montane-phase-xt-jacket-andy-perkins

Kit & Gear

REVIEW: Montane Phase XT & Anti-Freeze XT Jackets

We asked renowned British Mountain Guide, Andy Perkins, to review the Montane Phase GORE-TEX XT and Montane Anti-Freeze XT jackets.

I’ve worked as a mountain guide for over twenty years, based year round in Chamonix. In a normal year, I work on skis from mid-December through to mid-May in a variety of locations in the European Alps and Arctic latitudes. I do some lift served off-piste, but the majority of my work involves ski touring in some form: side country with lift assistance, day touring from hotels or boats and classic hut to hut touring up to 6 days at a time. I do a few days of ice climbing/winter mountaineering in this period. Locations vary but can be Scotland, Norway, or the Alps.

In summer I work from early June through to mid-September in the alpine regions, mostly on basic and intermediate mountaineering courses, but increasingly multi pitch mountain rock climbing as the effects of climate change start to affect the mountains more and more significantly. In the autumn I have started to guide glacier treks and intro level mountaineering in the Antarctic Peninsula, based off cruise ships.

My height is 170cm, chest is 94cm and my ape index is -4cm

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Pictured: Andy wearing the Montane Phase GORE-TEX XT Jacket

Photo credit: Darren Sheppard

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Before Use: My habitual shell piece is an Arc’teryx FL, thanks to my association with the brand via the British Mountain Guides and the Arc’teryx Academy, a marketing event held annually in Chamonix. On first impression, the Montane Phase XT feels heavier, bulkier and more robust. I thought it might be more of a generous fit, but on first wearing it, it felt tight across the shoulders. The arms were a bit long on me, perhaps by 3-4cm. The cuffs feel considerably more bulky than the Arc’teryx FL. The colour is great, very visible for clients and cameras.

My habitual outer insulation piece is an Arc’teryx Atom Hoody, which I usually wear as a belay jacket over my outer shell. On first impression, the Anti-Freeze XT looks and feels bigger, bulkier and warmer. I would normally pick much brighter colours than navy blue. Because I often wear the insulation piece on the outside, I would be concerned about using down as opposed to a synthetic fill, even if the down is supposedly water resistant.

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Pictured: Andy wearing the Montane Phase GORE-TEX XT Jacket

Photo credit: Darren Sheppard

First impressions In Use: I was winter climbing in Scotland with a private client from 6 to 10 March. I took both the Phase and the Anti-Freeze with me every day. The first day was windy and cloudy but with very little precipitation. Standard good Scottish weather, in other words. The next 4 days were clear, cold and windless, with freezing down to valley level every night. I also took the Phase XT on 2 weeks of ski touring in March in the Silvretta, Austria. The weather was 50% reasonable and 50% dreadful. The last day in Silvretta was full-Scottish for 4 hours. In Scotland I wore the Phase XT every day with underlayers of a thermal top, a mid layer sleeveless onesie, a midlayer hooded top, and a synthetic insulated jacket. It stood up to the rough and tumble of Scottish winter climbing up grade V. In particular, the fit of the hood was excellent over a Petzl Sirocco helmet. The one piece of critical feedback I have is the position of the pockets. The waist belt of a harness goes exactly halfway across the zip line, so anything in them becomes impossible to access. The Arc’teryx FL has two chest pockets, much more useful in a jacket designed specifically for climbing. This would be a deal breaker for me.

Personally, I never use pit zips, so that weight and cost could be saved. When skiing, I wore one or two layers less under the Phase XT. Most of the skiing was non-glacial so the harness issue did not arise. I felt very protected by the jacket, especially the last day when the weather was feisty.

By that stage I’d also figured out the volume reduction on the hood, so it also worked well with just a beanie on my head. I am one of the few skiers I know who doesn’t wear a helmet.

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Pictured: Andy wearing the Montane Phase GORE-TEX XT Jacket

Photo credit: Colin Godbold

The Anti-Freeze fits well over the Phase XT, and was very warm and cosy when stopping for a brew outside the CIC hut, or on the summit of Ben Nevis. I couldn’t take it ski touring as I wanted a slightly smaller piece. My 35 litre pack is stuffed to the brim on these trips. I’ll take it to Norway in April and May when I’ll be day touring in non-glacial terrain.

Impressions after 2 months use:

In April and May 2023, I was on guiding assignments in Arctic Norway and Svalbard, ski touring from sea level to around 1000m. As per normal in spring at high latitudes, we had the full gamut of weather, from blizzards with hero snow powder on a firm base through sleet to bright sunshine and spring snow, with the odd breezy day.

I selected the Phase XT for its proven robustness, and at low altitudes like this in feisty conditions, it’s worth accepting a bit of extra weight for the guarantee of staying warm and dry.

Having said back in March that I never use pit zips, I found them very useful on a couple of sleety days in Norway. Skinning uphill at an average rate with sleet in the air and the odd gust of wind, they were much appreciated. Old dogs – new tricks – ha ha!

The jacket is looking good after nearly 3 months use and a couple of washes with Nikwax Tech Wash.

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Pictured: Lisa Allwood does all her own stunts!

Photo credit: Ray Allwood

There’s discolouration in the small of the back where my pack has been pressing. The stain, about 20cm in diameter, is on both sides of the GORE-TEX.

Does it affect the waterproofing? Can I see it? Can anyone else see it when I’ve got my pack on?

No to all of those questions, so why worry?

I wore the Antifreeze quite a few times over the Phase. Not necessarily because it was that cold, but as the season goes on, I lose my reserves and need artificial insulation a bit more! It was certainly comforting to be able to bang on an extra layer and instantly feel the benefit.

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Pictured: Andy wearing the Montane Anti-Freeze Hooded Down Jacket

Photo credit: Massimo Candolini

On one occasion in Svalbard, it was very windy with sleet and snow showers.

While one client took 5 minutes to take some layers off, add a fleece and then put the same layers back on again, I took thirty seconds to put on the Antifreeze without losing any precious warmth. The surface of the shell fabric got slightly damp but I didn’t feel like the insulation was affected by the sleet. It dried instantly once I was back on board.

On return to Chamonix, I noticed a few feathers coming through the outer shell fabric. I consider this perfectly normal for a lightweight down-filled insulation piece like this and it’s of no concern.

Overall: The Phase XT is a good piece for general mountaineering and skiing, slightly marred by the pocket position. The Anti- Freeze XT is a good insulation layer for winter climbing and skiing.

SHOP ALL MONTANE PHASE GORE-TEX XT JACKETS NOW

SHOP ALL MONTANE ANTI-FREEZE XT JACKETS NOW

Andy Perkins is a renowned British Mountain Guide with 40 years experience of climbing and skiing, with over 20 of those years as a guide.

Visit his website here for more information.

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