$300 • Kathmandu
The Bottom Line: A solid shell jacket rich with features, yet simply designed and lightweight enough to stuff in your pack. Pelting rain just slips right off and the wind does not penetrate its shell. Pretty much the epitome of bomber.
Weighing in at a mere 16.2 oz, this waterproof all-around shell is actually one of the lightest when comparing to other popular options such as:
This jacket is completely water- and windproof. The GORE-TEX mid-layer guarantees it, as indicated by the patch along the inside chest pocket. The durable water repellent-treated outer shell allows moisture to pour right off while the breathable inner layer (when used with the pit zips) prevents heavy interior precipitation during high output activities.
All seams are subtly taped, and all zippers are welded, insuring complete waterproof ability. The outer zippers even close into their own little shed-like structure, preventing rain from entering the weakest closure point of the zip. This shed-like structure at the top of the main zipper also doubles as a chin guard—quite welcome by us bearded folks. Each zipper has its own corded zipper pull, tied off by the standard double-overhand with exception of the main zipper that includes a reinforced plastic half-loop. All zippers appear to be the highest standard of YKK.
The hood is doubly adjustable with a toggled draw cord around the contoured, reinforced brim and a second toggled draw cord at the crown for tightening when helmet-less (or for snugging up when helmeted). Each draw cord is easily released single-handedly. The crown's draw cord has a simple cinch and slip clip rather than a toggle. Although it is helmet compatible, larger ski helmets may prevent the main zipper from being completely zipped as the hood is not quite large enough.
There are two more toggled draw cords at the midriff and the hem. The midriff draw cord doesn't seem all that necessary, but it does allow for a completely customized fit and prevents windy drafts. The entire jacket can also easily be stuffed into the hood with the crown cord being used for compression in storage.
The bilateral outer chest pockets aren't all that useful for hand warming with their position being opposite of each side's arm. But they are quite vast with a large amount of interior space for storage. Inside these pockets are also where you will find the toggle for the midriff-adjustable cord. They sit high enough to be accessed when wearing a pack with a hip-belt or a climbing harness.
The sleeves are contoured with Velcro-tightening wrists to prevent moisture or wind from affecting your warmth and dryness. The inside chest pocket also includes an outlet for a headphone cord, which is a pretty cool feature, because trudging around outside in the rain or heavy wind requires the distraction of music sometimes.
Overall, the design stands apart from the comparable shells listed above with a retro-style, multi-color block and a sweet logo. I'm just going to mention how much I like their super-clean, meaningful logo. It seems like they started with an infinity symbol that evolved into a double mountain—it communicates so much in a small way. The logo on the back of the jacket is bordered on the top, accentuating the mountain look. The middle of the chest has a mountain-like shape separating the colors medially and doubling as the chest pocket sheds.
Anyone who cares about the overall status of our world and considers themselves a steward of the outdoors should be considerate of the materials used and the social attitudes of big companies like Kathmandu. Taking responsibility for their impact on the environment, Kathmandu has been in a leader in these aspects. They promote healthy lifestyles of their corporate employees, build energy-efficient offices, sponsor medical international mission trips, and provided disaster response aid to the recent Nepalese earthquake of 2015. Supporting a company like this seems like a noble move.
Kathmandu is just beginning to move into the over-saturated U.S. outdoor apparel market, although they are not a young company at 30 years old. I had never heard of them before this, but I'm quite impressed with the overall quality, simple yet thoughtful features, and the fact that they are attempting to take responsibility for their impact on our fragile world. As of the time of this post, the only place to purchase is directly from the Kathmandu Outdoor website. A 365-day return policy is included with every item sold.
Kathmandu shells like this have the potential to compete with other major manufacturers across the world because of the quality construction, thoughtful features, and the fact that they're designed by those who live outdoors.