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Pat Kinsella

Montane Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket review: featherlight, weatherproof 3-layer shell

Montane Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket review.

Montane Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket review in a sentence: This Gore-Tex–armed outer layer stows away into a small, light and easy-to-carry package when not in use but performs a big, important job with quiet confidence when called into action.

As every outdoorsy person on the planet will tell you, the secret to staying comfortable, dry and warm in the wilds (and especially at any sort of significant altitude) is to adopt the layering system, where you start with a good base layer, throw a mid-layer (like a great fleece) on over that, and finish up with a waterproof shell layer.

Arguably, the most important part of this whole system is the shell layer, which is tasked with keeping wind and rain (or snow) from penetrating your defences, soaking your underlayers and taking temperatures down several notches with windchill, all of which can have truly disastrous consequences in many outdoor scenarios.

The best waterproof jackets and shell layers for people who want to move at pace through the mountains are as lightweight as they are weatherproof, and Montane’s Men's Phase Lite certainly talks the talk on paper on both counts, so I have been testing it out in the hills to see whether it walks the walk half as well. To find out how I rated it, read on.

Montane Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket review

Price and availability

The Phase Lite is available for men and women now at Montane, in a large selection of stunning colours, with a full-price tag of $425 in the United States, £325 in the United Kingdom and €390 across Europe.


  • Sizes: Men’s: Small–XXL; Women’s: UK8–UK16
  • Weight: Men’s: 300g / Women’s: 255g
  • Materials: 30-Denier Gore-Tex Active Shell (100% Nylon)
  • Waterproof rating: 28,000mm H/H, RET <4
  • Colours: Men’s: Citrus spring / Eclipse blue / Stone blue / Flame orange; Women’s: Mulberry / Tigerlilly / Eclipse blue / Pale sage


(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Montane has prioritised weight savings over pretty much everything else while designing this jacket, and because the Gore-Tex Active material offers better breathability than other membrane-based waterproof fabrics, they have dispensed with pit vents. (A mistake, in my opinion.)

That said, the jacket boasts a decent roll-away hood with a peak that does a good job of keeping the rain and sleet off your face when it’s coming at you virtually horizontally.

The main zip, which is waterproof, extends to chin level, offering reasonable neck and lower face cover from wind and rain, and there’s a zip garage to protect your skin or beard from getting snagged.

The hood can be easily adjusted with a three-point quick-release system, and the entire jacket rolls up into the lid to form a tidy package that’s easy to store and carry around in a pack.

The hem is also adjustable with a drawcord, and the sleeves can be tightened around your wrists or those thicker cold-weather gloves with a single Velcro strap. There are two average-sized pockets on this jacket, positioned on either side of the zip.


(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I have been wearing the Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket in a wide range of wild scenarios, from wet woodland walks to peak-bagging escapades, running adventures and cycling outings. The overall design is really good, with functionality being prioritized over bells and whistles, and I have been particularly impressed with the storm hood.

Although not especially deep and accommodating, the pockets are more than adequate for the purposes this jacket is designed for, and the fit is also spot-on. You can’t comfortably wear a thick mid-layer beneath the Phase Lite, but because it’s designed for use during faster, more energetic outings, you wouldn’t generally want anything more than a midweight fleece underneath.

(Image credit: Montan Phase Lite)

Weirdly, one of its best selling points is how it performs when you’re not even wearing it, because this is a jacket that is designed, above all else, to be lightweight and easy to carry in a backpack, hydration vest or frame bag just in case you need the sort of protection only a waterproof shell can offer. So, for all the ultra-runners, paced-orientated peak baggers, gram-obsessed speed-hikers, fastpackers and bikepackers out there, it’s virtually perfect.

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

When it is called into action during downpours, the Phase Lite genuinely is waterproof, and it’s as breathable as you’re going to get with a Gore-Tex jacket. However – and this is important – waterproof shells based on a porous membrane only breathe really well in low humidity.

Luckily this includes most alpine environments, which is where this jacket excels, but if you’re moving fast on hills close to the coast, you’re still going to get damp on the inside while the jacket keeps the rain on the outside.

This isn’t the fault of Montane or Gore-Tex – it’s just the reality of the situation – but when I’m hiking, biking or running in such terrain, I would prefer the highly effective ventilation offered by a pit zip, even if it does add a few grams of weight.


(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

When used in the conditions it is designed for – moving fast in the mountains and on alpine trails – the Montane Phase Lite Waterproof Jacket will shield you from relentless rain and snow and protect you from the wind.

Crucially, it packs down into a compact bundle and weighs about the same as a large orange, which means you can always carry it with you into the hills and on to the trails even when the forecast looks clear. It has an excellent storm hood, and it’s easy to adjust at all the important points (sleeves, hem, hood) in order to keep breezes and rain drops out and prevent the jacket from riding up and exposing your underlayers to the elements. 

The price for this lightweight construction is reduced durability, however, so you need to treat this jacket with care and avoid sharp rocks, sticks and stones where possible. Also, while the Gore-Tex Active material does breath well in low humidity, the lack of vents will lead to internal dampness when you’re using it for fast-paced adventures in moister environments.

Also consider

For a waterproof, windproof, breathable shell layer made with Gore-Tex's new ePE membrane, check out the excellent Makalu Jacket from Mountain Equipment, which weighs a bit more but boasts proper ventilation with a pair of pit zips.

If your budget is a little leaner and you want a waterproof and windproof shell that’s still breathable but won’t break the bank, try the Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket.

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