Montane knows a fair bit about mountain clothing, and this AW21 fast and lightweight hill-ready waterproof jacket sounds promising from the off. Intended for mountain-style doings well as everyday hiking, the Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket is aimed squarely at those who'd like a lighter and more packable waterproof to tote around – which is pretty much everyone really. I tested one out to see if it's worthy of inclusion in T3's best waterproof jacket guide. Read on for my full Montane Pac Plus XT review.
Montane Pac Plus XT review: design and quality
The Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket has all the basics you’d expect from a proper mountain shell: a zip chest pocket, two large hand pockets (big enough for a map) and a helmet-compatible hood. That said, the devil is in the detail, and old Nick isn’t getting much of a look in here. The hood is three way adjustable, the rear shock cord running around the crown of your head, making a fit as snug as you need it to be – which in windy weather is a godsend. The peak has an old-school wire in it, great for stiffness and packability, and there’s a soft ‘beard guard’ strip down the top of the front zip to make things more pleasant generally.
The big shout here is the material, Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, a 100% recycled two-ply successor to Gore’s endlessly popular but venerable Paclite fabric, which has been a feature of many a wet day over the last decade-plus. The big benefit of original Paclite was that it was a lightweight but relatively robust membrane material that allowed manufacturers to make shell jackets that took a fair amount of abuse, were somewhat breathable, but were as light and packable as possible – a complex combination to pull off.
The newer recycled Paclite Plus aims to continue this tradition, making it excellent for backup shell jackets that mainly live in a rucksack until the heavens open and you dive for cover. A brace of pit zips aim to boost breathability and cover off high-activity moments, while both front pockets are mesh-backed, allowing some air circulation too.
Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket Review: performance and comfort
It should come as little surprise, but the Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket certainly lives up to its name; it packs. There are smaller-packing waterproofs on the market, but few that offer decent protection once unpacked, which this certainly does. The Gore-Tex Paclite Plus material has a slightly grainy internal texture, presumably due to the recycled content, but it’s a good midpoint between more rigid shell fabrics and stretchier running-style ‘active’ weaves. The fabric is also very waterproof (certainly when it’s brand new), and entirely windproof, which is just what you need from a mountain-ready shell.
The downside, inevitably, is that breathability isn’t as good as some, especially the pricier versions of Gore-Tex. It's easy to build up a sweat in the Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket, but to be fair it is in any shell if you're pushing on uphill, and it certainly keeps the windchill at bay, which is a major plus.
Comfort-wise, there’s lots to enjoy here, from the carefully designed front zip and stiffening and protective storm flap, through to the excellent hood that will protect you from whatever the elements throw at you. The arms are cut so reaching overhead isn’t an issue, and the hand pockets are cut high enough to mainly avoid a rucksack hip belt or climbing harness.
Montane Pac Plus XT jacket review: verdict
The Montane Pac Plus XT Waterproof Jacket is a fantastic Gore-Tex Paclite Plus jacket, ideal for mountain adventures as well as able to effortlessly handle lower-level wetness too. The cut is well thought-out, and the hood is a study in simple but effective hood design – no extra faff, but strong performance. The jacket packs down beautifully, and won’t weigh you down on long days. As a waterproof to tote along in case it rains, this is the shell you want to be pulling out when it does. The only caveat is the breathability, which isn’t terrible, but not something you’ll want to live in all day, especially when on the move.