Thursday, 19 November 2009

Montane Lite-Speed Jacket Review

For those of you who haven't got yourself a 'wind shirt' yet, do yourself a favour and get one. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in your wardrobe will give you more comfort and versatility. When you also consider that some of them weigh less than 100g and cost as little as £30 it's a no-brainer. Chris Townsend states in his book, The Advanced Backpacker, that his "favourite upper garment and the one I wear more than any other is a thin, single-layer nylon or polyester wind shirt". Wearing one you'll stay drier and more comfortable more of the time, relying on your waterproofs only when you really need them. Check out here for why you need one. Sermon over.

The Montane Lite-Speed Jacket was my choice over a year and a half ago and I've worn it almost every single day since. The Lite-Speed is advertised as 'The lightest weight, weather resistant, hooded jacket in the world'. I'm sure there are people who will argue this point but it's probably not far off. You can read the full specifications on the new, much improved Montane website. I'll just review a couple of the main points for you:

Don't sweat it - The Pertex Microlight fabric has proven to be amazing. Windproof and water resistant but breathable enough to wear all day. For most 3 season backpacking I'll slip it on over a merino or thin synthetic base-layer on exposed, windy summits or if there is a light drizzle that doesn't require the warmth or clamminess of my waterproof jacket. It's also great in camp for keeping the mozzies at bay. In winter I wear the Lite-Speed over a heavier base-layer made from a synthetic such as Power Stretch or Power Dry. When cross country skiing this is the perfect combination of breathability (open the zip, push up the sleeves and drop the hood when grinding uphill) and protection (batten-down-the-hatches when going downhill, in light snow or in the teeth of an arctic wind on a ridge). I also wear the Lite-Speed for running in the winter and it keeps clamminess to a minimum while keeping me warm enough to run in Bergen's freezing winter rain. The material also dries really quick if it does wet out. For such a light, soft, packable material it has also proven to be durable. 18 months of bushwhacking, falling over on skis, scraping past granite boulders and the daily commute have all been handled with very little sign of wear.

Making the cut - The Lite-Speed is cut slightly more generously than Montane's other wind shells but this actually makes it more versatile and better for long backpacking trips. I'd prefer a shorter, trimmer cut if I wanted something just for running but the extended tail and wider body offers more coverage and allows you to layer it over mid-layers and light insulation pieces in camp.

Hug a hoody - Some of the lighter wind shirts on the market don't have a hood and again, if I wanted one just for running then I'd go for this option but the few grams that a hood costs you is a very worthy investment. I am constantly surprised by the huge difference in comfort that can be gained on a windy, cold hill by simply pulling up the thin, almost weightless hood. It cuts the wind and creates a nice dry, warm 'bubble' over your noggin and neck. There is no peak or visor on the Lite-Speed but I usually wear a cap of some description so it's not needed for three season use.

It's the little things - Elasticated cuffs are light and allow you to push the arms up for venting. I'm not usually a fan of pockets but the single chest pocket has proven a useful place to stuff gloves when trying to do something that requires considerable dexterity. There are comfy fleecy 'beard guards' around your Gunga. Finally the wee Scotchlite dots stop you getting run over on winter evening runs down the lane.

Overall I love my Montane Lite-Speed. I really do. It's the perfect balance of features and lightweight comfort combined with versatility that is, in my opinion, without equal. There are lighter and trimmer running specific wind shirts and there are burlier and more feature-packed winter wind shirts but if you crave a simpler life then the Montane Lite-Speed has you perfectly covered 99% of the time. This is the single most important piece of clothing I own. Genius.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice one Joe,
I bought one at Xmas last year on your reccomendation and I've worn mine nearly every single day since. It does all of the stuff you say. It's as flexible as a flexible thing from flexville.... that's warmed up and warmed down properly all of its life. Well....you get the idea! There's a lot to be said for warm but not sweaty.
Cy

Dave Hanlon said...

Wouldn't leave home without one. You've got me thinking about shelling out for one with a hood though (hang around in these places long enough and you're sure to find an excuse to spill more dosh on gear).

b.t.w: "falling over on skis" is, I presume, viewed as some sort of eccentric English pass time in your part of the world?

Thunder In The Night said...

Cy - I'm glad you're happy with your Lite-Speed, it is indeed the most useful item in my wardrobe.

Dave - it will never cease to amaze me what a difference that wee hood makes. Just when I think I'm going to have to put on another layer I simply pull my hood, put on some gloves and I'm good to go.

Yeah, the less said about my skiing skills the better. They learn to ski here before they can walk, I swear! I love it though, the season's first ski trip is arranged for 2 weeks time. I can't wait!

Ben said...

Totally agree I have got a Featherlite which is great for running and walking, but rolls up so small I seem to have lost it. Montane seem to have updated their website... I tnk for the better.
Ben

Thunder In The Night said...

