Thursday, 11 February 2010

Montane North Star jacket review

I deserved some down. My other 'duvet jacket' is a Montane Flux, a Primaloft stuffed jacket that had previously done a good job of keeping me warm at lunch stops and overnight camps. This winter was different. The Gulf Stream was having a vacation and the west coast of Norway was plunged into the icebox. I was originally going to buy what has long been considered the benchmark for this type of jacket, the Rab Neutrino Endurance but when Montane announced the launch of the North Star I was intrigued. 800+ fill power Ukrainian goose down, a breathable but weather resistant outer and a Montane hood, the cut and fit of which I've been a big fan of on my other Montane jackets. The jacket arrived a few weeks ago and my size Large comes in at 536g on my digital kitchen scales.

You can find out the jacket's technical details on Montane's website. All I wanted to give you in this review is a close-up of the jacket's neat features and a quick review of how this jacket has performed during the past few weeks.

Firstly the fit. This jacket is slightly more fitted than my Flux and the stitch-through baffles are all different shapes to fit around the body. There is a slight drop-tail that keeps your kidneys and arse warm when perched on a log in camp. Long arms keep the important wrist area warm. When I slip it on it just feels perfect, like settling into the most comfortable duvet in an expensive hotel. The indoors, outdoors.

I love Montane hoods and this one is no exception. The collar sits nice and high keeping you toasty warm. The hood has a wired peak so will keep it's shape on windy summits. There is a velcro volume adjustment on the rear. The draw-cord runs around the face and exits at single-hand adjustable cord locks before being channelled through tubes to the neck area. This arrangement stops you getting whipped in the face when you're adjusting the hood. Some have commented that they don't like the cord locks sitting so close to the face but I found them to be perfectly fine there. It's easy to spot the cord lock when you're trying to loosen them off, whilst wearing mitts in a gale and I've never found them intrusive. There is also a neat 'zipper garage' for the end of the zip to slink into, preventing the zip from eating your beard. The hood can be rolled down and secured with a velcro strap but I've never used this function on any jacket that I've owned.

Wonderful soft face protectors inside the high collar are a lot less clammy than other jackets where your breath condensates on the lining fabric.

The body of the North Star has two adjustable draw cords to keep warm air inside the jacket. One draw cord on the hem and a second around the waist. Both are adjustable with one hand and have adjustments on both sides. I'm still not sure about the need for a waist cord, at the moment it seems superfluous but I'll defer judgement until I've used the jacket in different camp situations.

The waist-adjustment cord is situated in the sumptuous hand warmer pockets. There is just enough 'lip' on the pockets to stop items like gloves from falling out when the zips are left open.

Napoleon chest pocket is great for stashing little temperature-sensitive items that need to be kept closer to the body, like camera batteries, snacks and lip balm.

Quality YKK zippers with wee rubbery dots on the ends of both pullers make getting hold of them with numb fingers or gloves on a little easier.

Another shot of the collar area showing the hood adjustment cord tubes, the fleecy zipper 'garage' and the logo'd anti-snag baffle behind the zip.

Since it arrived I've used the North Star everyday. It's been my choice on sub-zero walks to work, playground duty at -17C and standing around teaching kids how to cross-country ski during a week of ski guiding. I fell in love with this jacket during a lunch stop in the Norwegian mountains on a recent ski tour. The temperature was -25C with a slight breeze. I've also slept in it to boost my under-gunned 3-season sleeping bag on a freezing cold night in a traditional Sami lavvu snow tent. It kept me warm all night. The DWR has kept snow showers at bay and I haven't noticed any down loss at the stitching yet.

Time will tell if Montane's North Star can become a modern classic like Rab's Neutrino Endurance but so far it's more than holding it's own.


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking recently that I could do with something warmer than my Rab Generator for low activity stuff like photography. Not likely to happen this year, but I do like the look of this.

Nielsen Brown said...

Nice photos and a very informative review, there is no doubt that a down jacket with hood is a very important piece of gear. Mine is made by Nunatak, but no matter the brand the warmth provided by down, is the best, in my view. I look forward to reading the long term review.

Martin Rye said...

i love my Anti-Freeze and that North Star would be nice in my kit selection next winter. The waist cord is good. Have one on the Anti-Freeze and it helps keep the heat in tight to you. North Star looks good as well. Very good review Joe.

Dave F said...


Anonymous said...

Must. Have. That.

My current down puffy is an Outdoor Research Refuge jacket and has worked well, to date.

However... I've been looking for the next thing. I believe I've found it, here. Thanks for the review!

Thunder In The Night said...

Fraser - the North Star would be perfect at keeping you warm when sedentary. It will be SO much warmer than the Generator.

Roger - thank you. I don't understand big fat down jackets without hoods. If it's cold enough to need the jacket surely it's cold enough to need a hood, even with a hat! But then I think every layer should have a hood...

Martin - I will try the waist cord out when I go camping this week. I'm not against the idea, I've just never had a jacket with one before. It will probably come into it's own when I slacken off the hem cord to sit down and have dinner. I like reviews with lots of small detail photos that the manufactures don't put on their websites. I think it helps when making web purchases, which I rely on at the moment.

Dave F - got

Titanium - glad I could help!

Ben said...

Very nice jacket and review, good to see some close up details. I don't like the Montane zip pullers and have swapped my Super Fly ones for bits of dyneema cord. Apart from that I love Montane kit.

Thunder In The Night said...

Ben - I like the Montane zip pullers when I'm wearing liners, which is most of the time. In big mitts they can be difficult to 'find' I agree. There will be another Montane jacket heading my way soon!

Mac E said...

Thats a very nice jacket, some great features which make all the difference. You've done a very good job of photographing the important details, it isn't always easy to do that. Thanks for sharing.

I have a Flux myself and love the hood although I dislike the hood on the Venture.

I'm not in the market for a duvet jacket having recently bought an ME Lightline at 50% discount but the North Star is one to keep in mind.

Thunder In The Night said...

Mac E - thanks. My Flux has been good to me, it just got out-gunned this winter and isn't enough in the mountains. 50% off the Lightline is a great deal!

kate said...

thanks, i know have to buy one ;)

i agree about the waist cords. there's one on my montane antifreeze, i've had to use it but keep getting things tangled in my pockets.

Thunder In The Night said...

Kate - Is this free advertising for Montane? If they sell one due to this review I should expect 10% right?! :-)

I know what you mean about pocket tangles. iPod and headphones go in the Napoleon pocket, not the hand-warmers.

Hemdrik said...

Great review Joe, your new camera is put to good use with all those photos. I like the North Star, and might just get one for the rest of this winter, though my Klättermusen Loke + Rab Microlite Vest were sufficient on the last tour.

Keep up the good work, mate!

Thunder In The Night said...

Hendrik - thank you. I really enjoy independent reviews on other people's blogs. Detailed photos help people visualise products better.

The North Star worked a treat again last night. I wore it over a Vapour Rise Smock and was very warm around camp at -11C. It helped boost my bag rating (-3C) too which kept me from freezing! Two insulation layers are far more adaptable (and potentially safer if one got wet) but a single piece is simpler (I like to apply the KISS principle where possible when camping in the winter).

Linas said...

pyze kaip as tokios noriu :D