I must admit that at one time I had a bias for Mountain Hardwear products, I have owned many of their products and a few of the well crafted items are still around. I have always felt that Mountain Hardwear has been very successful with durability but lost a me with functionality and cost. Also currently I have joined the soft-shelll fan club as I have been backcountry skiing in Colorado’s dry powder, enjoying the breath-ablity and temperature versatility it offers. Recently I ended up breaking the current trends and tried out Mountain Hardwear’s new fall 2011 expedition hard-shell, the Jovian. This jacket offers their new DryQ fabric with the Elite expedition version. During the spring 2011 I placed the Jovian through many of the rigors of backcountry skiing, I must say that this jacket does impress. At first glance when I picked up the jacket I could not believe how light it was at 1lb and 3oz and immediately questioned its durability and functionality.
It is fun to play with new gear even when you are in the living room to check the features and explore the jacket before going into the field, for example to see if skins will fit inside the jacket. The skins do fit in the larger outside pockets but not inside the jacket closer to the body like some people prefer. This piece is a weight saving item and many pockets and winter jacket features are lost but with no major issues. There is no powder skirt for the powder hounds and I would imagine this jacket would take a beating if one was getting on and off a lift. If you are a alpinist or a ski mountaineer this jacket meets your needs. The helmet compatible hood allows for a nice fit when wearing a hard hat. The zippers are also easy to use with gloves due to pull tabs that have not broken yet and zippers that run up that did not open with gravity during a full day of use. The main pockets could be a inch higher to provide easier access with the hip belt engaged or with a harness. Before taking it out, the feature I was most excited about was its storage-ability, it packs down small for an alpine jacket. After checking this jacket out I was stoked to give it a harsh test out in the mountains.
What better place to test the jacket out then Rocky Mountain National Park in April with lots of wet snow mixed with warm and cold temperatures. Also the Park can be a windy place, what better way to test the DryQ breath-ablity and whether it was too breathable. The DryQ technology is new to Mountain Hardwear for the 2011 winter line. After Conduit was not that impressing Mountain Hardwear has finally developed a air permeable water proof fabric. I decided to start with a heavy layer system for my first day out as I was worried about the jacket being not as warm as my thicker soft-shell Before long I was dropping my layers. It felt like it was breathing well but it is still a hard-shell and it was April with too many clothes. I found it excellent with a light under layer and the jacket, this was where I could really tell that it was breathable but not too much. There was a few times in the wind it would have been nice to have a fleece layer in the middle but not bad enough to get it out of the pack.
All around Mountain Hardwear has developed a product that can compete in the market and in the field. The cost is average at $475, but this is a high end jacket where many are in the $500 plus area. It overall impressed me, the only other thing to add would be some reinforced shoulders. This would add weight but many competitors are already producing this and it is something that is needed for the many people that are wearing packs. Also this Jacket is missing many features, though it makes it light weight, I would like to see more to this jacket. I felt the mechanism for loosing the hood was hard to use with gloves on. Also allow for a zip out skirt to help keep the body heat in and the snow out. Overall the DryQ technology is a success and many people will be talking about it next year, it will be great to see what innovations companies create to compete. I might not fully leave the soft-shell behind, but thanks to Mountain Hardwear’s Jovian jacket I have found a place for the hard shell again in my clothing ensemble.