Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Part 4b: Gear Reviews (Continued)

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Part 4b: Gear Reviews (Continued)

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    Stephanie Jordan


    Locale: Rocky Mountains
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Good series Will

    If they made rain jackets bigger around there would be more internal air flow. If they made them longer you'd get more protection. But then they weigh more which they don't like if they're competing to be the lightest weight

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Will

    Very broad coverage. What a lot of work. But good fun. Thanks.


    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Good Series! Sort'a sorry to see it ending.

    Joel Benford


    Locale: Surrey flatlands, England

    I really wonder about the rain chaps.

    I have some Rab Hispar long gaiters, meant for boots, which are eVent for about the top 70% and non-breathable polywhotsit around the ankles. If I wear them with shoes, the bottom bit gets entirely covered with a film of water on the inside after about an hour. The eVent remains dry.

    I wonder how rain chaps made out of silnylon, PU, cuben etc can be anything but awful. Do you wear them loose and flappy enough to get ventilation, or something?

    spelt with a t
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rangeley, ME

    I think the MH scree gaiters were mentioned in an earlier article in this series but they're not reviewed here.

    No Rab or Haglofs rainwear? The Enzo at least is under 8 oz and probably deserves a mention.

    Terramar makes a synthetic liner glove that I've been very pleased with, for those not wanting to go the merino route. OR makes a PL Base glove that I believe is the same weight as the Versaliners, should a person want the fleece but not the shell.

    OR makes the Revel shell mitt in Pertex Shield DS, but I'm not sure of the weight. Not as minimalist as MLD or Zpacks, certainly.

    I read reviews of the Versaliner mentioning the unsealed seams. Marmot Precip gloves are claimed waterproof but reviews I read said they wet out easily/the DWR was crap. I think they are listed at 4 oz/pair. MH Epic gloves are 2.9 oz/pair in size small. They might not be light enough to make the cut here, but they ARE actually waterproof. These are the only three claimed waterproof shell gloves I found. Others like the Marmot Driclime have only DWR or are insulated and not true shells.

    Obviously mitts are simpler, but if someone really needs a waterproof shell glove, I recommend the Epics. I balked at first b/c they're expensive, but having dry hands during early spring river trips was completely worth it.

    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    Excellent set of reviews. This is great stuff. I really like it. A couple additions I would like to see (obviously for future articles):

    I would love a review of garments insulated with synthetic material. I own a Cocoon jacket and pant and they are definitely competitive with the down garments at that weight. Once you start adding a bunch of insulation, down makes a lot more sense (as it provides a lot more warmth for the weight). Since I could easily transfer a lot of moisture from my body to a sweater or pant, I prefer synthetic.

    I would also really like to see MVTR, CFM (wind resistance) and HH (waterproofness) numbers on a chart for lots of jackets and pants. This would include the jackets and pants shown here, but also Propore and (other) wind shirts. As I understand it, there is a direct trade-off between breathability and wind protection. This means that a windshirt (or rain jacket) that is really windproof won't be very breathable. All of this suggests that there is no perfect jacket, but good jackets can be combined into an ideal garment. This is especially true if you plan on using a windshirt or rain jacket as bug protection.

    For example, I use Propore right now for bug, rain and wind protection. It does a pretty good job at all of these for very little weight. The big drawback is fragility (as you mentioned). After reading this article, though, I realize that some of the new jackets could simply be better than Propore overall. Some of the jackets are lighter, and may be as breathable and waterproof as Propore. Even if they aren't, I could easily combine a (not so breathable) rain jacket with a very breathable windshirt without adding much weight (if any). This is why a chart would be very handy. I could see which rain jackets compare (on MVTR, CFM and HH) to my Propore. If I find one that is very similar and weighs less, then I could just upgrade to that jacket. If I find one that breathes a bit less, then maybe it makes sense to combine it with a windshirt that is really breathable.

    The same is true for ponchos. A windshirt and poncho combination might be the best thing for wind, rain and bug protection.

    There is no substitute for the in depth, detailed reviews you provide here. However, just getting the numbers and putting them on a chart would provide folks like me with a great starting point. Compared to a full review, I think that would be easier to do as well. The obvious cost is to purchase the items. Once you do that, though, you can do the lab based testing (which is a lot less time consuming than field testing).

