Name: Mark Verber
Height/Weight: 5'10" (1.8m) / 180lb (82kg)
Region: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Date: April 10, 2003
Review Item: 2002 Montane Featherlite Smock and Pants
Listed weight: Smock 3oz (86g), Pants 3.8oz (108g)
Weight as delivered: size XL Smock 3.1oz (88g), Pants 4.1oz (116g)
Cost: US$49.95 Retail - Paid $37.95
The design of the Featherlite line is extremely minimalist. The smock has a 1/4 length neck zipper and mock turtleneck collar, a narrow band of Lycra at the wrists and on the hem. That's it, no additional features. The smock has what I would call a bikers cut with the tail of the smock approximately 7 inches (18 cm) longer than the front (enough to cover my bottom when I am leaning forward). The pants are also no nonsense. They have a 1/2 length zipper with reflective piping on the outside of each leg and a simple drawstring at the waist. No pockets or other features. Montane sizes seem to run at least one size smaller than typical in the US. I normally wear size L (or M for cloths that run slightly large), but needed size XL for both the smock and pants. In exchange for the minimalist design you get a super light garment which compresses down to the size of a hacky sack.
Both the smock and the pants are made from Pertex Microlight, a 1.2 oz/yd2 ripstop nylon. The fabric is somewhat slick on the outside and slightly calendared on the inside. I have found this fabric comfortable next to my skin (feels a bit like satin). Even when damp, the fabric did not feel particularly clammy like most nylon jackets I have worn.
Conditions: I have used the smock in temperatures which ranged between 40 to 70 F (4-21 C) and the pants in 30 to 60 F (-1 to 15 C). Conditions have varied from pleasantly dry to heavy showers, no wind to >50 MPH (>80 KM/H) winds. Obviously in colder temperatures these garments were layered over other clothing.
Wind: I found that these garments effectively blocked moderate (<20 MPH, <32 KM/H) winds. Above that, the winds start to penetrate and the fabric flaps madly around the arms, making quite a racket.
Insulating: By themselves, or layered under other articles of clothing, these garments seem to add no insulation at all. Place a warm hand, or a cold hiking pole against skin which is only covered by a Featherlite fabric, you will wonder if the fabric is even there. I did find that when I wore the Featherlite smock over a very breathable garments such as a Power Dry base layer, the Cloudveil Veiled Peak Jacket, it did help insulate even in windless conditions.
Rain/Wet: My experience is that the Montane Featherlite garments keep me completely dry for approximately 45 minutes in a light-moderate rain with moderate winds. After about an hour the more exposed / stressed parts of the smock (shoulders) had wet through and penetrated a light weight Merino wool sweater sufficiently that my skin was feeling damp. Likewise, my lower thighs were damp when the rain wet through both the Featherlite pants and an underlying pair of nylon hiking pants. I got completely soaked after around two hours. The Featherlite smock and pants protected me for less than 15 minutes when I was surprised by a nasty storm with heavy showers and high winds on a day hike. Montane Featherlite garments dry very quickly once you are out of the rain: in approximately 15-30 minutes if I am wearing them, in around 1-2 hours if hung up to drip dry depending on conditions.
Durability: The fabric used in these garments is very light weight, but surprising durable. I have crashed through brush without tearing the smock, but I would not subject these garments to high abrasion conditions. The zipper on the smock is prone to problems: it is impossible to use one handed and difficult to use with two hands. Even when using two hands it is easy to get the zipper snagged, and twice the zipper has separated from itself near the base. Thankfully the zipper self-repaired after a few minutes of fiddling. I have talked with at least two people who needed to return their smock due to the zipper failing.
I did a lot of backpacking from 1972 through the '80s. I started by going to various destinations in Ohio, West Virgina, and Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Destinations expanded to include sections of the AT, the PCT, the Rockies (Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, Tetons), The Big Horns, and various destinations in Canada. In the '90s my outdoor activities slowed down to make room for other aspects of life. Nearly all my backpacking was heavy-weight style. In 2001 I started seriously backpacking again... mostly in the Sierras. Over the next three years I switch from a heavyweight to ultralight to lightweight style. My three season base weight is now 8-11 lb (3.5-5 kg). Full carry weight including food and water is typically 15-25 lb (7-11 kg) depending on the length of the trip. Winter trips run a bit heavier.