GEAR REVIEW: Montbell EX Light Down Jacket

Montbell EX Light Down Jacket

 

OVERVIEW:

Function is Beauty. The phrase is as simply as the motto. It also encapsulates what we believe here at Trail Lives; Less is More. The Montbell EX Light down jacket is a bare bones insulation layer that uses some of the lightest materials in the market. It is the lightest down jacket we have tested and is competitive in price ($200), but a lack of durability and awkward fit are problematic with this jacket.

PROS

1.  Mega Ultra Super Light: This is not a hyperbole. On our scales, size XL weighed out to a minuscule 6.35oz. Montbell’s website claims that size medium is 5.6oz.

Montbell EX Light Jacket- Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Montbell EX Light Jacket- Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

This is the lightest down jacket of its caliber on the market. Compared to other ultralight three season down jackets like the Patagonia Nano Puff (11.8oz), and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (7.5oz), the EX Light jacket takes the gold for lightest, though it does lack some features that are found in the other heavier jackets. I.E. pockets, hood, etc. Montbell uses a purely minimalistic design, 900 fill power goose down, and 7-denier Ballistic nylon to achieve such a light weight while still managing to maintain a solid level of warmth.

2. Warmth: 900 fill down is some of the highest power fill you can find in an outdoor jacket and Montbell uses a sewn through baffles to stop the down from shifting.  It can be used as a stand alone insulation layer when temperatures never dip below 45 degrees.

Collar, Zipper, and Shoulder Baffles

Collar, Zipper, and Sewn Through Baffles

For temperatures under 45 degrees, the EX Light works better as a part of your insulating layers in a more versatile system.  Using one or more layers like a merino wool base layer can take the EX Light earlier in the Spring season and further into the Fall season. For winter temperatures, the EX Light jacket can still be used as an insulating layer, but we recommend boosting it up with good base layers and another light weight down jacket or vest, depending on your level of temperature comfort. 

3. Packability: You can lose thing jacket in your pack if you’re not careful. It packs down to about the size of a baseball with a little compression but I normally let it loft out and fill up any nooks and crannies in my pack. I recommend treating the down for this jacket extra carefully.

CONS: 

1. Awkward Fit: Although Montbell normally caters to the above average outdoor enthusiast, the fit of the EX Light jacket is far from athletic.

Awkward fit around mid section. Did not compromise warmth.

Awkward fit around mid section. Did not compromise warmth.

Around the shoulders, the jacket hugs the frame relatively well and the sleeves move with your arms, but the jacket does not taper down as it heads toward the waist. Rather, it stays the same width the entire time. When I tested the jacket, I found that the fit under my chest as awkward because of my wide shoulders and narrower hips. The jacket did hug me as much as I wanted to around my mid section. If you have more of an athletic shape, take a look at the Montbell UL Down Jacket. It’s a little heavier but has a more athletic cut.

2. Delicate: Montbell warns you on their site that because of the light weight nature of the materials they use, special care is needed to prolong your jackets life. This is true, but part of the ultralight game. 7-denier nylon is not going to take much bushwhacking and god forbid you catch a rogue ember from a camp fire. This jacket needs to be protected from sharp objects and twigs. It is less a piece of clothing and more like a machine, which needs to be  kept maintained to continue functioning.

3. No Bells or Whistles at all: Do you want pockets, a hood, anything? Then maybe the EX Light jacket isn’t for you. This jacket has sleeves and that is pretty much it.

Do elastic cuffs count as bells or whistles?

Do elastic cuffs count as bells or whistles?

I’m surprised it even came with both sides of the zipper. Some hikers might trade off the light weight for a few extra ounces of features.

 

SUMMARY:

The Montbell EX Light Down Jacket is a perfect ultralight, minimalist jacket for the hiker who wants a light pack and knows how to stay warm in a variety of temperatures. The EX Light is versatile as it is used as a stand alone layer in the summer or part of a layering system when temperatures get colder. The EX Light does have a bit of a learning curve as it needs more care than other jackets due to the light materials used and an understanding of layering and your personal temperature comfort.

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