Monday, 26 August 2013

Mountain Equipment Ultratherm jacket

Is it a fleece? Is it a windproof? Its both, and its flipping great.

Of all of the bits of kit that I had on my recent Mountain Leader assessment, I was most impressed with this little jacket. I first saw it last year, a grid fleece inner with a water resistant outer layer of Helium 30rs - a fabric made specifically for Mountain Equipment. A fleece with a windproof layer, a hood and that folds up into its own pocket.
Fleece inner, Helium shell outer

Lynne actually went and got one first, and after seeing it in action I went out and got one as soon as I could.
I used it a bit in Switzerland, but not really in anger, but a week later, on Mountain Leader assessment I barely took it off. It was raining for virtually the whole way through, and even though the Helium RS face fabric on the outside was soaked, the grid fleece inner felt dry and good against the skin. Which is important when you end up with ridiculous amounts of eczema when you have damp clammy skin, like I do.

There is also an elasticated strip on each side, running from the waist right up, under the arm, and continues to the cuff. Stretchy stuff to allow for reachy moves if climbing, and lets you move easily. A good touch for dynamism which is sometimes not allowed for in outdoors clothing. It also has waist toggles to allow for pulling the waist in around you.

The face fabric itself, as already mentioned was designed exclusively for ME as a windproof and downproof outer shell - and for those that care, its about 29grams per metre. (It also has a surprising resilience to moisture, beading for quite a long time before wetting out when exposed to rain.

Lightweight, but windproof and water resistant
When out in the rain, what was great was that if I was wearing a fleece, it would have been heavy, and getting heavier and damper with more and more ingress of water, the Ultratherm didn't. When I wore it on its own, it was as warm as a fleece, but it was also windproof.

Equally, when I wore it under a waterproof, it was a great insulating layer, but it still breathed enough that I was walking, to not completely wet out inside the jacket, providing an excellent and breathable alternative to fleece
Hood bungee bits

I have to admit weighing it and a Patagonia R1 on the kitchen scales, just for interests sake, and the Ultratherm weighs less than the same size Patagonia R1 (by about 50g).

Helmet compatible hood
(thats a petzl elios under there)
Elasticated cuffs
The hood lives up to Mountain Equipment expectations as well, with a volume reducing elastic strap, and a cinch on either side in case the wind gets up.
The only criticism is that the side pulls on the hood are not one-hand adjustable - not the end of the world, but it would have been an excellent touch. (but difficult on a fold away hood of this lightweight material).

It isn't a strong waterproof, but nor is it meant to be. The hood is, however, helmet compatible, and clamps onto your head whether you are wearing headgear or not. Mountain Equipment really have got their hoods sorted out. I had a Changabang a few years ago and
Stuffed into its own pocket
thought the hood was good then... their mastery at over the head material shaping has got even better since then.

I've worn a fair few mid-layers and "softshells" and this is almost certainly the best one I've worn.

The amazing thing was that it just felt comfortable for the entire week, no matter what I was doing. Even
when it was wet.

Stuffed into a stuffsack - much smaller
As a shell for summer evenings, an insulation layer under waterproofs, an extra layer in the bag when out in spring and autumn, something to stick on your harness as a belay jacket, something to throw on at the end of a race, I really cannot recommend it enough.
Just go out and buy one.


  1. Thanks fro sharing.
    The climbing equipment must be useful.

  2. Can you provide some more info about fit/sing? Your weight/height/ chest perimeter? Thanks!

  3. Yup, I'm 174.5cm tall, and weight ranges between 64-66kg depending on the day.

    I'm a Small in Mountain Equipment stuff, in USA brands (Marmot, Arcteryx) Im definitely a small, though Arcteryx small is actually too big for me, and the womens size 12 rain jackets fit me better.
    If you start thinking about bike clothes sizing, I'm a Medium in Rapha and Castelli.
    In terms of ski jackets I'm apparently a 38 inch chest - at least that is the size that fits me best, though I sometimes feel like they are massive on me.

    The Ultratherm fits snugly, but not too much so. Decent width around the arms, so I can get it over a watch, and I tend to use the elastic around the waist to cinch it in.

  4. Thanks for the review, just ordered one!