Montane Alpine Stretch Review
The Montane Alpine Stretch is fast becoming a favourite of mine and I’ve no doubt it’ll be getting plenty of use for the foreseeable future…
The Alpine Stretch Jacket from Montane is designed to be worn during long summer days in the mountains. Depending upon the weather this soft shell can be worn en route as a standalone garment, over a base-layer or indeed as a mid-layer should conditions take a turn for worst. A potentially versatile piece of kit to include in your layering armory.
Constructed from the Chameleon3 fabric, this jacket is ideal for high intensity activity possessing excellent wicking properties thereby keeping you comfortable, dry and warm. Comfort is further enhanced due to the ability of the Chameleon3 fabric to stretch is four directions. This ensures that irrespective of physical movement the jacket works with you rather than being encumbering. Add to this two Napoleon pockets, two generous side pockets, a fully featured hood and a host of other features; this is a serious piece of kit.
As you’d expect with Montane; construction, attention to detail and fit and all excellent and thus the Alpine Stretch should provide years of service.
- Chameleon3 fabric wicks hard, dries fast and has a four way stretch for dynamic movement
- Articulated arms for reach high movement and tailored specifically to reduce hem lift
- Fully adjustable helmet compatible mountain hood with three point adjustment and wired peak
- Hood features rear cordlock adjustment kennel to prevent icing up
- Internal tab to lock down and roll away the hood in windy conditions
- Soft microfleece beard guard around face and mouth for extra comfort
- Two mesh lined, map-sized chest pockets for storage and additional venting
- Two zipped microfleece lined hand pockets for storage of essentials whilst on the move
- Full length two way YKK centre front zip with anti-snag baffle and wind strip
- Low profile cuffs with grab tabs that can be pulled up forearms to aid cooling
- ‘Kite Control’ split drawcord arrangement in the hem for ease of adjustment to the front or rear of the jacket with internal cord clip
Chameleon³ Fabric system:
- 174g/m² 89% Polyester, 11% Spandex duplex weave material
- Unique ‘denier gradient’ structure creates permanent capillary action where moisture always travels to the outer surface
- DWR finish with a grade 5 rating
- Air permeability 13.0cc max (JIS L 1096 / ASTM D737)
- Abrasion resistance 20,000+ at 12.5k PA (ASTM D4966-4998)
- Excellent wicking properties, fast drying and with a four way stretch for dynamic body movement
Being a creature of habit, whenever I’m planning a trip into the mountains or even a walk around the block, I follow the same routine of deciding what I’m going to wear as well what gear I’ll take with me. Ever the Cub Scout and with the wise words of Akela still ringing in my ears, I lay everything out before me and start the process of whittling down the essential kit.
On this occasion the call of the wild beckoned and a trek around the Glyders was decided upon which, as you may or may not know, is a staple of the WalkHikeClimb team. Add to this a trinity of new equipment; Montane Alpine Stretch Jacket (reviewed here), a RAB Microlight Alpine Jacket and a Montane Cobra 25 rucksack I was eager to get out there and put everything through its paces. Incidentally, the rucksack was essential due to the ever increasing amount of kit I’m carrying around with these days.
Due to the ever increasing popularity of outdoor pursuits and outdoor clothing in general I think all of top manufacturers offer a similar item somewhere in their range. In fact the choice these days is mesmerising as Marmot, The North Face, RAB and Paramo, to name but a few, promise all manner of performance enhancing capabilities in subtlety different packages. Upon first inspection, The Montane Alpine Stretch jacket appears to be a seriously nice piece of kit.
When you first examine this jacket it cannot fail to impress, as with all the Montane kit I own it is superbly well made and looks fantastic. The Chameleon3 fabric, which is a spandex duplex weave, stretches across the contours of your body giving a true performance fit. It’s equally at home with the addition of a base layer as it is a standalone jacket. Used as a mid-layer it really does have excellent heat retention qualities which I’d suggest is due to the capillary action of the fabric, transporting sweat away from the body leaving you feeling dryer and warmer. They say the devil is in the detail and Montane have really paid attention to the ergonomics of this jacket, from the articulated arms which allow for greater freedom of movement as well negating hem lift when you’re stretching or on the move, to the microfleece beard guard which comes into play when the jacket’s fully zipped. I suspect the latter is a must as whilst the fabric is very robust, continual friction against stubble would result is bobbling and discomfort very quickly
As far as storage is concerned, again Montane have really come up trumps. The Alpine Stretch offers two microfleece lined chest or Naploeon pockets as well as two much larger mesh lined side pockets which will even take an OS Map. Cleverly the two side pockets, thanks to the mesh lining, also double up as vents should you start to overheat during periods of high exertion. This provides all manner of carrying capabilities and easy access to essentials whilst on the move. Minimising the need to stop and remove your rucksack to access a hat, gloves, GPS or even food. The cuffs also have grab tags which can be pulled with your teeth if wearing gloves as required.
Even though this is a form fitting jacket, it’s worth mentioning that the one I wore was a medium. The four way stretch properties of the Chameleon3 fabric is such that there’s no need to size-up as with some performance fit garments. For someone like me who has a bigger than average frame, it feels fitted without being tight or uncomfortable and certainly movement is enhanced rather than being encumbered.
It’s always been apparent to me that the designers at Montane really understand the practical application of their products. This is something I feel sets them aside from the competition. Even something as simple as a fleece can be held up as an example of innovative and practical design. The Alpine Stretch, you’ll be pleased to hear, follows the same well trodden path. As you examine the jacket closely it quickly becomes apparent it’s brimming with features top to bottom whether it be the fully adjustable hood, reflective logo on the right shoulder, two-way adjustable split-hem; the list is endless.
