by the Product Review Staff | 2004-04-05 03:00:00-06
The Montane eVENT Superfly is the most breathable shell we’ve tested. At an honest 15 oz (425 g) the Montane eVENT Superfly is also the lightest hooded jacket using the new, ultra breathable eVENT fabric. With its design focus on total waterproofness, the Superfly excels at keeping you dry in unimaginably wet conditions.
The hood, with its generous brim, wire stiffener and excellent adjustability, was one of the few that kept water off our glasses. The Montane eVENT Superfly’s 3-layer shell fabric is tough and well suited for off-trail travel, scrambling and even light alpine mountaineering. The jacket has an excellent fit and nice touches like a wire stiffened brim and a double storm flapped front zipper. The jacket uses all eVENT fabric in contrast to other manufacturer who use panels of less breathable and heavier stretch fabric and a trim fit to reduce their use of the expensive eVENT fabric. It has a roomy cut and good mobility. The main weakness of the eVENT Superfly, given our US bias against moisture accumulation (which contrasts a UK bias towards uncompromised weather protection), is its lack of ventilation. The jacket has no pit zips, core vents or vented pockets. Even so, the ultra breathable eVENT fabric does an admirable job of compensating for the Montane eVENT Superfly’s lack of vents.
Note: We reviewed a pre-production sample. The eVENT Super-Fly should be available to US Markets sometime in late spring of 2004.
Ventilation Options (2.5)
There are no pit-zips, core vents, or mesh backed pockets on the eVENT Superfly. Montane engineers decided to rely on the high breathability of the eVENT fabric to move moisture out of the jacket. As such, they focused most of their design efforts on waterproofing the garment and reducing weight. The jacket does have a full length front zipper and adjustable, elastic and Velcro cuffs which provide some ventilation. The roomy fit and drawcord hem also aid in ventilation.
The Montane eVENT Superfly has a roomy hood with an elastic face aperture draw-cord and single-hand operated cord locks on either side. The brim is large with a nice wire stiffener. A Velcro tab on the rear of the hood adjusts the brim to the right height and keeps it there. Another Velcro tab stows the rolled hood at the back of the jacket’s collar. The hood is cut a bit snug and barely fits over a low profile climbing helmet. The Montane eVENT Superfly has three pockets with water-resistant zippers: two hand-warmer pockets and a large napoleon pocket.
The Superfly is designed to minimize leaks. Montane backs all the pockets with eVENT fabric to prevent the minimal leakage from the water-resistant pocket zippers from entering the layers under the jacket. The napoleon pocket’s water-resistant zipper has an additional storm flap. To protect the single slider, uncoated, #3 front zipper, Montane uses a double overlapping storm flap that closes with Velcro and snaps. We liked the ease of operation of the non coated zipper but found that the Velcro on the storm flaps had a mind of its own and occasionally fastened itself when we didn’t want it to.
The jacket’s hem has an elastic draw-cord with single-hand operated cord locks on either side. For safety, the Montane eVENT Super-Fly has reflective strips on the sleeves, sides and chest. Finally, the eVENT fabric was surprisingly quiet, supple and pleasant to wear.
The eVENT Super-Fly has a roomy fit suitable for layering over a high-loft synthetic insulating jacket with 1” of loft without compressing that loft in either the body or sleeves (our reviewer is 5'8" and 150 lbs and was testing a size M jacket). The jacket is cut a bit long and provides more coverage than many ultralight rain jackets. In the front, it came down to just below the crotch of our 5’8” reviewer and in the rear its drop tail extended to mid thigh. The hood layers well over a balaclava or insulated jacket hood but is a bit snug for all but a low profile climbing helmet.
The eVENT Super-Fly has good head-turning mobility while wearing a pack. Its sleeves are a long and the hem did not lift, nor were our wrist exposed, when raising our arms above our head. There is ample room to withdraw the hands into the sleeves. There was no binding in the shoulders when crossing our arms across the chest while layered over a mid-weight fleece jacket.
