I came across the Integral Designs eVent Pullover while on my seemingly endless search for hard shell bliss. Honestly, my first thought was something along the lines of “Huh! These guys actually make some cool stuff!” In my experience, Integral Designs is not a company that has much brand recognition with the majority of US consumers, and I think many of those who have heard of the company think of it as “that other brand.” My experience with the eVent Pullover, however, clearly places Integral Designs in the top echelon of gear purveyors.
The appeal on paper is was what drew me in. The specs of the eVent Pullover: a 10-ounce, three-ply eVent shell. The design is clean, the aesthetic is uncluttered and purposeful. The 17-inch chest zipper allows for excellent ventilation, and the shell sports merely one more small zipper for a Napoleon pocket on the left chest. The hood is an integral part of the collar design, and the drop tail, while not allowing for full head to toe protection, provides good rain protection from head to sit pad. I liked that the shell doesn’t have pit zips, because I generally feel that if a jacket needs to be unzipped that much, it probably shouldn’t be worn, and I’d rather not have the extra weight, bulk, or frills.
This gives you a general idea of the fit, clean design, and integration of the hood and collar.
If you’ve spent some time researching lightweight eVent shells, you might notice that the Integral Designs eVent Pullover looks remarkably similar to the Rab Demand Pull-On, for good reason. Rab now owns Integral Designs, and particularly plans on incorporating light and fast gear into the Integral Designs brand.
Build Quality and Material
One of the first things I noticed about the shell when I got it in hand was the relatively substantial feel of the fabric. Other shells I’ve handled in this weight range have felt pretty wispy, but not so with the Integral Designs eVent Pullover. The material feels like you could actually wear it on a lengthy trip and not worry about having to baby your jacket. I guess you could say that the material inspires a degree of confidence. At only 10 ounces, though, the face fabric can’t be much more substantial than that found on the lightest waterproof-breathable shells. What makes the difference, I believe, is the use of three-ply construction instead of the two-ply or two+-ply construction many of the lightest jackets now use. Instead of just having the face fabric and waterproof layer, the Pullover also has a layer of tricot mesh laminated to the waterproof layer.
The finish quality also grabbed my attention quickly. Stitching is consistent and tight, seams are well-fitted and use narrow tape, and openings are neatly finished with clean simplicity. Overall design has been well thought through. I like the integration of the hood drawcords into the hood and collar designs. The elastic cuffs are as simple as they get, completely functional with a minimum of fuss or weight. The chest pocket is a clean installation, with a good hood over the top of the zipper. For whatever reason, I like the addition of a snap at the top of the main zipper, as well as the wrap-over chin fleece.
A closer look at the deep chest zipper and front pocket. Also note the snaps at the collar points.
Fit… Once You Go Up a Size, It’s Great
Fit of the eVent Pullover is trim. In fact, I wear a large instead of the medium I wear in nearly all other brands. That said, the shell fits well. Sized as I have, the jacket is not baggy, but has enough room for me to wear a midlayer and a down vest underneath. Wearing just a baselayer and midlayer, I could wear the size medium eVent Pullover, but the fit was a little too constrictive for my tastes. Although I had to go up one size, I think the resultant fit is just about perfect. The drop seat is a good length for me and works as intended. I’ve found the simple elastic cuffs to work admirably well while being unobtrusive. The adjustable hood fits well and adapts to a variety of layering requirements.
The drop seat provides welcome coverage and, unlike other jackets I’ve had, didn’t leave me wishing the rear was a few inches longer.
Considerations on the Hood
The hood, however, was my main source of frustration with the pullover. Integration of the hood into the collar cleans up the lines of the garment, but I found that the collar consistently, and literally, got in my face when partially unzipped. The collar almost removed my glasses on a number of occasions! Slight head rotation, and/or slight head tilt, easily brought the edge of the collar to my eye, particularly if the hood was up and the shell partly unzipped. I tried a variety of methods to get the collar to lay down, including dropping the hood and unzipping fully, but at the end of the day the collar was designed to stand up, and it generally does. For the most part it’s not a huge deal, but it is a bugger when the hood’s up and you want to vent. I wonder if it would be possible to attach a small Velcro tab at the leading edge of each collar point and one tab at the rear to minimize collar extension.
