Waterproofs vary a great deal in weight, cut, focus and spec. At one end of the scale, you get fortress-like protection and high weight; while at the opposite extreme are the minimalist lightweights. The lightest shells tend to be designed for 'just in case', meaning they are generally packed away and forgotten about until the rain arrives. But even within this ultralight category, functionality and quality can vary hugely, and essentials such as cut and performance may well be sacrificed in pursuit of a headline weight figure. With the Podium Pull-on Montane clearly haven't fallen into this trap, aiming to balance an impressively low weight and small pack size with really decent performance.
The close-fitting Podium is very much designed with runners in mind, and it can easily be stashed in a vest, waist pack, or rucksack and forgotten about until the elements arrive. Weighing in at just 100g (size Medium) it really is light, with a minimalist pack size that will likely take up less room than your cereal bars and sandwiches.
That said, this doesn't necessarily have to be a jacket for runners, and could also be used as a 'just in case' jacket for summer hillwalking or ultralight backpacking. I've used it climbing, getting caught out in a rain storm at the top of the crag, but wouldn't really recommend using it whilst climbing because of the lightweight nature of the material.
Though it says so in the name, it's worth reiterating that the Podium is a Pull-On, not a jacket, and hence has 1/2 length zip. Due to the fitted nature of the jacket, and the slightly sticky nature of the waterproof fabric itself, it can be quite a challenge to get on, particularly when wet, which is something to be aware of (better to get it on as soon as it starts raining, rather than fight it on whilst it's pouring it down).
On the note of waterproofing, whilst the Podium is indeed fully waterproof, it is best used as a 'just in case' piece. As is arguably the case with all ultralight shells, if you're going out expecting a full day of rain then you'd probably favour something a little more substantial.
This is a unisex model, available in sizes XS to XL. As mentioned above, the Podium Pull-On is designed to be close fitting. The good news is that this cuts down on excess material, hence saves weight, and also means that there isn't quite as much flapping when you're running on a windy day. The bad news is that it might not fit everyone, and is less easy to layer over insulation. My size Medium certainly feels at the snug end of the spectrum, but in spite of this the cut provides excellent freedom of movement, with little or no lift when raising your arms above your head. With that in mind, it's definitely worth trying the Podium on for size/fit before buying and if you're looking at it as a lightweight walking piece - or anticipate wearing a couple of layers underneath - potentially look at going up a size.
Considering its stripped down spec, the Podium has a good length arm, a subtly dropped seat, which just covers the bum, and a compact, but perfectly fitted hood. The hood itself provides a good seal around the face courtesy of its elasticated panelling, but does feel a little restrictive whilst turning your head from side to side. Of course it won't work over a helmet, since that's not what the Podium is about.
The first thing you notice about the Podium's fabric, and the first thing that anyone around you notices, is that it's pretty much transparent - so much so that you can basically see what you're wearing underneath! Whilst this doesn't necessarily add anything to its performance, it does go to show how light the material really is.
The Podium Pull-On features Aqua Pro Lite, with fully taped seams throughout. This fabric has a 15,000mm hydrostatic head (which is plenty) and a breathability figure of 15,000g/m2/24hrs MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate). In layman's terms this means it's pretty damn waterproof and also reasonably breathable too. Obviously more waterproof/breathable jackets are out there. For instance there's the Berghaus Hyper 100, which we reviewed in a group test of lightweight shells back in 2017. Once billed as the world's lightest 3-layer shell, this has both a higher hydrostatic head and an MVTR number over three times bigger. However the on-paper figures only tell some of the story, and I've found the Podium does feel breathable enough for active use. It also feels a wee bit more durable than the Hyper 100.
So what's the drawback? The Aqua Pro Lite fabric has a slightly sticky feel to it, which can make it hard to put on (especially whilst wet) and also makes it feel a little sweatier whilst you're moving. As a result, this wouldn't be a jacket I'd be wearing when it wasn't raining - or as a windproof - as I'd much rather something like Montane's windshirt for that.
Given its minimalist nature there aren't a great many features.
Rather than have velcro flaps and toggles through the various cuffs, hems and sleeves the Podium almost exclusively features elastic. This goes all the way around the hem, half way around the cuffs and across the back and sides of the hood. Whilst it's undoubtedly subtle, this keeps things nice and snug, prevents excess material flapping, and - most important of all - helps keep the weather out.
In spite of the jacket's light weight Montane have included reflective YKK Aquagard zips to the front, along with a small storm flap, to help keep the water out. There's also a small press stud, which allows you to keep the collar closed but the half-zip open, in order to get some airflow through while moving. This isn't actually something I've used, and I may even remove it once the review is over.
Whilst the Podium does come with its own stuff sack, I've much preferred to pack it direct, as this allows you to stuff it into dead space. You could though use the stuff sack to hang it off your harness (with the caveat about this not being built to withstand actual climbing!).
The Podium Pull-On achieves a lot within the confines of just 100g, providing a proper waterproof shell for when you need it most. Whilst the smock design and slimline fit may not be for everyone, it's hard to argue with its weight and pack size, which allow it to be stuffed into any spare space in a waist pack or small runner's rucksack. Whilst it's undoubtedly of most interest to runners, the Podium has potential for lightweight walkers too - in fact anyone looking for a reliable 'just in case' waterproof which can be packed throughout the summer months. There are a great many 'just in case' jackets out there, but they often end up cutting major corners in an effort to shave weight. That's less the case here.
Designed for fast and light runners for whom kit weight and packability is paramount, the Podium Pull-On uses one of the lightest weight waterproof and breathable fabrics available. Perfect as a reliable emergency waterproof shell which will pack tiny into your training and race packs year-round.
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Weight: 110g (Montane's weight)
- Fabric: 2.5 layer Aqua Pro Lite
- 15,000mm Hydrostatic head; 15,000g/m2/24hrs MVTR
- Micro-taped seams
- Pre-elasticated trail hood with stiffened peak
- ½ length YKK AquaGuard® reflective front zip with internal storm flap
- Shaped cuffs with partial elastication
- Elasticated hem
- 360° VIA Trail Series® reflective details
- Supplied with a stuff sack
For more info see montane.com