Lets start from the top and work our way down…
The hood is helmet compatible as well as being fully adjustable. It can even be rolled down and stowed away via a loop and Velcro attachment. The peak is wired to ensure the elements are kept at bay and if you’re fully zipped up there’s a microfleece beard guard to prevent unnecessary chaffing.
At the rear if the hood, hidden in its “kennel”, you’ll find the volume adjustment cord. The kennel is actually a great little feature as it ensures the cordlock mechanism doesn’t ice-up. Not something you’d want to rectify in adverse conditions.
A small feature that I’m very happy to see is the inclusion of a simple hanging loop. The number of jackets or tops I own that have neglected to include such a basic feature aren’t worth mentioning. Suffice to say I do not like hanging expensive items simply from the hood. The fact it’s at the rear, to me, makes sense as it means all the zips are easily accessible should I need anything quickly whilst it’s hanging.
Staying at the back the ubiquitous Montane reflective logo is proudly displayed. Again, a well thought out and welcome feature. That’s another aspect of Montane clothing I like; if you walk into McDonald’s anywhere in the world, you know exactly what to expect. The layout, the menu, all branding aspect are unique to them. Montane appear to have adopted this approach with their gear, taking design cues and radiating them out across the board.
Moving to the front, the chest and side pockets offer excellent carry capabilities as well as doubling up as on the move venting should things start to heat up. Indeed the side pockets are easily capable of carrying a full sized map or maps.
The front zip (YKK) offers two way adjustment, again increasing versatility and venting capabilities. Another standard feature you’ll find on all Montane clothing is their branded zip guard. Not only does this prevent snagging it also acts as a storm guard, protecting you from ingress of icy winds.
On the hem you’ll find a colour coded two-way adjustable “kite” cordlock system. This controls adjustment of the hem between front and rear. Again an excellent feature allowing for precise temperature control whilst on the move. Also, if you’re carrying a pack this a great way to prevent the jacket from riding up.
Finally the articulated arms are completed with tab and Velcro cuffs, again for precise adjustment with or without gloves. The sleeves can also be pushed up to the elbow should the necessity arise.
Did I miss anything?
The fact this great package utilises the Chameleon3 fabric which not only is very effective at transporting moisture away from the body but also has a DWR finish which means it’s a truly flexible piece of kit. With the ever increasing cost of outdoor equipment, the fact this jacket offers so much at a relative modest price is a major plus point. If you’re in the market for a jacket that’s just as effective as a standalone item as it is part of your layering system, with all day comfort. You may well want to take a long hard look at the Alpine Stretch.
In The Field
So the opportunity arose to go for a hike in Snowdonia as well putting some choice kit through its paces, in particular my new Montane Alpine Stretch top. When visiting Snowdonia National Park, the obvious choice for most is to summit Snowdon itself via one of varying routes depending upon your fitness or indeed expertise. And why not you may ask, Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales. However, literally a stone’s throw away is the “Glyderau” Range with a selection of 3000ft+ peaks that can be summited during a day’s hike. The range itself has to be one of the most beautiful in Britain with far reaching views across Anglesey to the North Sea and back over to the Snowdon horseshoe and the undulating landscape of Mid-Wales.
From the car park it’s a short walk before starting the hike up Y Garn. As a point of interest, to start the ascent I wore a Nike DriFit baselayer, with the Alpine Stretch jacket over the top. The RAB Microlight Alpine Jacket remained neatly in its stuff sack, nestled at the bottom of the Montane Cobra 25 rucksack. The temperature at ground level was a mere 1Degree however looking up at the snow-capped peaks there was no doubt we’d be experiencing temperatures well below zero the higher we climbed.
The Alpine Stretch jacket proved more than warm enough throughout the initial ascent, so much so I actually used the side pockets / vents to control my temperature and prevent overheating. In combination with the Cobra 25 Rucksack the two work extremely well together. Albeit that with identical livery I did resemble a sponsored athlete, but you’ll be pleased to hear colour combinations aren’t an issue. Y Garn is a bit of a slog so unless you want to stop/start all the way up clothing choice is essential.
The Alpine Stretch proved perfect as upon summiting as I found myself feeling comfortable and relatively dry. So far so good! Due to a quick break taking on liquid and calories I broke out the RAB Microlight Alpine Jacket which in tandem with the Montane Alpine Stretch ensured I stayed warm for the activities ahead. Using the Alpine Stretch as a mid-layer really does underline its versatility, an area in which is excels. I can see all manner of applications for this jacket including general walking, cycling or indeed climbing thanks to its form fitting cut.
As I’ve already mentioned price is a major factor when making a new purchase. You need to ensure as a minimum that what you’re buying is within budget, right for your needs, will last and provide adequate protection. The Alpine Stretch does this and more; it’s truly a multi-functional jacket with a myriad of features, all for less than £100. Add to this the outstanding quality and construction and it’s quite difficult to ignore.
Overall this is a real winner and something that I’ll hold onto. It doesn’t cost the earth and will repay your investment in spades.
- First Class Tailored Fit
- Excellent Levels Of Comfort
- Superb Quality And Construction
- Has To Be Worn In Conjunction With A Base Layer
- Tailored Fit Not To Everyone’s Taste
The Alpine Stretch is fast becoming a favourite of mine and I’ve no doubt it’ll be getting plenty of use for the foreseeable future.
Montane always seem to excel with the design aspects of their clothing whilst never letting you down in the quality stakes either. If you want a multi-functional mid-layer that looks great and possesses excellent warmth to weight ratio at an affordable price you really don’t need to look much further than this.
- Sizes available in S – XL
- Average weight in Medium equates to 469g
- Colours available are Black/Kiwi, Moroccan Blue/Burnt Orange Zips, Kiwi/Moroccan Blue Zips
- Tailored active mountain