We've just had a scoop preview of Montane's new autumn 2013 range highlights and we're impressed: the British brand has a whole new range of waterproof shell jacket using new fabrics and slick construction techniques that we reckon make the new range a real step up.
New Factory, New Fabrics...
The key to it all is that Montane has started using a different factory and that means top-notch construction techniques and a revised cut that Montane's Paul Cosgrove reckons takes things to 'the next level'. In addition, alongside eVent, Montane is going to be using Polartec's ultra-breathable NeoShell fabric for some of its jackets.
So what does that all mean? Well, as far as construction goes, it's about a neater, cleaner, more precise build. Stitching is consistently 12-13 stitches per inch which means seams sit flatter and neater, seam allowances are smaller allowiing flatter, neater micro-taping.
Then there's slick stuff like super-neat bonded cord channels and 'Penny Cordlocks' which are, like they sound, flat, round, cord adjusters that are really unobtrusive. Cleaner, slicker looks in other words, a neater fit and better reliability and consistency.
That's all mixed in with a new, more fitted, more athletic cut with plenty of room for burly climbing shoulders buut a more tapered waist and torso fit, which isn't just neat, it's also more efficient.
On the fabric front, Paul says that while eVent is highly breathable, it still retains a sort of 'micro-climate' which makes it suitable for 'stop-go' activities by slowing cooling rates when you're stationary. NeoShell on the other hand - and we'd back this up - is probably the most breathable fabric out there and works so well that you cool fast when you do stop.
So Montane has used eVent for jackets aimed at stop-go activities and NeoShell for faster, more continuous stuff. Which makes sense.
Here are the main movers from the range, which is due in the shops in late summer 2013.
Alpine Endurance Jacket - eVent
The Alpine Endurance was the first of the jackets we saw and we were properly impressed with it. It's fully loaded with nice things: YKK's interlocking Vislon zips, a bonded inner butt panel for, well, additional butt protection, angled pit-zips that run from back to front for ease of use rather than straight up and down and more.
There's a full helmet hood with a peak that's not only wired but also lined with a dense foam for additional stiffness. It has four adjustment points including one that shortens the back of the hood for use with a bare head. We also liked the glove-friendly pull-tags.
The cut is impressive. Plenty of room for shoulders and biceps - climbers apparently have those - but with a neat torso fit and a slim waist and practically medium-long. Overall weight is a very reasonable 606g claimed, about right for a fully-loaded technical shell. Price will be £300.
Fast Alpine Jacket - NeoShell
As you can guess from the name, the Fast Alpine Jacket is targeted at fast-moving climbers, folk who don't stop much and need as much breathability as possible and is made from a stretch version of Polartec's NeoShell fabric.
It weighs about the same as the Alpine Endurance at 595g and features a built-in and rather neat snow-skirt made from Pertex Microlight for improved breathability and lack of bulk. It's non removable, but you could always cut it out if you wanted.
There are also tougher reinforced areas using a fabric called Diamond face - sounds like a Bond villain to us - on the shoulders and forearms. The hood again has four-point adjustment, but the height adjuster is actually pre-elasticated to simplify things, finally there are no pit-zips as the fabric is so breathable.
Price for the Fast Alpine Stretch Neo jacket will be £340 - expensive fabric...
Further Faster jacket - NeoShell
This was our favourite. The Further Faster is a stripped-down shell using a lighter weight, non-stretch NeoShell fabric with two pockets and a lower-profile 'trail hood that's adjustable, but doesn't take a helmet. The hem and cuffs adjust too, cut is neat and it gets features like the Vislon zips too.
It's not super lightweight at a claimed 408g, but we reckon it should do duty as an all-round fast walking, running and even biking jacket with class-leading breathability and no unnecessary fripperies. It's also somewhat more affordable than the Fast Alpine at £230.
Direct Ascent Jacket - eVent
Last but very definitely not least, there's the walking-specific Direct Ascent Jacket made from three-ply event fabric and cut longer than the other jackets in the range for walking use. It gets all the neat construction features like the stitching and bonding details, and a few of its own.
The hand-warmer pockets have bonded-in microfibre patches for drying off damp hands for example and while it's a 'walker's jacket', the hood still accommodates a helmet with three-point adjustment, making it an option for all-round winter mountaineers who prefer a longer-cut jacket.
What's quite impressive, given all the features, is that it still weighs just 500g. Price tag is £240.
There are also some rather neat matching shell pants in eVent featuring ballistic nylon reinforcement on strategic areas, full-length Aquaguard zips that use a 'twist-cut- configuration to spiral down the leg, have calf volume adjustment, a bonded fly, loops to attach braces and a brushed-tricot waist for comfort. Nice.
Deep Cold Down Jacket
Finally, the Deep Cold is Montane's warmest ever down jacket and it's an 1100g monster of a thing filled with 400g of 800+ fill power (US) 90/10 goose down in full box-wall baffles. The outer is Pertex Endurance and it's mad warm, like designed for Himalayan expeditions and standing about in polar condition down to around -40˚C or so.
It would also cope admirably with unheated home office use, though you might also need a fan to cool down and the savage environment of the Scottish mountain pub, but would be overkill for most other UK use we reckon. Price is set to be £350. The down is normal, non-hydrophobic stuff as Montane believes in keeping things pure and natural.
And that's it until September. The new spring 2013 range, on the other hand, is out now and on the Montane web site at www.montane.co.uk.