Wearing an insulated waterproof jacket for anything more active than sedate walks or cold weather belays used to be the recipe for a hot and uncomfortable sweat-fest. In Autumn 2014 however, there is set to be a new contender on the scene, which promises to make such miseries a thing of the past…
Bringing together two hyper-breathable technologies in one garment for the first time; Montane bring us the Axion Neo Alpha Jacket. Warning: today’s First Look is a real ‘geek out’ post. As a self-confessed gear geek, it’s also one of my favourite pieces from the entirety of our recent buying trip to Montane, Rab, Mountain Equipment and Marmot!
Combining ‘hyper breathable’ Polartec NeoShell fabric on the outside, with 100g hyper breathable Polartec Alpha insulation within, the Montane Axion also features a zoned ‘PEAQ Hyper’ mesh liner which is, according to Montane, also (rather predictably) hyper breathable. Having tested Polartec Alpha and NeoShell garments by Montane in the past, I have experienced first-hand quite how impressively breathable the two technologies are, worn both separately and together, so it does seem like a logical step on the part of Montane to bring the two together in a single jacket.
Trying on the Montane Axion Neo Alpha jacket in the Montane Showroom.
Moving on to garment fit and features, the Neo Alpha is, in the words of the manufacturer, a ‘hyper breathable insulated mountain jacket’. As such it is packed with all the features you’d need on an alpine mountaineering or ski-mountaineering mission. These include technical tailoring that allows the wearer to raise their arms without the accompanying hem-lift, and fully articulated elbows for freedom of movement while climbing. The hood is fully adjustable and helmet compatible, with a wire-stiffened peak to keep out driving rain and snow. A removable internal snow skirt is also provided to keep out powder or spindrift, in windproof PEAQ Synthetic fabric with a waterproof NeoShell front placket.
Montane Axion 2014. It’s hyper breathable.
In terms of pockets, the Axion has two deep hand-warmer pockets positioned above the line of harnesses or rucksack waist belts, a left sleeve pocket for ski pass / similar bits and bobs, and two internal mesh pockets; one zippered, one open-topped for a bottle. The center front zip is of the 2-way YKK Aqua Guard VISLON design, offering very high water-resistance and a smooth zipping action. It is also backed up by an internal storm flap to catch any drips that might make it through. Pockets are secured by YKK Aqua Guard, PU-coated zips.
The Axion, hood-up (but poorly adjusted). Note helmet compatibility and YKK Aqua Guard VISLON centre zip.
Final little details include brushed microfleece on the inside of the collar and roll-top chin guard, adjustable Velcro cuffs with glove-friendly ‘grab tabs’, and Montane’s patented ‘penny cordlocks’ on the lower hem to provide low-profile adjustability. I could go on to list additional details about the seam taping, zip pulls and stitch counts… but I don’t want to stray too far into boringland. I’ll just say this – it looks like the designers have thought of everything in their typically techy Montane way. The pre-production Axion that I tried on, was a size Medium, which rather unexpectedly for a Montane jacket, was a bit too large for me. In fact it turns out, according to our Montane rep., Chris, that Montane’s typically ‘athletic’ fit is being revised for the autumn/winter 2014 season, so that the larger amongst us can experience the joys of wearing Montane clothing. Dependant on style, different garments in the Montane line will be available in ‘High Mountain’ – Tailored to fit over bulky insulation; ‘Active mountain’ – General mountain fit, which can be made closer fitting through adjustment; ‘Athletic Mountain’ – Montane’s closer fit designed to be worn over lighter underlayers; and ‘Classic Mountain’ – A more relaxed, general fit. The Axion Neo Alpha has the High Mountain fit, hence why a small (my size in other outdoor brands), would be my size in the Montane Axion.
Here’s a recap of the technical details of the Montane Axion Neo Alpha Jacket for the skim-readers:
Outer: Polartec NeoShell Light waterproof breathable fabric
Insulation: 100g Polartec Alpha throughout body, arms and hood
Fit: ‘High Mountain’ – to be worn over bulky insulation pieces
Hood: 3-point adjust, helmet compatible
Center Zip: YKK Aqua Guard VISLON with internal storm flap
Pockets: 2 A-line, harness compatible YKK Aqua Guard hand pockets / 1 YKK Aqua Guard sleeve pocket / 1 internal mesh zip pocket, 1 mesh bottle pocket
Cuffs: Velcro with grab tabs
Lower Hem: Adjustable with ‘penny cordlocks’ / internal removable snow skirt
Weight: 980g (Men’s Medium)
RRP: £360 In conclusion, the Montane Axion Neo Alpha Jacket is a heavily-featured and innovative all-mountain insulated shell, which would appeal to mountaineers, ski-tourers and general snowsports enthusiasts. For the features and tech that it offers, the £360 price tag seems reasonable, especially if it can live up to the promise of its two Polartec technologies. I’m looking forward to conducting some real tests in the future!