In the Pacific Northwest—and other rain-prone environments—our choice of puffy, insulating layers is limited. For serious outdoor use, down tends to drown and lose its effectiveness in our wet climate. Synthetic is the way to go because it retains its thermal properties even when damp. I’ve tried several such jackets over the years, but MontBell’s Thermawrap BC is my hands-down favorite.
I tested this warm, light, form-fitting jacket during January, one of the wettest and coldest months of the year, through dumping rain and temps that ranged from the 30s to the 50s. With synthetic Exceloft insulation in the torso area and sleeves (insulation where you need it) and six-inch wide stretchy fleece panels in the forearms and down the sides of the torso (breathability and mobility where you want it), the Thermawrap is designed for movement. When I snowshoed around the Twin Lakes in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Wilderness wearing the the Thermawrap as my outer layer over a a Capilene shirt, the 12-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon fended off rain, 35°F temps and gusts over 30 miles an hour. After 4 hours in this sloppy mix, I was dry except for damp spots on the shirt under the side panels.
The thin, fleece side panels vented almost like pit zips preventing my upper torso from excessive sweating, while wedges on the sleeves cooled my wrists where glove meets jacket. The fleece-lined insulated collar kept my neck cozy and warm. Giant chest and handwarmer pockets kept my GPS, camera and snacks thanks to chest and hand warmer pockets within easy reach.
I tested the upper temperature limits while running in the jacket on a super-rainy day in the low 50s. Not surprisingly, rain soaked the side panels from the outside and sweat from within. The side panels took a few hours to dry indoors, so if you ever do find yourself in a downpour, I’d advise wearing a waterproof shell over this jacket. The size is designed to be a close, athletic fit and act as a mid-layer in uberwet or –cold conditions. So if you straddle sizes, go smaller. Synthetic insulation translates into easy care—MontBell claims the DWR lasts up to 100 washes.
Bottom line: For active trips in unpredictable winter weather, this jacket delivers.