A breathable mountain trail hardshell, inspired by runners of one of the toughest ultra distance races in Europe, the Montane Spine Jacket piqued our interest for review this season. It’s a light and fast technical hardshell option that can also perform well while spring ski touring, climbing, hiking and backpacking.
We’ve covered Montane fairly well in our reviews of the Montane Fast Alpine Stretch Neo Jacket and the Montane Air Jacket. The company offers what seems to be an uncompromising approach that focuses on designing products which are lightweight without compromising functionality, breathable, protect against the elements, minimalist in design, durable and tailored with a classic aesthetic that is long lasting.
Designed primarily as a rain shell the Montane Spine Jacket can do double duty as a touring shell also.
Being Canadian and more partial to exploring than competing I only recently learned that Montane sponsor a number of the world’s most demanding trail running races including The MONTANE Spine Race—a merciless 268 mile, non-stop, winter mountain marathon that travels the entire Pennine Way in the UK. We are talking deep snow, gale force winds and torrential rain combined with fatigue, sleep deprivation and exposure so it requires some serious push (a.k.a spine) to finish. Whilst competing in the event sounds like self-imposed misery to me, the idea that this jacket is designed for people who need to move as efficiently as possible and who require gear that supports them through absolutely grueling conditions is most definitely appealing.
Specifically designed for high aerobic mountain trail activities, Montane’s Spine Jacket is part of Montane’s VIA Trail series of technical clothing packs and accessories which focus on lightweight construction, moisture management, temperature regulation and minimalist weather resistance.
In their design philosophy Montane claim to use the lightest fabrics, trims and construction, which explains why the Spine Jacket is constructed with GORE-TEX Active fabric—the most breathable fabric in the GORE-TEX product family. GORE-TEX achieve this by combining a thinner GORE-TEX membrane with a fine 30 denier performance textile then on the liner side they use a proprietary lamination technology to integrate the liner textile into the GORE-TEX membrane. A sophisticated sandwich specifically developed for reliable weather protection and optimal comfort during and after highly aerobic activities.
The typical industry average for stitching seams is eight stitches per inch, for the Spine Jacket Montane use a 12 – 13 stitch count per inch on all seams resulting in a tight, clean and strong seam which is noticeable. There is also a 3mm seam allowance on all seams, to reduce weight and bulk under the micro-tape.
Tailored specifically to be worn over a lightweight and low bulk base layer or mid-layer, Montane has crafted the Spine jacket with minimal placement of seams, using darts to tailor shape and articulation to reduce weight and bulk
Brushed fleece collar for comfort and hood adjustment.
I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere near being in the league of an ultra distance runner, but I have deep appreciation of ingenuity, efficiency and a meticulous approach. When reviewing the Montane Women's Spine Jacket closely one starts to see that Montane has thoroughly assessed each possible jacket feature against their ethos of lightweight, breathable and efficient—all in consideration of how the jacket will be used in the field. This sounds obvious for a gear manufacturer but I would say that Montane has this down to a science, one which they are very committed to. This explains why there is only one pocket, there are no extraneous features and over all the jacket is super minimalist and durable. At 262g and without the bulk of bells and whistles it is a delight to pack.
When it comes to breathability, no hardshell jacket that keeps the rain out is going to be 100% breathable, let’s be realistic, you are in a layer of very sophisticated plastic designed to not let moisture in. Is the Montane Women's Spine Jacket breathable? Yes. Will you get warm and steamy when you are working your way up a slope or on a trail in the rain? Well that depends on how extreme the wind and temperature is but I would say from my experience yes you will—it is a hard shell jacket after all and it is designed to move moisture based on the difference in atmospheric pressure from the inside to the outside. Maybe the best question to ask is how does it compare to other hard-shells on the market? If you like to travel light and fast then that’s what this jacket does best and for now GORE-TEX Active fabric is one of the most lightweight and efficient fabrics available on the market for reducing sweat accumulation. The key word here is reducing and this would explain why Montane have included very slick and understated pit zips to optimize breathability. Clearly they understand the benefit of venting outweighs the additional weight of the two zips. GORE-TEX Active fabric is soft to touch on the inside as they say, the only downside I experienced with the fabric is that it is a little on the noisy (crackly) side.
In keeping with the lightweight and efficient theme, the hood is articulated to a close fit, which works well as long as you don’t sport a ponytail, something I discovered in a downpour which meant that the beak of the hood didn’t come far forward enough so my face and eyes weren’t protected, making it harder to see and more exposed. I guess if I were really serious about going ultra light I could consider cutting my hair?
Hair accommodations aside the Spine Jacket is an attractive and feminine cut made for women. The elastic at the back of the waist reduces bulk but also offers a flattering silhouette. Now that I have experienced the benefits this jacket offers in packability and moving efficiently I am sold on its minimalist design and have learnt to get by with just the one pocket. This is a stellar jacket for travelling light and fast on trails, climbing and even for a quick spring ski tour.
Price: $399 US
Sizes: Women’s - 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, Men’s - XS, S, M, L, XL
Colours: Women’s - Black, Dahlia, Blue Spark Men’s - Blue Spark, Black
Weight: 262g / 9.24oz (size medium)
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