Jan 19, 2010 at 11:25 am #1254263
Companion forum thread to:Jan 19, 2010 at 11:50 am #1564214
Interesting observation on the loft, however according to Richard Nisley in a couple of forum posts, the total amount of down per unit area is a better indicator of warmth than the loft. Although I find this difficult to get my head around (he rates the PHD as warmer than the much loftier Skaha on this basis), it may mean there is little loss of warmth due to increased baffling.
I was personally not impressed with the ExLight. The fabric that they tout as revolutionary is only a fraction lighter than the industry standard Pertex Quantum used by the likes of Nunatak in the Skaha. The weight savings are miniscule over their standard UL inner if you take the lack of pockets into account, and I didn't observe the loft difference that is shown in that chart (my partners men's UL down inner is fractionally loftier than the equivalent ExLight that I measured). So IMHO, the ExLight is mainly a marketing exercise, the biggest thing separating it from the UL inner being the pockets. However, if you don't want pockets and don't mind spending an extra $15 to lose them, the ExLight is as light as you will find in a down jacket, and that's important in this family ;)Jan 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm #1564253
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Good review and good points Lynn. I have the Montbell Ex and like it very much, but your comments are very valid. I found it on sale, so the price difference didn't really come into play. I also double it with my Patagonia Down Sweater on really cold days and it works very good.Jan 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm #1564272
Good job smacking Montbell for making the women's jacket colder than the men's version. The added seams are superfluous and having less down also doesn't make sense.
I tell my scouts at winter camp that I don't care what you look like as long as you're warm. Some giggle, some see the truth in the matter.Jan 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm #1564277
@dbthalLocale: Mid-Coast Maine
I was also surprised at how much less loft my wife's Montbell Alpine Lite had then my men's version.
Still a great jacket, but I want my wife to be WARM!
DanJan 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm #1564279
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
You're dealing with a Japanese company and Japanese women are considerably more adamant about their clothing being form-fitting and as slim as possible. Japanese women in general will not buy bulky clothing. MontBell is just catering to their demands. MontBell is also divided between two branches, the trendier "MontBell", and the more technical "Zero-Point" line, in which women's clothing is spec'ed the same as men's.
PS. Japanese women in general are much colder than western women (anemia is very high in Japan) so it would make sense for them to want warmer clothing, but visit any Japanese outdoor store and the women's clothing is always much slimmer and thinner than men's. They do tend to do lots of layering with thin layers (which actually makes sense. When Mallory's body was found on Everest a few years ago they found that his clothing was much less bulky than modern counterparts, consisting of many thin layers, and actually much easier to move in. Researchers have found that his clothing was perfectly appropriate for Himalayan climbing).
PPS. If women and men outside of Japan want to have more of certain types of clothing from MontBell perhaps I can suggest what Japanese, men and women, are always forced to do with popular US and European brands here that invariably don't fit them very well: officially contact the company in question and work with them and distributors to develop clothing and shelters specifically designed for your needs. Fifteen years ago Marmot, The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Aigle, Haglofs, Scarpa, Zamberlan, Lowa, Jack Wolfskin, Fjell Raven, etc. were impossible to find in Japanese sizes and Japanese outdoor enthusiasts were very frustrated with the lack of choices. So they worked for a long time to develop models that fit the Japanese sizes. Now I have problems finding pants and shirts that fit me, but Japanese are buying those brands in record numbers!
Japanese being Japanese I'm pretty sure that MontBell would be more than willing to work with the US market and customers (after all they specifically designed and built certain shelters that are only available outside Japan) in developing clothing for that market. I don't think these online reviews are going to make much of an impact in changing MontBell's design plans, since Japanese are much more respondent to workable solutions and direct correspondence than public criticism. And you have to remember that in the mid-90's, when MontBell first tried to enter the US market, they were severely burned by a number of US distributors who made big orders and then didn't pay for them. MontBell had to close its stores in the US and start again. So they certainly don't trust Americans yet. Until that trust is firmly reestablished probably they are going to be very careful before putting out lots of designs that won't sell in Japan.
(Yes, I've been using MontBell product for a long, long time (since 1977), have used a LOT of them, and no, I'm completely unaffiliated with them)Jan 20, 2010 at 12:05 am #1564446
@markmclauchlinLocale: Western Australia
Thanks team for the review. I have been putting off my purchase until this was done.
CheersJan 20, 2010 at 11:35 am #1564535
I would not jump to the conclusion that the women's jacket isn't as warm as the men's, it just has less loft. Richard Nisely often reminds us that it's the total down fill per unit of area that determines warmth. A women's size M is substantially smaller than a men's size M, so it may be that, per square inch, the women's is still warm, but I would still be concerned about all that extra sewn-through stitching.
