The definition of a fleece has become a little clouded over the years. Way back when I started climbing [as long as that? -Ed.] it was a furry jacket that kept you warm unless there was any wind blowing, and it gradually shed its fibres until eventually turning into the retro-stylish grunge jacket that the 70s climbing heros deemed as uniform! The new Protium Pull-On from Montane is miles away from this dated image, being a light stretchy top with an 'active mountain fit' which is close-fitting for fast-paced activities. It is a mid-layer fleece pitched at a wide-range of outdoor activities from hillwalking through to trail running, and of course climbing, and it comes in both a women's and a men's version. The best thing about it is what it doesn't have, with no hood or pockets to clutter things up.
Montane produce three different fits: Classic Mountain, Active Mountain and Mountain Run. Although there are more subtleties about these fits they could be easily characterised as loose, tight and tighter, with a corresponding decrease in bulk for the tighter fits. The Protium Pull-On is an Active Mountain piece with a fairly tight fit in places but plenty of stretch to allow for freedom of movement. A close cut around the forearms and shoulders is in contrast to the roominess in the trunk, so if you've got a case of lockdown belly then this could work well.
It will be a personal choice as to whether you want a larger size with the extra movement that offers, or a clinging tighter size that will allow that feels slightly more restrictive but may work better under other layers. We think the Protium Pull-On comes out on the small side for its stated size. I went for a size Large in preference to my more usual Medium and it seems about right.
Do try it before you buy though. Those with huge arm muscles might find the arms a little on the tight side, and it has to be said that another of our reviewers struggled with the fit, finding his usual size Large too tight in places and too short in the hem. I am a fan of slightly looser, which has the added advantage of meaning you can use it above a thicker base layer or a second mid-layer. With these caveats in mind the Protium Pull-On fits the bill. On me in size Large it also has the added bonus of a bit of extra length which you can easily pull down over your bum if required.
The sleeves have no thumb loop - not a great loss as far as I am concerned since I don't find myself using them but those who like them for running may notice this omission. The short neck zip creates a tidy tight neck roll but not a high one so you can't use it as a lower chin guard in bitter weather. The wide shoulder panels have room for rucksack straps to avoid rubbing on seams.
Although only weighing in at 352g (size L - my measure), this feels a heavier weight fleece than that might suggest. Normally such light items would be almost in the base layer category but this has a much more substantial feel about it. You could use it as a base layer but you would probably boil.
This is probably to do with the brushed inner side, which Montane call a Thermo Grid. This gives the fabric a thick feel but with plenty of air space on the skin side of the fabric afforded by the grid pattern. This grid pattern is designed to 'manage moisture and regulate heat' which is marketing speak for allowing a little air movement when active but less if you stop moving, or put on a windproof layer over the top. Talking of windproof; this fabric actually has a reasonable amount of its own giving some protection in light breeze, which is probably up with what you might expect for a fleece. For me this fabric is a real winner. It succeeds in being light and flexible but having real substantial warmth to it.
The features of this mid-layer are really that there aren't any. No pockets, no hood: simplicity is the key. That may position it in the bulky base-layer category for some people but for a climber, the lack of pockets, thumb loops and hood could actually prove an attraction. The only exception I can think of to this is if you wanted to keep a phone about your person - when multi pitch climbing, for instance, or in winter when the battery needs to stay warm.
At UKH/UKC we have got a bit jaded with every brand adding a hood to practically every midlayer, since that leaves you with loads of redundant hood bulk when you're layering up in winter. The lack of one here is nice! There is an outside hanging tab for when you get home, but that really is about it for features.
Montane have done an excellent job here of creating a versatile piece with a lot of warmth, with a very compact weight and feel. The minimal feature set may rule it out for those who want to use it as a top-layer when hillwalking in moderate conditions, but it is an attraction for climbers and trail runners who are really after something to keep them warm during activity in cool to cold conditions, and probably won't notice the lack of any pockets
With a brushed grid back construction, the THERMO GRID fleece manages moisture and regulates heat effectively, making the Protium Pull-On an excellent layering piece as well as being effective as an outer layer in warmer weather.
- Price: £50
- Montane Fit: Active Mountain
- Sizes: S-XXL (men)
- Sizes: UK8-UK16 (women)
- Weight: 352g (men's size L, our measure)
- Fabric: Thermo Grid brushed back fleece with stretch
- Close fit collar
- 1/3 length YKK VISLON® front zip
- Low profile flatlocked seams
- Low profile hem and cuffs
- Colours (Women): Wakame Green, Paprika, Astro Blue
Colours (Men): Inca Gold, Redwood, Astro Blue