Home>Montbell's Wind Shell Guide

Montbell's Wind Shell Guide

2017/10/25

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Why Wind Shells?


They are not water proof.
They are not air tight.
They do not have “bomber” construction.
So why are they essential when trying to add performance to a layering system?

With the addition of a 2 to 5 ounce wind shirt you can easily expand the comfort range of your clothing in high winds, cool temperatures, and light precipitation. A wind shell and a quality base layer can help active trail users more effectively manage body heat. In doing so, most individuals can now deal with 75% of daytime summer weather conditions in the lower 48 states.

These ultra light layers excel when counted on to prevent convective heat loss by shielding you from chilly gusts and light precipitation. Wind shells also offer a measure of shelter from sun and pesky insects in warmer surroundings. Additionally, by utilizing air permeable fabrics wind gear can offer a small amount of “breathability” to assist in bleeding excess heat. Finally, by being simple in construction and on the fragile side these highly compressible garments fit in the palm of your hand, making them easy to include in your trail kit and ideal for most any activity.

Montbell Wind Shells

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Back when wind shells were just called ‘jackets’ (ie. a long time ago), Montbell used 45-denier fabric for our wind shells because we wanted to design our wind shells to be as lightweight and compact as possible. Though 45-denier nylon was considered fine and cutting-edge back then, by today’s standards the material is quite heavy, though it is still used for some wind shells today. On the other hand, “nylon 66” is a nylon polymer that is commonly used in industrial applications, though Montbell found out that highly technical processing of the polymer can produce super fine 15-denier threads.

When nylon 66 came on our radar, it was pitched as being “stronger than steel, but finer than a spider’s silk”. Some examples of nylon 66's applications include the fabric of the airbag in your car, the cords found in radial tires, and printer ribbons. Noticing the revolutionary potential of nylon 66, we immediately set about developing a new fabric based on this material, with the goal of creating a windproof, ultra lightweight, and durable wind shell.

After many trials, the UL Wind Jacket was finally born in 2004. It utilized an ultra thin material we called Ballistic Airlight, made using super fine 15-denier threads of nylon 66 polymer. By using Ballistic Airlight, we were successfully able to develop a wind shell that weighs 70g, less than half the weight of our previous wind shells.

Further work lead to the development of the Tachyon series, which debuted in the spring of 2013. The Tachyon series is made with an even finer 7-denier ultra-super thin thread, and as a result the Tachyon Jacket weighs a mere 45g. Not only is it ultralight, but it also features world-class water resistance thanks to its Polkatex® treatment. During the design process we considered many comfort-enhancing features, such as the built-in ventilation that releases heat during high output activity. We have created a new kind of wind shell by including essential features for comfort and safety, while at the same time making it as ultra lightweight as possible.

About the EX Light Wind Series

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The Tachyon series, item name in the US market and same product as EX Light Wind Jacket, received high praise for innovation and was recognized at the OutDoor Show in 2012. This international outdoor trade show is Europe’s largest, and was held in July, 2012. After strict evaluation, the jacket was chosen as one of 48 entries for the OutDoor Industry Award, out of a total of 322. Furthermore, it won the Gold Award, which is only given out to the ten most outstanding products. It earned the name “world’s lightest”.

Compact and lightweight are extremely essential components in the outdoor market. The Tachyon series are the epitome of Montbell’s “Light & Fast” philosophy. Winning these awards is also proof that our philosophy is being recognized by the world.

Designed for the extreme temperature changes encountered during trekking, the compact and lightweight nature of the Tachyon series makes it also great for trail running. This also makes it great for a wide variety of uses, such as the commute to work or to ward off the chill of the office air conditioner.

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7-denier Ballistic Airlight Nylon : ultralight yet excellent abrasion resistance

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We utilize some of the smallest fibers and thinnest fabrics available in the Tachyon Jacket and Anorak to achieve a highly compressible ultra-light garment.

This silky 7-denier shell has the feel of cotton, and can withstand the rigors of normal use for a wind shell. Weighing in at a spartan 21 grams per square meter this highly wind resistant fabric is one of the lightest used in the outdoor industry.

