"In a crowded market, Montane have succeeded in making something that stands out"... Rob Greenwood and Penny Orr check out the men's and women's versions of this warm, lightweight and versatile down jacket.
Micro-baffle down jackets have become increasingly common, and are now perhaps the most popular type of down jacket you see out and about. Aside from their ubiquitous use on the high street, they are superb as lightweight all-rounders, which are more technical than you might think, and suitable for a wide range of environments and activities. So where does the Anti-Freeze fit within this busy market?
In this review we are specifically focusing on the Men's and Women's Anti-Freeze Hooded Jacket. The Anti-Freeze collection includes two other models - the XT and the Lite - which, depending on what you're after, might be of more interest than the one we're reviewing. The XT is a warmer and heavier weight version while the Lite, perhaps unsurprisingly, is lighter. Of the three, the Anti-Freeze Hooded Jacket is the most 'mass market' - in a good way.
- Lite: 125g 750+ fill down - £180
- Hooded Jacket: 140g 750+ fill down - £200
XT - 210g 750+ fill down - £250
Rob: This jacket is at the beefier end of the micro-baffle category, not least because its baffles are actually larger than the likes of the industry leader, Rab's Microlight Jacket. It packs a bit more of a punch in terms of warmth too, courtesy of not just having more down (140g vs 134g) but also better quality down (750 vs 700 fill power). And if this weren't enough, it's also lighter (360g vs 400g). Overall, the Anti-Freeze feels like it's been designed with a more technical user in mind, and whilst I haven't used it in the Alps (unfortunately our review budgets don't stretch that far), I could see it being a popular lightweight option among both skiers and mountaineers.
Closer to home, I've worn the Anti-Freeze for many a Gritstone bouldering session, which - lest we forget - is one of the greatest tests of any down jacket, as there's so much standing around that it's almost inevitable you'll get cold. I've also used it whilst belaying sport and trad climbs on cooler days, where its warmth has been greatly appreciated. I've climbed in it a fair few times, either when warming up or while seconding a route, and it's got a superb, active cut that's very much designed with climbers in mind (more on that later); however, this isn't to say it's exclusively for climbers, as it's a jacket that I've put in my pack countless times when walking - and even running - just in case of an emergency. On really cold days I've worn it as a part of my layering system, and it's been impressively adaptable in terms of its temperature regulation, especially given how warm it is.
Penny: The Anti-Freeze Hooded Jacket has become a staple of my climbing kit. It has a warmer, more luxurious feel than other micro-baffle jackets I've used, due to it having bigger baffles with more down filling. As a result, it's become my go-to jacket for trad-climbing, sport-climbing and bouldering – which all require a lot of standing about, potentially in pretty cold conditions. Given how warm and comfortable the Anti-freeze is it's also been my first choice for winter walking (used as part of a layering system) and more general day-to-day use. As well as being warmer, the Anti-Freeze is also lighter than many of its counterparts. Although I couldn't say I've particularly noticed this, it might make a difference if you're on an expedition or going for a "fast and light" approach to climbing a bigger route.
Rob: The fit is a little looser, and perhaps the sizing a little more generous, than some micro-baffle down jackets I've used, which can often feel a little more like a mid-layer. Though slightly larger it isn't that much larger, and I wouldn't recommend anyone having to go down a size, but what it does mean is that there's a little bit of space left in it so that you can properly layer underneath.
The Anti-Freeze also passes the first test that I tend to do when I put on a jacket, which is to simply raise your arms above your head and observe how much lift there is around the hem. In this case there's barely any movement whatsoever (even with my long arms). This cut really adds to its climbing, mountaineering and scrambling credentials, as it means you can be capable of being fully hands-on whilst wearing it.
Finally, the hood. It's worth specifying that the Anti-Freeze features an under-helmet hood, with a nice, snug fit and a good seal around the sides, which can be tinkered with courtesy of the two adjustment toggles.
Penny: It's looser than the Rab Microlight, but still has a feminine shape. Used whilst climbing I've found its arms are long enough, and the body of the jacket doesn't lift up too much. Shoulders and forearms are big enough to accommodate a climber's physique. Used as part of a layering system, it can be slightly bulky under rain jackets, but does work. Excels in cold, dry conditions.
It doesn't have a two-way zip, which might have made it tricky to belay comfortably, but the fit compensates for this because the longer back and slightly looser fit allows you to pull the front of the jacket up to expose the belay loop whilst also exposing your midriff.
Weight and Fill
The Anti-Freeze features 140g of 90/10 750+ fill down (size Medium), which is a bit more than the Rab Microlight (134g), which this jacket will inevitably be compared to. The down is RDS (Responsible Down Standard) and Track My Down certified, meaning it is ethically sourced. It features a PFC free-water resistant HyperDRY down, and whilst we wouldn't recommend using the jacket in all-out wet conditions, the treatment does make a difference for generally damp weather, which (let's face it) is what we get a lot of in this country.
In keeping with many of their other products, Montane have featured a 100% recycled fabric within both the inner and outer (inner: Pertex Quanum Eco + PFC-free DWR / outer: PEAQ Down Eco Lining with PFC-free DWR). This is a pretty light material, but one that has - throughout the use we've both given it - survived impressively well, showing no signs of wear, or even the occasional nicks that jackets tend to receive after constant hard use.
All-in-all, it's impressive that Montane have kept the weight to what it is (360g, size M), given the amount of down, coupled with the slightly roomier cut.
The features of both the men's and women's jackets are much the same, so we'll cover both within the same section, although it's worth mentioning that the features on the Anti-Freeze are actually quite subtle, which - at least from our perspective - is great, because it keeps it nicely minimalist.
- 2 x Handwarmer Pockets - both a good size, capable of fitting in a hand with a relatively bulky glove on
- 1 x Internal Pocket - big enough for a phone or wallet
- One Way Zip - for a jacket of this size I wouldn't expect a two-way zip. It might have made it a little more suitable for climbing/mountaineering, but overall would probably have been overkill.
- Stuff Sack - this isn't something that either of us use, as we prefer a dry bag, but no doubt someone will.
Rob: In a crowded market, Montane have succeeded in making something that stands out, by making it lighter, warmer and more technical than the jacket in this category generally considered to be the current industry leader, Rab's Microlight. It certainly packs a punch, with a great technical cut that'll be equally appealing to climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers.
Penny: This is a great jacket with a relatively luxurious, soft feel. It's also noticeably warmer and (perhaps less noticeably) lighter than many other micro-baffle products on the market. This makes it a better year-round prospect.