For their autumn/winter 2016 range Montane teamed up with Gore-Tex for the first time, becoming the first technical outdoor manufacturer to receive a Gore license in over a decade. Kevin Woods gives the top-of-the-range Endurance Pro Jacket a run for its money in the snow, wind and downpours of a Scottish early winter.
The Endurance Pro Jacket is new from Montane, released straight off their announcement in summer 2016 that they were to begin using Gore-Tex in their products. Made from Gore-Tex Pro and with an RRP of £430, this jacket sits at the top of their range of waterproof shells and is roughly equivalent in price and spec with top-end technical shells from other brands.
Montane say that this jacket is made with the requirements of climbers and alpinists in mind, and this I can vouch for. In build and in fit, it comes across as hard-wearing, with a number of features set toward the climber. The cut is liberal and comfortable, and it has a number of significant features that set it above and beyond jackets that you’ll find in a lower price bracket.
The fabric is of course top-of-the-range Gore-Tex Pro. In recent years UKC/UKH have reviewed a number of new generation Pro shells, and the verdict has been pretty positive. Gore state that this new fabric delivers 'up to 28% increased breathability compared to previous versions' of the fabric. It does seem to work well on the hill, but as an ordinary user in a non-laboratory setting, I still find myself uncertain how, practically speaking, its breathability compares with older Gore-Tex fabrics. There are just so many variables at play such weather conditions or other worn clothing layers - but I'll happily take their word for it.
The fabric is mapped, with lighter weight 40 denier areas where you can get away with them, and tougher panels of heavier weight 70 denier fabric in places that see the most wear - shoulders, forearms, hips and surrounding the front pockets. So far I've failed to do any damage to the Endurance Pro, so this combination seems a sensible compromise for most users. Perhaps only if you were doing a lot of very burly mixed climbing, the lighter weight areas of fabric might be a concern.
The fit is really where I noticed many positives to this jacket. In the arms, the sleeve comes down over the hand, which although not strictly necessary with gloves on, is something I will always appreciate in a jacket. There is Velcro to tighten down each wrist and additionally, I have had no issues getting the sleeves over the top of full weight winter gloves; so the fit is not too trim, either.
The length at the waist is generous, extending down past the hips and over the bum. This is a good sensible length for use when wearing a harness, and it also provides plenty of weather protection to the body when you're not. I should also make mention of a very pleasant cut at the collar: the jacket comes right up almost to cover the lower half of the face, should you zip it that high. Since my usual haunts are Scottish mountains, this I am a fan of - and it's one of the first things I noticed when testing the jacket.
Among all this, I’ve found the cut of the torso to be relatively snug, i.e. there are no cavernous, roomy areas for the wind to get up into and steal the heat away. Essentially I’m saying the cut fits me really well while being generous in important areas – it’s not just a large-sized jacket. I’ve been wearing it on cold occasions with a pretty hefty insulated jacket underneath, and it felt reasonable in that circumstance.
How does this figure in with climbing? At the extremes of my range of motion, the torso of the jacket hasn’t been getting pulled high, thus riding out from under any harness. Montane have included what they call the ‘Action Back’, which as far as I’m concerned is just a PR-friendly way to say the back has two side pleats up by the shoulders. Now this is significant because it's not a ubiquitous feature on jackets, by any means, but it makes perfect sense here in terms of freedom of movement without excessive sizing. It also seems refreshing to me that utility triumphs over trend in a world of short-cut, neat minimalism.
My last comments on the fit would be to say that Montane seem to have very successfully straddled a line between allowing full range of movement while keeping a good fit. I’ve used and owned jackets that were unrestrictive, yet they were cold and roomy. I’ve had jackets that were neat, trim and tidy, but short on waist length the minute you went to swing an ice axe high. Hats off Montane, I’m very impressed.
