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Hands-on Gear Review
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid II Hooded Review
Cons: Long arms and loose fit not the best for layering
Bottom line: For your inner monkey man, this fleece is warm and soft, and a choice for the backcountry.
The Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid II is a high lofted fleece with a comfy muppet fur texture, thumb loops, and a warm, and a snug fitting hood. Its look and feel is remarkably similar to our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Patagonia R3 Hoody, but it falls a little short in the layering and warmth metrics, and our tester's generally preferred the R3. But if you're into the look, feel and fit of this jacket, it's by no means a waste of your hard earned dough, and will keep you well insulated for your mountain adventures.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
For $180 you can envelope yourself in the plush monkey phur of the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid. This warm, cozy fleece features 2 zippered handwarmer pockets, a chest pocket, thumb loops, and a low-profile hood. Stretchy side panels ensure that you can move with zero restriction. This furry fleece is available in Black, Thunder Head Grey, and Dark Compass (Blue).
The chart below highlights the Overall Performance score of the Monkey Man Grid II, which tops the charts and comes in at fourth place out of the entire fleet.
The Polartech High Loft grid Monkey Phur is thick, furry, and warm. This fleece comes in third in the warmth metric, close on the heels of the Patagonia R3 Hoody, and not as warm as the heavy North Face Denali 2. The Monkey Man kept our testers just as toasty as the stylish Patagonia Performance Better Sweater while being lighter and more breathable. A snug hem with a cinch cord to make it even snugger along with tight, stretchy cuffs come in handy when the sun goes down and it's really time to bundle up.
No complaints here! At least when used as a standalone jacket This fleece is fluffy soft and lounge-worthy. When we're wearing the Monkey Man, it feels a lot like we're under a fleece blanket. When it's time to get up and move around, stretchy side panels ensure easy, unrestricted movement. The cut of this jacket is why it falls short of a perfect 10. The arms are long enough for a yeti, bunching up around the cuffs. The bunched up sleeves felt pretty annoying under multiple layers. Thumb loops marginally alleviate the bunching and make it easier to slide the arms into a hardshell, but we prefer not to have our thumbs through the loops all the time. The hood stays in place nicely and fits well underneath a helmet. The chest pocket is large enough for several energy bars, and two zippered handwarmer pockets are at the ready for when you want to bury your hands in the soft, luxurious monkey phur.
The grid pattern design, again similar to the R3 Hoody, employs hundreds of lofty squares for insulation, with thin channels in between to vent air and moisture. The stretchy side panels feel almost as thick as the rest of the jacket, and we didn't find that they offered any extra breathability. If you're doing anything that requires heavy breathing, you'll want to fully unzip or remove this fleece. For a more breathable option, check out the Patagonia R1 Hoody or our Best Buy Award winner, the Marmot Reactor.
This fleece is soft and flexible enough to slide easily under a hardshell, but in a fleece-puffy-hardshell layering configuration, the larger cut and baggy sleeves are not as comfortable as the sleeker Patagonia R3 Hoody. Again, the thumb loops are a great asset to any layering piece, but still don't make up for all that extra sleeve material. The best layering fleeces are more form fitting like the Marmot Reactor, the Patagonia R1 Hoody, or the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody.
The thickness alone of this fleece make it more wind resistant than thinner jackets like the Patagonia R1 Hoody, the Black Diamond CoEfficeient Hoody, and The North Face FuseForm Progressor Hoodie. However, like all the breathable fleeces in this selection, the Monkey Man needs to be paired with a wind layer and a hard shell when the wind picks up. Only The North Face Denali 2 offers any real wind protection. Against light rain, this fleece is only bested by The North Face Denali 2. Light drizzle beads up on the thick, hairy "monkey phur'", but after a short time or an increase of precip to a proper rainstorm, this jacket gets soaked.
Tipping the scales at 14oz, the Monkey Man boasts a good warmth to weight ratio, plus, it's soft and easily stows away, hardly noticeable until you need it. It's 4 ounces lighter than the Patagonia R3 Hoody, and 10 ounces lighter than The North Face Denali. An appropriate weight for backcountry trips and alpine missions, much more so than the heavier, style-centric fleeces like the Patagonia Performance Better Sweater and the Arc'teryx Covert Hoody.
The model we tested was a furry blue color, like cookie monster. The hood is a dark gray, and our testers didn't like how the hood was a different color and material from the rest of the jacket, as we like the soft feel of the monkey phur, and can only imagine how it might feel wrapped around our heads. If you like the furry look, you've got three classic color choices: black, thunderhead gray, and dark compass (blue). The Monkey Man didn't top the charts for style points and was outperformed by the Arc'teryx Fortrez, Marmot Reactor, The North Face Denali 2, the Arc'teryx Covert, and the Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody and The North Face FuseForm Progressor Hoodie - both of which scored perfect 10 out of 10s.
With an excellent warmth to weight ratio, this is a primo piece for the backcountry, perfect for your next backpacking trip, where you can't help but enjoy it's blanket-like feel while you sit next to the fire or make breakfast on a chilly morning. This wasn't our favorite jacket to wear around town, but hey, style is subjective! If you like the way it looks then wear it anywhere. Our lead tester had some blissful, sunny spring mornings skiing while wearing this jacket and a t-shirt.
You can take home a pelt of monkey phur of your very own for $179.95. The materials and construction are high quality. Our Monkey Man Grid II wasn't subjected to any destructive testing, but during our time skiing, hiking, climbing and snoozing in this jacket, we noticed neither wear nor tear.
If you're in the market for a warm, lightweight, breathable fleece for backpacking trips or alpine scrambling, this may be the fleece you're looking for. For those who find the fit of the Patagonia R3 Hoody constricting and want more room, the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid II is a worthy alternative.
— Matt Bento
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