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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Marmot Hyper Jacket.....a field test and review.

The new  Marmot Hyper Jacket
weight 13.3 oz

Westcom Apoc 17.3 oz
EB Frontpoint 18.2 oz
(all in XL)

I've been told I can be pretty harsh in person.

One of my basic judgement calls on people or gear is, "stand and deliver".

Basically the idea is back up your mouth with performance.  If you do/can, then say what you want.  But be prepared to be judged by your words and deeds.   Nothing wrong with failure but lets not make the reason behind failure an excuse.  Shit happens, get on with it.

What does that have to do with a garment review/field test?   I have been asked several times about how some of the newest fabrics measure up against the new Polartec NeoShell.  I had no clue really since I have only used two of the "new garments".   And since I seldom use hard shells these days I wasn't likely to be able to make a better comparison any time soon.

Add that to the fact the NeoShell was a writer's sample I was given and my comments would make me, as a consumer reading the review, very very suspect.

I enjoy writing and looking at the performance of new gear compared to what I have used in the past.  This blog is the end result of my curiosity.  Fun when someone disagrees or questions an opinion.  Fair enough, as I will try to back up with experience and facts what I write in a review .

I had a local Marmot rep ask if I had used any of the Marmot "Strata" garments.  I hadn't.   Neither did I have the desire (for a another hard shell) or the coin to pop for one.   But I was interested in the answer to the question as much as anyone.  When the Marmot rep (thanks Jon) offered a pro deal on any jacket of my choice.  I just had to know for myself how good Marmot's Strata really was.  

Marmot stood up and made themselves an easy target.  I figured it was time for me to back up my mouth.

First impression?  I had forgotten about the pro-form order until FED EX showed on a cold and damp afternoon in June.   I was wearing a EB down sweater over a t-shirt around the shop and freezing my ass off.  As I said, "cold and damp".

Saw the shipping label and I ripped open the package.  Love the soft red color.  Like a velvet rose.  You'll notice it.   But easy on the eyes. Nice.  Slipped it on over my down sweater.  Damn good fit.  Surprised actually.   And wonderful Velcro closed cuffs.   Slim fit.  Perfect for medium to lt heavy weight layering under it.  It is a close fitting shell I could climb in.  I'd like to climb in.  The stretch in the material is simply amazing...think lycra kind of stretch....and lots of it!

With the Hyper jacket over my down sweater I did a few arm/shoulder swings and struggled through a couple off pull ups .  No binding at all from the shell.  None!  Impressive....very impressive!

Here is the Marmot spiel:

"This extremely pliable shell features Marmot’s MemBrain® Strata™ technology, for lightweight, breathable, waterproof performance—with enough stretch to satisfy the most flexible athletes and weekend warriors"

Call it "stand and deliver".  By my call, the Hyper is judged worthy of its claims.

More from Marmot here:


◦Marmot MemBrain® 2.5 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric
◦Micro-Stitched and 100% Seam Taped - for maximum waterproof protection
◦Attached Hood - Provides an Extra Warmth Layer Under a Shell Hood or By Itself in Milder Conditions
◦Water Resistant Front Zipper - WR Front Zipper
◦Chest Pocket with Water-Resistant Zipper - Chest Pocket with W/R Zipper
◦Hand Pockets with Concealed Zippers
◦Stretch Anatomic Articulation - Stretch Fabric and Design Feature Reduces Excess Fabric and Improves Mobility
◦Collar Cord - Allows You to Cinch in Collar When Weather is Bad
◦Asymmetric Cuffs with Velcro Adjustment
◦Reflective Logos
◦Elastic Draw Cord Hem - For Adjustability in Serious Weather
◦Angel-Wing Movement™ - Allows Full Range of Motion in Arms so Jacket Doesn't Ride Up
◦29" Center Back Length for Size Medium
◦Colors:•Cardinal (6130)
•Black (001)
•Lime (470)
•Blue Ocean (2231)
•Small/•XX - Large

Center Back Length:◦29in / 73.7cm
Weight:◦11.8 oz / 334.5 g   (my XL is 13.3oz)

