Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man FleecePosted By Mark on Jun 9 '08
|Napoleon Pocket:||No||Handwarmer Pockets:||2|
|Sleeve Pockets:||None||Zipper Type:||None|
|Chin Abrasion Guard:||Yes||MSRP:||$139|
Fabrics utilized: Polartec Thermal Pro, Polartec Powerstretch
With the solid financial backing from Columbia Sportswear, Mountain Hardwear, a smaller, younger brand, has a lot of room to try out new and adventurous gear on the market. I believe that the Monkey Man fleece is the result of this allowance. A unique look and a bit of humor have conspired to create a warm, functional piece that is excellent for layering in nasty storms, or wearing just by itself.
The Monkey Man is fairly minimalist in this regard, featuring three pockets: one outer Napoleon pocket and two handwarmer pockets. The Napoleon pocket is backed by the main body fabric, and covered from the front with Polartec Powerstretch. The two handwarmer pockets are backed by tricot and covered with the main body fabric. What’s interesting about the handwarmer pockets is that they’re huge. They go all the way from near the hem of the fleece, up to the top of where the Napoleon pocket is; on a large, that comes out to roughly 16 inches of height! It’s a bit puzzling, because the pocket openings are not extraordinarily large, but I guess if you need to fit a lot in there, you’ve got the room.
The main zipper is a simple YKK zipper, and it’s neither coated to be water resistant, nor does it have any storm flaps. This is forgivable, as it’s not designed for extreme weather protection, and the lack of extras enables it to operate very smoothly and quickly. The other three zippers, for the Napoleon and handwarmer pockets, are reverse coil, increasing water resistance, although this does raise the question as to why the main zipper isn’t reverse coil. They’re not quite as easy to operate as the main zipper, due to the nature of the reverse coil, but they’re not nearly as difficult as some other water-resistant zippers. All the zippers are equipped with both long fabric and metal zipper pulls, allowing for easy access.
There are no cinch cords at the hem to adjust fit, although the Monkey Man does have Powerstretch at the hem, which functions adequately.
As was mentioned previously, the fleece utilizes Polartec Powerstretch, and it’s featured at several spots: the cuffs, the hem, panels on the sides near the pockets, and on the Napoleon pocket. Before this fleece, I hadn’t really encountered much Powerstretch, and this stuff’s pretty awesome. I believe the previous garments I’ve seen had versions of Polartec’s fabric which weren’t quite as soft or plush as is featured in the Monkey Man. Powerstretch has a really soft, thick microfleece on the inside, and a smooth, polyester outside, which, incidentally, is also quite soft. Additionally, the main body is constructed of Thermal Pro, which MHW calls “Monkey Phur.” It’s also very soft and thick, which aids in thermal retention. The Monkey Phur and Powerstretch combine to make a very soft fleece; sometimes, I have to remind myself to stop feeling it up in public. MHW’s newest version is even softer. The outer neck has a thin layer of polyester, to aid in wind resistance. Finally, the chin abrasion guard kind of small, but it gets the job done; it’s made of the same fabric as the outer neck.
Speaking of wind resistance, this is where the Monkey Man falters. Walking home one day, I noticed that with just a T-shirt on, I could feel the chill readily on my upper arms. A weird spot to notice wind chill, perhaps, but there’s quite a bit of fabric on the main body (in retrospect, that may be why the handwarmer pockets are so large: the extra layer of fabric on the inside increases wind resistance), and the lower arms of the fabric had bunched up a bit, increasing the wind resistance. So, the fleece is definitely not windproof. But I usually just throw on a windproof shell, and I’m good to go. Now, with regard to sizing, I’m usually a medium (5'10", 195, for reference). Mountain Hardwear can be a bit iffy, though, in the sizing department, and this is true in the case of the Monkey Man. I had to have a large. Admittedly, it’s probably the best fitting jacket I own, but it should be mentioned, all the same. The sleeves and hem are very slightly long, but that’s fine, because I hate short sleeves, and I like a little more coverage. Water resistance could be a little bit better, but it’s got a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish, and it’s a fleece; it’s not designed to repel rain and snow forever.
On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a long-sleeved T-shirt, and 10 an expedition-quality mountaineering suit, I’d rate the Monkey Man fleece a 6. The thick Thermal Pro fabric is excellent for body heat retention, but low wind-resistance knocks it down a bit.
No. Although the thick fabric and DWR finish aid in keeping the wet stuff off, at its heart, the Monkey Man is a fleece, and fleeces aren’t designed for full protection against wet weather.
The Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man fleece is a really fun jacket, and a good midweight layering choice. Its wind resistance is less than optimal (mainly on the arms), and it has some small sizing issues, but superb technical fabrics and excellent comfort add up to a good pick for warm layering in cold weather.
The Verdict: 8/10
Interested in this jacket? You might also be interested in these other warm fleeces:
Patagonia R4 Fleece Jacket
The R4 is more expensive than the Monkey Man (MSRP of $225), but you get what you pay for: the high-loft Thermal Pro has a layer of Polartec Windbloc sandwiched in the middle, to take the edge of that wind chill. Nice!
Arc'teryx Delta SV Fleece Jacket
The Delta SV is very similar to the Monkey Man, but a little simpler: no stretch panels on the sides and cuffs. But it has the same amount of pockets and the same fabric. As a bonus, it has an antimicrobial coating, so the ladies don't flee when you come down from the mountain. Retail: $230.