Used extensively by Cairngorm Treks throughout Autumn and Winter 2017/18 within the Cairngorm National Park, Skye, and surrounding areas
The Montane Ajax jacket is labelled as ideal for climbers, mountaineers and mountain walkers looking for a no-nonsense, uncompromising waterproof shell jacket. Constructed from lightweight 40 Denier Gore-tex combined with tough 70 Denier Gore-tex in high abrasion areas, this further identifies that this jacket is designed for people who reminisce of the good old days, when a Gore-tex fabric didn't need a fancy name added at the end like Active and Pro with endless lists of fabric features and just did the simple job of keeping you dry! Although we embrace new technology and have found many different fabrics and features to work extremely well, it's difficult to find a jacket that does all of this without either wearing quickly, or after 6 months doesn't quite living up to expectations, with often a high price to replace. So it was good to see a jacket arrive with a claim to be as tough as the original Gore-tex shells with a few modern improvements added to keep it up to date.
On first impressions the Ajax certainly has the feel that it can handle a good amount of abuse, with noticeable toughened areas, especially around the shoulders, where the 70 Denier fabric has been added. The fit in a medium size is quite slim, and although we can fit all the extra layers needed for winter use, it might be a little too tight for some. Although the fabric doesn't offer the stretch and movability when comparing it most Gore-tex Active jackets, the arms have been designed to be quite generous in size and un-restricting. One aspect we did enjoy that may not be to everyone's liking is the colour, we had the Firefly Orange which certainly marks you out on the hill especially in winter. Being seen is especially important to us at this time of year so it makes for excellent visibility. The rest of the jacket is very simple in design, cuffs grip strong and tight around gloves, hood appears to fit snugly around the head with good movement, 2 very large hand pockets are well placed above a waist strap or harness, 1 chest pocket with enough space to fit a compass or GPS unit, and all pockets have water resistant zippers which are easy to use when wearing gloves. Drawstrings on the hood and hem can be pulled tight with one hand and again can be used with gloves on.
All of this appeared to be components of a winning jacket so we were very much looking forward to seeing how it would perform in a Scottish winter.
Let's just say over the course of the last 6 months this jacket has seen everything Scotland can throw at it. Heavy rain and snow, high winds and freezing temperatures. The claim that the Ajax is a no-nonsense waterproof shell is certainly correct, it's been a long time since we have had a jacket that sheds away the amount of moisture that this handled with ease. Absolutely no areas of leakage is testament to Montane's attention to detail with a 12 – 13 stitch count per inch on all seams versus a typical industry average of 8, creating a tight, clean and strong seam. The excellent build and use of classic Gore-tex fabric just kept on working and even after 6 months heavy use shows nearly no signs of wear and has kept beading without being re-proofed since new.
The absolute star of the jacket is the hood, a nice tight fit throughout the face keeps moisture and wind from entering and combined with goggles kept all the elements out creating a complete seal giving optimum focus on the job in hand, especially important when walking within near white out conditions.
There are a few issues with the jacket and something we came to expect using the classic Gore-tex fabric. When the weather is kinder or temperatures are higher this makes for a warm jacket without the breathability of its Gore-tex Active and Pro alternatives. Weighing in at 440g it would suggest this is a jacket of mid-weight but it certainly feels heavier when worn especially when working hard on a tough accent. When wearing throughout the full day we found we would sacrifice a mid layer to help maintain a cooler temperature, although most often the Ajax will take its place inside the rucksack ready for when conditions begin to deteriorate. This isn't a major issue for us we often opt for a reliable softshell jacket to keep wind and light rain at bay and offer increased breathability.
The Montane Ajax certainly ticks all of the boxes as a tough, reliable, no-nonsense waterproof shell. No jacket we have used over the past few seasons has coped with extended periods of heavy rain and snow quite like the Ajax. If you run warm this may not be the right jacket for you as the compromise is breathability, which would become more of an issue in the warmer months. As a winter jacket it gave us great confidence in its abilities importantly letting us focus on the task in hand. Montane have once again produced a high quality garment with excellent attention to detail that won't wear or break down easily.
Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...