Over the past seven years, the Montbell Tachyon Anorak wind shirt has been a mainstay of my backpacking kit. Indeed, rarely does a day in the backcountry go by when I don’t wear it at some time or another. Considering that it weighs about the same as a Snickers bar and packs down smaller than a tennis ball, I find it hard to justify not bringing along this versatile item on most backpacking trips.
I’m now on my third model of the Anorak. The first two incarnations each lasted me at least 8,000 hiking miles (12,875 km). The current edition has around half of that and is still going strong. Suffice to say I’m a fan of this wind shirt.
Hope you weren’t expecting a drumroll.
Here is my long-term review of the Montbell Tachyon Anorak:
Specs (As per Montbell website)
Weight: 1.9 oz / 55 grams (Men’s Medium) / Regular Snickers Bar – 1.86 oz / 52.7 grams
Fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
DWR: Polkatex® DWR treatment
Compressed Size: 4.5 x 3.3 x 1.6 in. (11 x 8.5 x 4 cm)
No pocket. Shortish zip. Just the essentials.
- Zipper: For this type of garment, I find the 10 inch (26 cm) front zipper to be just right. With something so thin and light, I’ve never found the need for a full length zipper.
- Hem & Hood: Both are adjustable, which is key in helping to keep out the drafts. I’m a fan of hoods on all my jackets whether they be wind, rain or insulated. I take the same approach to my noggin as I do with the my hands and feet – multiple lighter layers are best for all around flexibility over a wider range of conditions.
- Elastic cuffs: Good for sealing out the drafts
- Sizing: I’ve found the US sizing of the Montbell range to be on a par with most other gear (Note: Japanese sizing runs smaller). In regards to wind shirts and rain jackets, I generally size up so that I can layer over the top of insulated garments. For example, in the case of the Tachyon Anorak I go with a large, whereas for my insulation garments of choice (i.e. Montbell Superior Down Parka, Montbell Thermawrap Jacket, Patagonia Nano Puff) I use a US size medium.
I’ve used this wind shirt a lot over the past seven years (20,000 miles plus). In addition to the distance logged, the testing grounds have been varied and often extreme. They have included Southwest Tasmania (one of the wettest and windiest places on the planet), the Colombian and Peruvian Andes, Mexico’s Copper Canyon region, and much of the United States and Canada during the 12 Long Walks journey of 2011/12.
- Precipitation: A wind shirt isn’t a rain jacket. Its purpose is to help keep out the wind and provide a little warmth. Therefore, the DWR label should be taken with a grain of salt. In my experience, wind shirts are ok in drizzle and a bit of light snow, but for anything stronger you will want to reach for your rain jacket and/or umbrella.
- Wind & Warmth: In short, the Tachyon Anorak does what its supposed to do. I regularly use it on top of a base layer on chilly, breezy mornings; over an insulation layer when the winds really pick up, and; combine it with a down or synthetic jacket when I need a little extra warmth at night. As a bonus, it’s scrunches up so small that I typically just shove it down one of the side pockets on my backpack when I’m not using it for easy access.
- The Niche: Over the years I’ve found that there are regularly times during the course of a hiking day, when a rain jacket or insulation layer is too warm, and a base layer on it’s own is not quite warm enough. That’s where the Anorak comes in. For a negligible weight penalty of 2 oz, it fills a niche in my layering system – which in a nutshell, is the principal reason I carry it.
- Quick Drying: No surprises here. Extremely light and thin, the Anorak dries very quickly. If it’s soaked by day’s end, chances are it will be dry by the following morning if you place it down your long johns at night.
Comparison: Over the past fourteen years, I’ve owned wind shirts from Patagonia (Houdini – 4 oz*/ Newer model weighs 3.6 oz), Montane (Litespeed – 5.2 oz) and Montbell. In regards to performance, they have all been pretty much a wash. The big advantage that the Anorak has is simply that its lighter. On the flip side, the other models sport more features (chest pocket and full zip).
“If I’m carrying a lightweight rain jacket, should I also carry a wind shirt?”: It depends. These days there are lightweight rain jackets like the Dri Ducks Ultralite, Outdoor Research Helium 2, ZPacks Vertice and Montbell Versalite all tipping the scales at around 6 to 7 oz. That being the case, I certainly wouldn’t carry a wind shirt that weighed almost the same, and performed many of the same functions. However, that’s not the Tachyon Anorak. It weighs 1.9 oz, not 4 or 5 oz. That’s the equivalent of less than a mouthful of water, for a garment that is both versatile and functional. To my way of thinking, carrying it constitutes a no-brainer (Note: I’m aware that some other experienced hikers think differently on this point. That’s fine. It would be a boring old world if we all thought the same).
Tipping the scales at just under 2 oz, obviously the weight is a big selling point for the Tachyon Anorak. Basically it’s a garment designed for weight conscious hikers and backpackers. ZPacks make a model that weighs about the same, has a full zip and costs about US$16 more. Not having tried it, I can’t personally speak as to its quality.
There is no way around it, upon first inspection the Tachyon Anorak feels a little flimsy. However, having logged so many miles with the jacket since 2009, I can personally vouch for its durability. It’s like the Doc Holliday of the backpacking gear world; fragile looking on the outside, but somehow manages to last a lot longer than everyone expects. That said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend wearing it while bushwhacking and/or hiking through overgrown terrain.
If you are looking for a wind shirt that is extremely light, durable, functional and versatile, the Tachyon Anorak fits the bill. As I mentioned above, it fills a niche in my layering system for a negligible weight penalty, and I imagine I’ll continue to use it for the foreseeable future. In summary – highly recommended.
Disclaimer: Of the three Montbell Tachyon Anoraks I have owned, I purchased the first with my own funds, and received the second two free of charge from Montbell. I was under no obligation to write a review, which is good, because it has taken me seven years to do so. No point in rushing these things. 😉