Pull-on, pullover, smock – there are all sorts of names for this half-zippered beauty of a garment. Montane’s take on the classic ultralight insulated pullover packs high-quality 800-fill goose down and a high-tech face fabric from Pertex. I got to thrash the Montane Featherlite for the entire ice season, including stints on the frigid Canadian ice.
Montane Featherlite Down Pro Pull-On Features:
- Water and abrasion-resistant Pertex CS-10 outer fabric
- Super packable – stuffs into own pocket
- Water resistant fluorocarbon-free down
- Micro baffle construction
- Insulated over-helmet 3 point adjustable hood
- Front hand warmer pocket
- Internal stretch mesh pocket
- MSRP: $329
Everything you need, nothing you don’t:
The Montane Featherlite is a pretty unique piece for us North American climbers. For one thing, ‘smock’ style garments are much more popular in European circles, so many of us aren’t as used to pullovers as we are full-zipper jackets. Plus, a kangaroo pocket? Delightful, but also out of the norm for us. Additionally, the Featherlite is stuffed with some of the best down out there, namely Allied Feather & Down Titanium water-resistant goose down with an 800-fill power rating. You won’t necessarily notice a big difference between this and other types of down performance-wise, but the big thing here is that this goose down is ethically sourced and produced. Another major boon as I look at the jacket’s features is the excellent Pertex Quantum CS-10 fabric, which is light, strong and downproof. But how do these features work together to make a functional jacket? Well, first we’ll talk about the features and then get into real-life results.
The Montane’s feature profile goes something like this. Fully adjustable drawcords at the hood and hem, a system to stow the hood on windy days, a two-way half-zip front, a generous zippered front pocket and that awesome kangaroo handwarmer pouch.
It’s the way these key features are put together which makes the Featherlite a great companion in the alpine. For example, I found that the two-way half-zip has quite a bit of functional potential. For example, it’s situated right next to the top of an internal mesh stuff-pocket that can accommodate items as large as a water bottle. So by unzipping just as much as you need from the bottom, you can sneak keys or bars or a cellphone in and out of this pocket. It’s also handy, to some degree, for ventilation. If you unzip it from the bottom, the structure of the jacket still holds the zipper track together.
There’s two sides to this: on the one side, it doesn’t allow a huge amount of ventilation to occur – you can unzip it from the top if you want that. On the other hand, if you’re in blowing snow or sleet, you can get a little ventilation without having the inside of your jacket plastered with crud as if you opened it from the top. So, in a word, it’s versatile. The zipper track also goes down quite deeply, near or below the nipple line on me. That’s good because it means lots of potential ventilation, but also because I can (and often did) pull the jacket on over my bulky winter climbing helmet at icy belay stations.
Alrighty, there’s the zipper. What next? How about those pockets. I really like the pocket design on this jacket – very simple, but very effective. The kangaroo hand pouch is much more effective at warming up icy hands and recovering from the screaming barfies than individual pockets, since you can put those ice cubes next to each other for solidarity and the conduction of thermal energy through physical contact. The inside of the pocket isn’t insulated, so your belly heat gets through to your hands, too. That said, it gives the jacket a pot-bellied appearance. Such is life. What’s more, the zippered stuff pocket is large and in-charge. It’s set high above where a harness or pack waistband would sit, so it’s always accessible. It’s large enough for a Mountain House or a coffee tumbler. It’s really quite large. I don’t know why you’d transport either of those things there, but at least the option exists.
The foundation of the jacket is its fabric and its insulation. I touched on these earlier, but want to say a little bit more. The Pertex Quantum CS-10 fabric is unusually good. Nylon fabrics on puffy jackets have a few things they’re trying to balance, namely light weight, strength and ‘stopping power’ (let’s say that’s its weather resistivity and downproof-ness). Usually, stronger fabrics have a higher denier and are actually a bit ‘coarser,’ in a sense, and I tend to see less down leakage on the lightest ultrafine weaves like 7D and 10D nylon. The Pertex Quantum CS-10 feels like a 10D weave to me, and I haven’t seen any down leakage at all. It’s woven out of a diamond-shaped thread rather than a traditional round one, and this allows the threads to slot together more closely. The result is a light, strong fabric with plenty of ‘stopping power.’ Water sits on the surface quite well on it even after being pressed against, which is where the DWR usually gives out. Frankly I was skeptical of the diamond-shaped thread thing, but this page has a micrograph that’s quite clear. I guess seeing is believing.