I think Montbell USA has a pretty good grip on their markets. After all, almost no one noticed when they pulled a slight of hand and took the world's lightest jacket (the origianl UL down inner with snaps and no pockets), and listened to customer comments asking for a zipper and pockets. The people got what they asked for, and seemingly without any weight penalty…until you realised that there was definitely a weight penalty, but they up-sized everything so what was previously a size M, was now called a size L, but weighed the same as the old size L (which was now called a size XL).
Of course, this gave them the opportunity to redesign the new jacket, to lose the pockets and make it look lighter once again, and market it as something revolutionary in the UL world! very cunning indeed.Jan 20, 2010 at 11:55 am #1564542
@yurtieLocale: Central Oregon
I hope this isn't off topic but it is related. I got a Montbell UL Thermawrap jacket last summer (usually wear S but needed a M) and wore it 21 days straight right off the shelf; slept in it, hung out in it, hiked in it when cold, which it was at 11,000'+. It was incredible. So light & thin yet quite warm– I think because it breaks the wind. It was way nicer than the cashmere sweater I used to take for my middle layer. With a Patagonia thin wool 2 t-neck, it is 'the bomb' & has become my go-to jacket for yoga and around the house too. I also love the deep pockets & total close form fit around lower torso, hips and arms down to wrists. It has little stretch panels that work like darts in those 2 areas, so no bunching. Durability seems good for seeming so fragile, & I wash on delicate in front loader, hang to dry, which it does pretty fast. The only thing I would improve is make the neck opening smaller as it gaps. I may take in a tuck or bring a silk chiffon scarf to solve that.
Have been lusting for the down jacket too, tho would miss the pockets. Would be interesting to compare the warmth of it to the Thermawrap. Do you think I'd need a M in the down jacket too? Thanks for the reviewJan 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm #1564601
"I would not jump to the conclusion that the women's jacket isn't as warm as the men's, it just has less loft."
I dunno, Lynn. The results of the relative warmth test seem pretty convincing to me.Jan 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm #1564604
"The results of the relative warmth test seem pretty convincing to me."
Where were those results? I must have missed them.Jan 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm #1564618
"Where were those results? I must have missed them."
Toward the beginning of the "Performance" section.Jan 21, 2010 at 4:50 am #1564732
I would be interested in seeing more detail on how this test was preformed. The temp. differential measured accross the men's jkt (thru its thickness) was ~37degF and the womens was ~15degF. This indicates the thermal resistance of the mens ver. is more than double that of the womens (~2.5X). I would doubt if there is that much difference in warmth btw. the two.Jan 21, 2010 at 11:04 am #1564821
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Calendering vs Tinseling
This review states, “Ballistic Airlight has a very tight weave and is calendered, which is a heat and stretching process similar to tinseling steel. The resulting fabric (according to MontBell) has one-and-a-half times more abrasion resistance and three times more tear strength. Calendering also makes a fabric more downproof. On the downside, calendering reduces the breathability of the fabric somewhat.” Calendering and tinseling descriptions were mixed up in this review.
Calendering is a finishing process applied to fabrics. During calendering, the woven fabric is passed between several pairs of heated rollers, to give one or two shiny flat surfaces. This generally improves the fabrics down proof-ness and wind resistance at the expense of breathability.
Tinseling is a fiber-melt spinning and tensioning process that improves the tenacity of the fibers. The definition of tenacity denotes the strength of a yarn or a filament of given size. Numerically it is the breaking force in grams per denier unit of yarn or filament size (grams per denier, gpd). For testing, the yarn is usually pulled at the rate of 12 inches per minute. Tenacity equals breaking strength (grams) divided by denier. It is generally synonymous to ultimate tensile strength.
Nylon fibers are commonly manufactured in the range of approximate breaking tenacity (g/Denier) of 3 to 9.5. The spinning rates for fibers run from about 1000 m/min up to a maximum of 6000 m/min for fully molecular oriented fibers such as the Montbell ballistic nylons. The technology also uses highly polymerized nylon to which an additional component is added to prevent decomposition and degradation of the polymer by stabilizing its molecular structure. The required very high rate of spinning, in combination with the extremely small denier, results in technical challenges that are very difficult to overcome.