Main Material:◦MemBrain®Strata™ 100% Nylon Stretch 1.6 oz/yd

The hood is a little tight on my Petzl Meteor III.  But the hood stretches as well!  So not too tight.  Easy to use with a helmet.  Good coverage and good visibility.  Water resistant front zipper and huge side pockets.  Both much better than expected for a $200 price point.    Again worth mentioning just how good the cuff design is and how they seal up.  Seems like it would be simple...but it is not.  I'm not a fan of pit zips.  The huge side pockets on the seam line are also one way to vent this jacket.  Smart design.  Some thought went into this one.  When the hood isn't in use it makes a high collar that is exceptional as well.  Even the zipper pulls are better than the norm.   One of the best tailored climbing jackets I have had on. 

The drape of this jacket isn't one that would jump off the rack at me.  Nice color but on a hanger the jacket looks "frumpy" to me.  It looks super thin for a weather proof shell.   I am use to seeing "Goretex" and that extra laminate material and bulk.   The Hyper looks more like a lwt wind shell than the super high tech, water proof shell it is.   On a hanger the pattern looks boxy and not particularly well done.  Big mistake on my part to think that..  Not a jacket I would have ever tried on in the store.   I just ordered it and figured we'd see just how good Marmot is.  The answer to that is. " pretty damn good!"

Gotta say it is a very good shell and an even better fit.   I have what I consider three state of the art shells.  The Eddie Bauer Front Point, the Westcomb Apoc and now the Marmot Hyper.  All three are suppose to be stretchable "hard shells".  The EB Front Point a combo hard and soft shell actually.  But one I have used the most and been extremely happy with in every condition, rain, shine or cold temps under a streaming waterfall.

The Westcomb Apoc, in  Neoshell.  A new fabric that I once called the "missing link" and I am not retracting that comment.  Neoshell is very, very good.

I thought the Front Point and Epoc fit pretty good as well.  The Hyper just fits me better than either.

The Marmot Hyper is the lightest of the three shell jackets I own.  may be not in the same  "shell category". It seems water proof so far and it is by far the most comfortable because of how stretchable the material is.  Hardly believable really as to how water proof and how stretchable.   Make sure what ever you wear under the Hyper can take advantage of that stretch.  Shame to waste the technology and something you'll need to think about with this garment.  The material is called Marmot MemBrain® 2.5 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric.

All said I am not sure where this one will fit into my system.  It is so light I worry about it breaking the wind well enough.  I might be concerned on how durable it will be.   I am always leery of a "breathable" shell.  But as long as it is as wind resistant as say the Neoshell or the older Gortex I might find it useful in some nasty conditions.   This is a true stretchable, water proof, soft shell.  It leaves much up to your imagination as to where you will want to use it.    As a shell over my Arc'Teryx Atom Lt. in nasty weather?   Maybe it will become the water proof shell that really allows down insulation to live up to its potential!  I'm putting that idea to the test right now.  Is it as breathable as down?  I don't know.  How breathable is it?

Breathable enough and light enough to use it for running in the rain without using the side zip vents..  The only one of  the three shells mentioned that I would think of intentionally running in.  Nothing else I own besides a simple wind shell is this light...4oz better than the Apoc which was only a single ounce less than the "old technology" Frontpoint.  I suspect it won't be all that durable by the hand of the material.  Likely the least durable of the three but I have nothing to back up that comment past "how the materials feel"  in all three jackets.  Let's see how long it lasts?

But the stand out performance of the MemBrain®Strata™ stretch material is very impressive.  I thought the Neoshell was good and it really is.  But for just the ability to stretch, neither the soft shell combo on the Frontpoint or the stretch in the Neoshell are even in the same ball game here.

If the Neoshell is a "missing link" then the Marmot MemBrain®Strata™ 100% Nylon Stretch is a totally different Species.  And from the looks of it a predator at less than half the price and maybe ....only time will tell for sure....much better performance depending on your needs.   This is, if,  the short term promises pan out over time.