Storm Resistance (5.0)
The Montane eVENT Superfly is designed to be stormproof, consistent with a UK bias towards total elemental protection. It’s no surprise, then, that the jacket kept us dry, even in torrential rain. The front zipper has a double storm flap, the pocket zippers are water resistant, and the pockets are backed by eVENT fabric. There are no vent zippers, mesh lined pockets, or other leak-prone areas. The hood, with its generous brim, wire stiffener and excellent adjustability, actually kept water off our glasses. (For most rain jackets the only way we can keep our glasses dry is to wear a 3 oz (100g) ball cap under their minimal and floppy hoods.)
With all zippers and vents closed, the Montane eVENT Superfly is the most breathable jacket our reviewers have tested. This is due to the high breathability of the eVENT fabric. We hiked uphill with a pack on for an hour at 40 deg F (5 deg C) in windy conditions. Our heart rate was above 80% of our max HR for most of the hike. At the end, our baselayer was damp, even wet in a few places, but not soaked. Our previous experience with non-vented WP/B jackets under similar conditions is a completely soaked baselayer. At moderate exertion levels, hiking with a 20 lb pack on level ground at 3 mph at 40 deg F (5 deg C), we stayed comfortable, with moisture only building up underneath the pack and its shoulder straps. Most of this was due to the limited breathability of the pack and not that of the eVENT fabric. Bottom line: eVENT breathes.
The Montane eVENT Superfly surprised us. At high exertion levels we expected to get pretty sweaty with its limited ventilation. We didn’t. As mentioned above, we got damp but not soaked. To be fair, eVENT, even though it is arguably the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market, is not the Holy Grail of moisture transport. Nor is any other waterproof breathable fabric. Per previous tests performed by Backpacking Light, given similar fabric breathability, a better vented shell will always keep you drier. This also held true when comparing the Superfly to shells with more ventilation options. At high exertion levels, our clothing retained more moisture when worn under an unvented Montane eVENT Superfly than we would in well-vented jacket with a similarly breathable fabric. At moderate exertion levels the lack of vents was not a problem. The breathability of the eVENT fabric was sufficient to keep us comfortable. This is in comparison to our experience with other WB/B fabrics where need to open vents to maintain the same level of comfort at a moderate exertion level.
With its 3.4 oz/yd2 3-layer fabric, the Montane eVENT Superfly is tougher than most jackets we test. It's abrasion resistance to granite and puncture resistance against thorny brush gives the jacket a level of durability that we come to expect from a garment that weighs close to a pound. It is well suited for the abuses of rock scrambling, serious bushwacking, or alpine climbing.
At £175 (about USD$350) the Montane eVENT Superfly is not cheap. Nonetheless, it currently sets the weight standard for a hooded rain jacket using the ultra breathable eVENT fabric. It is extremely waterproof, and quite breathable for a jacket without pit-zips, core vents, or mesh-backed pockets. At 15 oz (425 g) it is reasonably light for a full zip, full featured jacket with a shell fabric tough enough for serious climbing. Competitor’s eVENT jackets are similar in price and weigh more. Lighter Gore-Tex Pac-Lite jackets shave a few ounces and are a bit less expensive than the Montane eVENT Super-Fly.
We realize that UK and US garment designers differ on the relative importance of complete and total waterproofness vs. ventilation. Your standard UK hill “walker” thinks nothing of starting a hike in 36 degree (2 C) sleet, sitting down on the summit in horizontal rain and having relaxed lunch of tea and sandwiches as if they were in their own living room. They even enjoy doing it! Americans, on the other hand (and yes, we are making generalizations) are more prone to wait for "weather windows" so they can climb in fair conditions, and skip their raingear altogether. The Montane eVENT Superfly is true to its UK roots by focusing on keeping its wearer warm and dry in severely foul conditions. One of our reviewers, who has experienced the inclemency of Scottish hillwalking, is certainly sympathetic to this design philosophy.
On the other hand, we are Yanks at heart, and we like the cooling and moisture transport of mesh backed front pockets, core vents and pit-zips. We’d be thrilled if the Montane eVENT Superfly incorporated some of these ventilation options and used less rigorous storm protection (read: more user friendly) on the front zipper. We’d even suffer a bit of leakage for the changes. It would also be a nice touch to add a double slider on the front zipper which would help with ventilation and also with harness compatibility.
"Montane eVENT Superfly Jacket REVIEW," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00392.html, 2004-04-05 03:00:00-06.