MontBell Peak Jacket Rain Shell REVIEW

A full featured rain shell with pit zips that weighs only 11.2 ounces (size L), but how does the fabric - MontBell Breeze Dry-Tec three-layer waterproof/breathable - perform?

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by Don Wilson | 2005-11-01 03:00:00-07

MontBell Peak Jacket Rain Shell REVIEW

Introduction

The MontBell Peak rain shell is designed to be the most breathable jacket in MontBell's lineup. The jacket features the Breeze Dry-Tec vapor transport system from MontBell. Breeze Dry-Tec is a three-layer waterproof/breathable material, which MontBell claims is air permeable. In addition to the highly breathable fabric, the Peak features 18-inch long pit zips. The pit zips add significant ventilation control and are well placed and easy to use. The Peak also sports a host of other features usually found only on heavier jackets. And all this at only 11.2 ounces (size L).

I tested a pre-production version of the Peak for a few weeks and focused my testing on the breathability and ventilation performance of the Peak. The Peak performed quite well in these tests, and I also found the features - hood, cuffs, zippers - to be well thought out and easy to use.

What's Good

  • Excellent breathability with Breeze Dry-Tec system
  • Huge pit-zips provide good ventilation control
  • Adjustable, roomy, helmet compatible hood
  • Pack hipbelt does not interfere with hand pockets and pits zips
  • At $198, a good value for the mix of features and fabric technology

What's Not So Good

  • All those features add weight - 11.2 ounces (size L)
  • Hand pockets are placed a little high for comfort

Specifications

Year, Model

2005 MontBell Peak

Style

Full-zip hooded rain jacket

Weight

11.2 oz (318 g) as measured size L; manufacturer's specification 11 oz (312 g) size M

Shell Fabric

12d ripstop nylon shell with three-layer Breeze Dry-Tec WP/B. 10d polyester lining

Features

18 inch pit-zips, 2 hand pockets, hood with 3 adjustments and wire stiffener in brim, hem drawcord with two adjustment points, water resistant zippers, elastic and Velcro cuffs, stuff sack

MSRP

$198

Performance

MontBell is clearly striving for breathability with the Peak, so I put the Peak through a number of field experiments designed to test its breathability and air permeability. On a spring trip in the Arizona mountains I wore the Peak on a humid day with light rain while climbing over 1000 vertical feet at a fairly rapid pace (about 800 vertical feet per hour). Temperatures were in the 50s. The Peak performed exceptionally well, and was more comfortable and dry than other jackets I tested on this same trip. I never got that clammy, moist feeling inside the Peak like I did with the two other jackets I tested simultaneously (the other two fabrics were Gore-Tex PacLite and a proprietary polyurethane waterproof/breathable). The pit zips were quite helpful, especially in light rain. I didn't get wet with the pit zips open, I could feel even the slightest breeze, and the interior stayed dry and comfortable. With the pit zips closed, there were no refreshing breezes, but the Peak still performed noticeably better than a Gore-Tex PacLite jacket I tested under the exact same conditions. On other trips I subjected the Peak to severe rain and found its storm worthiness and features stood up well. In stormy, high humidity conditions, the pit zips really added comfort; moving large volumes of air in and out of the interior of the jacket. I found I had to be careful with the pit zips in heavy rain. In some conditions rain can drain down through the openings. But this is easily corrected by closing or partially closing the pit zips. MontBell uses their new Breeze Dry-Tec waterproof/breathable material in the Peak and one other jacket that is new for 2005 (the Neige Cruiser jacket). MontBell would not share the source of this fabric with us, but it did perform well in the field.

The other features on the Peak are well thought out and complete. I especially liked the placement of the pits zips and pockets. All can be used and accessed while wearing a hipbelt. But there is a slight tradeoff here - the pockets are higher than in most jackets, so you really have to raise your arms to get your hands into them. The hood is roomy enough for a low profile climbing helmet and extends several inches out from your face, providing good protection in driven rain. Three separate hood adjustments let you cinch down the hood to almost complete closure in the worst conditions. The sleeves have generous length, but the torso length did not completely cover my read end (note: I am 6'4" and testing a size large jacket). Overall, I found the storm worthiness of the Peak was improved by the excellent hood, but reduced a bit by torso length, which left me with a wet butt in one moderate rain (I wasn't wearing rain pants, so this could have been avoided). Articulation in the sleeves is good, keeping my torso covered when raising my arms to shoulder height. The zippers slide easily and did not leak in long moderate rains. I prefer the combination Velcro and elastic cuffs of the Peak to pure elastic cuffs - both more comfortable and more adjustable. The fit of the Peak gives plenty of room for layering without being too roomy. I wore the Peak with a Patagonia Micro Puff vest underneath and had plenty of room to spare. I could have layered another insulating garment under the Peak in cold camp conditions. All the seams are fully taped.

montbell peak field1 - 1
The pit zips on the MontBell Peak are well placed, large, and dramatically improve ventilation. They are placed high enough to be fully usable when wearing a hipbelt.

What's Unique

The combination of large, easy to use pit zips, and the breathable Breeze Dry-Tec fabric makes the Peak a strong performer in both breathability and ventilation.

Recommendations for Improvement

The MontBell Peak packs a lot of features and technology into a reasonably light and very well made 11-ounce jacket. The only things I found difficult to use on the Peak were the hand pockets. Their placement high up on the jacket reduces their usability for everyday use, but allows access while wearing a hipbelt. A slightly longer, double separating zipper on the pockets would give the user the best of both worlds - pocket access while wearing a pack, and ease of everyday use - while adding only a few grams.

I'd like to see a simplified version of the Peak with Breeze Dry-Tec fabric, reduced features (no pit zips, no hand pockets, simpler adjustments, less roomy hood), and weighing less than 8 ounces.


Citation

"MontBell Peak Jacket Rain Shell REVIEW," by Don Wilson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/montbell_peak_rainshell_review.html, 2005-11-01 03:00:00-07.

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