We judged the GearWeAre awards recently, and this jacket was entered. It was one piece that came with a fanfare, mixing two high-end performance fabrics with a high-end quality manufacturer, and a high-end target audience. And I’ll be honest that, unprompted, several of our judges had their eyes light up as it came out of the box. It’s a great looking jacket with that feel and styling to match its price tag.
The Axion combines material-giant Polartec’s two flagship materials. NeoShell is a waterproof, breathable fabric which I have tested in several jackets this year, and is currently my favourite waterproof solution because it’s somewhere between a hard-shell and a soft-shell and just feels pleasant to wear. And that goes over their Alpha insulation, which is a hugely breathable but very warm layer developed by Polartec for demanding Special Forces soldiers. It feels great when you’re doing a stop-start activity where you sweat on and off.
The Axion is sold as the world’s most breathable waterproof insulated jacket. If we didn’t have to send it back, I’d be stealing this one for a winter of stomping across the hills. It’s one of the best-made jackets I’ve seen in ages. The attention to detail and quality of manufacture is excellent, with touches like a glove retaining D-ring on the sleeve, a storm skirt and hell… they’ve even printed Montane on the 2mm thick bungee cords on the hood.
This is a great jacket to batten down the hatches against the winter weather. Wear it with some breathable, wicking base layers as the outer layer of a proper moisture-managing system and you’ll have a near unparalleled warm and dry experience.
The hood is big enough for a helmet, and has a wired peak and bungees to keep the rain out. And the chin piece, with its soft lip-protector fabric, comes up high to keep wind from chilling your neck.
There are two large hand pockets, which are warm and zippered with waterproof zips. And there’s an additional pocket on the arm with the same zipper, for a phone perhaps. Internally there’s a zippered mesh pocket on the left-hand chest, and what montane call a water-bottle pocket on the right-hand side. You can tell from that feature that this jacket is pitched at people who are going to be cold enough to have their drinks freeze if they’re kept outside.
I think that one of our judges summed up the Axion almost perfectly when he said “It’s just a nice place to be”. It is. It envelopes you in comfortable warmth, and you feel protected and almost invincible against the elements. It’s a ‘bring it on’ jacket and you want to go out and stand in the clouds.
Styling wise, the NeoShell light fabric is matt and the seams are so flat and well sewn that you can hardly see them in low light. It really is a gorgeous thing to look at and you wouldn’t feel self-conscious wearing this to a moderately fancy restaurant on a cold evening. It passes the country-pub test with flying colours too.
And price wise, it’s definitely at the high end too. £360 is going to send anyone who doesn’t need this jacket as a survival aid running. But for proper mountaineers, ice-climbers and winter walkers, it could be one heck of an investment piece.