Montbell EX Light Down Anorak Hoody Review

Montbell EX Light Down Anorak Hoody review

The Montbell EX Light Down Anorak is an ultralight 900-fill power, down sweater that’s ideal for wearing around camp, during water and snack breaks, or paired with a top quilt for sleeping. Weighing 9.0 oz (in a size XL), the styling is simple but functional, with a half zipper, adjustable hood, and elastic wrist cuffs. There are also two side pockets (without zippers) that join in the middle, kangaroo-style, allowing you to warm your hands together. Elastic hem adjusters are also 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: 9.0 oz XL (7.6 in a size medium)
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Insulation: 900 fill power down (3.0 oz of fill)
  • Fabric: 7 denier ballistic ripstop nylon with DWR coating

When would you pack and wear an insulated anorak hoody like this? I like bringing one on spring and autumn trips, as an extra thermal layer for when I’m cooking food or hanging out in camp since I get very chilled when I stop hiking. It also makes a nice piece to augment a backpacking quilt, especially one that doesn’t have a draft collar around the neck, helping to seal the quilt around your shoulders and neck while 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 by delayering. I think a lightweight 100 weight fleece is a far better garment to wear when you’re exerting yourself because it isn’t as warm, it’s wicking and highly breathable and will continue to insulate you if it gets damp from perspiration.

The new hood adjustment features greatly enhance the jacket’s head warmth
The new hood adjustment features greatly enhance the jacket’s head warmth

Fully Adjustable Hood

While the EX Light Down’s hood is large enough to wear over a climbing helmet, it’s also fully adjustable with a rear volume reducer and chin toggles so you can reduce the size of the opening and block wind from chilling your head and neck. This is a welcome change from the previous version of this product when the hood was not adjustable and sized for a climbing helmet, not a human head.

There are two new chin toggles that control the size of the face opening, so you can block wind from whistling in the sides of the hood. They’re controlled by two cords located inside the coat and located at collar bone height. There’s also a velcro tab on the back of the hood that reduces the height of the hood and its interior volume.

The hood has a velcro tab that can be used to reduce its volume
The hood has a velcro tab that can be used to reduce its volume

Unfortunately, many down jackets and parkas don’t have adjustable hoods anymore because they cost more for manufacturers to outfit and sew. 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. Elasticated hood openings are usually oversized, resulting in lost warmth.

Sewn Through Construction

The baffles on the EX Light Anorak are sewn-through, meaning that the perimeter of each down square is sewn through the jacket, so you have the potential for cold spots along the seams. I don’t think sewn-construction is unreasonable on this garment, however, because it’s easily remedied by layering a 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 mid-layer, like a fleece pullover can also mitigate any cold spots.

The wrist cuffs are elastic and effective in preventing drafts
The wrist cuffs are elastic and snug enough to prevent drafts

7 Denier Fabric

I’ve owned a number of insulated Montbell Jackets over the years and while their lightweight 7 denier shells are down proof, wind-resistant 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 at the highest wear points, particularly at the wrist cuffs. It’s also remarkably easy to slice through the fabric with an ice ax 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. You can often tell an experienced hiker from an inexperienced one by the number of tenacious tape patches on his or her insulated outerwear!

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 or the actual amount of down insulation included, which also varies by size.

Make / ModelZipperFill PowerWeight oz.Adjustable HoodPrice
Outdoor Research Baja Down PulloverHalf-Zip8009.2Y249
Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody PulloverHalf-Zip80014.4Volume only249
Montbell EX Light AnorakHalf-Zip9007.6Y299
Outdoor Research Illuminate Down HoodyFull Zip80011.8Y269
Marmot Quasar Nova HoodyFull Zip80010.9N285
Feathered Friends EOS PulloverFull Zip90010.6N339
Arcteryx Cerium SL HoodyFull Zip8507.6Y349
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down HoodyFull Zip8008.8N325
Arcteryx Cerium LT HoodyFull Zip85010.8N379
Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash JacketFull Zip85010.3N390
PHD Yukon Pullover KHalf-Zip100012N532
Rab Zero G Down JacketFull Zip100011N550

Recommendation

The Montbell EX Light Anorak is a fantastic insulation layer that’s exceptionally warm, lightweight and highly compressible since it is insulated with 900 fill power goose down. It’s perfect as a warm layer for 3 season use when you’re sleeping or less active and want to ward off a chill.