I seldom buy anything sight unseen or something I can't return if I am unsatisfied.  Pro deals are generally non refundable, non returnable and I wasn't expecting much on this one.  But I really wanted to know how some of the newer fabrics compared to the Neoshell.  I figure that is part of the "free gear" deal if you write a legitimate gear blog .   You make some apple to apple  comparisons at your own expemse.   Gotta say I am impressed with the Marmot MemBrain.   As much as I have been by any new piece of technology, ever.   It is like nothing I have experienced to date.  You really should try one on if given the chance.  Let me know what your impressions are.   At a retail of $200 MSR the Marmot with out question is a best buy.  I was told the MSR on the Apoc will be $475.  And it isn't the most expensicve Neoshell garment by any means. The Eddie Bauer Frontpoint MSR  is $249.  The other two have been big steps up in performance from simple Goretex.  Next up will be to test the Goretex Pro and Active shell.  This, so far, is leaps and bounds better in many ways over the two I already own.  Stretch and weight up front, breathability and water resistance will need long term tests.  But Marmot's claims are high in both.

This is the first piece of gear from Marmot I have owned. 
And I'd bet this one will  change the game or if nothing else point he way for water proof garments in the future, if it delivers the goods long term.   If not we'll see how that "life time" warranty works at Marmot..

I obviously forgot the field testing part to this blog.  Simply got caught up in the new fabric and how revolutionary I think it is.

Field testing? Forgot to be more specific on that part didn't I.

Skied, skinned, booted on my "stash" and 2 of the local volcano's. Worst spring weather here in the Cascades I have seen.  There have been very few clear days.  Spent yesterday in a white out, pelted by rain and snow. But wouldn't call it climbing. Trail running in the local monsoon is likely the most difficult test. I do a bit of climbing on my road bike. The Hyper makes a decent road bike shell as well. Running and the bike are a good look at how well a garment will breath and cut the wind when used for climbing.   Both are higher heart rate efforts than "climbing" is for me.   The bike is a wind tunnel test for the shell and how well it breaks the wind.  How the stretch effects comfort you notice everywhere, any activity. That is the field testing to date.

Result of the field testing?

At the moment the Hyper is my  "go to" shell for any NW trip (any sport ) with any insulation that is required, base layer to a down sweater. It is simply the highest performance and lightest shell I own by any measure.  Makes me look at down insulation in a new light.

Always interesting in getting other's experience with gear.  If you have used or seen the Hyper I'd really like to hear your experience.


Anonymous said...

Where is the field test part? Did you climb in it?

Dane said...

Field testing? Forgot to be more specific on that part didn't I.

Skied, skinned, booted on my "stash" and 2 of the local volcanos. Spent yesterday in a white out, pelted by rain and snow. But wouldn't call it climbing. Trail running in the local monsoon is likely the most difficult test. I do a bit of climbing on my bike. Makes a decent road bike shell as well. Running and the bike are a good look at how well a garment will breath and cut the wind when used for climbing. As both are higher HR efforts than "climbing" is for me. The bike, a wind tunnel test for the shell and how well it breaks the wind. How the stretch effects comfort you notice everywhere, any activity. That is the field testing to date.

Result of the field testing?

The "go to" shell for any NW trip outdoors at the moment with any insulation that is required. Makes me look at down in a new light as well.

Like I said long term durability and performance is what will make of break this one. Not one I'll be doing offwidths in and I'd be careful around limestone. I'd like to keep it in one piece as long as possible. But I'm not going to use the EB or Epoc there either for the same reasons.

Noah said...

I have a had great luck with mine. Ski touring, spring ice climbing, even grunting up offwidths. No wear and tear yet at all. I think the stretch helps with that. Breathablity is about as good as I could have hoped for a full waterproof.

marmot jackets said...

Great article! Thank you for sharing this. Hope to read more from you. Keep it up!

junior b said...

Excellent article, could you further elaborate on the wind resistance. I plan on using this for recreational skiing, will this get the job done?

Anonymous said...

You're a bastard Dane, this jacket just sounds so tempting I had to add it to my wardrobe even though I been using the same WP for the last 5 years (albeit now with various patches of tape and sealant). Can't wait to try out the stretch on this sucker! And this from a brand I normally dismiss outright (due to a bad sleeping bag incident).

Keep up the gear reviews mate

Dane said...

Got an XL I'll make you a screaming deal on :)

Anonymous said...

the Atomic Stretch Jacket from Montane looks cool too. I like their cuts more than Marmot