My hands are in my pockets, I’m not that out of shape. Anyway, no suspense, to skipping to the end to see what the conclusion is, this is the Montane Ice Guide Jacket which I absolutely adore and now I’ll tell you why.
Despite its technical application, it has a subtlety about it does the Ice Guide, especially in the black version I got in for test. I don’t wear much outdoor gear for casual use, but the Ice Guide has been an exception, smooth lines, non-shiny and utterly practical. I’ve hardly had the thing off my back whatever it is I’ve been doing.
The fit and features are what make it so usable, the aesthetics are just a bonus, and when it comes to listing this stuff, it takes a while.
The cut of the Ice Guide is active and athletic, below you can see the slim lines, how neat it is around the shoulders and how the hem is staying where it is with my arms up. This neat fit does a couple of things worth a mention. In my regular size large the Ice Guide is a perfect fit over a t-shirt, a base layer, a base and light mid or at a squeeze I can get a light shell under there too but it’s starting to get tight and the Primaloft in the Ice Guide is getting compressed which you don’t want as it compromises insulation. So what I’me saying is, the sizing is perfect for wearing, but if you’re thinking of it as a throw-over top layer belay jacket, think about sizing up one from your regular size, the XL is just a sensible size gap away.
Another thing is efficiency, when I wear the Ice Guide there’s no air gaps between me and it and the fill is fully lofted, add in the soft PEAQ inner fabric and the jacket is warm, you get instant feedback against bare skin making it a joy to pull on when you want to be warm right here, right now.
The Insulation is Primaloft ECO, 170g all over with 210g on the chest. It’s soft and compressible and insulates very well, the hood is fully filled with it and the pockets are all behind some of it, although the pocket bags don’t extend all the way through the fill, so you don’t bleed heat if you leave the pockets open.
Not so visible in the photies is a welcome feature, the tail has a nice scoop to it giving an extra bit of coverage to a much maligned area of your person.
The pockets are many. There’s two large handwarmers with chunky zips with zipper garages. The pockets bags are made from the PEAQ fabric and are well secured, so cold or wet hands can slip in and out without issue with sticking or pulling the pocket outside in. The two outer chest pockets have neat hidden zipped entries and a well placed for the quick stashing of bits and pieces. It’s part of the reason I’ve been wearing the Ice Guide so much: utility.
There’s another zipped inner pocket which has been handy and all the zippers have easily gripped zip pulls, including the main front zip which has a nice wee rubber/cord loop on it.
The hood is a cracker, fully insulated and well fitted with great protection. The peak is wired and stiffened and the captured drawcord adjuster at the back reduces volume and pulls the hood onto your head without pulling the hood back from your face. Movement is good, as nice as the yellow hood lining is you don’t have to stare at it when you look left or right.
The chin has a microfleece panel which protects from your nose down past your chin and incorporates a big zipper garage for the main zip where there’s also a popper for extra security. It’s worth mentioning that the main zip has a large stormflap with antisnag tape and some insulation built in.
There’s drawcord adjustment for the face with the captured cordlocks at your cheeks and the cord ends inside, in a little channel where the end down at your neck. This is my one question mark, while it’s perfectly possible to adjust the cord when the jacket’s zipped up to your nose, it’s fiddly with gloves to hide the loops of cord after tightening, so I unzip the jacket and pull from inside instead. It’s a trade off, keep the neat outer and hide potentially swinging cord ends but make the adjustment slightly fiddly.
Below you can see the nice 3D shape of the hood inner, but just below that is what I want to talk about. Ignore the square velcro ended tab for rolling up the hood, these things are always rubbish and need the application of scissors. The horizontal dark section is an insulated baffle like you get at the shoulders in a sleeping bag. When you leave the hood down this little baffle acts as a mini collar, helping to plug the gap and keep the heat sealed in. It’s a wee touch of genius.
Elsewhere we have velcro adjustable and semi-elasticated cuffs and an adjustable hem with two captured drawcords. There’s subtle reflective detailing here and there too.
The fabric is last but far from least, the inner PEAQ I’ve mentioned already, a lovely soft fabric which also dries quickly. The outer shell is Pertex Microlight Stretch which is interesting in the way it stretches, it’s not really two or four way, it’s kind of sideways and very hard to explain. If you pull in the direction of the weave the fabric is solid, pull at it at an angle and it stretches. It’s not something you notice when you wear it, but when you look at it, it looks like it might be a good combination of strength and flexibility. Certainly the Ice Guide is wearing well, it’s been scraped off ice, rocks and trees as well as all sorts of urban horrors and its as good as new after a few rub-downs. I haven’t washed it yet, I’m putting that off as long as I can, but I’ll report back on it.
There’s some reinforcement which you can see as the shinier fabric on the forearms in the photie below, it’s Pertex Microlight Mini-Rip-Stop and actually just feels like old-school Pertex which is nice.
Pertex is a reliably good performer and here is no exception. The first real task for the Ice Guide was on a bitterly cold day on Ben Lui where wet snow plastered the front of it (and soon the back of it on the retreat…) but never penetrated through the shell and dried off nice and quick when the snow stopped. After that confidence booster the Ice Guide became a go-to crap weather jacket. It’s warm, but over a t-shirt perfectly wearable if you’re active in the cold, and also still a great rest stop insulator. It covers a lot of options, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
My size large sample comes in a 824g which is a hike up on the 635g for a medium on the website, but in a rolltop stuff sack it packs down well and on cold wet days where down might be vulnerable, it’s a no-brainer to pack the Ice Guide. Comfort and joy before anything.
The bottom line is that the Ice Guide is a great cold and/or crap weather jacket, it’s tough, practical, good looking, sewn together from the best of materials and performs brilliantly.