Gear Review: Montbell UL Thermawrap Jacket
- Website weight: 7oz. Actually-weighed weight (size S): 6.5oz
- Packed down size: Rolls down to the size of a 12oz water bottle.
- Price: $139
Montbell is a Japanese company established in 1975, by acclaimed mountaineer, kayaker, and all-around outdoorsman Isamu Tatsuno. He founded Montbell at the age of 28 with the simple goal of producing high-quality outdoor equipment. Their tagline is also simple: “Light and Fast”. I hadn’t really heard of Montbell before being offered the opportunity to review this jacket, but this makes a great case for exploring new brands outside of the 2 or 3 most popular ones. The Thermawrap Jacket delivers on all of the company’s standards, and I highly recommend it.
I tested this jacket in a variety of different temperatures and activities: hiking and jogging in mild temps, snowshoeing in cold temps, and urban exploring in frigid temps. It’s super versatile and performed excellently in mild and cold temps, although when it got frigid, it served better as a mid-layer with something heavier on top.
Ultralight: What I liked most and what was most striking about this jacket is how minimal it is, both in weight and design. It’s not overloaded with bells and whistles: just a main front zipper, two big zippered pockets, and a waist cinch cord. It has a tall collar and no hood. Best of all, it is SO LIGHT. It’s feather light. It’s gloriously light. The advertised weight is 7oz but I physically weighed it in my kitchen at SIX AND A HALF OUNCES, people. On my AT thru-hike, I carried bags of M&Ms that weighed more than that. During testing this winter and spring, there were cold mornings when I put the Thermawrap on before going outside at 6am in February, and I thought it wouldn’t possibly be warm enough… but it was.
Comfortable: It was also great for hiking and running and snowshoeing – it is light enough that I had great freedom of movement and didn’t feel weighed down, especially once I got warmer and unzipped to cool off. It didn’t hang on my shoulders and drag me back, it just floated along with me and I barely realized I was still wearing it. Once I warmed up, I never felt heat was getting excessively trapped inside to make me clammy or damp- the entire shell felt like it had just the right amount of breathability to keep me comfortable.
Durability: It’s also proven quite durable so far – I’ve been wearing it almost daily and it’s been through the wash a few times, and it looks brand new. At one point I was outside opening a crate and snagged the sleeve on a wire. I thought I’d torn it wide open but it only created a small pull, barely noticeable.
Overall: It has a great warmth to weight ratio, it’s light as a feather, provides excellent freedom of movement, and stays comfy as your body warms up with exercise so you’re not stopping to peel off layers or getting sweaty and damp. It hits the sweet spot of keeping you warm enough to start, and not suffocating you as you really get going. It’s a great cold-weather piece for activewear, and great cool weather piece for gentler activity. It’s also stylish enough to have become my go-to throw-on as I’m running out for work or errands, and it would be my one and only winter coat except…
Sizing: …as a petite woman, I find the sizing just a little boxy. They only carry small, not extra small. I’m 5’2”, 108 pounds, and it’s not the most fitted shape- a little big in the underarms, then straight down from the underarms to the hip. There’s a great drawstring cinch around the hips which definitely helps keep cold air out. There are even nifty pull-cords in the pockets if you want to cinch without pulling your hands out in the cold! But the overall fit could be slimmer, and while the sleeve length is perfect, the sleeves themselves are a little gappy at the wrist.
This doesn’t matter so much in cool-to-cold weather, since the comfort and range of motion is top-notch and it retains body heat well. However, when you start dipping into the really frigid weather, the looser fit makes it just a little too drafty, as well as making it just a little bulky to wear as a mid-layer. I wore this around under another puffy in Berlin for a week, when it was 20*-30* during the day, and it would have worked better if it had been just a little slimmer.
We’ve all had the conundrum in the morning as we’re breaking camp, when we’re still chilly but we know within 15 minutes of strapping on our packs and hiking we’ll start sweating, and we don’t want to have to stop and change layers. The Thermawrap is a great solution to this problem for really chilly mornings. It’ll keep you comfortable when you’re getting started, but it’s not going to suffocate you once you start moving.
I think this is an awesome ultra-lightweight outer layer for cool to cold (but not frigid) weather, and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a simple, basic, high-performing shell without a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles. The price seems just right, at $139, for a jacket that I would wear comfortably in 3 seasons and for a range of activities. It packs down well, has proven itself durable, and quickly became my go-to almost every time I ran out the door this winter and spring. It’ll be coming with me on my summer backpacking adventures, that’s for sure.
Disclosure: the preceding product was donated for the purpose of this review.
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