UKC

Montane Alpine Spirit Shell Review

Montane's Alpine Spirit is billed as a do-it-all waterproof shell, a midweight jacket that's cut long enough for protection when walking in poor weather, but with technical enough tailoring to be useful when climbing too. Over recent months I've used it a lot for hillwalking, winter climbing, and for lockdown-friendly local walks. Though spring is underway and summer is just around the corner, it's light enough for year-round wear, so I'll carry on using it as the weather warms up.

Victoria with the Alpine Spirit overlooking Ben Lawers  © UKC Gear
Victoria with the Alpine Spirit overlooking Ben Lawers

Weight

At 398g on our kitchen scales, for a size 8, the Alpine Spirit certainly qualifies as a midweight shell, and it's not too bulky when packed in a rucksack. However it still has enough heft and thickness to feel protective in foul weather and survive some hard use, without the weight penalty of a more burly winter climbing-dedicated jacket. I think it's a good sort of weight and thickness for the tough all-rounder that Montane intend it to be.

Fit

The Alpine Spirit jacket comes in both women's and men's versions. It's cut with Montane's the "Active Mountain" fit. I am wearing a size 8, and initially I was unsure if I should have gone up a size. However, I am still able to fit an insulated jacket underneath along with my normal winter layers with no impact on movement.

There's a really nice long cut in the body for maximum protection around the middle, and along with adjustable drawcords, this means you have full bum coverage and no risk of a hem lift. There is good range of motion in the arms and I do not find that reaching above the shoulder pulls at the bottom of the hem or tugs at the shoulder. All in all, the fit is good for climbing and for wearing with a harness, while also being long enough for proper protection when walking in the rain - not something you can say about all technical shells.

Just after topping out of Central Gully on Ben Lui  © UKC Gear
Just after topping out of Central Gully on Ben Lui

Fabric

This jacket has eco-friendly credentials, with a 100% recycled nylon face. It features the 70 Denier GORE-TEX performance fabric throughout the entire jacket. Compared with shells that use different weights of fabric in different areas, this adds to its weight but it also makes it more durable all over. If weight is less of an issue and you want good abrasion resistance, then this jacket may be a good option. From experience, even just stuffing jackets in and out of bags can wear fabrics, so it's worth considering.

The high collar helps keep draughts out  © UKC Gear
The high collar helps keep draughts out

Testing its suitability for winter climbing in Central Gully  © UKC Gear
Testing its suitability for winter climbing in Central Gully

All seams ae fully taped, making it fully waterproof. The jacket is completely windproof but still offers a level of breathability to improve comfort, making it perfect for winter climbing and foul weather hillwalking. Unusually for a Gore product, performance figures are available: a hydrostatic head of 28,000mm is a big number as these things go, while the air permeability of RET<9 seems none too shabby either. A bit different to our more familiar MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate), RET is a measurement of the resistance to evaporative heat loss. The lower the Ret value, the less resistance to moisture transfer and therefore the higher the breathability. Coming in around 9 on this scale counts as pretty decent, if not the most breathable (thanks Wikipedia!), meaning it's supposed to be comfortable at a moderate activity rate. My subjective experience bears this out.

This jacket comes in four different colours. I am wearing the "Wackame Green" but you can also choose from "Saskatoon Berry" (purple), "Alpine Red" (red) and Black.

Features

The hood on the Alpine Spirit is spacious. It easily goes over my helmet but can be reduced in volume enough to be perfectly useable without. It has two drawcords at the sides and one at the back to get the optimum fit. The hood offers a good level of protection and doesn't obstruct my vision. In the wind, it stays put and never feel like it's close to being blown off. My ponytail gets in the way a bit, but hair is easily rearranged!

The adjustable hem and internal storm flap mean that I stay warm and dry even on windy days in the hills. The two-way zip is occasionally handy when I wearing my harness, though you'd usually stuff a shell under the harness rather than on top. There are two decent sized zipped hand pockets as well as an external chest pocket so definitely no lack of places for your gear! I definitely like having the chest pocket, because the hand pockets are inaccessible once you add a harness over the top, so it's good to still have somewhere to keep spare gloves or my phone.

All zips are YKK water resistant zips  © UKC Gear
All zips are YKK water resistant zips

The hood of the Alpine Spirit is helmet compatible  © UKC Gear
The hood of the Alpine Spirit is helmet compatible

Unfortunately, the adjustable cuffs are just a bit too small to be able to pull over my technical climbing gloves, which is a bit of a design oversight for a mountain shell. However, it does mean that it is a tighter fit so once on, you know your gloves are secure.

I have been out on some days where the weather has been pretty mixed. It could be pretty windy but you've also built up some heat being active. On days like that, it might have been good to have underarm air vents to protect against the wind but still have the ability to cool off; however not everyone is a fan of pit zips and the jacket is simpler and marginally lighter without. I wouldn't rule this jacket out for not having these vents, but it is something to consider if you are a fan.

Summary

A sturdy waterproof shell with enough technical tailoring for climbing and a long enough hem for maximum weather protection when walking, the Alpine Spirit is well suited to the full range of mountain activities from hillwalking to winter climbing. It's a shame the hand pockets are positioned too low for use with a harness, and the cuffs are a bit tight to pull easily over bulky gloves, but both of these niggles are details that winter climbers are more likely to spot than your average all-round user. Overall the Alpine Spirit's versatility is a clear selling point, and if you're only going to buy one waterproof jacket then this would be a solid choice. It's good value for the price, the weight and toughness are well judged for an all-rounder, and it will definitely keep me going long after lockdowns are a thing of the past!

Montane say:

The Alpine Spirit Jacket is the perfect do-it-all waterproof shell. Using 70 Denier GORE-TEX technology throughout, it is a reliable outer layer for long days in the mountains.

Alpine Spirit women's

  • Weight: 398g size 8 (our weight)
  • Sizes: 8-16 (women) S-XXL (men)
  • Fit: Active Mountain - Close-fitting for fast-paced activities 
  • 70 Denier GORE-TEX Performance with a 100% recycled nylon face
  • 28,000mm HH, RET<9
  • Fully seam taped construction
  • Fully adjustable roll-away climbing helmet-compatible hood with three-point adjustment and stiffened peak
  • Articulated arms for high reach movement
  • Full-length two-way YKK AQUAGUARD® front zip with internal storm flap
  • Two hand pockets with YKK AQUAGUARD® zips
  • External chest pocket with YKK AQUAGUARD® zip
  • Shaped cuffs with adjustable hook and loop tabs
  • Adjustable hem and cinchable drawcord

For more info see montane.com



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