The Phoenix Stretch Jacket has been my constant companion during the recent lockdown, from local hills, Munros and winter climbing, to wandering through the city centre dreaming of things opening back up. At 380g (Montane's average weight), this versatile midweight synthetic insulated hybrid jacket is well suited to autumn, spring and winter use - but it's still light enough to come out in cooler summer weather. Considering what you're getting, the price is good too.
Montane offer a Phoenix in three models: the lightweight and packable Phoenix Light; the heavier weight, warmer Phoenix; and the middle-weight Phoenix Stretch. Of the three I think the Stretch is arguably the most versatile, as it works well for active use. It's not a climbing-specific design, since the hood won't fit over a helmet and the pockets are positioned too low for use with a harness. Its strength is as an all-rounder, though I have happily used it winter climbing too.
The Phoenix Stretch is a women's piece; the male equivalent is the Icarus Stretch. Both are billed as having a close fit for "Active Mountain" use so that the jacket can be worn as a mid layer in colder conditions, or (more usually) as an outer layer. I've been using my usual size 8, and I would definitely say it is a snug fit for the size. Initially, I thought I might need to go up a size but I can still wear my normal layering for winter climbing with no impact on movement.
The side panels contribute to a tighter fit, but they're stretchy enough to allow for full arm movement. Despite my long torso, the jacket's hem length offers nearly full bum coverage. As well as generally keeping you warmer, this length means there should be little risk of a hem lift, even when wearing a harness, which is a major benefit for climbing. The simple stretch cuff pulls snugly over a bulky insulated glove, which is also a major selling point for mountain use.
The hood is form-fitting, especially for my smaller head, but as a person who often wears a ponytail, I find I needed to adjust my hair in order to maintain the proper fit - a common issue for women I'd imagine. Though it's not a climbing-specific hood, I've found it does work under a helmet.
Fabric and insulation
This jacket comes in three different colours. I am wearing the "Wackame Green" and there is also a purple ("Saskatoon Berry") or black option.
The Phoenix Stretch jacket has eco-friendly credentials, with a 50% recycled Pertex Quantum Eco outer material and 100% recycled lining. The Pertex fabric has a tight weave, helping to keep it wind resistant, and it's made light enough to allow the insulation to loft properly. There's a DWR finish to help shrug off a bit of moisture.
The PrimaLoft Black ThermoPlume synthetic insulation in the core body and over arms is made using little tufts of fluffy stuff, giving you a loose fill that has some similarity to down in terms of loft, but which should of course offer better insulating performance if damp. Covering the parts of the body that need the most insulation, you get a fairly generous 88g (in size 12) of this insulation, which is a fair bit more than you'd get with a real lighweight jacket, and the Phoenix Stretch does feel warm for its overall weight as a result. However, like down, this loose fibre fill needs a lot of baffles to hold it in position, and this means more stitching than you'll get with a synthetic jacket in which the insulation comes in sheets.
In the hood and over-shoulder areas, you get PrimaLoft Silver 100% recycled insulation, at 60g/m2, a sheet-type insulation which doesn't require micro-baffling. Designed to be breathable and quick-drying, it also resists compression and lateral movement very well – hence why it is used on high-compression/wear areas such as the hood and shoulders. It's not too thick and bulky, either, which helps with arm movement.
The stretchy STRIA Lite fabric for the side panels allows for the maximum range of motion, but still has a fleecy inner side for warmth and breathability. I've found this is great for temperature regulation when hillwalking or climbing, and the additional benefit is that it gives you a neater shape (for less bulk, and for a nice slimming profile).
Overall, the mixture of synthetic insulation and side panelling means that the jacket is pretty warm and windproof where it counts, but also allows some air flow to minimise sweating. For its weight I'd say this jacket feels pretty durable, and it has held up against the occasional bush-whacking. It is shower-resistant and tends to dry particularly quickly. This has been extremely useful when out in the hills. Ideally, this jacket is best suited for winter, spring and autumn but I could see myself taking it with me up a Munro on a colder summer's day (which let's face it, happens a lot in Scotland!) for the summit stop.
Overall this is quite a simple design, and what really sets this jacket apart from other more conventional synthetic insulated jackets is the hybrid of two different synthetic fills, plus stretchy side panels.
The hood has a stretch bound face aperture and an elasticated hood rear to create that perfect, snug fit; this is key for winter mountain use. In keeping with the simpler feel of the jacket, the hood doesn't have toggles to adjust the fit, or any kind of stiffened brim. Perhaps this doesn't much matter, in the sense that in wilder winter conditions in particular you'll probably end up adding a shell on top anyway.
There is a full-length zip with internal storm flap which helps block the wind. Unfortunately, there is no double zip for when you're wearing it over a harness, but the trim fit means you would likely have this under your harness anyway. There are only two hand pockets, which are pretty spacious, but I've found these unusable if I have on my harness or rucksack hip belt. With no chest pocket, if you're wearing a harness then you have to store gloves or your phone in your rucksack or other clothing, which I have found annoying at times. A small chest pocket or inside pocket would have been good.
Warm PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume insulation in the core body and overarms is combined with STRIA Lite stretch fleece in the side body and under the arms for enhanced movement and comfort whilst moving fast when climbing or trekking. A hooded jacket with versatility as a mid layer or outer layer.
- Weight: 380g average (women)
- Sizes: 8-16 (women) - men's version is Icarus Stretch
- Fit: Active Mountain - Close-fitting for fast-paced activities
- PERTEX®QUANTUM ECO 50% recycled outer with DWR main body
- 100% recycled PEAQ Synthetic ECO lining
- Stretchy STRIA Lite fabric side panels for maximum range of movement
- 115g PrimaLoft® Black ThermoPlume insulation in the core body and over arms
- 60g/m2 PrimaLoft® Silver 100% recycled insulation in the hood and over shoulders
- Full-length YKK VISLON front zip with internal storm flap
- Two zipped hand pockets
- Elasticated hood rear and cuffs
For more info see montane.com