Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man

Often I’ll begin one of my reviews, or the write-up of a group review, by spec’ing out a need or some environmental demand that caused the product in question to be sought out. Not so in this case. Firstly, if I need to explain why you might need a warm fleece, you should probably get off the computer (no, really, your keepers will be mad when they see you using the office chair without your helmet on). Secondly, the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man jacket isn’t one I intended to own. I’ve never gone for the really furry look of high-pile fleece. However, when a good bud offers to give me a nice jacket he has no use for, I’m certainly not one to turn it down for aesthetics.
I’m a fan of Mountain Hardwear’s products, and have always had good experience with them. Given that, it comes as little surprise that, aesthetics be damned I’ve worn the MonkeyMan through thick and thin for almost two years now, and been extremely pleased with it.

Specs on the Monkey Man, per MH, are as follows:
Weight: 1 lbs, 2 oz / 514.00 g
Panel: Polartec® Power Stretch®
Body: Polartec® ThermalPro® Monkey Phur

The design is fairly straight forward, with zip hand warmer pockets, and a zip chest/napoleon pocket. The sleeves are, befitting the “Monkey Man” moniker, rather long. The Power Stretch panels are found at the waist, on the chest pocket, and on the cuffs and wrist panels. The jacket is also treated with a Durable Water Repellant. It is available in a variety of colors, although a few are a little “bright” for some tastes. The jacket I was given is in classic black, and I don’t mind. When I purchase another one however, I’ll probably move to earth tones with one in Cocobolo or Otter browns.
The fit is good, the jacket has an athletic cut but not overly so and the ThermalPro is exceedingly comfortable. The long sleeves ensure that there’s always enough material to meet up with gloves even when reaching, or to seal up around the hand-warmer pockets when walking down the street. I don’t have an excessive wingspan, but I still have problems with jacket sleeves pulling up when making a long reach – Not so with the Monkey Man.
I’ve used the Monkey Man in a variety of conditions, as it’s been my regular jacket since March of 2008 for just about everything. Most of the time, I wear it as an outer layer for cool to cold weather with little wind. I’ve worn it around town, when hiking, for climbing, for mine exploration, at the range, on the ranch and just about everywhere. In that time, I’ve had no real complaint provided I used it appropriately (and if I didn’t, the only complaint was with myself).
The thing to remember with any straight fleece is that they have their limitations. A fleece is not a shell, and a fleece that’s not windproof, isn’t windproof. Using the tool correctly, for what it is designed for, will go a long way. The Monkey Man is a fleece. It’s not a shell, and it’s not windproof fleece. You have to use it for what it is, and not expect more from it. Combined with a shell (I use an older Mountain Hardwear model that’s I don’t see cataloged any longer, but is still ticking along for me), and particularly over a long sleeved base-layer, the MonkeyMan has provided me great insulation in some truly shitty weather. I will say that the DWR application has been of benefit in light mists and brief gentle rains. The Monkey Man isn’t a jacket to fight the rain or snow in much, but for brief encounters, it is fine.
The Monkey Man is fantastically warm, being easily as warm as heavier fleeces I’ve used. Due to the breathability of the ThermalPro it’s rare that I’ve overheated and had to shed that layer. The comfortable feel of the material is well matched by its comfortable performance, across all environments, and both as an inner layer and an outer garment.

The Monkey Man has proven to be fairly durable. I make no secret of being hard on clothing and gear and using them beyond their intentions at times. Wearing a high pile fleece while mine exploring probably qualifies as stretching the limits a little. The fleece tends to pick up a lot of dust, but has suffered no significant damage from the roughness of the mines. The dust picked up below ground, while copious, is usually easily brushed out, or in pernicious cases washed and then brushed out. This is fine, as a good brushing, and post wash brushing, is recommended by MH in their care sheet for the ThermalPro material.
The Monkey Man is also very packable. I’ve regularly been able to cram it into the top couple inches of my pack when needing to shed it as a day got warmer. It’s very easy to travel with as an additional layer, due to its weight and packability. When the weather is, or might be, cool to cold, the Monkey Man is one of my essential traveling companions – In my pack, or a cargo pocket of the pickup, if not actually on my back.
My only real complaint about the jacket over the long term is that the Power Stretch cuffs have gotten fairly stretched out and I’m continually pulling them up my forearms to get them to stay. This is no biggie, and I would assume is to be expected after this much time, and hard use, has been put into the material. I’d like an adjustable velcro cuff on the Monkey Man, but realize that defeats the purpose of having a stretch material there in the first place. Having worn the material out, I’ll probably have adjustable cuff straps added at some point, to extend the functional life of the jacket. The rest of the Power Stretch material is holding up well, and has allowed for good fit and flexibility of the Monkey Man over its life.

In reading comments around the internet, I’ve seen several people lament that the Monkey Man lack’s a drawstring around the waist. While I can understand the desire, I’m actually glad it doesn’t. For those of us who mount potentially life-saving equipment around our waists, a drawstring only adds more confusion and more potential hang-ups in our drawstroke. Even when clearing the garment high with the offhand, the dangly bits on some drawstring designs remain highly unfriendly. Having an uncluttered, easy to clear, bottom hemline on the Monkey Man is an asset to me, as I’m sure it is to certain other users.
It is not a perfect concealment jacket – The cut is athletic, and unless you use a holster design which carries the gun tightly against your body, it will print under the Monkey Man, particularly when zipped. Wearing a tight to the body holster behind the hip alleviates this, as do some other carry positions – Carrying a full-size 1911 in an Elmer McEvoy ( Surprise Special never presented a problem under the Monkey Man. Similarly, I never experienced printing when using appendix-carry and a good-fitting holster. Dressing appropriately for your holster selection is important, and always a consideration when purchasing a potential cover garment. Using a good holster that mitigates printing is even more important, in my opinion.

The soft-furry “Monkey Phur” is a hit with the ladies too!

All in all, the Monkey Man is probably my favorite knock-around fleece. It’s a great design, that’s well executed in excellent materials. It’s also more cost effective than similar jackets from other companies. If you’re in need of a good, lightweight but high performance fleece for everyday wear, or as a layer, go check out the Monkey Man.

If you’d like a Monkey Man of your own, or to check out the rest of the excellent Mountain Hardwear line-up, see their website here: Mountain Hardwear.

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