POLKATEX: World class water repellent

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Compared to standard water repellents, POLKATEX is world class water repellent due to its lasting durability. POLKATEX not only repells light rain easily, it also has oil repelling properties making it resistant to staining as well. Montbell's original application technique prevents POLKATEX from peeling off due to abrasion or washing, two of the most common reasons a standard water repellent will wear down over time.

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Product review by Heather "ANISH" Anderson, a thru-hiker

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In combination with the Thermawrap Sport Jacket, the EX Light Wind Jacket completes my backcountry layering kit on most days. This windproof layer is almost weightless and traps body heat like a much heavier insulated layer would. In summer this is a staple in my pack for inclement emergencies.

Unlike other wind shirts the EX Light Shell Jacket has underarm ventilation which makes it far more comfortable to hike in on days where the weather changes rapidly. The hidden pocket with closure on the side is the perfect place to stash my UL Shell Gloves which complete my emergency layer system.

EX Light Wind Shell Jacket Women's

About Heather "ANISH" Anderson

U.L. Stretch Wind Series

If the goal of designing the Tachyon series was creating an ultra compact, ultra lightweight wind shell, then our design goal with the U.L. Stretch series was to create a lightweight wind shell focused on creature comforts. Features like hand pockets, a relaxed fit, and bias stretch, make the U.L. Stretch series a good choice for outdoor enthusiasts when comfort are preferred in a lightweight, compact shell.

12-denier Ballistic Airlight Nylon: ultralight yet excellent abrasion resistance

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Ballistic Airlight is a nylon that is ultra thin and ultra lightweight, yet has incredible abrasion resistance. Each individual fiber is tightly woven to create a fine, supple fabric. In addition, the fibers used to make the U.L.Stretch series are crimped to provide excellent stretch and feel comfortable against the skin.

POLKATEX: World class water repellent

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Compared to standard water repellents, POLKATEX is world class water repellent due to its lasting durability. POLKATEX not only repells light rain easily, it also has oil repelling properties making it resistant to staining as well. Montbell's original application technique prevents POLKATEX from peeling off due to abrasion or washing, two of the most common reasons a standard water repellent will wear down over time.

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Product review by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas, a thru-hiker

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I was lucky enough to test this new jacket and it may be the most functional piece of outdoor clothing for most people. At only 113g, it warms you up like a jacket many times its size. It has the features of a bigger jacket without the weight: a zip, hood, and hand warmer pockets. It takes the chill off when the wind picks up, in light rain, or as the sun sets. It layers well over a t-shirt or under a puffy jacket or fleece. The durable stretchy fabric makes movement easy. Lastly, it looks good when wearing it in town or on the trail.

U.L. Stretch Wind Parka Women's

About Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Wind Blast Series

One of Montbell's longest selling wind shells, the Wind Blast series hasn't changed much since its original inception. There isn't much to improve upon either! The fabric is made using a densely woven nylon giving it great wind blocking capabilities. The use of 40-denier nylon also means that the Wind Blast is extremely durable and has an excellent feel. Although 40-denier nylon is a heavier material than Ballistic Airlight, the Wind Blast is light and compact, making it an extremely versatile wind shell.

POLKATEX: World class water repellent

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Compared to standard water repellents, POLKATEX is world class water repellent due to its lasting durability. POLKATEX not only repells light rain easily, it also has oil repelling properties making it resistant to staining as well.

Montbell's original application technique prevents POLKATEX from peeling off due to abrasion or washing, two of the most common reasons a standard water repellent will wear down over time.

Light Shell Series


The concept behind the Light Shell series came about by adding a fleece lining to the insides of our wind shells. By adding a fleece lining, it creates pockets of unmoving air that trap heat. It also provides a surface for perspiration to wick away from the skin and acts as a soft, comfortable layer between the wind shell's nylon fabric and the skin. The Light series are perfect for use during cooler weather as an outer layer for blocking wind, but is also versatile enough to be used as a middle layer. The Ultra Light Shell series pairs Ballistic Airlight (same as the Tachyon and U.L. Stretch series) with a fleece lining and the Light Shell series pairs 40-denier nylon (same as the Wind Blast) with a fleece lining.

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