After being pummeled by rain, cold, and wind during our arduous testing period, we came to some conclusions regarding this type of jacket. First, DWR treated nylon isn't a rain solution. It's more of a temporary buffer from light rain that performs quite well for a bit but once it starts to leak, you're going to get wet. Our testing revealed this to be a universal truth between the 9 jackets we tested. Not a single one kept us completely dry when out for a run in the rain.
Some jackets did keep us dry longer. The Montane, Patagonia, Arc'teryx, and OR all did as well as one could expect - considering these aren't rain jackets. We did find that the Montane isn't as suitable for situations where your heart is pounding and you are working extra hard. Those situations call on a jacket with better venting and breathability like the Outdoor Research Boost The lack of venting and breathability made for some humid and uncomfortable situations. Where the Featherlite 7 excelled was disappearing into our pocket or hydration pack and deploying when inclement weather threatened us. We believe the Featherlite 7 is unparalleled in emergency protection from the elements while remaining unnoticeably light in your pack.
Taking the Featherlite out for a spin.
Breathability and Venting
Our impression, running with the Featherlite 7, is that all of the weight savings comes at a price; a lack of venting. Montane stated that their Featherlite 7 would be, "At no compromise, gossamer weight jacket with a DWR finish and absolutely no extraneous features". Our response to that would be that they accomplished their mission.
This jacket has absolutely no extraneous features, the venting comes down to the wearer of the jacket controlling the wind flow with the zipper or just removing the jacket. In essence what Montane has made is a jacket not unlike the new supercars we see today with their all carbon fiber bodies, plastic windows, anything that can be ditched to save weight.
The Featherlite 7 Struggled to keep us dry on strenuous uphill battles. The lack of ventilation left us wanting some fresh air.
They don't even have cup holders or a radio! The same principles were used making the Montane. There is no venting, which would require extra stitching and heavier materials, no buttons or zippers to close the stuff pouch, all adding up to a jacket that weighs next to nothing but will double in weight when soaked in your sweat.
This is a rare shot of the Featherlight 7 completely zipped up. Typically, unless it was raining, we had to control breathability and venting by unzipping the jacket.
The hermetically sealed Featherlite 7 revealed its plethora of benefits when the weather tried to threaten our excursions. There was one other jacket in our review that could compete with the weight of the Montane Featherlite, that was the Nike Impossibly Light running jacket. The issue with the Nike was while it was still a heavier jacket, by .4 of an ounce, it offered nearly no protection from the wind and even the lightest rain. Our experience with the Montane was drastically different. It shed light rain with no problem and given that it has no openings or vents it had the best wind resistance of all jackets tested. Even though this was the thinnest jacket we tested by a long shot, our downhill wind isolation bike test highlighted the wind resistance of this jacket.
Even at 30 miles per hour with the material appearing to be painted on our skin, we could feel a dramatic difference between the Montane and the similar weight Nike Impossibly Light. By the time we had reached the bottom of the canyon on our bike wearing the Impossibly Light, we were dangerously cold. On the same day, in the same temperatures, while wearing the Montane we reached the bottom of the canyon feeling like we could take another lap and not risk life or limb.
As an emergency layer, we found this jacket to be unparalleled in its weight to protection ratio. While trail running, as soon as we popped over a ridge into 30 mph winds, we could mitigate the onslaught by donning our 1.5oz Montane. We found it strangely satisfying that we could have so much protection offered to us in such a tiny, lightweight package.
Comfort and Mobility
It was no mystery that Montane created this jacket with one goal in mind, to be the lightest layer possible to buffer wind and precipitation. We didn't test the jacket with this goal in mind. We tested this jacket as we did all of the others. We ran countless miles wearing the jacket, and carrying the jacket. We discovered several issues with the comfort of this piece.
