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Montbell Versalite Pants Review – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are 2-layer ultralight waterproof/breathable pants that weigh just 3.7 oz (in a men’s XL.) They can be used as rain pants or wind pants or when you want light layer to keep your legs warmer in camp. Montbell’s Versalite Pants have been available for many years, but the company recently switched from an in-house waterproof/breathable membrane to Gore Windstopper, resulting in a big improvement in their water resistance and breathability (more below). That, coupled with their extremely light weight and minimal features, make the Versalite Pants an attractive option for anyone wanting to reduce their gear weight.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s and Women’s models available
  • Weight: 3.7 oz (men’s XL)
  • Sizing: 4 sizes available
  • Water Pressure Resistance: 30,000 mm
  • Breathability: 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs
  • 2 layer Gore Windstopper with DWR
  • 10 denier ballistic rip-stop nylon
  • Price: $139

Fabric upgrade

The previous generation of Versalite pants was a 15d rip-stop nylon, 2.5 layer pant that used Montbell’s proprietary waterproof layer called Super Hydro Breeze (Water resistance : 20,000 mm / Breathability : 15,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The new Versalite Pants, reviewed here, is a 10d ripstop nylon, 2-layer pant made with a Gore Windstopper waterproof layer (Water resistance : 30,000 mm / Breathability : 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The waterproofing and breathability performance of the new pants is considerably better.

Design and construction

The Versailte Pants are black and with a grey coating on the inside to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane from oils, suntan lotion, and dirt. The interior of the pants does not feel clammy, even when worn over shorts and directly against the skin. However, the grey coating is easily scratched off, particularly near the ankles if you put the pants on while wearing shoes or boots. Gravel stuck in the shoe sole scrapes against the grey coating and scratches it off.

The pants are cut from a single piece of fabric, which reduces the number of seams that have to be taped in their manufacture. This reduces the chance of water leakage and helps reduce gear weight. The pants do have one taped seam down the centerline, running down the crotch and up the backside.

I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants
I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants

The fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs. The rain pants do run a bit long though, maybe an inch. They come in one length: 31.9″. The pants don’t have any pockets and there are no zippers, including ankle zippers.

There is an elastic waistband, augmented by a drawstring. The drawstring does not run all the way through the waistband and is sewn in near the front, which limits your ability to tighten the waist. The drawstring itself doesn’t come with a cordlock to hold any tension, so I added one to keep them snugged tight.

Sewn-in drawstrings are also a common point of failure in pants because they tear out easily and it is quite difficult to sew them back in unless you’re skilled in sewing repairs.  While the sewn-in drawstring on the Versalite Pants has resisted my tugs, and endured field use, I’ve had such bad experiences with pants (from other brands, too numerous to list) that use this type of drawstring anchor that I avoid it whenever possible.

I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.
I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.

Field performance

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are a dream to use in wind, rain, and cool weather to retain warmth in camp. The factory DWR sheds rain very well and they breath well when worn over shorts and lightweight long pants. The legs are also wide enough that I can put them on and take them off easily without removing my shoes (size 10.5 men’s trail runners), with some room to spare.

Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prvent it from dragging on the ground
Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prevent it from dragging on the ground. I never wear gaiters, so I appreciate this feature.

While the legs are a little bit longer than I prefer, the elastic cords at the bottom of each leg can be used to hold them at ankle height, preventing the hems from dragging on the ground, while sealing out drafts and splash-back. You simply pull on the exposed portion of the cord, twist it once, and pull it over your shoe so it rests around your ankle. The elastic cord doesn’t restrict blood flow and is hardly noticeable. Montbell calls it the Samue Leg Closure System and it harkens back to the technique used by the Zen monks of Japan to adjust traditional work clothing using ties sewn inside clothing instead of elastic cord.

However, the Versalite Pants are easy to tear and my pair already sport tenacious tape patches on the lower legs. I wouldn’t recommend them off-trail or wearing them on trail if you had to walk through waist high vegetation. The 10 denier fabric is simply too thin to rebuff contact with the point objects you find in forests.

Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs
Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs

Comparable Rain Pants

Recommendation

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are ultralight waterproof/breathable rain pants that weight less than 4 0z and are made with a thin 10 denier ripstop nylon. They’re very basic with a drawstring waist, but no pockets or ankle zippers in keeping with their minimalist vibe. While pants like this are great to wear in rain or as a lightweight warmth layer, they are fragile and easily torn. If the cost of occasional replacement isn’t a barrier, the weight alone is the main reason I’d buy them. The fact that they have superb water resistance and breathability rating is just icing on the cake.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with pair of pants for this review.

