CGR reviewer James Parkinson tests out the summer alpine shell from Millet
Jacket for modern mountaineering: in-action performance, freedom of movement, extreme resistance to adverse weather and abrasion.
Performance – ****
Quality – *****
Style – ****
Relatively unknown in the UK, Millet (pronounced mee-ay and not to be confused with a certain high street camping shop) have been making outdoor clothing and equipment (especially their famous rucksacks) in France since before the Second World War. With input from such legends as Lachenel, Bonatti and Messner, and now providing clothing and gear to the Compagnie des Guides of Chamonix, Millet are a big name in European outdoor equipment. With them expanding their operations on this side of the Channel, CGR got their hands on the softshell Denali Jacket.
Billed as a “jacket for modern mountaineering: in-action performance, freedom of movement and extreme resistance to adverse weather and abrasion”, the Millet Denali is built from Millet’s own Element Shield Matrix softshell fabric. I found this to be quite thick and robust and stood up to some thrutchy chimney climbing very well without damage. The Matrix fabric is also very weather resistant – pretty much windproof and light rain actually beaded up on the fabric. Because of this, although primarily a summer jacket, the Denali wouldn’t be a bad choice for year round use – sunny ice cragging or drizzly running could all come within its scope. The fabric is also very stretchy, something I found useful when it came to the fit of the jacket.
The Millet Denali is ergonomically cut and some care may be needed with sizing. I had a medium (my usual size in jackets) and found it to be very close fitting. As it turned out, this wasn’t an issue as the stretch of the fabric allowed for unrestricted movement. I did find however that the body was slightly short and was in danger of being pulled out of my harness when climbing. In contrast, I found the sleeves to be an excellent length; I have reasonably long arms and I never felt like the sleeves were too short. Velcro tabs at the wrists also allow for some adjustability.
I found the high collar of the Denali to be very comfortable, fitting snugly but not tightly. An issue I have had before with hoodless jackets is that the collars just never seem right and struggle to seal out the elements. With this jacket, I really liked the high fit and elastic drawstring of the collar to keep out the breeze.
The full-length zip runs smoothly and has an underflap to further block out the wind. Two large pockets cover pretty much the whole of the body of the jacket providing plenty of space for OS maps, guidebooks or chocolate bars. A drawstring at the hem allows you to cinch it in but I never felt the need.
Millet have reinforced the shoulders with patches of Schoeller® Keprotec®, a material that incorporates Kevlar to make it very hardwearing and resistant to abrasion. I thought the Matrix fabric used in the rest of the jacket was pretty tough but I don’t suppose some extra burl is a bad thing, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of load carrying.
Available in blue/black (the version I had), red/black and black/blue, the Millet Denali is a good looking piece of kit which performs well and is suitable for a wide range of activities across the seasons.