Update: I’ve been resort skiing in this jacket all winter. A few items of note: lots of wind gets in the front zipper. I’ve had to ride the lift with my hand on my chest to block the wind. Waterproofness has been great. Like the pocket configuration too (left arm pass pocket, inner waist pocket for snacks and keys, inner right beer pocket, all good) though too much in the pockets causes bulk because of form fitting style (can’t have it all). White has proven to stain and not come clean; partners like to make fun of skid mark from backpack on back (oh well, it’s legit). Jacket has really good temperature range. If not for wind problem on zipper I would have no reservations recommending this piece. Fits the bill between hard shell and soft shell very well.

Original review:

It’s been a long time since I changed up my jacket situation. There are tons of great waterproof-breathable jackets out there so it does take a lot to catch my notice. Dry-Q is MHW’s new fabric that promises to be so breathable that I wouldn’t experience that uncomfortable overheating sensation before the breathability kicked in. Honestly, every time I’ve overheated I’ve just taken my jacket off, so I’ve no idea whether normal waterproof-breathable jackets really do start venting better once you get heated up. The only time I put on a waterproof-breathable is when it’s actively precipitating anyway; for everything else I wear softshells. So it was a bit of a leap of faith to take this jacket straight out backcountry skiing in our sub-zero November to see how it performed. Funny how, although it’s my job to test stuff out, I don’t like doing it when I’m doing sports I really like, because who likes to flail around with new stuff when you could be having fun?

However, I had really loved the fit of this jacket, which was quintessential MHW perfect; slim in the body, just-shy-of-hip length, and roomy sleeves and shoulders. I cringed at the white color, knowing that the very second I touched it it was going to turn dirty brown, but if they send white stuff, that’s just the way it goes. It feels like a sort of modified softshell and I figured I should try it out in real conditions. Sadly (not) the weather did not cooperate and it was clear and sunny when we set out, no precip to be had.

It was super cold, probably a few digits below zero when we started out, but I like to work hard going uphill so I opted to wear just a base layer with this jacket on top. I could not believe how perfect it was even for that cold weather. I never got too hot and never really got cold. Neutral, unchanging core temperature the entire time. That felt pretty awesome! Since then I’ve made the Dry-Q Elite my go-to for backcountry and it’s done well every time. Bear in mind that I’ve only worn it in reasonable conditions, nothing really insane in terms of precip yet. I don’t know that I’d be able to stack a ton of layers underneath it because it is pretty slim in the torso; maybe just a low-pro puffy, but I think that good fit contributes to its performance, breathability-wise. Baggy stuff just doesn’t breathe as well, and it’s a constant problem finding stuff that has the right fit to maximize performance while allowing flexibility in layers. I also don’t like it when jackets are too long in the arms and that’s what happens if I go up a size, especially in MHW. However, fit is individual so use your own judgment there.

I’m pretty impressed at how relatively clean the white stays; probably whatever finish they use on the jacket helps to repel stains somewhat. I don’t see white as an option at any retail outlets so maybe that’s just a special sample color or something. I spent some time the other day thrashing around in a deadfall and I was surprised that the jacket came out of that relatively unscathed; I kind of expected some punctures but it held up really well and didn’t even get that dirty. Other minor features just solidify the jacket as a good solid choice: it’s got inner cuffs that really ratchet up the comfort factor; since the cuffs are built in you don’t have to mess with keeping the snow out and they’re soft and comfortable against your skin. I took the powder skirt out because of the fuss factor, but there is one if you like that sort of thing. There’s a few inner pockets and the handwarmer pockets are nice and roomy. I didn’t think I could be impressed by a jacket this much anymore, but I’m glad that Mountain Hardwear can still prove me wrong.

Best price on this jacket right now is 30% off at $294 on rei.com, pretty damn good.