MontBell Stretch Wind Jacket
By Cori Jones
Last fall I found myself looking for an ultralight wind shirt to wear in a 24 hr Adventure race called the AWAR in Provo, Utah. I needed something that would protect from wind (lots of options there), be extremely lightweight (that narrows the choices a bit), extremely breathable (that narrows it even farther), and be extremely durable. Now that really limited the choices down to a select few. I found several wind jackets/shirts that were very light but they each felt like they would come apart with the first good snag on a scrub oak branch or rocky edge.
I had seen the Stretch wind jacket from MontBell and was very interested from the description of the jacket. Here is what they say about the jacket "Utilizing MontBell's new Stretch Ballistic fabric this jacket allows exceptional freedom of movement without compromising abrasion resistance. Offering an excellent blend of breathability and wind/rain protection, this is the jacket of choice for cool weather endurance activities. Think of the Stretch Wind Jacket as an ultralight softshell. Ideal for Nordic skiing, trail running, mountain biking and climbing." So I decided this was the jacket that I wanted to use for the race.
The jacket does have a nice flexible fitclose but not tight. The sleeves are long enough for climbing or biking. The jacket weighs in at 5.6 oz. It has a full front zip, small Conceal® chest zip pocket and elastic wrist and waistbands. It has a Polkatex DWR treatment that is designed to not loose water repellency with washing.
As it turns out the AWAR 24hr was the toughest race I have done so far, due in a great part to an 11hr trek that went through the night and had close to 10,000 vertical feet of elevation gain in under 20 miles distance. The course we chose to take took us up one of the steepest washes I have ever ascended, compounded by the fact it was dark. The trek involved bushwhacking through thick brush and scrambling up steep loose rock falls and ledges. There were huge temperature swings both from my body and the environment. In the pre-dawn hours the temperatures dropped bellow freezing and there was a layer of frost on all the plants and rock and our breath was making massive smoke screens in front of us as we jogged down the trail.
Through the entire trekking leg I wore only the MontBell ZeoLine 3D T-shirt under and the Stretch Wind Jacket over for my upper body. The performance was amazing. In extreme conditions like that I would usually find my self taking time to add and remove layers as my body or the environment temperatures would rise and fall. But during the entire 11 hour trek I never felt over heated and only started feeling cold in the early hours of the night when we stopped for too long reading maps and trying to determine which direction to head.
Over the long haul, time and time again when I reach for an ultralight windbreaker I now reach past the flimsy slightly lighter options and take the MontBell stretch wind jacket. Now after 5 months of use the jacket still looks brand new except for a few small stains of pinesap received from my 11-hour trek from hell.
Summary: If you want the very lightest windbreaker jacket and you are not worried about durability then you can find lighter and cheaper options. But if you want a very light very durable windbreaker jacket, one that will be around into future seasons of activity then you should definitely consider the MontBell Stretch Wind Jacket. The MontBell Stretch Wind Jacket retails for $99.
Cori Jones, a contributing editor at GearReview.com, is a bit windy.
For more information, contact:
MontBell America Inc.
2800 Wilderness Place
Boulder, CO 80301