A 3.5 ounce waterproof jacket sounds pretty attractive. So I was happy to get my hands on the Montane Featherlite H2O jacket this winter. The featherlite H2O is a PU coated nylon jacket, but feels like a windshirt - it is indeed a 3.5 ounce waterproof jacket. The only catch; it does not have a hood. The Featherlite is targeted at active use in consistent cold rain, specifically at runners and bicyclists. In these cases, users are wearing a hat or helmet, and a hood may cause undo restriction or overheating. I was curious to see how useful this jacket would be as a replacement for a windshirt and how I would adjust to the lack of a hood in dicey weather.
As a replacement for a windshirt, the Featherlite H2O works just fine until you really push the breathability. Under less active conditions, and in cold weather I found the Featherlite to be a good replacement for a windshirt. In heavy aerobic activity such as uphill climbs in cool (50 degrees Farenheit) weather, I found the Featherlite built up interior moisture more quickly than in most other windshirts. This is not a surprising result. But traditional windshirts will soak through much more quickly in moderate or heavy rain, and the Featherlite H2O will keep you relatively dry and toasty in wet, cold conditions. I used my Featherlite mostly under its intended conditions - cold, wet winter hikes and trail runs. Here the Featherlite performed very well. It seals up well, and I stayed dry under the wettest conditions I could find this winter. Sometimes a little water would get down below my hat and trickle down my neck. It helps to keep this jacket sealed up pretty tightly around the neck, but that can be uncomfortable if you are actively running or biking. For long duration backcountry storms, the Featherlite is not my ideal jacket. The lack of hood significantly detracts from the jacket's function in these conditions. But if you usually wear a wide brimmed hat and you also carry a synthetic, lightweight balaclava, I think the Featherlite could be perform well in long, cold storms. This could make up a very light and functional storm system - Featherlite H2O jacket, wide brimmed hat and lighweight balaclava. As emergency storm gear or in front country activities the Featherlite H2O jacket is an excellent choice.
The Featherlite H20 features a double nylon storm flap, with velcro closures. This seals out mositure very effectively, but this system makes the zipper less convenient to operate.
The Featherlite H2O jacket has a couple of unusual features. On the upper back there are four vents to assist is overall breathabiity. The vents are not lined with mesh, and are completely open. The upper section overlaps the lower section, and I had no problems with rain getting in through the vents. It was difficult to assess the effecetiveness of the vents. When used without a pack, the vents may help significantly, but with a pack their effectiveness will be reduced or nearly eliminated. The other unusual feature is the double closure storm flap that covers the zipper. The flaps are lined with occassional velcro closures. These flaps are very effective at keeping out weather, but make operation of the zipper more difficult. Having effective storm flaps is important when using this jacket is high velocity activities such as biking or running, but in general I found the flaps to be overkill.
The aggressive drop tail is very welcome when sitting down in wet weather, and when using the Featherlite H20 while bicycling. The four vents can be seen on the upper back. These add breathability, but do not perform well when wearing a pack.
Features and Specifications
- Manufacturer: Montane (www.montane.com)
- Model: Featherlite H2O Jacket
- Fabric: Freeflow H2O - 43 g/m2 coated nylon mini ripstop, waterproof to 1300 mm hydrostatic head and breathable to a minimum MVTR of 6000 g/m2/24 hrs
- Features: Elastic cuffs and hem, ventilated back (vents), active cut with drop tail, double storm flap with velcro closures, scotchlite reflective tabs, stuff sack included
- Weight: Measured weight 3.9 ounces (111 g) for size XL, manufacturer's specified weight is 3.5 ounces (99 g) for size medium. Stuff sack adds 0.4 ounces (11 g)
- MSRP: approx US $120, 60 British Pounds