I wish all climbers and backpackers had the guts to wield the Mistral jacket. There are so many gear guru's that are obsessed with waterproof/breathable membranes like Goretex and Event but not I! Let me explain:
I wear this jacket with a midweight grid pattern microfleece base layer (such as the Patagonia R1, Under Armour 3.0, or my personal favorite the Lowe Alpine Ninja Hoody) and this combination gets me through EVERYTHING. Everything means anywhere from high output trail running in 40 degree temperatures with sleet and wind to lower output backpacking in snowy single digit temperatures. This jacket works so wonderfully because it allows me to keep a thin layer of warmth close to my body without the wind stealing it from me while at the same time letting my sweat wick through the ultra thin nylon. I can drastically control my body's temperature by opening the pockets, the front zipper, and my baselayer zipper to vent and cooldown OR cinch the waist, pull the hood over my stocking hat, and zip everything shut to keep out the wind. And trust me, it does a fricken good job at keeping out the wind because the arm length is very generous, the waist cinches tight, and the high collar comes way up to my chin to seal out the drafts from my neck (If the tail dropped an extra 2 or 3 inches I would consider this jacket perfect). This jacket is not waterproof and this is what makes it so awesome. Example, if I go trail running in a waterproof/breathable jacket during a snowy 10 degree morning there is no way in hell that the membrane will "breathe" good enough to dump the massive amounts of sweat that I produce and I end up freezing my butt off from my own sweat. The Mistral on the other hand is not completely waterproof which means that the warm moisture (from both my body and the snow) can easily escape the jacket and I stay dry (and more importantly, warm!).Craftsmanship: Initially I wondered why Montbell used a thicker material around the neck but I soon realized that they did this because the EXTREMELY thin main material simply isnt rigid enough to stay up around the neck when the hood is down. The thicker material also has a small amount of stretch and I am pleased to say that my range of motion is not hindered in any direction because of the combined use of the two materials. The pockets do vent really well but I like them mostly because I can access them with a hip belt on. I am 62 175 lbs and bought a Large.
This jacket is my shield against the world's nastiest weather! Because of the Montbell Mistral jacket, I will never again own a Goretex jacket. 5 stars!