Words by Hannah Campbell
Time for another Gear Review! This time, I've had the pleasure of using and abusing the Montane Women's Iridium Hybrid for the ENTIRE winter season so I can bring you a full report on what I loved and what I wasn't the biggest fan of.
So first of all, what is it? The Iridium Hybrid is a mid/lightweight fleece in a pull-on style - it can be layered over the top of a base layer, or, because it's super comfy and not itchy, also works well as a base layer itself. It's an incredibly versatile piece of kit that is as comfortable gully bashing in the Scottish winter as it is cwtched up around the campfire on a chilly spring evening. It's simple, classic style can be layered up under a shell or insulating jacket, or just worn with jeans when you're commuting. Now, let's break down the techy stuff!
What is it made from?
The Iridium Hybrid uses two weights of fleece; I'll break these down in a bit more detail.
- A Pontetorto Technostretch hard-faced fleece with 'a ceramic print' in the higher wear areas - so that's across the top of the arms, around the waist, along the top of the shoulders and in the front of the main body. This is an incredibly durable fabric and even after months or carrying rucksacks, running in it, scuffing it up on rock faces and sticking it through the wash 23 million times, the piece still looks almost like new - no fraying, no holes and no 'fluffing' or bobbling on the material.
- DryActiv Lite Fleece on the areas less prone to high wear - these bits are under the arms and around the mid-back. This fabric is more breathable than the Pontetorto Hard-Faced fabric and also has a bit more stretch to it. This means that the Iridium Hybrid doesn't inhibit your movement at all, even though it's a close-fitting piece. The worry with softer fabrics is that they may not be able to hold up to the rigours of heavy outdoor use, but I can honestly say that I haven't noticed any change in the material over the last few months - no bobbling and no signs of wear - excellent!
Aside from just how comfortable it is (I have been known to wear it at night with some fluffy pyjama bottoms...) the fleece is simple, neat and not unnecessarily feature-heavy. The features that it does have, however, have been well thought out and well executed. Here are my favourite bits:
- The low profile collar sits close to your neck but still allows enough room for you to get a buff on under it.
- The centre zip is easy to use with gloves on and is low profile so it doesn't rub underneath the chest strap on a rucksack. It's a welcome bit of ventilation when you're working hard.
- The cuffs are low profile and sit snug to your wrists so you can easily wiggle them into over-the-cuff gloves.
- FLATLOCKED SEAMS! Why anyone would use anything else is beyond me. This means no chaffing on your shoulders and hips when you're carrying a pack - really important if you're using the Iridium as a base layer!
How does it fit?
The Iridium Hybrid sits in Montane's 'Active Mountain' category which means that the piece is designed to be low bulk and fit closely to the body. The articulation in the arms reduce the amount the fleece rises when your arms are above your head (e.g. scrambling and climbing) but also results in a better fitting, more comfortable garment that layers better underneath a shell jacket.
I found that it fits closer than some of my other fleeces, but it definitely isn't what I'd call a 'snug' fit. I quite liked that because it means that I had lots of room for a base layer underneath it. It also means that it doesn't feel restrictive, so I'm always comfortable in it.
What could be improved?
One of the downsides to the Iridium is that even though it's branded as a 'Super lightweight stretch fleece designed for fast mountain assaults' I did find that, unless it was incredibly cold (I'm talking -5ºC and below) then I get very hot in it very quickly - especially if I was moving fast. It was the perfect layer under a hardshell for our downhill skiing trip to Bulgaria at the beginning of the year (especially when you're sat on the lifts, not really moving very fast), but if I was trying anything more aerobic then I would overheat quite quickly and had to stop to take it off. I know this is highly subjective, but, as someone who really struggles with the cold, I thought it was worth a mention!
The other thing I noticed was that the fabric on the inside doesn't glide over materials (base layers) easily. It almost feels 'sticky' and drags the sleeves of your base layer up. That same 'stickiness' means that the sleeves are difficult to get into the right position across the top of your shoulders when you're first putting it on. It's not the end of the world, but if you're throwing it on halfway up a climb then it's just a bit of extra unnecessary faff - especially with gloves on. That being said, the finish on the outside of the fabric means that this sits really comfortably under a shell and is really easy to layer up over the top of it.
I love it - I love the fit, I love the next to skin feel and I love how it layers underneath jackets. Yes, there are a couple of things I would change if I was being incredibly nit-picky, but it's not things that would put me off the piece at all. It excels particularly well in a lot of areas - comfort, price, durability and the ability to 'just work' - you won't find much else out there that will tick all those boxes.
That’s it guys – the gorgeous and super comfy (did I already mention that?) Iridium Hybrid from Montane.