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Montbell EX Light Down Anorak Review

Warmth to Weight Ratio

Weight

Compressibility

Moisture Resistance

Hood Adjustment

Features

Durability

Ultralight Mid-Layer Insulation

The Montbell EX Light Down Anorak is a sweater-weight, mid-layer garment filled with 900 fill power down. While ideal for ultralight backpacking, it trades off features for light weight and compressibility

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The Montbell EX Light Anorak is an ultralight 900-fill power, down sweater that’s ideal for wearing around camp or paired with a top quilt in cooler weather. Weighing 7.35 oz (in a size XL), the styling is minimalist, with a half zipper, non-adjustable hood, and elastic wrist cuffs. There are also two side pockets (without zippers) which join in the middle kangaroo style, allowing you to warm your hands together. Elastic hem adjusters are located inside the hand pockets, so they don’t hang down from the hem where they can catch on obstructions.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 7.35 oz XL (6.2 in a size medium)
  • Gender: Mens
  • Insulation: 900 fill power down (2.3 oz of fill)
  • Fabric: 7 denier ballistic ripstop nylon with DWR coating

When would you pack and wear an anorak like this? That really depends on your climate. I like bringing in on spring and autumn trips, as an extra thermal layer, for when I’m cooking food or hanging out in camp. I run real cold when I’m not active. It also makes a nice piece to augment a quilt, especially one that doesn’t have a draft collar around the neck, helping to seal in heat at the shoulders and neck, and providing additional head insulation.

However, this anorak is too warm for me to wear when I’m active and hiking, making me sweat heavily, which is something I try to avoid in cooler weather by delayering. I think a lightweight 100 weight fleece is a far better garment to wear when you’re active and exerting yourself because it isn’t as warm, it will continue to insulate you if it gets damp from perspiration, and because your body heat is enough to dry it out.

Oversized Hood

While this anorak sounds ideal, there are a couple of potential gotchas to consider. First is the hood, which is huge. It’s really sized for someone wearing a climbing helmet. There are no neck toggles to shrink the hood opening and no rear volume adjuster. I cope with this by wearing a puffy fleece hat and pulling the hood back so it covers the center or my head, but not my forehead. This helps seal in the heat over my ears, the back of my neck, and most my head. It’s not ideal and my preference is for adjustable hoods with neck toggles, or at least a rear volume adjuster.

Unfortunately, many down jackets and parkas don’t have adjustable hoods anymore because they’re less expensive for manufacturers to sew and makes them appear lighter weight. But if you’re purchasing a technical down sweater (like this anorak), a lightweight down jacket, or heavier down parka, I’d strongly encourage you to get one with an adjustable hood because it lets you seal in the heat generated by your head or vent it if you’re overheating. Active temperature regulation is the name of the game when hiking or backpacking and an adjustable hood gives you the flexibility to fine tune it.

Sewn Through Construction

A second potential issue with this anorak is its sewn through construction. The perimeter of down square is sewn through the jacket, so you have the potential for cold spots along the seams. However, the advantage of this sort of construction is that it prevents down shift, which is important for a garment with so little insulation.

I don’t think this is a deal killer however, because it’s easily remedied by layering a windproof rain jacket or wind shirt over the anorak. You should carry at least one of those as part of a hiking layering system. anyway. Wearing a thicker undergarment, like a fleece pullover or mid-weight baselayer can also mitigate any cold spots.

7 Denier Fabric

I’ve owner a number of insulated Montbell Jackets over the years and while their lightweight 7 denier shells are down proof and super lightweight, they do have limited durability. If you use this anorak a lot, you should expect abrasion and holes to form in the fabric over time at the highest wear points, particularly at the wrist cuffs. It’s also remarkable easy to slice through the fabric with an ice axe or crampon points, so keep the garment far away from sharp points. It might even be worth carrying a small patch of tenacious tape so you can prevent the down insulation from leaking if you hole the anorak accidentally.

Comparable Lightweight Mid-layer Sweaters and Jackets

Here’s a list of comparable lightweight sweaters and jackets, with and without adjustable hoods. The weights listed are provided by manufacturers are directional, since most manufacturers don’t list the size jacket that they correspond to.

Assessment

While the Montbell EX Light Anorak is super lightweight, warm, and highly compressible, the oversized hood is a fail, making it difficult to keep cold temperatures from robbing the heat generated by your head when you’re standing around in camp or sleeping under a top quilt. When looking at alternative products, I would encourage you to pick one that has an adjustable hood that can be cinched tightly around your face to seal in head heat. It really is a worth carrying a few ounces more for this feature, especially if you run cold when standing still or sleeping.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with an anorak for this review.

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