Jacket Reviews and News

Mountain Hardwear Introduces Carve and Edge Jackets

Mountain Hardwear has introduced two new performance shells, the Men's Edge jacket and Women's Carve jacket.  Intended for backcountry and snowsports use, both jackets feature a Gore-Tex Soft Shell laminate and grid fleece backing offering outstanding waterproofness and breathability.

Offering taped seams, welded/water resistant zippers, and an internal MP3 pocket, the Edge and Carve jackets look like a great choice to keep you warm and dry when you're on the mountain.  Both jackets retail for an MSRP of $395.

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Mountain Hardwear Backstage Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Backstage Jacket

The Mountain Hardwear Backstage Jacket is a solid soft shell offering exceptional warmth, terrific water resistance, a great fit, and some extra perks.  It’s all around a fantastic soft shell but does, unfortunately, come with one noticeable drawback.  Regardless, this is the jacket that’s replaced the hooded sweatshirts I used to wear instead of a full-on jacket, even in the pouring rain.

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EMS Expedition Primaloft Sweater

      A bit of an older jacket, The EMS Expedition Sweater has been discontinued, in favor of either the Ascent Belay Jacket or the Heater SYNC Jacket.

      It appears, though, that the Expedition Sweater had the best of both worlds: an athletic fit, superb pit zips, and a hood.  This jacket is excellent for cold days with a chance of rain or snow, and with the pit zips and removable hood, is also suitable for a wide range of weather conditions.

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Jansport Orb Jacket

Jansport Orb Jacket

There are plenty of synthetic insulations out there that perform better than down in terms of compressibility and loft retention, but for sheer warmth, it’s very difficult to beat down, the best natural insulator.  And since down has a tendency to lose loft when it gets wet, it’s helpful to have a down jacket that comes with a solid water-resistant nylon or polyester outer shell.  The Jansport Orb Jacket has just that, but it doesn’t stop there; the jacket also features seamless shoulders, and a lot of pockets, great for the outdoorsman on a budget.

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Cabela's Thermal Extreme Fleece 60 Windshear Jacket

      Cabela’s, “the world’s foremost outfitter,” is well-known throughout the hunting and fishing worlds for their high quality clothing and gear.  I’ve tried a couple of their garments in the past, and although they are usually of pretty high quality, it’s usually the fit of the garment that can be a deterrent for me.  The T.E.F. 60, while providing a pretty good fit, is not ideal, but it is windproof, and, coupled with a lightweight insulation, is quite warm, too, a good choice for those who want something that’ll keep the wind off, and keep them warm in the process.

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The North Face Geosphere Jacket

      As a rule of thumb, I like to have at least one windproof jacket in my collection of outerwear.  This does not include hard shells, since hard shells are inherently windproof (although, to be perfectly honest, I have seen a very few fully seam-taped hard shells in my lifetime that were merely wind-resistant).  The Geosphere has the potential to fill that slot: a windproof, water-resistant, breathable shell.  Constructed from TNF’s proprietary Hydrenalite fabric, and given a good dose of DWR, the jacket’s designed to keep you dry in most conditions, like a softshell, although, given the option, I’d probably more accurately classify this one as a windshell, suitable for cool, windy weather with a chance of rain.  At over 17 ounces, the Geosphere gets a good kick in the pants from many windshells that are very comfortable in the 3-7 ounce range.  But then again, it’s a good deal more durable, and feature-packed,  than those shells, and could probably stand up to even a bit of bushwhacking.

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Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka

Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka

I think that in the search for the perfect hardshell, there are three characteristics that take top priority (already assuming full waterproofness): durability, breathability, and light weight.  Due to a problem with a previous jacket, I was given the opportunity to own a Gore-Tex jacket of my choosing (thank you, Gore!).  I decided on the Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka, which I now consider one of the best jackets I own.  It’s got durability (Gore-Tex XCR on the hood, shoulders, and upper arms).  It’s got breathability in spades (Gore-Tex PacLite for the main body of the shell, and good-sized pit zips).  And it’s definitely lightweight, weighing in at only 16 ounces, very impressive for a fully seam-taped hardshell with a lot of features.  It doesn’t get much better than this, folks.

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REI Boreas Jacket

REI Boreas Jacket

 No season in the outdoors is safe from unpredictability; spring and fall, of course, hold more uncertainty than summer and winter.  It’s always nice to have an emergency shell to throw on in the event of a sudden rain- or snowfall.  Compressibility is of high priority, and it’s nice to have a hood, as well.  The REI Boreas is an excellent candidate for an emergency shell.

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The North Face Redpoint Optimus Jacket

The North Face Redpoint Optimus Jacket

For being part of TNF’s Summit Series line of clothing and gear, the Redpoint Optimus is relatively inexpensive, at under $200.  But that doesn’t mean it skimps on quality or features.  An adjustable hood, seamless shoulders, stellar water resistance and the ability to stuff the jacket into its own interior pocket adds up to a solid entry for cold, wet weather wear.

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Cabela's Cimarron Peak Windstopper Jacket

Cabela's Cimarron Peak Windstopper Jacket

Hardshells are not necessary for the majority of wet weather cases.  Often a softshell, with or without a hood, will do just fine.  And if you can find one with Windstopper, Gore’s proprietary windproof membrane, that’s even better, because windproof garments are inherently water-resistant.  From all appearances, Cabela’s Cimarron Peak fulfills these requirements: a Windstopper membrane, lightweight, a fully adjustable hood, and seamless shoulders.  But there is another, less pleasant side to this jacket: really wonky fit, as we will see.

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