Over the past few years, I’ve gradually come round to the Pertex & Pile (double P) way of thinking. If you’re not familiar with the concept, this excellent article on Buffalo clothing is worth a look. In short though, you have a bombproof outer with a wicking liner and you wear the whole thing next to your skin – double P is not waterproof in the traditional sense, but is absurdly weatherproof and totally breathable.
I have a Buffalo Special 6 Mountain Shirt, a Montane Resolute Smock (technically not double P as it uses Epic rather than Pertex for the outer) and, until recently, a Buffalo Belay Jacket and the old Montane Extreme Smock. Following my accident in November, these last two were removed with scissors by the emergency services. Whilst thoroughly necessary – you can’t peel a smock off over seven broken ribs and a spinal injury – this was disappointing. On the plus side, this has given me an excuse to buy the new Montane Extreme Smock. I’m not saying it’s the most silvery of silver linings, but needs must…
So what do you get for your £130 RRP*? Obviously a there’s Pertex outer and a pile inner. There’s a renewable DWP finish on the outer – you need to re-proof with a spray-on rather than a wash-in as the pile inner won’t wick if you waterproof it. It comes in four different colour schemes – I got the one called Shadow because it’s called Shadow. The forearms and elbows are reinforced with ripstop Polardri and have D-rings for glove-clipping. There’s a kangaroo pouch on the chest and hand-warmer tunnel pocket below and behind that. A three-way adjustable hood is zipped to the deep collar, and a chest zip runs down to the pouch. For ingress, egress and ventilation, there are two-way zips on either side running from armpit to velcro-adjustable hem. For those of you who (like me) enjoying saying crotch-strap, there’s a removable crotch-strap. The techs and specs can be found on the Montane website. *Mine cost £119.99 from Ultra Light Outdoor Gear.
It’s going to be a while (basically, next winter) before this gets a full-bore outdoor test, so this is based just on initial try-on and a few physiotherapy circuits on the local streets in inclement weather. It’s inevitably also going to rely on comparison to and with the previous model and the Buffalo shirt.
The hood’s good – it adjusts much better than the previous version and it turns well with your head once cranked down (not tried it with a helmet yet, though). Montane run the volume adjusters along the back of the peak; I had a Superfly XT, the peak of which would just pivot up on the adjuster in high winds. Overall, the hood on the Extreme feels too solid to do this. It has a huge baffle for the lower half of your face, with plenty of scope for fine-tuning the down-battening and microfleece to make your chin happy. There are a couple of studs that fasten the two halves of the baffle out of the way – a nice touch there, Montane. Overall, the hood is a vast improvement on its previous incarnation and comes as standard (unlike Buffalo, where you need to buy separately).
The chest pocket is (I think) more capacious than the previous model – it’s rectangular where that was triangular. It’s less weatherproof though – the previous version had a velcro double flap and this has only a zip (with no flap). The Buffalo pocket does have a flap, but that spends most of its time caught in the zip, so swings and roundabouts there. The hand-warmer tunnel pocket is lined with microfleece, with mesh at the top to aid ventilation across your chest. It’s positioned to be clear of rucksack hip-belt or climbing harness. The zips for this pocket are protected by flaps and have glove-friendly pulls. The same is true of the 1/2 length chest zip. There’s a little pocket on the left upper-arm. I’ve yet to conceive of a use for it, but it’s not in the way.
As noted earlier, the inside edge of the sleeves is made from Polardri – a heavier, ripstop fabric – to resist abrasion when climbing. The Polardri is cunningly lined with mesh to prevent pile rucking up over your elbows and biceps. You either clip your gloves to your sleeves or you don’t; I don’t as I fret about catching the cords on something (such as climbing pro or an ice axe pick). Like the sleeve pocket, the D-rings aren’t in the way so needn’t deter you if they’re not your thing. The crotch strap comfortably stops the hem from climbing, and the attachment points are clever and don’t intrude when not in use (or in use for that matter).
There are velcro tabs to cinch in the fit on the lightly elasticated cuffs and on the hem. For me, the fit is really the only area where the Extreme Smock loses out to the Buffalo Mountain Shirt. Although much more closely-fitting than the previous model, it’s just not quite as snug as the Buffalo. I like all the features and the pile is more comfortable next to the skin, but the fit on the shirt is just that bit slimmer and Buffalo has cunningly concealed a strap inside the hand-warmer pocket to cinch things in even more snugly. I’m a fairly slender small on the Montane sizing scale, so if you’re…um…less slender, you’ll probably be fine. It’s really my only niggle, though, and it’s a small one.
Because I’m missing this winter season, I’ve not yet had the chance to wear this in anger. A brief trial in a heavy snow-flurry on one of my physiotherapy circuits leaves me in no doubt this will be as robust and weatherproof as my deceased smock. Last May, I walked the CRO Ingleborough Marathon over 9 hours and 37 minutes in what seemed like 10 hours of rain. Wearing the previous model, I was still warm and comfortable at the end of the day. During my ordeal in November, I spent seven hours motionless in that smock and a Buffalo Belay Jacket. Apparently my temperature dipped only a little during this time despite some horrific injuries, wind, rain and falling temperatures as night came on. Keep reading and I’ll let you know how this beast fares next winter, but it’s a top top and I reckon it will be brilliant (it’s a shame, therefore, that it’s not available in Montane’s women’s range).
Note: I purchased this kit with my own money and have not been sent a freebie for review – if I had I would state this clearly. Regular readers will see from the kit lists on my route pages that I use quite a lot of Montane kit.