The Moonstone Nitro Jacket is a minimalist jacket designed for the alpinist, backcountry skier, and adventure runner. Specialized features of the Nitro include a sculpted hood that fits over a helmet and a shortened body to accommodate a climbing harness. The Moonstone Nitro offers a water-resistant front zipper and side pocket zippers, a long sleeve length, an inside zippered mesh pocket, and an extended tail. At 14.2 oz, the Moonstone Nitro weighs about 2 oz (57 g) more than the “sweet spot” for lightweight nylon shell jackets that appeal most to backpackers. Overall, for someone who participates in “helmet sports”, the Nitro Jacket is a good value for a helmet-compatible shell, and would serve well for backpacking. However, for people who have no particular need for a helmet- and harness-compatible shell, there are other, lighter, and more backpacker-friendly (longer) shell jackets available.
- Garment Style – Hooded shell jacket.
- Fabric Class – Waterproof-breathable.
- Fabric Description – 40D Storm Flight 2.5 Layer Ripstop (Nylon ripstop face fabric with a DWR microporous polyurethane coating and a second polymer applied in a diamond matrix pattern). Finished weight is 2.3 oz/yd2 (77 g/m2).
- Weight – Men’s size Large: 14.2 oz (403 g)
- MSRP – $150
Depending on weather conditions, ventilation is accomplished by opening a combination of: extra long (15 in/38 cm) pit zips, full-length front zipper, hood drawcords, cuffs, and waist drawcord. The front pockets are not mesh-backed to provide additional ventilation.
The specialized features of this jacket are its sculpted and adjustable hood that fits over a climbing helmet, and slightly shorter body to avoid interference with a climbing harness. The tab for adjusting the back of the hood is too small and is difficult to locate with your fingers. Also, there is no provision for stowing the hood, or securing it out of the way in wind, when it is not needed. The two zippered side pockets have an enormous capacity, but are more useful when not carrying a pack (they are not quite high enough to provide easy access while wearing a hip belt). The low-profile neoprene/Velcro cuff tabs are easy to adjust, and the inside zippered mesh pocket is very handy.
Front and side zippers are of the so-called “water-resistant” type. While these zippers are a nice feature, they are stiffer and require two hands to operate the zipper. Pit zips are easy to open and close while wearing the jacket.
The Moonstone Nitro Jacket layers easily over a high-loft synthetic or thin down insulating jacket. The body is dropped 3 in (8 cm) in the back to help compensate for its shorter length in the front. For heavy rain, the Nitro is not long enough to protect the trunk, so rain pants are necessary.
The sculptured hood has three drawcord adjustments (two on the front and one on the back) to produce a snug fit around a helmet, insulated hat, billed cap, or bare head (see photo). The articulation of this jacket is superb. With the hood snugged, head-turning mobility with or without a helmet or pack is excellent. The sleeves are long enough to withdraw the hands. Sleeve and torso articulation are sufficient to allow the hands to be lifted above the head without exposing wrists or waist. When layered over midweight insulation, there is plenty of shoulder freedom to cross the arms.
Storm Resistance (4.5)
We subjected the Nitro to inclement conditions with and without a helmet, and with and without a pack, and found no leakage problems. The front full-length zipper and side pocket zippers are water-resistant, but did not leak. Pit zippers are not water-resistant and have a protective storm flap. All seams are taped. The cuffs are elastic with neoprene/Velcro tabs. The hood’s three drawcord adjustments and flexible brim provide face protection with or without a helmet and with the hood open or snugged. A waist drawcord on one side snugs the bottom hem around the butt to help seal out rain and wind.
Hiking at a pace of 3 mph (4.8 kph) on fairly level ground at cooler 32-45 deg F (0-7 deg C) temperatures in rainy and snowy weather with all vents closed, we found the jacket to be quite comfortable over a base layer. Carrying a pack under the same conditions resulted, unsurprisingly, in a gradual warmup inside the jacket. However, more strenuous activity in the form of carrying a 20-pound (9.1 kg) pack at 1-2 mph (1.6-3.2 kph) on a steady 10-20% uphill grade created wet and humid conditions in the jacket. With all of the vents closed, heat and moisture built up inside the jacket to the point that the activity could not be maintained without some ventilation. After this test, the inside of the jacket was thoroughly wet with condensation and the base layer worn underneath was very damp. We note that the level of breathability exhibited by the Nitro Jacket may be sufficient for less strenuous climbing and backcountry skiing, but it is not adequate for more strenuous backpacking and adventure running. In general, the perceived breathability of the Nitro is on par with other polyurethane-coated jackets in this price class.
Thanks to the pit zips, this jacket provides some relief for overheating. Carrying a pack at cooler temperatures at 3 mph (4.8 kph) on fairly level ground was comfortable with the pit zips open. However, during the higher exertion level test, opening the pit zips only provided partial relief. At the end of the test, the inside of the jacket was again wet and base layer damp, but not as much as the “vents-closed” breathability test. Some benefit is realized with the pit zips, but inability to provide cross flow ventilation between the pit zips and other torso vents (e.g., mesh backed torso pockets) limits their effectiveness. Thus, the Nitro needs more ventilation if it is to be used for higher exertion activities, perhaps in the form of mesh-backed pockets. However, because the torso pockets are low on the jacket, wearing a pack would reduce the effectiveness of pocket-based ventilation (see photo), and the stiff water-resistant zippers tend to hold the pockets closed, limiting air exchange.
We found the Moonstone Nitro Jacket to be sufficiently durable for general outdoor use, including off-trail hiking and scrambling. Its 40 denier nylon fabric face provides middle-ground durability for lightweight rainwear. Although the complex construction of a shell jacket provides some reinforcement owing to its numerous seams, pockets, and zippers, there are no heavier fabrics used in high wear areas. Overall, we would be comfortable using this jacket for off-trail bushwhacking, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing, but we would be hesitant to subject it to excessive abuse. In summary, we felt that its durability-to-weight ratio wasn’t particularly unique, especially when compared to other rain jackets in the 12-14 oz weight class.
With an MSRP of $150, the Nitro Jacket is one of the more expensive rain shells reviewed. However, it is somewhat unique in that it is designed to accommodate (successfully) a helmet and climbing harness, and at the same time be suitable for backpacking and backcountry skiing. For alpinists who have a need for the Nitro’s helmet and harness compatibility features, and want one jacket that can “do it all” the Moonstone Nitro is a reasonable value.
Recommendations for Improvement
The drawcord adjustment on the back of the hood needs a larger tab so it can be located and operated more easily, especially while wearing gloves or mitts. The jacket could use a bit more ventilation. Adding mesh backing to the torso pockets, and raising them upward by an inch, would certainly help. Finally, while the Nitro Jacket offers some nice features, at 14.2 oz (403 g), it is also 2-4 oz (57-113 g) heavier than some other ripstop nylon rain jackets on the market with similar features.