The hood has two pull-down toggles to close the front around the face. These drawcords are on the outside of the jacket at the chest, so there’s no need to go inside. (Defeating the purpose of quick increased protection, right? And yet manufacturers still do this.) The loose ends of the drawcords are exposed a short way down the jacket so hopefully you won’t get swiped in the face by them when the wind is up. In the rear of the hood there are two drawcords: one comes around the head (very useful), the other reduces the volume vertically.
The hood, in most configurations, will follow my head (climbing helmet or otherwise) without the loss of peripheral vision. When I say ‘most configurations’, I had to slacken everything off and work at it a bit before I could make it get in the way. So I imagine most users will have no problems with this out on the hills, with or without a helmet.
Montane state that a hook on the hood's vertical drawcord allows it to be “stowed away whilst not in use in windy conditions”. I’d consider this nice for neatness but I don’t actually fancy fiddling with it in windy conditions.
Finally, and as mentioned previously, the collar is very generous in cut, coming high to cover the face for really grim weather.
The Endurance Pro is sturdily built, but not too heavy either: mine weighs in at 542g (size medium), only ten grams above the manufacturer's stated weight.
The main zip on the jacket is full-length and two-way. On the Endurance Pro, the waterproofing seam is buried halfway inside the zip. Sometimes you see jackets where the seam is on the exterior, covering the zip itself. In that case, the seam can pull slightly apart which permits water ingress, especially after wear. You should not have this problem with the Endurance Pro. For added ventilation you will find pit zips under both arms which are also two-way.
The jacket has four external pockets; two main and two located on the chest. These latter two are more suitable in size for a phone or compass. One criticism of the jacket is that none of these pockets feel pleasantly large. Montane state that the main pockets are "map sized", and this is correct. However a sizeable percentage of the pocket volume is upward and the entrance remains restrictive, so getting an Ordnance Survey map in and out is a bit clumsy. The best way seems to be 'top first', then bend the bottom of the map to slide it in fully. If you are navigating, this kind of manipulating is not desirable every time you want to take a bearing. Now I typically dont use jacket pockets for my map anyway: I usually keep it tucked inside my jacket with the zip down. But if things are truly wild, this falls short and it would be worth using foldable printouts if you are expecting to navigate in really horrendous weather.
This is perhaps the one drawback I can see in a jacket that otherwise appears to do everything else so well. But there are always compromises, for if wearing the Endurance Pro under a harness, you will find all the pocket space accessible, all of the time. Ever had that issue where half the pocket disappears under a rucksack hipbelt or harness, and your possessions with it? So it seems here that the pocket size might not work for one set of circumstances, but it does excel in another.
One final note on the pockets is that the material appears to be entirely waterproof. Manufacturers sometimes use mesh pockets and this also aids venting, but how many times have you become soaked through in a downpour because you forgot to zip the pockets up? I recently made a trip into Loch Nevis and Ben Aden in a downpour, and at the end of the day actually poured puddles out of the Endurance Pro. This water was from accessing those pockets for the compass, or for snacks. At least that water was kept inside the pockets, and wasn’t all on me.
Which brings me to my final observation; in a full West Highland winter downpour the jacket did let in some water. With that said, I’m still convinced there are some extremely wet and windy conditions in which no gear will ever keep you completely dry; but in most conditions the jacket did a good job, and better than many others would achieve.
The Endurance Pro is at the top of the new Montane range of Gore-Tex based waterproof shells, and its high price tag is reflected in its solid technical winter performance. Have no doubt about it; this is a stunning shell that will serve well for long days on the hills in winter, whether you're climbing or walking. My criticisms of the pocket size appear to be more the result of well thought-out compromise than anything else. At just over half a kilogram it is not too weighty for what it offers, either, though it may feel a bit over the top in terms of weight and spec outside of the winter season. Overall, Montane's entry into the world of Gore-Tex seems well justified by the Endurance Pro.
Fully featured and designed with all the technical requirements of climbers and alpinists in mind, the Endurance Pro Jacket uses a combination of durable 40 Denier and 70 Denier GORE-TEX® Pro fabrics to provide ultimate weather protection.
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