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.
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.
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.
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 / Model||Zipper||Fill Power||Weight oz.||Adjustable Hood||Price|
|Outdoor Research Baja Down Pullover||Half-Zip||800||9.2||Y||249|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody Pullover||Half-Zip||800||14.4||Volume only||249|
|Montbell EX Light Anorak||Half-Zip||900||7.6||Y||299|
|Outdoor Research Illuminate Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||11.8||Y||269|
|Marmot Quasar Nova Hoody||Full Zip||800||10.9||N||285|
|Feathered Friends EOS Pullover||Full Zip||900||10.6||N||339|
|Arcteryx Cerium SL Hoody||Full Zip||850||7.6||Y||349|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||8.8||N||325|
|Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody||Full Zip||850||10.8||N||379|
|Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket||Full Zip||850||10.3||N||390|
|PHD Yukon Pullover K||Half-Zip||1000||12||N||532|
|Rab Zero G Down Jacket||Full Zip||1000||11||N||550|
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.
Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with an anorak for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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