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Montane VIA Trail Running Clothing Collection Review Review

Over the past few years Montane's name has become synonymous with some of the most savage races that both the UK and the rest of Europe have to offer: The Spine, The Cheviot Goat, The Lakeland 50 and 100, The Tor de Geants, and - new for 2021 - The Dragon's Back. Hard races require good kit, as do the miles required to train for them. Whilst races aren't personally my thing, over the last few months I've been clocking up the miles in preparation for my own Bob Graham Round, which I did in early May. What I was looking for in this clothing range was a blend of comfort and durability - and that's exactly what I found. It's good for warm weather walking, too.

I recently looked at Montane's new running packs, so it's good to follow up with an overview of their VIA trail running clothing range.  

Dragon Zip T-Shirt - £42

Before I begin writing it's worth adding what has now become my standard caveat whilst reviewing technical t-shirts, which is that there's only so much you can say about technical t-shirts. 

Dragon Tee and Tights  © UKC Gear
Dragon Tee and Tights
© UKC Gear

The Dragon Zip T-Shirt is definitely a close fitting product, with very little excess material to flap around. As a result it's at the slimmer end of the spectrum and those with broad shoulders, or a bit more weight, might wish to try before they buy just to be sure. Unfortunately this is just available in a men's fit, and there's no zip-up short-sleeved women's equivalent. 

The Apex-Lite material is light (75g in Medium), but not too light, and has worn well with use. There's no sign of wear or bobbling, either from scrapes and scratches across the body or rucksack straps along the shoulders. Comfortably breathable and quick-drying, it's treated with Polygeine, which helps to prevent the 'Smelly Helly' effect which often afflicts synthetic base layers. This isn't to say it doesn't smell - as you definitely still need to wash it - but it lasts out impressively well and doesn't have the same legacy smell issues that traditionally plagued synthentic layers.

Whilst it's undoubtedly quite subtle the 1/4 length zip gives you options in terms of ventilation, which makes the Dragon Zip T-Shirt a more versatile feel than a traditional non-zip tech tee - particularly in warm weather.

One final feature, whilst subtle, is the reflective detailing down the centre of the back and on the logo on the front, which is good if you're ever running on roads.

Montane say:

Through high performance fabric the Dragon Zip T-Shirt acts as a second skin for high tempo training sessions and endurance events. Using fast-wicking Apex-Lite for superior moisture management, the fabric dries fast and stays odour free for longer thanks to the POLYGIENE® treatment.

  • Weight: 75g (approx)
  • Sizes: XS-XL (men)
  • Apex-Lite fabric
  • POLYGIENE® permanent odour control
  • Tailored collar
  • 1/4 length YKK front zip with internal zip guard
  • Low profile flatlocked seams
  • 360° VIA Trail Series® reflective details

For info see montane.com

Dragon Twin Skin Shorts - £60

As you'd expect from the name, the Dragon Twin Skin Shorts feature a fitted inner short over a looser over short. This combination makes them well suited towards slightly cooler days, providing a little more protection for your legs. 

On the flip side, they feel a little warmer on hot days. Part of this is because of their lining is a lovely, luxurious and close fitting Carvico material, as opposed to a looser fitting mesh. Whilst I've not found them to get too warm (they are - after all - still incredibly breathable) I have tended to prefer the Dragon 5" Shorts on hotter days (not that we've had many of them this year). Both the inner and outer short are constructed of Econyl, which is a regenerated nylon. This is good on several levels: not only does it feel fantastically soft and light, but it's manufactured from nylon waste and can also be recycled (although don't ask me where...).

Their double layer design means that they're a little bit heavier, coming in at 165g (size M). Whether or not you view this additional weight as justified largely comes down to personal preference, as they are extremely comfortable - hence likely to be of interest to those doing long, ultra distance events - or those that are looking for that little bit of luxury whilst training. The waistband in particular has a lovely, comfortable feel against the skin and sports within it a rear zipped pocket and two small pockets. I have tended to use the internal drawcord just to keep them a little higher up my waist, but that's a matter of personal preference and fit.

Much like the Dragon T, the Dragon Twin Skin Shorts - and their shorter 5" cousin (which we'll come onto next) - these shorts feature reflective panelling down the side of the leg and on the logo on the front.

The slightly longer length will also appeal to some, because - lest we forget - not everyone likes short shorts. In this case there is a women's equivalent, the Katla, which shares the same general principle but obviously has a different (and shorter) cut. 

Montane say:

The Dragon Twin Skin Shorts feature a close fitting CARVICO under short with a lightweight, loose overshort. The technical feature set is designed for trail and endurance running alike.