    Dan Durston
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    I've got the Mountain Hardware Quasar jacket. My understanding is that the membrane is the same as the Blazar (both Dry Q Elite). The difference is the face fabric, as the Quasar (2012) uses 15D nylon while the newer Blazar (2013) uses their 7D x 10D "Ghost Whisperer" nylon face fabric. That's what their rep told me anyways. While not ideal for SUL, I prefer the Quasar because a lighter/less durable face fabric is likely the last area I'd compromise to save weight. I'd rather they compromised elsewhere (ie. nix the internal pocket).

    The Quasar/Blazer is a really nice jacket. It's eVent and being a 3-layer, the shell should hold up better (ie. bubbling/delam) than most of these 2.5 layer coats. The wrist gators are a nice feature for shoulder season/winter use, while a con in hot summer environments. I like how this jacket is highly weatherproof, since you've got no externally opening pockets and no full front zip to let in rain puddling on your lap, and the jacket zips up nice and high on your face to seal things up there (yet it stays out of your face when you don't fully zip it.

    The biggest con with the Quasar (and most UL rain jackets) is the torso length. At 29" (center back length) it's a bit short, so your lower back can peak out when hunched over. I'd like to see most rain coats closer to 32" like the Westcomb Focus. A few smaller cons with the Quasar/Blazar are the thumbholes are a bit small (ie. can't wear gloves in them) and the hood doesn't turn with your head beyond about 20 degrees. While these jackets are expensive, the frugal will notice that Quasar's are currently widely available at ~50% off close out prices (~$180).

    I'm not a fan of the Pertex Shield membrane used in quite a few of these jackets. It's waterproof initially, but it's wimpy stuff. My Miminus pants are bubbling everywhere after 6 months of regular use (biking, hiking) and my wife's Montane Minimus jacket that's barely seen use is showing early worrisome signs. The membrane feels different than anything else. I believe them that it's more breathable than a normal PU membrane because it's barely there. Good for occasional SUL use, but not great if you're looking for durability under regular use. I think companies are taking the wrong approach with some of these jackets. Instead of achieving low weight through minimal features with a good shell fabric & membrane, they're using ultrafragile shell fabrics and membranes while retaining a moderate feature set. That's partly why the Quasar appeals to me – virtually all the weight is in the 3 layer shell fabric and the weight that isn't is easily snipped (internal pocket, wrist gators) if you don't find it valuable.

    The ankle flap system on the Minimus pant is a pain – I cut the velcro flaps off as they just make it a pain to use the ankle zips, as the velcro is constantly affixing while you're trying to slide your leg through. I'll probably end up slapping tent floor sealant all over my minimus pants as they're far from waterproof now as the membrane is largely useless now.

    Ben Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Georgia

    I have had the same experience as Dan with the Quasar – great combination of minimal features and durable fabric. I've had mine for about a year and probably the only complaint that I have is that the zipper is a little stiff – but I suppose that is to be expected from a waterproof zipper with no rain flap in front of it.

    Brett Peugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    I really like the look of the Sierra Designs AirShell and am wondering if doing a DWR wash might help it right along to be even better?



    Locale: Lake Tahoe

    Re: "I would love a review of garments insulated with synthetic material. I own a Cocoon jacket and pant and they are definitely competitive with the down garments at that weight. Once you start adding a bunch of insulation, down makes a lot more sense"

    I agree. I don't wear down unless the temp is so low that the only possible precip is dry snow. Otherwise, synthetics. Waterproof down may become an exception.

    Roman Vazhnov
    BPL Member


    Locale: Russia

    Quasar/Blazar hood lacks volume adjustability. Dissapointed a little.

    Dan Durston
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Rather than toss on a big hood with a cinch so it crudely works for everyone (akin to packs with adjustable torso lengths), Mountain Hardware has taken a more bold approach. They've given the hood a fixed and small circumference with the idea it will work for most heads and fit under helmets for applications that require one. So for people who have a small-medium sized head it's a simple, light way to go, while it won't work for everyone.

    There is adjustment around the face opening, although I question whether this was needed as well as it closes up well without any use of this. It could use a little more substance to the brim.

    Stephen Parks


    Locale: Southwest

    I just picked up a pair of these at Home Depot – very nice! Comfortable and great grip. These would be great to have for negotiating rocky areas or for gripping assistance ropes or chains. .85 oz for medium is excellent. And at $5 a pair, get both your regular size for warm weather and the next size up to wear liners underneath if it will be colder. Thanks for telling us about these.

    Stephen Parks


    Locale: Southwest

    Bonus: I just found out that I can operate the touchscreen on my iPhone with these gloves on. Not quite as well as bare fingers, but well enough.

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