Montane Solo Jacket REVIEW

Insulated jacket with integrated shell hood - lots of features to boot.

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by Jay Ham | 2004-11-17 03:00:00-07

Overview

Montane Solo Jacket -field shot
The author wearing his Montane Solo jacket on a canoe-pack trip in northern Arizona

Montane packed their Solo jacket with lightweight materials and features that retain heat without excessive weight or bulk. The high fitted collar, uninsulated hood, adjustable low hem, and double baffled full-length zipper allow easy adjustments to regulate temperature by venting or battening down as necessary. Despite the inclusion of these features, many of which are excessive for an ultralight insulation layer, Montane maintains a respectable weight of 15.9 ounces (451 grams). Montane achieved this by using lightweight fabrics (0.9oz/yd2 Pertex Quantum) and premium lightweight insulation (1.8oz/yd2 Primaloft One). Overall, I was pleased with the fit. However, I felt the shoulder articulation could be improved to permit raising the arms without raising the hem.

In Brief

  • Full featured jacket - hood, fleece lined collar, drop-tail and hand warmer pockets
  • Unique uninsulated hood - provides head and neck protection without the weight
  • Pertex Quantum shell - light and breathable, but not made for bushwhacking
  • Premium 1.8 oz/yd2 Primaloft One insulation
  • Highly breathable and adjustable for varying conditions
  • Excellent fit, but shoulder articulation could be improved
  • Lower loft/weight performance - features increase weight in comparison to minimal garments with similar warmth

Specifications

• Garment Style

full zip jacket with non-insulated rollaway hood

• Fabric Description

outer is 0.9 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2) Pertex Quantum with Pertex Shield water repellent finish. Peaq 40W lightweight nylon microfiber lining with durable wicking finish.

• Insulation Description

1.8 oz/yd2 (60 g/m2) Primaloft One used throughout

• Other Features

two zippered, insulated hand warmer pockets, and one zippered internal security pocket. A non-insulated hood rolls into the collar

• Weight

15.9 oz (451 g) as measured, size M (manufacturer specifies 15.5 ounces (440 g))

• Loft

0.3 in (0.6 cm)

• Model Year

Spring 2004

• MSRP

$145.95

Warmth

The 1.8 oz/yd2 Primaloft One insulation used in the Solo jacket is water repellent, fast drying, and highly breathable. As measured, the Primaloft One affords 0.3 inches of single layer loft to the Solo. Often synthetic insulation is quilted to the garment fabric creating thin spots in the insulation along the stitch lines. Since Primaloft insulation does not require quilting, the Solo benefits by having fewer un-insulated seams. The Pertex Quantum shell is windproof and breathable.

For its weight, the Solo is comparatively warm. This is due more to its features and adjustability than to the performance of its shell and insulation. The Solo has a fully baffled zipper, tall close fitting collar, rollaway hood, and adjustable drop tail hem. We tested the jacket's warmth at temperatures as low as 25 °F while the jacket was fully zipped, hem tightened, and hood on with a synthetic, long sleeve base layer. We found the Solo performs well at slightly below freezing temperatures in calm conditions. Although highly resistant to wind, some heat retention is lost at wind velocities exceeding 20 miles per hour . We found the Solo comfortable to 25 °F during aerobic activity. The extra features of the Solo add to the temperature rating of what would otherwise be a relatively thin insulator.

The breathable fabrics and insulation used in the Solo combine to create a very comfortable jacket suited to highly aerobic activities. Even at 50 °F with wet clothing while hiking with a pack or mountain biking, the Montane Solo remained comfortable with minimal buildup in interior humidity.

Storm resistance

Montane selected 0.9 oz/yd2 Pertex Quantum for the shell of the Solo jacket. Pertex Quantum is highly breathable (98%) and highly tear resistant (12 newtons minimum). The Solo lacks heavier fabrics in high wear areas, making fabric protection a responsibility of the wearer. I agree with Montane's choice of lightweight materials over unnecessarily durable and heavier fabrics for an insulation layering piece.

Montane designed the Solo as an insulation layer and intended it to be worn beneath a shell in stormy conditions. The shell fabric and unsealed seams are not waterproof. Nevertheless, we found the water shedding capabilities of the Pertex Shield treatment, combined with the water resistance of the insulation repelled short, light rains with ease. Downpours overwhelmed these properties quickly. Although the synthetic insulation maintains a great deal of warmth when wet, and the jacket dries quickly, I found it best to carry another means of storm protection.

Usability

Montane Solo Jacket - field shot 2
The uninsulated hood of the Montane Solo is lightweight and a superb accompaniment to one's watch cap, providing breathable protection from wind

Montane uses a semi-relaxed fit for ease in movement. The jacket is still trim enough to permit layering under a shell. The high collar fits well and seals the neck edge to retain heat. The sleeves are sufficiently long to cover hands when balled into fists. This provides ample coverage of the wrists when extending your arms. Shoulder articulation is not as good. With the arms held out parallel to the ground, the jacket hem rises about 0.5 inches. The hem rise increases to about 5 inches when raising the arms above the head (simulating climbing in the jacket).

We liked the temperature regulating features of the Solo. The Solo offers full coverage with a low hem that drops even lower in the back to cover the butt. The length of the back hem provided coverage of the lower back while mountain biking or bending over. A one-hand adjustable draw cord adjusts this hem. The full-length, two-way #5 YKK Vislon tooth main zipper allows greater adjustability by allowing the wearer to vent from either the top or bottom of the jacket. The 3.5-inch lined collar fit well and provides complete coverage for the neck, sealing out the cold. The collar hides an uninsulated rollaway hood. With perimeter shock cord and Velcro front closure, the hood adjusts easily. Although uninsulated, the hood is still an excellent accompaniment to a wool or fleece watch cap, providing wind and water resistance at minimal weight. Finally, Lycra trims the non-adjusting sleeve cuffs.

The Solo includes two zippered and insulated hand warmer pockets. These pockets are not lined with fleece or tricot for softness. However, they are located high enough on the jacket to remain fully usable while wearing a pack with hip belt, a big plus while backpacking. A third zippered security pocket, located on the inside, provides thin storage for a few valuables.

Without reinforcement patches on high wear areas, the Pertex Quantum shell of the Montane Solo cannot take on much abuse. Still, the fabric should be more than durable enough for lightweight backpacking. During our review of the Solo we treated the fabric to several months of harsh use. Tear strength seemed adequate for such a lightweight jacket. When subjected to bushwhacking through dense vegetation or against coarse sandstone, the Solo showed signs of abrasion. Our review sample has a few snags in the shell fabric, but is otherwise intact. The jacket lacks bar tacking in some high stress areas, particularly at the ends of the two chest zippers. On our sample, the seam popped at the end of the left chest pocket zipper. Although this was easily mended, it could have been avoided with bar tack stitching. Despite the condition of the Solo at the conclusion of our review, this jacket should hold up well enough for conscientious lightweight backpacking since we subjected the Solo to abuse beyond its intended use range.

Value

When considering the features, usability, and weight, the Montane Solo is nearly an exceptional value. However, the lack of bar tack stitching along high stressed seams and poor shoulder articulation knock it down to a good value.

Recommendations for Improvement

The Montane Solo is an overall excellent lightweight synthetic jacket. Montane could improve seam durability with bar tack stitching at high stress points. Our final concern is the shoulder articulation, which does not allow raising the arms without lifting the hem. An underarm gusset might be the solution here.


Citation

"Montane Solo Jacket REVIEW," by Jay Ham. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/montane_solo_jacket_review.html, 2004-11-17 03:00:00-07.

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