  • Weight: 165g (approx)
  • Sizes: XS-XL (women's version is Katla)
  • CARVICO with ECONYL® regenerated nylon undershort and waistband
  • Aeroflyte QD overshort
  • 7" inner short inseam length (M)
  • Stretch waistband with internal drawcord
  • Rear pocket with YKK zip
  • Rear gel shot pockets
  • 360° VIA Trail Series® reflective details

For info see montane.com

Dragon 5" Shorts - £55

The Dragon 5" Shorts share many of the same features and materials as the Dragon Twin Skin Shorts, but in a more minimalist manner. In this case the nearest women's equivalent is the Katla 4" (£45).

First things first, they're shorter (inseam of 5" vs. 7", in size M) and lighter (85g vs. 165g, size M) than the Dragon Twin Skin Short. This makes them ideal for warmer weather and race days, although they're equally at home during training too.

They differ from the Dragon Twin Skin Short in that they have a mesh lining throughout the inner, which gives them greater airflow and breathability. They're also treated with Polygiene, which helps prevent the build up of too many nasty odours.

Beyond that there's not a great deal to add, simply because they are a comfortable and minimalist pair of running shorts with very little clutter and a nice, simple design.

Montane say:

The Dragon 5" Shorts use super lightweight Aeroflyte QD fabric and are featured with an inner mesh brief and multiple pocket options, making them ideal for training and racing in warmer temperatures.

  • Weight: 85g (approx)
  • Sizes: XS-XL (women's version is Katla 4")
  • CARVICO with ECONYL® regenerated nylon waistband
  • Aeroflyte QD short
  • Apex-Dry mesh inner brief with POLYGIENE® permanent odour control
  • 5" inseam length (M)
  • Inner mesh brief
  • Stretch waistband with internal drawcord
  • Rear pocket with YKK zip
  • Rear gel shot pockets
  • 360° VIA Trail Series® reflective details

For info see montane.com

Trail Series 3/4 Tights - £55

Whilst there are a great many runners that are able to wear shorts year-round, my knees can't cope with that sort of cold, so throughout the cooler months of the year I tend to wear tights. In midwinter these will tend to be full length tights (or powerstretch if it's really cold), then when the weather gets a little bit warmer I'll shift to 3/4 length, as they provide a high degree of versatility. As a result of this the Trail Series 3/4 Tights have received a lot of use this year, because there have been a great many days where I've set out in sunshine, only for it to rain or snow whilst I'm out, then be sunny by the time I'm back. Weighing 151g (size M) they are pretty light, which makes them good for mixed conditions in less cold weather.

The Featherlite Smock and Tights in use  © UKC Gear
The Featherlite Smock and Tights in use
© UKC Gear

The 3/4 length is £55, while the full length costs £60. There's a women's version of the full-length tights, but not the 3/4, and for men the smallest they go is Small (not XS).  

The Trail Series 3/4 Length Tights feature an X-Skin fabric throughout, which works well at temperature regulation in both wet and dry conditions. It feels great next to the skin, with a nice soft feel, but not too soft to compromise on durability. The waistband is similarly comfortable, with a drawcord to adjust fit, but unlike the shorts this isn't something I've needed to use, as the fit on me is perfect anyway - particularly around the waist. Around the back of the knees there's an Apex-Dry Mesh, which increases the breathability and airflow, although I'd be lying if I said that I'd noticed its effect much!

You get a rear zipped pocket, and somewhere to stash gels, though I'd generally prefer to carry things in my pack/vest.

Montane say:

Lightweight mountain trail ¾ tights featuring fast drying X-Skin fabric, a high stretch, hard-wearing nylon and spandex blend, treated with POLYGIENE® permanent odour control. Designed with plenty of pocket and storage options and all the technical features needed for ultra mountain running. 

  • Sizes: S-XL (men)
  • Weight: 151g (approx)
  • X-Skin hyper stretch main body fabric is quick drying, hard-wearing and comfortable against the skin
  • Apex-Dry Mesh is breathable and super wicking behind the knees
  • Both fabrics treated with POLYGIENE® permanent odour control, perfect for multi-day use
  • Low profile flatlocked sewn seams
  • Stretch waistband with internal Montane waist drawcord
  • Rear zipped pocket with YKK semi-auto zip
  • Rear gel shot pockets
  • 360° VIA Trail Series® reflective details
  • UPF protection 40+

For info see montane.com

VIA Sun Visor - £18

I am slightly biased here, because I absolutely love visors. They keep the sun out of your eyes like any other hat, but have the added benefit of being way more breathable. Counter-intuitively, they're also useful on rainy days too, because when worn underneath a hood they can help to keep the rain out of your eyes (assuming the rain isn't coming in too horizontally).