As mentioned earlier, this garment is an updated and improved version of the Montbell EX Light Anorak. The biggest change between the older model and the current one is the addition of a fully adjustable hood, including the ability to adjust the side of the face opening and the hood’s interior volume. The current model is also heavier, increasing from 7.65 oz in a men’s XL to 9.0 oz, with an increase in the amount of down insulation from 2.6 oz to 3.0 oz. The new hood control and added weight are totally worth it though and elevate the Montbell EX Light Anorak to best-in-class status among lightweight insulated jackets. I’ll definitely be taking this Anorak as my insulation layer when I hike across Scotland (again) next May.

Highly recommended!

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

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11 comments

  1. Looks like a really nice piece of gear. I think Anoraks are super for sleeping in. If your bag has a hood and then you have the anorak’s hood, you can sleep toasty warm. In the end though, I prefer the jacket style with a full zip. The zip allows one to vent and makes the garment far more flexible.

    HJ

    • But most jackets are a lot heavier….which is pointless weight because you can’t hike in them because they’re too warm.

      • But could you hike in it in colder weather because a full zip offers more ventilation possibilities?

      • Theoretically. It really depends on the amount of insulation in the jacket, your exertion level, the outside temp, and whether you run hot or cold. This anorak will keep you warm well below freezing when standing still. I would be drenched in sweat if I used an equivalent jacket with a full zipper, even if it was opened. Excessive sweating is bad in winter.

  2. An interesting parka with a lot of features. Under a GTX mountain parka I think it would be good down to well below 0 F.

    BTW, LL Bean sells a very similar parka, the Men’s Ultralight 850 Big Baffle down parka. Bean says it is good to -35 F. but that would have to be when you are moving, such as snowshoeing.
    It sells for $299. which for 850 fill DWR treated down is a good buy, especially given Bean’s guarantee.

  3. Looks good. I’m happy with the OR Baja I bought my wife and I after reading your positive review.

  4. A few thoughts on the previous version, since I’ve owned it for a couple years now:

    1- the down migrates. Not sure why Montbell left holes between their baffles, as the only real result is down moving on its own and being very difficult to redistribute. Maybe they were going for slight mitigation of the effect of fully sewn-through baffles, but the end result is any rain makes the down clump and more easily migrate, then having a bare spot that’s cold. I have spots on mine that are essentially bare of down, and I’m sure I can take some time to redistribute and fluff- but it’s a pretty obnoxious “feature.” Hope they fully sewed baffles on this new one.

    2- the fabric is very “clingy” on bare skin. If you’re hiking in a short sleeved shirt, stop for a break and are sweaty or wet at all it’s actually quite hard to pull it on or off over wet skin. Dunno, maybe more arm hair would work as a “breaker layer” against the friction? It being an anorak that has to go over your whole torso does nothing to help this.

    3- it’s not warm enough. Of course subjective, and this is for the previous version (which Philip does call out as having slightly less fill,) but I found it to be noticeably chilly compared to even a similar weight fleece. So much so that I would not use it as a warm layer out backpacking- there’s no real benefit to carrying the admittedly light weight if it’s colder than a slightly heavier (~2 oz) fleece anorak. There’s too much chance of it getting even colder if the down moves and besides- as Philip noted, the face fabric is extremely delicate.

    Maybe this new version takes care of those issues, but if not I wouldn’t recommend it. Super light but finicky.

    • This anorak is a heck of a lot warmer than any fleece I own! I’ve worn it down to zero and stayed plenty warm. I haven’t noticed any down migration either. But it is a bit crinkly sounding when you put it on.

      • I guess the only way we’ll ever know for sure is to have Montbell send me one of the new version and test back to back, ha.

        If you’re comfortable down to zero these must be different beasts altogether, mine brand new was not comfortable even close to freezing- and that was before my geese went south. Glad it works for you; if anyone reading this is interested in purchasing my ultralight death-trap for very reasonable rates let me know…..

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