The collar/hood points easily find their way under my glasses. Also note the oddly truncated wire brim.
My favorite winter cap of all time uses a wire brim, which I find to be eminently functional, but I’m not a big fan of the wire brim on the Integral Designs eVent Pullover. It seems to be oddly integrated into the hood, sort of a floating attachment that could provide more support if it was better secured, or perhaps wrapped a bit further around to the back. Don’t get me wrong, it gets the job done just fine, but it’s just… a little bit off.
Despite occasional relapses, I’m pretty much one of those guys who always has some kind of facial hair. One thing I’ve found throughout the years is that facial hair, particularly during a “stubble face” phase, can really wear down clothing. The tricot liner of the eVent Pullover seems to be a bit softer than that of other three-ply garments I’ve owned before, and thought it has fuzzed up more quickly, it still seems to have full integrity. If I could re-work the jacket, I might try to conjure a way to wrap just the face fabric back down over the inside of the collar. I think doing so would greatly increase wear resistance, with minimal effect on breathability.
Sometimes the collar behaves quite nicely.
I have mixed feelings about the single chest pocket. It is positioned in such a way that it is functional and accessible even when wearing a pack. And, there are times when it’s nice to have a pocket on an outer garment, though I find that in the backcountry I normally just want a place to stash a butane lighter and perhaps a small folding knife. Pockets seem more “necessary” for front-country life, for example stowing a wallet and cell phone. What I’ve found is that I use a pant pocket for the lighter and knife, and I don’t carry a wallet or phone (normally) in the backcountry. For town life, the chest pocket is quite convenient. Otherwise, it strikes me as unnecessary. It isn’t a big quibble, but eliminating the pocket would streamline the garment some more, cut a little weight, and enhance breathability (the pocket is made completely of eVent).
Speaking of breathability, the Integral Designs eVent Pullover did not disappoint. I started testing going relatively easy on the shell by wearing my lightest baselayer at a moderately low activity level. Subjectively speaking, breathability struck me as roughly comparable to a windbreaker worn in similar situations. I progressively built up layers and activity level to see just how well the eVent shell dealt with sweaty conditions.
A detail shot showing the elastic sleeve cuff. Simple, but functional and well-executed. It fit snugly enough to keep the sleeves from sliding down my hands, but loosely enough to be quite comfortable.
I wore the eVent Pullover with only a 150 g/m2 merino wool zip tee in temperatures ranging from the teens to high 60s, with no pack and with one up to twenty pounds. The most I wore was that same baselayer with a 320 g/m2 merino hoody, a loden vest, and a stocking cap, in temperatures ranging from 0 F to 32 F (-18 C to 0 C), while snowshoeing. My typical testing was with a 200 g/m2 merino layer in temps ranging from about 10 F to 50 F (-12 C to 10 C), during fast-paced hikes.
I’ve found that I am able to wear the Pullover across a broader range of temperatures and activity than other, non-eVent hard shells I’ve worn in the past. Even when purposefully over-dressed to make myself sweat heavily, the shell handled things pretty well. In those heavily-dressed situations I was obviously too hot, and the humidity level inside the shell was obviously high, but I didn’t find myself or the inner surface of the shell wet, as I’ve learned to expect from other rain wear. In more moderate clothing and conditions, I was able to continue wearing the shell when I normally would have had to remove it. I never found myself wishing I had pit zips, perhaps also due in part to the super-deep main zipper. I’m not going to say the Pullover is as airy (or arid) as wearing a windbreaker, but for a full-on waterproof/breathable shell, its performance is quite remarkable.
Here you can see the relatively clean lines of the shell, the slightly funky hood, the relative depth of the chest zipper, and a bit o’ fit.
So, the question of the moment: “Does the strong appeal, on paper, of the Integral Designs eVent Pullover materialize in real-world use?” Yes, the Pullover meets my hopes and expectations. It’s light, durable, very breathable, and highly functional. A few design tweaks would help the Pullover sort of melt away into the background of a user’s outdoor experience, but it still seems to be the first shell I grab as I head out the door.
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.