Initially, according to the sizing chart on Montane's website, we went for a size large over the medium. We're glad we did because even the size large had some areas that were a bit snug. When our movement was restricted to a familiar running pattern, the fit was actually quite good. The issues arose when we deviated from the arms at the side position. When we had our arms overhead or outstretched in front of us, the arms of the jacket proved too short and the waist would ride up. This resulted in near constant adjustment of the jacket while we were moving. The half elastic cuffs on the wrists were far too tight and we had to force or hands through when putting on the jacket. This wouldn't have been too uncomfortable except the cuffs are a bit abrasive making their snug fit that much more uncomfortable. Their tight fit does, however, ensure a good seal against rain and wind.
The Montane Featherlite 7 had adequately sized arms, this is an important feature.
When we compare the Featherlite 7 to the second lightest jacket in the review, the Nike Impossibly Light, there really isn't a comparison. The Nike fits poorly. The forearms are so tight we couldn't pull the sleeves up more than a few inches before they were constricting our arms. The fit across the chest was also far too restrictive with the Nike. Even given the nagging issues of the Montane, if you're looking for the lightest jacket you can find for running, there is no comparison.
We awarded the Featherlite 7 the Top Pick Award for Portability. We found the weight, ease of packing/unpacking, and the ability to remove and don the jacket while moving to be superior to all others. When we read the estimated weight of the jacket before receiving it we found the 1.5oz estimation to be hard to believe. Once we began testing this jacket, we were abundantly surprised at how unnoticeably light it really is.
We found the Featherlite to be the most easily stowed of all garments tested. It didn't have an attachment point when stuffed into its hidden collar pouch but we had no issues finding places to stow the packed jacket. It fit perfectly inside the pocket of our Patagonia running shorts as well as any of the available stow pockets on our hydration vest.
Packs down to a minimal size!
Stuffing the jacket into the hidden pocket was also quite easy. Very similar to the Arc'teryx Incendo and the Patagonia Houdini in that the pocket used to store the jackets is the right size. This makes packing and unpacking easy and drama free whereas jackets like the Marmot DriClime Windshirt and the Salomon Agile have ill sized pockets and single sided zippers - making packing and unpacking the jacket a hassle.
The Featherlite 7 was incredibly light weight. At 1.6oz, it was in a league of its own as far as weight savings.
Day and Night Visibility
Our low light visibility test had this model struggling to perform. There is one reflective emblem on the left breast, one on the right shoulder and one on the middle low back. None of the emblems offer the same level of brightness as some of the other reflective jackets such as the OR Boost or the Arc'teryx Incendo.
Our distracted driver had a hard time seeing the tester walking across the street in low light conditions. During twilight and daylight hours, however, we felt like the Montane provided adequate visibility. The jacket was a transparent burnt orange color and a fairly shiny material aiding in how visible it was.
The Featherlight 7 didn't have the best reflective material for nighttime visibility. The daytime visibility was excellent.
We found the Featherlite 7 to be best suited as a buffer from the elements at critical times. It isn't as well suited to be an all day running jacket as some of its more breathable counterparts such as the Outdoor Research Boost or the Arc'teryx Incendo. The incredibly light weight and clever storage pouch make this jacket suited for handy storing and quick deployment. The bottom line is the weight is 1.6oz which might as well be nothing.
The Featherlite 7 isn't cheap. The retail price tag is a hefty $160. The pessimist would look at that and say, "You're paying $99.34 per ounce of material." The optimist would say, "Anything that performs this well and weighs only 1.6oz is worth whatever they ask." We lean towards the latter. The performance of this jacket compared to how minuscule the weight makes the jacket very enticing. Shop around; we have seen this jacket in certain sizes on sale at times. If you have the money, the Featherlite 7 is an impressive jacket.
The Montane Featherlite 7 is unmatched in weight savings. The bottom line is that the Montane doesn't breathe as well as its heavier competitors because it forgoes the extra material needed for vents or more breathable stretch panels. The result is a jacket that has superior portability and still retains the essential properties we need in a running jacket.