Mountain Equipment Product Testing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about a tour of the DMM factory (read the blog here) which Graham and I had the chance to partake in. On the day previous to this we had the chance to go out into the hills of Snowdonia to test out some Mountain Equipment clothing.  Here’s a round up on the bits we had the chance to try out and what we thought.

Conditions.  It was pretty good weather for really testing the clothing as it was raining in the morning with low cloud, but it wasn’t cold the temperature was around the 10°C mark.  This gave us a good idea of waterproofing and breathability.  It was also windy on the summits, though the route we had chosen was deliberately sheltered until we got to the tops. This gave us good chance to test the warmth and wind resistance of what we were wearing.

A typical day at Cwm Idwal
Lhotse Jacket

Route.  We went from Ogwen Cottage up to Idwal slabs, from there we scrambled up to the left of Idwal slabs and onto Seniors Ridge which we took to the top of the Glyders and walked to the summit of Glyder Fawr.  The route down took us down Y Gribin and then on down the False Gribin and back into Ogwen.

Lhotse Jacket

This is Mountain Equipment’s all round Gore-Tex Pro Jacket, designed to be taken on everything, from summer walks in case of a shower to full on winter mountaineering in Scotland.  I should point out that the jacket wasn’t brand new, it had obviously been worn on previous testing days set up by Mountain Equipment. My overall impression of the Lhotse was good, in fact it was better than I was expecting.

I usually run really warm, so tend to go for more breathable fabrics such as NeoShell when I pick my waterproof layers, I also like that these are more stretchy and flexible and less “crinkly” than Gore-Tex tends to be.  I did find the Lhotse actually breathed better than I expected and I didn’t have a problem with overheating due to the jacket, though I did feel more humid inside the jacket than I do in NeoShell.  It was noticeably stiffer than than I am used to, but I didn’t find it hindered my movement and I did appreciate the extra protection when we got to the summit and it was very windy.  In colder, more wintery conditions I think this jacket would be an excellent choice to provide breathable protection.  The cut gave plenty of movement and although overall it felt a little baggy on me as I was only wearing a base layer underneath it didn’t bunch up, get in the way or restrict movement at all.  The waterproofing was spot on with the DWR doing it’s job, though admittedly it wasn’t super testing conditions as the heavy rain soon slowed and stopped once we’d got going, though one of our group did put their own jacket to the test by standing under a stream!

Serious Testing
Ibex Pants

I won’t do a long review now on the Ibex pants as we only stock these during the winter – we stock the Comici Pants over the summer.  I wore the Ibex on both days and in terms of the fabric they were great.  Incredibly stretchy and tough fabric which felt great both on the first day on Seniors Ridge and the second day on Holyhead Mountain.  For me the downside was the Alpine cut which was just too tight on the thighs for my liking (I’m not a mega skinny rock jock).  It wasn’t uncomfortable, it just felt a bit strange and the narrow cut is noticeable in terms of how they look when you’re wearing them too.

Karakorum Mountain Pants
Karakorum Pants – Graham’s review

These are a winter item for us as well, so we don’t have any right now but they will be back again in the Autumn.  Both Luke and I had a pair of Mountain Equipment’s Karakorum pants to try out. The Karakorum pants are a 3 Layer Drilte waterproof over trouser that are designed for general mountain use. We have been stocking them for quite some time now and it was nice to be able get out and see how they performed.

When we set out for the day I had decided to wear just my Ibex pants, in true Welsh fasion the heavens decided to open just as we got to the car park, so I decided to throw the Karakorum pants on over the top. I wouldn’t normally do this, usually if it’s raining particularly hard at the start of the day I would wear a light pair of base layer pants directly underneath my over trousers. I was a little bit concerned that I would be way too warm once we got going; however throughout the day there were only a couple of short periods where I was uncomfortbale. The full length zips meant I could regulate my temperature pretty well, also the Drilite fabric breathed far better than I had expected. The fit of the pants is really good, not too tight and not too baggy and would make a perfect Scottish winter pant. The high waist will be great in winter to keep out the cold drafts.

I really liked the Karakorum pants and with an RRP of Ł200 they stand up pretty well against some of its Gore competitors. In fact I am seriously considering replacing my current Gore-Tex over trousers with a pair of them. The only thing I didn’t like was the placing of the buckles on the braces. Once I’d adjusted them they seemed to sit directly underneath my rucksack straps, which was pretty uncomfortable at times. This may have been due to the age and stretch in the braces (the pants we had to try were definitely not new!), replacements are available so changing them for new ones over time would stop this from happening.

On top of the Glyders
Kinesis Jacket
Kenesis Jacket – Graham’s review

I was looking forward to trying out the new Kinesis jacket, it’s a new product in Mountain Equipment’s range this spring. It looked like it would be ideal for colder days rock climbing and Mountaineering. I am going to be writing a full review on the Kinesis jacket shortly so I won’t go into too much detail, but here’s a little bit about the jacket and my first impressions.

The Kinesis is a super light insulated windproof which has great wicking properties; it is a true hybrid jacket. Mountain Equipment have used their excellent Helium 30 face fabric which is light and extremely windproof. They have added a gridded fleece drop liner to the arms and hood, and on the core of the body there is 60 grams of Polartec Alpha insulation. The combinations of these three fabrics make it a perfect active insulation piece. The fit is great; it’s close fitting but has enough room for 1 or maybe 2 extra layers underneath without your movement being too restricted. The hood is helmet compatible and has a really nice amount of adjustment to bring it in close to your head when not wearing a lid. The simple low profile cuffs sit comfortably under additional layers.

I have one little quibble with the Kinesis so far and that is how the drop liner has a tendency to catch on other layers when you are putting it on. I’m sure this could be a bit annoying if you need to put the jacket on in a hurry. Over all I am very impressed with how the Kinesis jacket performed, I kept it on all day and it offered an excellent amount of wind protection on its own and when paired with a shell.

Squall Hooded Jacket
Squall Hooded Jacket

This is a lightweight softshell designed for the climber.  I did wear the Squall under the Lhotse Jacket when we descended Y Gribin as I needed some extra warmth and it performed well, though this was hardly a suitable test for the Squall.  A much better test for the Squall was an afternoon of climbing the next day on Holyhead mountain in bright and breezy conditions – typical UK rock climbing weather.

The Squall is quite a thin, lightweight jacket, so I did worry about how it would cope with abrasion from the rock.  In the event it wasn’t a problem as it didn’t snag on anything and just brushed off some fairly tough use without so much as a mark.  The lightweight fabric also performed well in terms of wind protection and was ideal for me as it gave me plenty of protection but at no point did I get sweaty.  The offset front zip, which is something I’ve always thought of at best as a gimmick or at worst as an annoyance, was actually good as it kept the zip away from my mouth and chin but wasn’t so extreme as to create a huge flap to one side when not zipped all the way up.  Mountain Equipment have definitely managed to get this bit spot on.  The hood was also good as I found it cinched down easily and moved with your head without obscuring your view.

As with all Mountain Equipment clothing the draw cords are not joined so you can’t accidentally clip gear to them or catch your crampons in them – the little things which make such a difference! All in all I was seriously impressed with the Squall Hooded Jacket – it is an ideal lightweight summer softshell which any climber will definitely appreciate.

Holyhead Mountain

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