I (Stella) do not usually balk at paying a higher price for good quality clothing and/or gear. However, when I first viewed this jacket at the local REI, I was a bit taken aback by the sticker price. To me, the jacket had looked like nothing more than a flimsy piece of fabric. On that particular day, I was on the lookout for a lightweight, wind-resistant and water-repellant hooded jacket for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Once Larry had convinced me to try the jacket on, I was hooked. The jacket fit like a glove, literally.
FIT: I chose the extra small size. The length of the sleeves are ideal for any type of glove that I may be wearing (in the winter, I always have two different types in my Osprey Rev 6 Hydration Pack), and when I am not wearing gloves, the sleeves do not fall over my hands – they stay in place on my wrists. The body of the jacket is slim-fitting, and conforms to my body so that it does not interfere with my activity. With that said, however, because it is a very slim fit, I am limited to what I wear underneath it. If I were to purchase another one of these jackets in the future, I would likely buy it in the small size, yet even with that larger size, the jacket would still be slim fitting enough to not be bulky and interfere with activities. I also wanted a soft shell jacket, because I get annoyed with ‘noisy’ clothing.
The best feature of this jacket is the design of the zippered neck and hood. The jacket zips all the way up to about the tip of my nose, which provides great wind protection for my neck and bottom half of my face. And because of the way the jacket zips, the hood actually stays on my head (and I have a very small head). The size of the hood is perfect, as it is small enough to stay on my head without a hat, and is large enough to accommodate a hat. But if the jacket is not fully zipped up all the way to the nose, then the hood does not stay on, which I think is part of the overall design concept.
FUNCTIONALITY: Conditions at high altitude(s) are always variable, and can change rapidly. During our outdoor adventures, I have been exposed to all of the elements. And regardless if I am snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking, this coat is ALWAYS with me. I am either wearing it, or it is stuffed in my Osprey Rev 6 Hydration Pack. Because it is so thin and lightweight, it rolls up well and takes up very little space. And somehow, no matter how I smush this jacket, it never gets wrinkled! This jacket also breathes exceptionally well, as it does a great job of allowing moisture to escape from my skin. Below, I will describe how the jacket performs in the three elements that I am exposed to during the three activities mentioned above:
- Snow: If the snow is falling heavily, then I would likely wear my North Face jacket, even though it may be a little warm for the temperature, because it would help me to stay dry (I can always shed layers underneath the coat). When the snow is not falling heavily, this jacket provides adequate water-repellant action, but may not be warm enough, depending upon the temperature and level of activity that one is partaking in. That is why I always have two jackets with me in the winter, and why I dress in layers.
- Rain: I will be very frank: this jacket is NOT a raincoat. I have hiked in pouring rain with this jacket, and the rain soaked right through to my skin. And because I was wet, I was cold. However, this jacket will provide water repellant action when worn during a mild drizzle/sprinkle. When you’re done with your activity, simply shake the jacket to dispel the water droplets. This jacket has kept me dry during many damp excursions.
- Wind: How this jacket performs in this element is a little more difficult to describe, because it ultimately depends upon the overall temperature, and what I am wearing underneath the jacket. If I have adequate clothing underneath, this jacket will provide wind resistant action so that I do not get cold. But if the temps drop into the single digits, coupled with the wind, this jacket may not be enough (for me) to stay warm, even with proper clothing underneath. I am a very small person, so I tend to get colder more easily. So, how this coat performs in the wind with keeping one warm is highly subjective, and involves many variables.
DURABILITY: I know this jacket is not tear-proof, yet I have scraped against many tree branches and boulders while snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking, and this jacket is still fully in tact. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but I have put this jacket to the test and it has held up wonderfully. The seams around the zippers on the front of the jacket and along the pockets are also still fully intact, which is quite remarkable. Additionally, there have been times when I have had to stuff gloves and other things into the pockets, and the material of the jacket always stretches to accommodate my needs. This jacket has not failed me.
BOTTOM LINE: I love this jacket. It has fulfilled every single purpose that I had bought it for. However, could I find another jacket to do the exact same thing and feel the exact same way, but in another equally comparable brand with a lower price tag? Probably. Would I buy another one? Depends upon my mood that day.
Overall: Great Purchase
Price paid: $125 (REI Sale Price)
Place purchased: REI
Link to Arc’teryx website: Arc’teryx
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