Montane Mountain Star
The Montane Mountain Star overall is an excellent wind shell that has served me well during hikes in cold but windy weather. There are a couple of minor problems I found that kept me from giving it a full 5-star rating, as discussed below.
Windshirts are a frequently overlooked clothing item when headed outdoors, despite the fact that they can be worn over fleece, softshells, sweaters, and other clothing to block wind while still providing lots of breathability. They often provide some water repellency adequate for a light drizzle and dry rapidly. They are usually very light and can be stuffed readily in a pocket (including their own pocket.
- Windproof up to 45 mph bike speeds during testing
- Very breathable without windchill
- Full zip front allows good ventilation control
- Stuffs into its own right-hand pocket (zipper has pull on both inside and outside)
- Hood fits over helmet
- Heavier than some similar windshirts from competitors
- Thin fabric can be snagged in dense brush
- Armholes are too small
- Upper torso section a bit tight for the nominal size (L)
Over the years, I have had various windbreakers, although I have often done like many others, trying to save weight by using my Goretex and eVent expedition parkas as the do-all outer shells, including a very nice Montane eVent shell.
I found, as many others have, that even the best “waterproof/breathable” fabrics are not all that breathable when carrying a full expedition pack, even with the pit zips fully open. In many situations, you don’t need the waterproof qualities. A light windshell is all that is needed. So I was pleased when my prize for the drawing for Gear Reviews for the month was the Montane windshell.
Montane is a British company which has been around for many years, although they are not well known in the US. We have several of their items including two eVent shells for Barb and me that we use as our “everyday” rain shells (not that it rains that much in the SFBay Area outside the “rainy season” of November through March). The Aeroflyte fabric is a polyester microfiber – water repellent in a light drizzle, but not waterproof.
Unlike my other wind shirts, but in common with our Montane eVent shells, the Mountain Star has its slide on the left half of the zipper, rather than the more common right side as found on most jackets sold in the US. The hang tag describes the hood as being “Lycra bound”. This means that the face opening has a border of an elastic fabric (Lycra, presumably) rather than a draw cord as many windshirt hoods have.
There are two “hand-warmer” pockets that are mesh lined. These are large enough to carry some snacks, a map, a compass, and perhaps a few other small items, though not large enough for a 1-liter water bottle. The right-hand pocket has a zipper with both outer and inner pulls, the inner one having a loop for use in opening and closing the pocket when the jacket is stuffed in it.
This pocket can be used to stuff the jacket, with the loop being used to clip the stuffed jacket to a pack strap or belt. The generous size of the pocket does result in the stuffed jacket package being a bit large – you can compress it to less than half the size when tucking it into a pack.
The mesh lining forms half the outside covering of the stuffed pouch, meaning that there is little protection for the jacket if you drop the pouch in the water or mud. Generally, this is no problem.
The Mountain Star is marked as a men’s large, a size that I would expect would fit over a fleece jacket, sweater, or light puff parka. It does fit me with a fleece jacket on, though it is a bit tight around the shoulders and arm holes.
Details of testing
I wore the windshell on a number of occasions in the past 3 months, both around town and in the hills, hiking, climbing, and bicycling. I did encounter some spells of drizzle during the common SFBay Area fog at this time of year, including some light rain.
Having received the jacket from Trailspace in mid-May at the end of the official rainy season, I did not encounter any serious rainstorms. The Aeroflyte fabric did a reasonable job of shedding light drizzle, though it did not do well on a stand-in shower test. Although it took a while for the full shower to wet-out the fabric, there was noticeable leakage around the seams. Still, it did pretty well in actual slight drizzles, and the “full shower” is significantly stronger than what a wind shell is intended to stand.
The sewn-on hood fits over the helmet, though not as well as my wpb shells. In the photo, I am wearing a PetzlEcrin helmet. The fit is somewhat better with my Petzl Elios helmet. The elastic Lycra border band on the face opening does a reasonable job of keeping the hood in place during the fast downhill portion of my bike rides (typically 40-45 mph descending La Honda Road). The elastic does give a fairly loose fit when wearing it without a helmet or cap.
As is common for windshirts, there is no storage pocket for the hood. But it is easy enough to just tuck the hood into the back of the neck area. As you can see from the photo, though, the tight fit of the upper portion of the Montane does produce some restriction of movement, although the tightness is exacerbated by wearing the helmet.
This brings up my major complaint about the Montane Mountain Star that it has in common with my Montane eVent shell – the arm holes are tight compared to other men’s large jackets I have. They seem to be sized for someone with a fairly skinny shoulder and upper torso region. The hang tag claims “articulated arms for reach high movement and tailored specifically to reduce hem lift”. But I found that the slim armholes significantly restricted high reaching and even some movement within what I would consider normal range.
The restricted feeling is even more noticeable when the Mountain Star is worn over a light or medium fleece. I have noticed this in some other UK apparel as well. I should note that my most common shirt size is medium, with jacket sizes for gtx and eVent shells marked men’s large leaving adequate room for a midweight fleece or a down sweater. Other wind shells I own are all men’s large and similarly leave plenty of room for a midweight fleece. It is possible that an XL would fit the armholes and shoulder width better, but I do not have one available to see.
The jacket can be stuffed into either pocket. But the right pocket zipper has a pull plus strap on the inner side, just right to act as the outer zipper when the jacket is stuffed.
There is also a drawcord elastic in the skirt of the jacket, which helps keep the cold wind from blowing in. It is split into two segments, with the clamp at the right side and an inner “parking place” for the loose ends, a very nice touch.
The Montane Mountain Star hooded windshell performed pretty well overall. It kept the wind at bay, but breathed well enough during spells of carrying a heavy pack uphill or on long hills on the bicycle. The full front zip provided plenty of control of ventilation during the hotter climbs. The hood could have been a bit larger for helmets that I have. The shell stuffs easily into either of the hand pockets (the right-hand one being the designated stuff pocket), almost too easily, since it could be a bit more compact when stuffed.
As mentioned earlier, many people use a Goretex or eVent shell as their do-all shell in an attempt to minimize their pack load. Such waterproof/breathable jackets breathe poorly in reality, even with open pit zips. This results in getting way too warm when carrying a heavy pack, heading up steep hills, even in cold weather. Including a light windshell like the Mountain Star allows you to keep much cooler with the addition of just 7 ounces. In a slight drizzle, a light wind shell does a fair job of shedding the rain and dries quickly.
Source: received it as a sample, freebie, or prize (Trailspace)
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