Montane Extreme smock vs Buffalo Special 6

A clash of the heavyweight titans… 

No sooner had I finished waxing lyrical about how much I love my Special 6, I took delivery of a new Montane Extreme smock. I feel a bit guilty but there were a couple of factors driving my decision, not least the lack of a hood on the Buffalo.

It’s early days and I’ve not yet had a chance to fully test out the Montane so this is more of an initial look and comparison with the Special 6.

Materials

Pertex and Pile – an old system but it works. Both smocks utilise the same approach – a windproof Pertex outer mated to a pile lining for insulation – and both plump for Pertex Quantum as the first line of defence against the elements. Pertex is good stuff, I won’t go into all the technical details here but it’s windproof and, whilst not fully waterproof, serves to repel moisture well. If you’re worried about the lack of a waterproof shell, a couple of my blog posts go into the Pertex/Pile approach in more detail and there’s some even better info here and here.

Of course these are winter garments and wouldn’t be up to much without a healthy dose of Pile to keep you toasty warm. The Special 6 is armed with AquaTherm Pile whilst the Montane uses DryActiv 3000. Both are thick, snug and so far there’s not much between them. If I had to choose I’d probably say the Buffalo is a tad softer, this could be down to my Special 6 being a little older but either way, both will keep you warm and both do a good job of wicking moisture.

Where these two do differ is the sleeves. Montane have added PolarDri Mini-Rip reinforcing to the elbows/underside of the arm sleeves giving the Extreme a more robust feel. This material looks similar to the PForm shell that Buffalo use on their Alpine Jackets although seems a bit more rugged on the Extreme. Perhaps something Buffalo could look at for future shirts. 

Design and fit

It has to be said, the Montane Extreme just looks a bit more, modern. The Buffalo is functional and perfectly comfortable whilst on but looks like a five year olds drawing of a jumper. It’s cut square. Very square. There’s no tapering, no hint of an attempt to contour it to the body and as a result looks at odds anywhere but a mountain side. Conversely the Montane feels like a better fit, more technical.

The colour of my Special 6 may have tainted my opinion in the looks department, bright “mountain rescue” red just looks a bit try hard when ambling around the local woods in Kent. Montane’s Extreme on the other hand looks the business, particularly in the “Shadow” colourway with it’s red accents and contrasting sleeves. Both smocks of course come in different colours – as well as red the Special 6 can be had in Black or Olive Green whilst the Extreme adds Black, Red, and Olive Green to the Shadow.

Of course, out on the mountain none of this really matters but if you intend to wear one of these for a variety of outdoor activities, I reckon you’d feel less of a berk popping into Tesco at the end of a trip wearing the Montane.

One thing that may matter is the ability to control your temperature. These are warm garments and the ability to vent excess heat one of their key features. I found the cuffs of the Extreme tricky to get the sleeves pushed up to cool off your arms. Buffalos seem a little easier in this regard. There is some light relief from the fact that the Montane Extreme has a little less pile in the arms, presumably to aid venting but I’d rather just get the sleeves up and out of the way.

Features

I’ll get right in with the obvious one immediatley – Montane Extreme: comes with a hood. Buffalo: no hood.

OK so you can buy a hood for your Buffalo and it will fit any other Buffalo shirt but you’re looking at a roughly £40 outlay on top of your shirt (which at rrp is considerably more than an Extreme smock). I don’t own a Buffalo DP hood or the Buffalo Expedition hood so I can’t comment on how they work in real life compared to the hood on the Montane Extreme but they don’t look quite as good in my opinion. The hood on the Extreme is like a fortress, allowing you to properly batten down the hatches against the worst mother nature can throw at you. Don’t want it? It zips off. Want it on but not in full face covering mode? Two clever little stud presses let you clip it back to minimise flapping. Simple but effective. 

Both smocks have kangaroo chest pockets, Buffalo’s is a little wider whilst the Montane Extreme a little deeper. Both are huge. The Montane has a better zip, chunkier and less prone to snagging, something that annoys me about the Special 6.

One thing I like about the Montane Extreme that’s lacking in the Buffalo, is the inbuilt vent within the chest pocket. Open up the zips and you can really feel the ventilation getting through to your core. It’s little details like this that in my view push the Montane Extreme ahead of offerings from Buffalo.

Hand warmer pockets are present on both, both are compatible with rucksack hip belts but the Montane opts for a thinner fleece lining compared to the Buffalo which sticks with full fat pile. Debatable which is better although I have to admit there is nothing more comforting than shoving chilly hands into the pile of the Special 6 on those bitterly cold days.

Buffalo also include a cinch belt in the handwarmer pocket, allowing you to snug the shirt in tight and minimise any drafts. This feature is basic but works and is something I think I’ll miss not having with the Extreme.

An additional pocket rounds out the Montane and it’s a pocket not present on the Special 6. This little sleeve pocket on the right arm serves, as far as I can tell, no real purpose. It’s too small to fit anything useful other than perhaps a ski pass but given its only one side you might have to shuffle yourself around through the gates. Looks cool though.

The Montane Extreme does offer one last feature over and above the Buffalo – two small d ring loops on the sleeves which you can use for attaching gloves. It’s probably not something I’d use very often but could be useful when it’s blowing a hoolie, you need to check the map with gloves off and don’t want them whipped away in the wind. Not a deal breaker for me but again just shows that perhaps Montane have put a little more thought into evolving the classic Double P approach.

And the winner is…

There’s really not much between these two solid bits of kit, they both do exactly what they say on the tin. Neither are cutting edge in terms of materials yet both hold their own against more modern offerings and will keep you comfortable outdoors, whatever the weather. The Montane Extreme is undoubtedly a more refined take on the 80s classic and you get a lot of bang for your buck particularly with the hood included for the price but the Buffalo does its job without fuss.

Ultimately, whichever you choose the winner is you as you parade about outside in winter in supreme comfort.

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