Mountain Hardwear Backstage JacketPosted By Jonathan on Jan 5 '08
|Cinch Cords:||Hem & Neck||Insulation:||Fleece|
|Napoleon Pocket:||Yes||Handwarmer Pockets:||2|
|Sleeve Pockets:||None||Zipper Type:||Water-Resistant|
|Chin Abrasion Guard:||Yes||MSRP:||$199|
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.
The Backstage Jacket comes fully loaded with five pockets. On the outside, it features two handwarmer pockets and one reasonably large left chest pocket. These outer pockets are all equipped with water-resistant zippers.
On the inside, the two pockets are both located on your left side. The lowest pocket, near the bottom of the jacket, opens up the fleece lining for storage.
The second pocket, located in upper chest area, is a separate compartment sewn on top of the fleece liner. This pocket’s main functionality is for that of an MP3 player. It features a headphone port in the upper left hand corner of the pocket to feed your headphone cable up and out of the jacket.
It should also be noted that this pocket may not accommodate all MP3 players, based on their size and headphone port location. However, to compensate for this, the pocket has a cable hole running to the outer chest pocket of the jacket. I’m able to put my larger 3rd generation iPod in the outer pocket and run the headphone cable into the jacket and up to my ears with no fear of getting the iPod wet (thanks to the water-resistant zippers).
As mentioned before, each of the three outer zippers are water-resistant. They are harder to open and close due to how they work to seal out the weather. However, they become a bit easier over time.
The main outer zipper is, quite frankly, one of the nicest I’ve ever used. It’s so easy to zip up and down that if you zip it up its attached side (not connected to the other side of the jacket) you can let it free fall back to the bottom. Don’t worry though, when you zip it up normally it stays put. This main outer zipper is protect by a slightly stiff storm flap to keep out wind and moisture. You’ll also be glad to know that not only does the upper part of the zipper have a soft chin abrasion guard, but the same material runs all the way down the inside of the zipper.
The zippers for the remaining two inner pockets are what I’d call normal; trouble free zipping with metal ends.
The neck is adjustable with one cinch cord, while the hem is adjustable with dual cinch cords. I’m sorry to say that this is where the jacket falls short. If much pressure is put on the cinch cords (such as movement with a tightly cinched hem), they slide through the cinches and give way, loosening the grip. This is disappointing as it can make it difficult to keep the air-tight seal. This failure is as simple as insufficient cord locks.
The Backstage has a couple tricks up its sleeve. In fact, one up each sleeve and one on the inside of the jacket. At the end of each sleeve, on the inside of the jacket, there is a comfortable, stretchy cuff that helps to seal in the heat. My only complaint here is that they’re not as tight as they could be (in the event you have smaller wrists). Nonetheless, it makes for a comfortable fit.
Previously mentioned in greater detail, the Backstage sports an inner pocket with a cord hole to its outer chest pocket. This makes it a breeze to fit any size MP3 player in one of the two pockets, making it possible to run a headphone cord up through the jacket. In fact, given the size of the outer pocket it may be possible to fit a full-on portable CD player in it, passing the cord through the inside of the jacket.
Weak cinch cords that struggle to hold during movement.
This is one warm soft shell. I made the mistake of wearing this jacket with a thin, long sleeve fleece underneath for an 8 minute walk in mid 30 degree (F) weather. To say the least, I was sweating upon finishing my brief walk. The Backstage Jacket features a PimpChimp fleece liner that offers comfort out of this world. It’s so soft that I almost want to wear it with nothing underneath! It’s not your average fleece; it’s fairly shaggy and offers the physical motion of wicking away any body moisture.
Offering fully taped seams, Mountain Hardwear’s Conduit Soft Shell Membrane fabric, an excellent DWR and seamless shoulders, the Backstage Jacket gives the hardest rain or snow a run for its money. Walking in the pouring down rain, I have confidence that I’ll remain completely dry (with the exception of my head), along with what’s in my inner and outer pockets.
All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Backstage Jacket. It’s a concrete soft shell that offers great features and superb extras. Disappointingly, it falls short in a seemingly simple area; not being able to hold a tight cinch around the hem or neck. Although this downfall is not what you’d expect out of a jacket in this price range (or any jacket for that matter), it doesn’t affect the overall feel of the jacket too much. I’ve only noticed the looser hem cinch in very windy conditions with a large updraft. The neck cinch seems to hold fairly well, likely because there is less movement around the area. With this flaw aside, the Backstage is a warm, dry, concrete jacket that’s become my first choice for wearing three seasons out of the year.
Bringing down the score a bit is the unforgiveable flaw of weak cinch cords. This shouldn’t have been something Mountain Hardwear was able to overlook.
The Verdict: 8/10