If you were curious, the full name of the insulation in this jacket is “90/10 Allied Feather & Down Titanium water resistant fluorocarbon-free HyperDRY™ ECO goose down.” The 90/10 is the ratio of goose down to feathers, and 90/10 is quite good. It’s also water-resistant, but the key thing to note there is that it’s a fluorocarbon-free DWR called HyperDry. This is significant from an environmental perspective; hydrophobic goose down is quite common nowadays, but we get that basically from submerging the down feathers in a vat full of nasties that are, frankly, tough for the environment. There’s a big push in the industry right now is to get rid of toxic C6 and C8 (that’s the number of carbon atoms in the chain) fluorocarbons and this excellent post from Patagonia explain it.
The fill in the Montane jacket is treated with the technology HyperDry, which is free of these fluorocarbons. I can’t hands-on test the water-resistivity for myself in a quantitative manner, but I did find that this jacket handled wet weather comparably or better (thanks in part to the great Pertex fabric) than similar products I’ve tested. The real question is whether the ecologically-friendly DWR will last over time – and I sure hope it will. Also, major kudos to Montane for sourcing down in line with the Responsible Down Standard, which lets you trace the origin of your down insulation. This is a jacket you can feel good about buying from an environmental and ethical standpoint.
There’s 150g of that 800-fill down in the baffles of the Featherlite, and that’s plenty to keep you warm. Mind you, these aren’t box baffles and you will have some cold air leaking through the stitching on the baffles. This is normal. I’d say the Featherlite falls on the ‘warm’ side of the midweight down jacket lineup; I used it on 20′ days up in Canada with bitter winds coming through; with a good baselayer and a fleece, I was fine. It can stand alone quite well in the low 30’s and high 20’s, I would say, but this always gets a little subjective. One major boon to the jacket is that the front interior is completely covered by a hung liner, and that helps trap more warm air.
I got to enjoy this jacket primarily on ice climbing trips in Canada and Washington. I appreciated the weight-saving design of the pullover, and I always found that I was able to get my helmet through the opening when it was all zipped down. It can be a squeeze, but if I made it you can too! I especially appreciated the kangaroo handwarmer pocket; it is just so much more efficient at warming up hands than normal pockets. The fully adjustable hood is also a nice touch that’s a little rare on down jackets, but you can always secure it to your head well and keep your peripheral vision clear.
Finally, a word on that jacket’s fit. I’m 5’11” 185 lbs and I tested a large. The large was quite big on me all-around, but especially in the torso. Here’s the thing, though – since this is a pull-on, you might often find yourself wrestling it on over lots of layers and helmets and climbing equipment. So, despite the extra room and excessively puffy appearance, I’m glad I have a larger size for my activities.
- Excellent material choice, from the Pertex shell to the Titanium down
- Great British design means that all of the features work well yet stay out of your way
- Quite warm for a midweight puffy
- Deep main zipper allows for ventilation options effectively
- Stow-away hood is quite nice for windy days, despite being rare on American jackets
- Somewhat heavy at just over a pound (463g)
- Kangaroo pocket leads to permanent (but merely aesthetic) pot belly
The Bottom Line: Montane Featherlite Down Pro
For American climbers, the Montane Featherlite Down Pro Pull-On is a unique piece – we’re just not that used to kangaroo pockets and half zips! But I had a wonderful time in this jacket and it really does show English know-how; they’ve been playing in the mountains in terrible, terrible weather since the dawn of time. That expertise has led to a highly functional piece that shines not just in the UK, but in Banff and the North Cascades too.
Buy Now: Available from Montane.com