BPL Testing Opportunity
The insulation weight only accounts for approximately 20 to 50% of the total weight of a garment. Low denier fabrics result in low weight garments that are of primary interest to UL backpackers. There is more than a 300% difference in the tenacity range for the same fabric weight from different sources. The tenacity of the fabrics used in a reviewed garment or bag should be tested by BPL, or at minimum, reported in the reviews. This would allow the readers to better gauge the probable long term durability of reviewed products.Jan 21, 2010 at 11:42 am #1564838
""Where were those results? I must have missed them."
Toward the beginning of the "Performance" section."
Thanks Tom. Wow. That is an unacceptable difference. Thanks goodness we only have the men's (UL inner) version in our household.Jan 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm #1564995
"Thanks goodness we only have the men's (UL inner) version in our household."
Ya see! Men are good for something, after all. No men, no men's version. ;}Jan 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm #1565001
"Ya see! Men are good for something, after all. No men, no men's version. ;}"
I feel my whole world has shifted under my feet. I finally have to admit men ARE good for something :-0Jan 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #1565145
I don't want to sound like a broken record here but…
I sincerely doubt the results of the relative warmth test are valid. The test results indicate that the men's version is ~250% warmer than the women's – not 25% as stated in this review.
If we believe Montbell's specs I can't imagine this much of a difference btw the two:
A women's version medium has 1.4gr fill; the men's medium is about 1.8 – both 900fp.
Looking at the sizing charts the men's medium appears to cover ~10-20% more surface area than the women's medium – so the amount of down spread out per unit area is about the same (ie the uncompressed thickness of each should be comparable).
Yes the women's version has more chambers – meaning more compression but that probably won't matter terribly much (as Richard has pointed out many times).
Will all of this it appears: an appropriately sized women's version may be just slightly less warm than a men's version (it would probably also be slightly lighter). Let's say, with appropriate supplemental garments, the men's medium is capable of keeping me comfortably warm down to 45degF. I would wager the women's large would keep me equally warm at 48degF. Now, if I am to believe the results of the test: in the same scenario the women's large would probably only keep comfortable to about 60degFJan 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm #1565336
"I finally have to admit men ARE good for something :-0"
Now, now, Lynn; Let's not go overboard. Let the tectonic plates beneath your feet stabilize before jumping to hasty conclusions. ;}Jan 23, 2010 at 8:00 am #1565457
I have hiked and backpacked since last August with my Montbell Womens Ex Light jacket. It is one of the best pieces of equipment in my pack! Have used it in rain/snow storms under a North Face HyVent DT anorak rain shell; on top of Tiffany Mtn in cold winds (wind resistants is good); as a warmup jacket during lunch breaks. The jacket is always in my pack, weighs nothing, loft pops back.
Highly recommended by this avid Northwest outdoors woman.Jan 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm #1566485
Kathy A HandysideParticipant
@earlymusicusLocale: Southeastern Michigan
I've about given up on women's outdoor clothing altogether, so far as hiking pants, shirts, and jackets are concerned. For one thing, they run too small; for another, often they contain too much cotton and are too "cutesy" to be practical as outdoor clothing. I've started buying men's jackets and shirts because they have a fuller cut and are more practical. I don't go into the outdoors to make a fashion statement. I feel as though we've taken a step backwards to the early days of backpacking when there weren't any women's sizes in outdoor clothing. I just want practical outdoor clothing that fits.Jan 31, 2010 at 5:48 pm #1568347
I keep trying to convince my girlfriend to buy the most practical / lightest clothing for our outdoors adventures, but she insists that whatever she wears looks good no matter what. Doesn't matter if there is zero chance of running into anyone – guess it's a confidence thing. Her WPB shell has no hood so I bought her an eVent hat which she won't be caught dead in 99% of the time. So it goes both ways I guess. There's clearly a target market for people who care about the look of outdoor gear.Jan 31, 2010 at 9:06 pm #1568422
+1 here. my gf refuses to wear any puffy jacket/parka, since they look, guess what, … puffy …Jan 31, 2010 at 10:45 pm #1568448
@tippymcstaggerLocale: North Texas
I've reviewed some books on the subject here in the reader reviews section and started a couple threads and gotten some good feedback. The gender issues are real, but the importance varies by individual and situation. If I can give my midnight sum up of this, I'd say confidence and a cultivated self-driven interest in the ultralight endeavor are the big factors for positive and creative solutions. Was that vague enough?Dec 11, 2010 at 11:57 am #1673242
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> are too "cutesy" to be practical as outdoor clothing.
Well, of course. The problem is that the fashion industry sees 'outdoors clothing' as a big fashion market, with lots of wanna-bees and lots of $$$.
Yup, problem. No solution.
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