For this Montane Spine jacket review, I've been testing out the brand's lightweight running waterproof, designed for mountain conditions. The name comes from a series of ultra-races along a 268 mile section of the Pennine Way, crossing the cheviots, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland – the most brutal of which happen in full winter conditions. They're known as one of the world’s toughest endurance races.
The Montane Spine Jacket is designed to be incredibly packable and light, but tough enough, and protective enough, to stand up to serious abuse. It's available in Flag Red and Narwhal Blue colourways for men, Paprika and Cerulean Blue colourways for women, and has an RRP of £250. On paper, it should be a contender for both our best waterproof jackets ranking and the best running jacket guide. So how does it hold up in practice? Read on for my full Montane Spine jacket review.
Montane Spine Jacket review: design and build
Released in SS22, the Montane Spine Jacket sets a blistering pace: a lightweight and breathable waterproof protection for ultra-runners, made from 13 Denier GORE-TEX Active shell. Fittings are kept to a minimum to save weight, so elasticated cuffs and similar hood are the order of the day. Even in this monastic environment, we still get two hand pockets and a proper hood, as well as a full length lightweight YKK AQUAGUARD front zip – the fact that a full length front zip is a feature tells you a lot about the kind of weight-shaving thinking that’s been going on here.
There is a lower hem drawcord though, which is a relief from a wind-protection point of view, and the hood goes for an interesting hybrid of the two; an elasticated rear, with a standard shock-cord front. The hood also has a wired peak, an essential for fending off horizontal sleet and worse. The hand pockets are on the small side, but roomy enough, and are backed with mesh to add some breathability. Both sleeves and the back have small reflective elements, which add no weight but some functionality.
As usual, Montane’s build quality is meticulous. Seams are all taped, and taped neatly, while those mesh pockets are double stitched, and the zips all have garages for neatness. Overall it’s a minimalist but entirely function-driven jacket, which we love – if you’re looking for a heavy mountain shell, or a casual dog walking number then you're in the wrong place, and that’s fair enough.
Montane Spine Jacket Review: comfort and performance
You might expect a minimalist jacket to be uncomfortable, but in fact the Montane Spine Jacket is very much the opposite. The lightweight 13 Denier GORE-TEX Active might be a thin and lightweight material, but it’s also softer than the alternative crispier Paclite shell material, so it feels pleasant – albeit technical – in the hand and against the skin if you’re wearing short-sleeves. The quality of the seam finishing also plays a role here, in many places it’s hard to feel the joins without laying the jacket flat and using a fingernail.
The key here though is the cut, which Montane has made slightly snugger than its usual waterproofs – not unreasonably, but if you were planning to layer under this it’d be worth going up a size from your usual. The arms are intricately articulated, and the cuffs angled to give freedom of movement and protection. A longer hem also helps this sense of freedom, there’s little lift to speak of in almost any situation, adding warmth and confidence in equal measure.
A particularly neat touch is a small tab and press stud across the front zip at chest height. This allows the zip to be almost fully undone, while keeping the jacket in place, venting heat while on the move. It’s a simple touch, but an ingenious one that works without extra weight or any cumbersome faffery.
The GORE-TEX Active material is a bit of a revelation, especially if you’re used to heavier-weight waterproof membrane materials. The breathability is really quite impressive, often to the point where you keep wearing the jacket well after a normal waterproof would have been doffed as being far too warm. This is particularly useful on those mixed, showery days, where a heavier shell would see you stopping and starting as you take it off, stash it, then get it out again.
The ability to just keep going and forget about the shell is a real boon, especially for a longer run or ultra event, where all those little delays quickly add up. The material is also responsible for a truly tiny packsize, our large test sample compressing down to the size of a drinks can.
Montane Spine Jacket Review: verdict
The Montane Spine Jacket targets quite a specific niche in the outdoor waterproof market, but as a result of that – and some good design – it succeeds very well indeed. Lightweight, packable, breathable and of course waterproof, the Montane Spine Jacket ticks most of the boxes for any waterproof, and all of them for a lightweight running version. Of course, there is a certain fragility to the Spine; scrambling routes or anything abrasive will damage this very quickly, but that’s the compromise. However, as a lightweight hiking waterproof it’s a reasonable, albeit costly, choice, and used as intended, it’s a winner.