Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Grid Jacket Review
Cons: Expensive, tighter fit in the sleeves
Manufacturer: Mountain HardWear
Our Analysis and Test Results
Comfort and Coziness
With its high loft monkey Phur, the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid is cozy and touchable inside and out. Although it's not quite as soft as the Patagonia R2 or the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman, the Monkey Grid will definitely make you want to snuggle up. When designing this fleece, Mountain Hardwear decided to use a body-mapped design, incorporating stretch fleece instead of monkey Phur under the arms, over the upper torso, and on the hood, all of which boost the jacket's technical appeal. This fleece also features a garaged zipper, cozy thumb loops that keep the sleeves in place, and hand pockets lined with monkey Phur for added comfort. We'll talk about this more during our discussion of style and fit, but we wanted to note here that the sleeves run fairly tight in this model, which decreased the overall comfort a bit.
Made of Polartec® High Loft Grid Monkey Phur™, the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket traps heat while still breathing beautifully. Thanks in part to its hood, thumb loops, and waist hem draw cord, this fleece seals in heat quite well. Although the hood makes this fleece more versatile, we were a little disappointed at how baggy it was. Instead of really hugging the face and moving with the head, the hood sort of floats above the head, making it a bit awkward to fit under a helmet.
Additionally, the hood only zips up to below the chin, unlike the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's and the Patagonia R1 Hoody, which both offer built-in balaclavas. Overall, this fleece kept our testers toasty (plus it's super compressible), but we would love to see a more snug hood.
Unlike the Monkey Woman Fleece, the Monkey Grid Jacket breathes surprisingly well. Its high loft Phur is constructed in a grid similar to the Patagonia R1's Regulator Fleece grid design. This allows the fleece to wick moisture away from the body more effectively. Additionally, this fleece has mesh-lined pockets for increased ventability. We tested the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid on jogs and while doing high intensity activities like skiing and were very happy with its breathability. For a slightly more breathable fleece, check out the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the Patagonia R2, which both earned top marks in our breathability scoring metric.
Layering Ability & Ease of Movement
A slim-fitting mid-layer, the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket fits easily under a shell. Although it will also tuck into pants or under a harness, it has somewhat bulky plastic draw cords (which sit at the waist hemline) that can get pushed uncomfortably into the skin. On the other hand, Mountain Hardwear constructed this fleece with stretch fabric under the arms and on the hood to allow for maximum movement. As we mentioned before, the hood is a bit baggy, which makes it a little more difficult to layer under a helmet. Furthermore, the arms on this fleece ran so tight that most of our testers couldn't wear a long-sleeved layer underneath. Although the size small fit our 5'6" 125 lb tester well in the torso, she had to size up to get extra movement in her arms.
Wind & Water Protection
Like the high loft Regulator fabric on the Patagonia R2, the monkey Phur on the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket repels water quite effectively. Rather than absorbing water, this fabric causes the droplets to bead up and roll off. The stretch fleece on the hood also has a similar effect. However, like most of the fleeces we reviewed, this one provided hardly any protection from the wind. On the plus side, this fleece does have a wind flap behind the zipper to provide a bit of extra wind protection.
Style & Fit
We thought this fleece was fairly comparable in style to the Patagonia R2, since both combine high loft fleeces with panels of stretchier, more techy-looking fabrics. However, we liked the slimmer torso cut of the Mountain Hardwear fleece much better than the R2, which has a boxier, shorter cut. We tested a size small and found that while the torso fit great, the shoulders and sleeves ran a bit tight. The sleeve length, however, was just about right.
A technical piece that's still cozy, this model can be used around-town or for high intensity activities in the mountains. Combining its grid fleece design, which breathes extremely well, with the stretch fabric under the arms, this fleece allows you to go climbing, skiing, or running in comfort and style. Although the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket did not rate as highly as our Editors' Choice or Top Pick Winner, it's important to remember that the competition in this review was stiff. This fleece is still a great option for all sorts of outdoor activities.
One of the most expensive fleeces in this review, this jacket has a $190 price tag. For a similar piece, that performs even better and costs less, consider the Patagonia R2. Or if you really want a technical fleece with a hood, the Patagonia R1 also rings up at $30 less than this model.
— Amanda Fenn