Rain or shine, the VIA Sun Visor has its use throughout both  © UKC Gear
Rain or shine, the VIA Sun Visor has its use throughout both
© UKC Gear

When it comes to the design, the VIA Sun Visor is constructed of a Coolmax inner (which provides the wicking) and a stretch polyester outer (which provides the breathability). This provides a good balance, within a lightweight exterior, weighing in at 46g. What's not to like?

VIA Sun Visor on the Bob Graham  © UKC Gear
VIA Sun Visor on the Bob Graham
© UKC Gear

I didn't have the energy to hold a smile for long  © UKC Gear
I didn't have the energy to hold a smile for long
© UKC Gear

Montane say:

Lightweight trail running sun visor.

  • Weight: 46g (approx)
  • Stretch Polyester offers maximum breathability and is fast drying
  • COOLMAX™ sweat band wicks moisture away from forehead keeping you focused and comfortable
  • Rear hook and loop adjustment FURTHER FEATURES
  • Reflective VIA Trail Series® logo details

For more info see montane.com

Featherlite Smock - £70 or £45

A lightweight and very breathable windproof layer, originally designed for running but equally applicable to hillwalking, the Featherlite Smock is one of the most versatile products out there. It's simple, weighs next to nothing (110g), stuffs down to a size so small it's easy to forget, and - in the grand scheme of outdoor kit - it's at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Where's the catch? I'm not sure that there is one... except that women are not (yet?) offered this new smock version of the Featherlite, but only the older Featherlite model with a full length zip. 

This isn't my first Featherlite Smock either. I first bought one 15 years ago and it's been a staple part of my running, climbing and hillwalking kit ever since. What makes it even more impressive is given the high level of use its received, it's still in remarkably good condition. A few holes and nicks here and there isn't the end of the world with a product like this either, as it just makes it more breathable (or so I like to tell myself).

The old Featherlight Smock in use during the 2010 OMM, which took place on Dartmoor  © Rob Greenwood Collection
The old Featherlight Smock in use during the 2010 OMM, which took place on Dartmoor
© Rob Greenwood Collection

The new Featherlite Smock in use during a training run along the Pennine Way in 2021  © UKC Gear
The new Featherlite Smock in use during a training run along the Pennine Way in 2021
© UKC Gear

In terms of the fit, the Featherlite Smock keeps things simple: it's got elasticated cuffs and a drawcord around the waist, there's 1/3 length two-way zip for venting and a chest pocket either to store goodies or to stuff the jacket within. The cut itself is fitted, but not too fitted (i.e. it's not overly tight), and provides excellent freedom of movement, which is what makes it suitable for such a wide range of activities.

One major update for 2021 is that it's now made of 100% recycled materials, featuring Pertex Quantum Eco, which is - along with the Econyl used in the Dragon Shorts - a sign of the brand making major headway into more sustainable product.

Here's a video we made earlier:

Montane say:

Tried and tested in environments across the world, the classic Featherlite is back. Now with 100% recycled nylon PERTEX® QUANTUM ECO fabric and as versatile as ever, the Featherlite Smock is a super light and packable piece of emergency kit, providing breathable wind protection for almost any mountain fast paced activity.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Weight: 110g (approx)
  • PERTEX® QUANTUM ECO 100% recycled nylon outer with DWR
  • Close fit collar
  • 1/3 length YKK front zip with internal zip guard
  • Zipped chest pocket
  • Low profile cuffs
  • Adjustable hem with cinchable drawcord
  • Stuffs into own pocket

For info see montane.com



For more information visit Montane

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15 Jun

I received a pair of those twin-skin shorts as a gift recently. Other than the length (when in doubt, quads out), they are utterly brilliant. Wish you could get underwear made of the same stuff as that weird liner.

They really are great aren't they. Fantastic gift too, as they're not cheap!

Hope you've been getting out in them over the last few weeks of dry/bright weather. Bit of a contrast to how things were underfoot a month ago!!

15 Jun

Yeah admittedly it would be a bit distressing to pay that much for a pair of shorts myself, but as a present they are excellent. First liner in a pair shorts I really like too.

17 Jun

Do they actually stay up though ? I have a couple of pair of Salomon ones and find the inner creeps down your leg (why they dont put a gripper on the bottom like cycling shorts is beyond me) which then results in your, erm, "junk" swinging in free space and then chafing, which is what they are meant to counter against!

17 Jun

Erm, I have yet to have any 'pendulous' experiences in them. I know what you mean though - I have some Alpkit ones which really aren't good on the liner front.

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