The Montane Minimus Stretch Jacket is a waterproof/breathable jacket that can serve double duty as a rain jacket and a wind shirt. Weighing just 9.2 oz in a men’s XL, the Minimus Stretch jacket is so lightweight that it doesn’t feel at all like a hard shell jacket, even though it’s functionally equivalent to one. It’s also specifically designed for hiking and backpacking (called hill-walking in the UK) and not skiing or climbing, with all of the technical features I usually look for on a fully featured rain jacket.
- Fully adjustable hood
- Velcro wrist cuffs
- Hip belt compatible pockets
- Cinchable hem drawcord
The first thing you noticed when you put on this jacket was how comfortable and quiet the fabric is. It has a mild stretch built into it so it moves with you when you pull on a backpack or grab a handhold to pull yourself up a ledge. The external fabric is so quiet, you quickly forget that you’re wearing a rain jacket, except when it’s chucking down rain. The interior of the jacket has a thin liner, designed to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane. This type of construction is called a 2.5 layer jacket and is used for hiking rain jackets where low gear weight is paramount.
Montane uses a Pertex Shield+ membrane in the Minimus Stretch Jacket which has a waterproof (hydrostatic head) rating of 20,000 mm and a breathability rating (MVTR) 20,000g/m²/24hrs. These are very good test lab ratings and you’d have to pay a lot more to improve on them. The hydrostatic head rating means that it is suitable for use in heavy rain without leaking. The MVTR rating means that a clean Minimums Stretch Jacket will do a pretty good job in venting perspiration and internal condensation when worn as a rain jacket or wind shirt, especially when compared to a completely non-breathable rain jacket make out of silnylon or polyurethane. That doesn’t mean you’ll stay completely perspiration or condensation free inside the jacket, but you’ll feel more comfortable than if you wore a non-breathable garment.
Fully Adjustable Hood
Montane is one of the few outdoor clothing manufacturers that still includes fully adjustable hoods on their rain jackets and they’re an absolute essential if you hike or backpack in windy rain-swept weather. The Minimus Stretch hood is also sized for hikers with normal sized heads, instead of Godzilla or people wearing climbing helmets or skiing helmets, like so many other hard shell jackets. It has a pair of corner toggles so you can cinch the opening to cover your face and prevent cold wind from blowing in and chilling you, along with a shapable wire brim to keep the rain out of your eyes. There’s a rear toggle that lets you shrink the crown of the hood to the size of your head, a microfleece face guard over the front zipper, and a zipper garage to keep your facial hair from getting caught in the zipper teeth.
Velcro Wrist Cuffs
The Minimus Stretch Jacket has velcro adjustable wrist cuffs, another premium feature found on higher quality jackets instead of elastic cuffs. Velcro cuffs give you the ability to adjust the fit of the cuffs to match your personal dimensions and regulate the amount of heat trapped or vented from your wrist area. This becomes important in cooler, less temperate weather, when you need to be more proactive in regulating your temperature to reduce perspiration or to stay warm.
Hip belt Compatible Pockets
The Minimus Stretch has three pockets. One chest pocket, large enough to store a map or cell phone, and two side pockets, that are raised high enough up the torso to be hip belt compatible. All three pockets close with waterproof zippers, which is critical if you plan on hiking in the rain and need to keep electronics or maps dry.
The internal facing side of the chest pocket is backed by a solid nylon panel, which prevents torso perspiration and dampness with interfering with your electronics. The backs of the side pockets, are mesh backed however, providing some venting if you leave their zippers open. While not as effective as pit zips, they can help in reducing internal humidity and help dry you out faster than breathable fabrics alone.
Cinchable Hem Drawcord
There’s a cinchable hem drawcord at the bottom of the Minimus Stretch Jacket, which is another important temperature regulation feature in cooler weather and helps trap your body heat around your core. It’s particularly effective in windy weather, where errant breezes can sweep up below the hem and rob your heat.
The Minimus Stretch jacket runs about 1/2 size smaller than US sizes, because they prefer “fitted” garments more in the UK than in the US. While an XL still fits me, I can only wear a wool sweater under it for insulation, instead of a thicker fleece pullover.
If you’re a regular reader you know that I’m a skeptic when it comes to waterproof/breathable rain wear and the over-the-top claims made about how well it works. That said, I’ve been impressed with the Montane Minimus Stretch Jacket, particularly in term of its weight, comfort, and feature set after wearing it for the past several weeks on day hikes and backpacking trips. It compresses very small in a backpack and comes with an excellent factory DWR coating which beads up water hitting the jacket, so it rolls off. While the Minimus Stretch is not thick or warm enough for winter wear, it has a superior set of features and is well suited for summer and three-season hiking or backpacking. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better waterproof/breathable jacket than the Montane Minimus Stretch or one that’s so lightweight and comfortable to wear.
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