Review: Montane Featherlite Shell Jacket
Montane Featherlite Shell Jacket
$399, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
Not many corners of the globe receive more rain than southern New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, which sees anywhere from seven to 10 meters of precipitation annually—that’s anywhere from 275 to almost 400 inches of water falling from the sky, upwards of 10 times as much as received by famously gloomy Seattle. That makes it a pretty good place to test a rain jacket. The new Featherlite kept me dry and comfortable—sometimes for many hours of hiking in steady rain or wet snow—on Fiordland’s Kepler and Dusky tracks earlier this month.
Hike with a pack in enough different rain jackets over many years and you learn that staying dry in wet, high-exertion circumstances is at least as much about a fabric’s breathability as it is about waterproofing. That’s where the Featherlite shines, thanks to the newest iteration of eVent membrane, eVent DV Storm. In developing it, eVent took its original membrane—already widely recognized as very breathable—and made something they say is 15 percent more breathable, while weighing in 40 percent lighter. Carrying a pack on two hut treks, in conditions that ran the meteorological gamut from (briefly) sunny and windy to drizzle, steady showers in mild temperatures, and hours of wind-driven, cold rain and wet snow, I found the jacket would expel moisture very soon after my body began pumping it out. I rarely felt clammy and never got very wet. At times, while preoccupied with something like finding the route through blowdowns on the notoriously rugged Dusky Track, I would suddenly realize that, in spite of how hard I was exerting and sweating just moments earlier, my base layer had nearly dried.
Besides that kind of performance in breathability, this jacket’s price tag is justified by details like the helmet-compatible, wire-brim hood that’s adjustable in front and back; a higher stitch count than typical of many rain shells; full seam-taping throughout; articulated sleeves that allow full range of motion without causing the jacket hem to hike up; waterproof zippers that move reasonably smoothly for waterproof zippers; two roomy pockets high enough to avoid a pack hipbelt or climbing harness; and adjustable cuffs and hem.
If there’s one reason for concern, it’s the light, 15-denier fabric, which may prove less durably waterproof than higher-denier shell fabrics, especially if you play hard in rough places. But I thrashed through some thick bush on the Dusky Track without seeing any damage. With a little TLC, this jacket will probably last years of backcountry use. While it’s not quite in the category of ultralight rain shells, at 11 ounces and balling up to the size of a softball, it’s competitively light and compact.
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