With the softshell renaissance, the old-school layering system where the outer layer provided all the weather-proofing has been replaced by a weather resistant layer, backed up by a lightweight shell for when things get really foul.
The North-East based Montane are one of the originators of the new-school softshell based clothing system, and were one of the first companies to produce really lightweight waterproofs specifically designed for use as a boost layer.Montane, along with Rab and Crux in the UK use eVent fabric, the most serious rival to the market dominating Gore-tex. Those with time to kill can delve through the endless debates on laboratory tests- suffice to say in action I find eVent breathes at least as well as any Gore-tex I've used, keeps the rain out and has less of a bin-liner feel than the gore Paclite used in other lightweight jackets.
The Montane Stretch Halo Jacket is a lightweight event shell, somehow managing to squeeze three pockets, a fully adjustable wired hood, and all mod-cons into a sub 400g package. A few years ago, a sub 400g shell was the object of desire for fast and light fanatics, but with several sub 300g shells on the market the Stretch Halo is probably no longer the first choice for those wishing to shave every gram.
The main body, hood and arms are Event, with stretch (the clues in the name) entrant fabric used on the upper back and under arms. However, I think that stretchiness isn't really needed in a well-cut shell, and in this case the cut of the body is very generous (tending towards baggy) so I feel the stretch adds little except to the price tag.
Otherwise, the jacket is well (if almost overly for a lightweight shell) featured. The hood has plenty of room for a helmet, but also cinches down well with the wired peak keeping rain away from the face, and a nice patch of fleece to prevent chin stubble rub. Pockets-wise, the two main pockets are well clear of a harness/rucsac belt and have mesh inners that can handle a bit of volume. There's also a handy patch pocket welded to the chest.
a good lightweight shell, weighing little in the pack
The main zip is of the now familiar water-resistant type with a single internal storm flap. I've mixed feelings on these zips as while they make the jacket neater by doing away with the bulk of double storm flaps, the metal slider eventually wears away the plastic seal allowing water ingress. Oddly, the hand pockets revert to the more traditional design of an ordinary zip with double storm flaps.
In use, aside from the baggy cut it's a good lightweight shell, weighing little in the pack, keeping the rain out with the DWR doing an impressive job of beading and so far has survived rough treatment very well, given the lightweight fabrics used.
Overall, while a nice jacket I remain slightly puzzled as to the intended end-user, as while lightweight, the number of features nudge it away from the lightest available and up the price to comparable with heavier and more durable 'mountain shells'. However, if you want to lighten the load but keep all the features then the Stretch Halo probably fits the bill.
Weight: 350 grams
Ultra-lightweight, super breathable, zoned stretch jacket.
The eVent® Halo Stretch Jacket is designed for the high energy outdoor athlete who demands low weight, supreme breathability and maximum freedom of movement in a waterproof shell. The jacket is zoned with two different stretch fabrics in addition to the ultra-breathable eVent®; one of which offers increased durability on the hips and forearms and on the other, which provides lightweight stretch in the underarm and across the back. Featuring 3M Scotchlite™ reflective flashes, two mesh lined pockets, a further laser-cut chest pocket and ergonomic, fully adjustable helmet hood the Halo is a jacket for the committed outdoor athlete for all condition use.