Ben - I love that they wrap up so small, it makes them a joy to take with you. My Lite-Speed even fits into the hip belt pocket of my little AL20.

The new Montane website is really good. Muck slicker.

Dave Hollin said...

yup, (holds hand up), I have a lite-speed too and its a great bit of kit. Stuff it in the bottom of the pack and forget about it until you need it on rest stops and if the wind picks up. Cheap as chips and uber versatile. Why hasnt everyone got one?! :)

Thunder In The Night said...

Dave - agreed, they should be handed out to people when they're buying their first OS map.

Dave Forsyth said...

whats the best Semi-Waterproof 'scrunchable' jacket for ladies, the sort of thing the wife can keep in her bag?
Any tips greatly appreciated....!

Thunder In The Night said...

Dave - Montane do plenty of wummins versions of the men's jackets such as the Lite-Speed and the hoodless Featherlite Marathon running jacket.

However I think Montane's ace up their sleeve in the 'weather-resistant-scrunchable-handbag jacket' category is their Element Jacket. Water resistant, windproof, recycled AND recyclable with a full zip and decent hood. Like the Lite-speed it'll stuff into it's own stuff sack down to the size of an apple. A bit more 'urban' in it's cut than the rest of the range, I reckon it's a winner.

http://www.montane.co.uk/products/women/windproof/element-jacket/228

kate said...

can i join the montane love in too :)

dave f-i use the pertex featherlight smock for running/biking in all but torrential rain. combined with a thin helly you can't beat it

Thunder In The Night said...

Kate - yes you can! We'll have a Montane puppy pile to keep warm.

You know what I'd like Montane to do? A hooded Featherlite Smock....

kate said...

that would be brilliant but only if it was elasticated like the cuffs. i'd wear it raving....if i still went raving ;)

Thunder In The Night said...

Colour? Retina burning orange? Bright white? Lime green?

Martin Rye said...

I love my Featherlight smock. Wind shirts are stunning kit. My only complaint is the arm length on the Featherlight. Your pointing out the Lite-Speed has a better cut makes me want to check it out. Then I did get that Hagolfs wind shirt and it is very good so far. Montane are very good still - just I keep buying Hagolfs stuff. It is the cut and attention to detail. Montane are superb don't get me wrong. Just I am finding some kit that is better and it seems to be designed in Scandinavia.

Thunder In The Night said...

Martin - the Lite-Speed seems cut longer in the arms than the Featherlite Smock to me. I like the Haglofs cut too and another Scandinavian brand that offers a similar jacket is Norrona and their sublime Bitihorn Aero 100 but it costs the equivalent of £100...

And next year we welcome back Rab (and their 'long arms')to the wind shirt market. The Alpine smock version looks awesome for winter.

Choices...

Maz said...

I might as well be sponsored by Montane the amount of kit I abuse of theirs (Lite Speed, Terra pants, Terra Shorts, Venture pants, Bionic shirt) - they're such an intuitive company. Lite Speed will be a departure for me as I've been using a Haglofs LIM Ozone jacket as my full wet-weather jacket but needed something really light as a windshield when rain was unlikely. First outing - next weekend...

Joe Newton said...

Maz - you won't go far wrong with Montane and you won't go wrong at all with a Lite-Speed jacket.

mhd said...

I hope sometime you can review Rab nimbus windtop, very comparable with Montane litespeed. Both are hooded and made from pertex microlight.

Joe Newton said...

MHD - I'd have no problems using a Rab Nimbus. It's very similar to the the Lite-Speed and both brands have a really nice 'athletic' cut (unlike 'boxy' Berghaus and The North Face stuff). Choosing between the Nimbus and Lite-Speed would probably just come down to which colour I liked at the time! Thankfully though I don't need a new wind-shirt, the Lite-Speed is still going strong.

Anonymous said...

Great review, thanx!

I'm looking around for a wind shirt but so far only been able to try on the Marmot Trail wind hoody and, as apparently others have also had problems with, the arms felt very short. I'm 182 cm tall and weigh about 75 kg and this was a size large (the shop were sold out on larger sizes). What size are you, and what size did you get? And were did you buy it? I live in Sweden and they don't sell them here it seems.

//can

Joe Newton said...

Can - I'm 184 and about 85kg. I wear a Medium in Montane knowing that they have a superb cut with long arms. Rab is another company with a similar cut. Both these brands have windshirts that are available from Ultralight Outdoor Gear in the UK who are very good on price and customer service and deliver internationally. Actually, as you live in Sweden I would also try Haglofs as they are also known for having slimmer, more athletic cuts.

Hope that helps!

Oskeli said...

@Joe: do you have enough room for layering in your Medium-sized Lite-Speed? I'm 172cm/60kg and I was evaluating a medium as well but now I'm wondering if it would be too roomy.

Thanks.