scratchy.

The jacket hem overlaps the waistline to provide adequate protection from the elements (8 inches or so for our 5’6” reviewer, reduced to 5” while bending forward).

Fit (4.0)

Our size medium tester found the Torrent Flier to be a good fit. The arms are sufficiently long to provide a refuge for cold hands (when balled as fists, at least). Arms can be lifted or crossed, while wearing a pack, without the sleeves creeping up the wristline or binding at the shoulders. There is only a slight lifting of the jacket hem when raising the arms above the head, but the generous length compensates for any hem lift.

Hood articulation is poor. With or without a backpack, the hood does not permit full rotation of the head from side to side without exposing areas of the face that are normally covered by a jacket hood. In addition, the rough texture of the tricot lining does not allow the hood to move as freely as the 2-layer jackets we tested. The Mont-Bell Versalite Jacket (which has an identical hood construction, but is made with a 2-layer fabric), allows for full rotation of the head with little to no movement of the hood relative to the face. We expect the softer 15-denier tricot lining in the production model to improve hood movement significantly.

Field Performance

Graded subjectively on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

Storm Resistance (4.5)

In addition to the fully seam sealed Gore-Tex XCR fabric, the Mont-Bell Torrent Flier uses a proprietary Polkatex finish. Polkatex, named by the Bohemian Institute of Brand Marketing (we’re kidding), is a (claimed) 100/10 DWR finish (less than 10% of fabric water repellency is lost after 100 washings).

YKK AquaTech weatherproof zippers eliminate the need for storm flaps (however, the front zipper still offers an inside storm flap and rain gutter). No leakage was observed through any zippers during downpour conditions.

In severely wet conditions, we observed leakage on either side of the hood when rotating the head from side to side. The leakage was not excessive and is only a minor concern. We did not observe this leakage in the similarly designed Mont-Bell Versalite Jacket, and we suspect that it’s related to the hood fit issues discussed above. Further, we expect this to improve in the production model.

Fully-opened pit zips will result in leakage at the elbow and lower torso in a downpour – exercise restraint when opening the long pit zips in foul conditions. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Use the double sliders on the pit zips to adjust the opening appropriately.

Breathability (4.5)

Breathability was tested at temperatures varying from 32°F (0°C) to 52°F (11°C) with winds ranging from 0 to 10 mph (0 to 16 kph). Breathability was tested while wearing a light backpack (weighing approximately 20 lbs. (9 kg)) and hiking on level terrain at 2-3 mph (3.2 to 4.8 kph) and on steep terrain at 1-2 mph (1.6 to 3.2 khp). The humidity was between 40% and 50%. During this test, all zippers were closed, hem and cuffs were tightened, and the hood adjusted to a snug fit.

The Gore-Tex XCR fabric used in the Mont-Bell Torrent Flier was found to be quite breathable. It was difficult to notice much thermal and moisture buildup while hiking on level terrain. Under more demanding conditions (hiking steep terrain at 52°F (11°C)), some moisture (humidity) buildup was observed (felt) but visible condensation of water droplets inside the jacket was not observed.

Ventilation (4.0)

Jacket ventilation was tested at temperatures varying from 32°F (0°C) to 52°F (11°C) in winds ranging from 0 to 10 mph (0 to 16 kph). Ventilation was tested while wearing a light backpack (weighing approximately 20 lbs. (9 kg)) and hiking on level terrain at 2-3 mph (3.2 to 4.8 kph) and on steep terrain at 1-2 mph (1.6 to 3.2 khp). The humidity was between 40% and 50%. During this test, all ventilation zippers were opened and hem and cuffs were loosened. The hood was left snug and the main front zipper was completely zipped up.

The long pit zips made venting the Torrent Flier a breeze (pun intended). Opening the pit zips alleviated any moisture buildup around the armpits even under the demanding exertion required when hiking steep terrain at 52°F (11°C). Backpack straps effectively (but unfortunately) isolate much of the torso from the pit zips. Lack of ventilating torso pockets prevents air circulation in the main body of the jacket.

Durability (4.5)

The fabric in the Torrent Flier feels very thin, although user perception of durability is significant – perhaps a byproduct of Mont-Bell’s choice to use a ballistic nylon face fabric. Ballistic nylon fibers are made by heating and stretching nylon, which aligns the nylon molecules in each fiber, a process similar to that of tensilizing steel. Ballistic nylons are reported to be 1-1/2 times more abrasion resistant and have three times more tear strength than conventional woven nylons of the same fabric weight. Consequently, the 15x15 denier ballistic face fabric used in the Torrent Flier may be as durable as heavier face fabrics used in other waterproof-breathable constructions.

The Torrent Flier uses the same fabric throughout the shell and lacks excessive reinforcements or doubled layers of fabric. Thus, the Torrent Flier has not been designed with heavy abrasion in mind. Mont-Bell’s stitching quality is excellent and don’t expect manufacturing quality to limit its durability.

We took the Mont-Bell Torrent Flier through a heavily vegetated canyon bottom on one four-day backpacking trip. Contact with cactus (we even sat on our jacket – on top of cactus once), tree branches, and sandstone had no short-term impact on the condition of the fabric. Seam tape and stitching have remained intact throughout our testing period.

Value (3.5)

The Mont-Bell Torrent Flier is a feature-worthy jacket that weighs 12 oz and uses exceptional fabric. The amount of high tech materials and excellent workmanship is reflected in the price, however: $289.00 makes this one of the highest cost-per-ounce pieces of rainwear you’ll find anywhere!

Recommendations for Improvement

The chest pocket loses much of its volume while wearing a pack. We would rather see the Torrent Flier designed with torso pockets (ventilated) that are compatible with backpack harnesses. Lining the front of the hood with a softer fabric would eliminate the scratchiness of the tricot lining against the face. Finally, the two cordlocks that adjust the waist hem could be reduced to one without loosing any functionality. (For those who don’t think twice about altering a $289 jacket to save a few grams, the hem shock cord is anchored on both ends. One of the cordlocks could be destructively removed without damaging the jacket.)


Citation

"MontBell Torrent Flier Jacket REVIEW," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00334.html, 2004-03-05 03:00:00-07.

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