Come New Year the television is full of adverts for sofas, holidays and losing weight. I appreciate that over the festive season we all put on a few pounds, and I was made aware of this very fact when I visited a local outdoors retailer to take advantage of the January sales. One of the bargains to be had was the Montane Extreme Smock, which I’d been eying some time back as a potential replacement for a Buffalo style smock which I’d had for some time. There was one green one remaining, my preferred colour, size M. Normally I take a large size, but smocks are usually generously cut, so I was hopeful this would fit. My hopes were dashed however, as it was simply too tight. That left the red and black option, which was available in a range of sizes. I was confident the large would fit and was shocked to find my middle constricted. With a sense of shame I reached for the Extra Large and tried it. The arms were fine but the middle was still a touch too tight. The large chest pocket has a spare strap in it, and yet it felt full. ‘I’ll make do’ I thought but wearing it at home reinforced the thought, it was still too small. There was only one thing remaining, an XXL. Double Extra Large! My waist varies, but is usually around the 34” mark so I was gobsmacked. These smocks do seem to be made on the tight side. A visit to the store proved fruitless, however they tried to source a XXL for me, eventually arranging to have the only remaining one brought from Inverness. Unfortunately by the time a stock check had taken place the XXL had gone, and I resolved to start the diet earlier this year! Bear all that in mind if you are going to buy it via mail order or online be aware that it may be small made and you may wish to check the returns policy.
Having got that off my chest, how does it perform?
The Montane Extreme Smock is similar in design to the Buffalo Smock, a popular choice for an insulating layer in the military. A pertex outer, a pile inner, zip up sides, a chest pocket with pile lined handwarmer pocket behind it, and a velcro panel on the neck to attach a pertex and pile hood. It’s a design which is so simple, and efficient that little has changed over the years, and after using it for only a few weeks I can see why.
The pertex outer works brilliantly, even in heavy showers. My old Buffalo copy lacked the hood, and that was possibly its only weak point. The hood on this is effective, if bulky. As it attached with velcro I thought it would have a tendency to partially come away from the jacket if it snags on something, but I’ve found that it is a fairly secure . It is well shaped though and holds the shape well. Many jackets are let down with a poorly designed hood, a charge which can’t be levelled at this one. This is pile lined, with a wired rim and elasticated cord volume adjusters which are retained in sleeves which prevent them slapping you to death in strong winds, and once adjusted it remained snug and moved well with my head.
The arms have reinforced elbows and D-rings to attach gloves to. As someone who has watched his unsecured glove whipped away on a Munro summit in a high wind that’s another plus point. There are two two-way zips on each side, which can be loosed to get the jacket on and off or to vent the jacket if you are too hot. A final feature is a detachable belay strap, which attaches with a velcro fitting at one end and a fastex clip at the other, a handy and effective feature if you wear the jacket along with a climbing harness. If you don’t use it, it detaches completely.
In all my years using a similar jacket I’d never really considered wearing it while hillwalking, I see it more as a jacket to wear when I’m going to be static for long periods or when I’m not going to be working up too much of a sweat, and initiallt that was how I tested it. However on a recent trip, with my first choice jacket away for repair the Montane Extreme was pressed into action. So how did it fare? The forecast was for extreme cold, and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. I started off wearing a merino wool base layer and the Montane smock, but quickly overheated. While cold, it was sunny with no rain or snow, so the smock went in the rucksack for the ascent, however at the top the wind was biting cold, too cold for just a thin layer of wool. I had read that some people wear this type of jacket with no base layer, and with the temperature well below zero I decided to put it to the test, and managed to get the merino layer off and the Montane Smock on without turning completely blue. And on it stayed for the rest of the day. If I was too hot I opened up the zips, if it cooled, and oh did it cool, I closed the zips. At the end of the day I found the pile at the base of my back was damp, but show me any layering system that doesn’t.
The Montane Extreme Smock is very adaptable as a cold weather all round jacket, the pertex outer meaning I don’t have to reach for a hard shell every time a spot of drizzle appears. It’s weight and bulk are something to consider, especially if it is not going to be worn but carried in a rucksack, as it does require a bit of room, but in my view it excels at what it does. If you are looking for a smock which will give you years of good service, and performs well in cold, windy conditions, you would be advised to give this smock serious consideration.
Manufacturers claimed weight: 1020g
Tested Weight: 1020g
Price: RRP £120, available for around £80