When you work at a desk most of the week, it’s important to have as much steez as you can when you step out onto the mountain. But there’s a delicate balance between style and function. Looking good in the lift line is a priority (right?), but I’m one of those demanding types who wants to eat his cake, too. The better part of my time on skis is actually spent skinning, boot packing and walking on glaciers, so it’s important for my outerwear to actually work, on top of making me look sexy.
This past New Year’s I got to spend a week in the Northern Selkirks at Sorcerer Lodge, wearing the Mountain Hardwear Men’s Alchemy jacket. I’ve actually been rocking it since the beginning of the season, here’s how it’s been so far:
The Alchemy jacket comes in blue, black and orange as a classy single-palette colour in each case. I chose orange (state orange), as I like to be visible in the backcountry, and was super happy to see how much the colour pops in real life.
The next thing to note is that this jacket is actually designed for alpine climbing, so it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of your average ski shell (mainly pockets, pit zips and a powder bib), but it makes it light and fuss free. Mountain Hardwear calls this jacket a soft shell, but there’s actually no stretch in the material and it’s proven to be tough and resilient against trees and rocks (something to do with being built for climbing?).
It does indeed have a three-layer construction and is laminated with the company’s proprietary Dry Q Elite weatherproofing. This technology is reminiscent of GORE-TEX’s now-defunct XCR laminate, which was all the rage before Pro Shell came along. In my opinion, XCR was actually better than Pro Shell, and so is Dry Q Elite. This layer acts as a one-way valve that let’s moisture out, and keeps it out. As a testament to the company’s faith in it, the Alchemy jacket comes with minimal venting, the idea being your hands are busy when you’re climbing, so the jacket just has to breathe. I was skeptical that any fabric could do the work of a pit zip, but this jacket actually releases heat and vapour incredibly well. Not as well as a hole for your armpit does, but in this case the entire garment breathes, so you overheat less in general. I rarely tour with a shell on, but I’m finding myself doing it much more often with this one. I haven’t missed the pit zips yet.
I find the outer soft shell isn’t as “water proof” as some other materials out there because it has a heavy weave, but it doesn’t permeate or saturate either, and always feels dry. An easy compromise for how tough it is.
The hood fits over a helmet, the cuffs are easy to use with gloves, and the two front side-pockets can double as vents, in a pinch. But I’d hesitate to use them as such if you have anything in them. Thankfully there’s an inside and outside breast pocket, too—which is where I keep permanent stuff like goggle wipes and lip balm. Your front side-pockets/vents are good temporary spots for skins, prusiks, gloves and stuff you’re not going to leave in there all day.
If you like to look a little newer of school than your average alpinist, buy this coat one size larger. This helps to fit extra layers underneath, and you have two well-hidden draw chords to tighten the waste up and keep out all the snow you’ll be shredding through.
At $450 CDN, this jacket is very competitively priced. It does the same work as significantly more expensive offerings from competing brands, and it looks damn good on me while it’s doing it…
- Asymmetrical, Velcro®-adjust cuffs protect the top of the hand without compromising mobility
- 3-way adjustable, helmet-compatible hood features a wire brim to hold its shape
- Large interior mesh drop pocket easily holds gloves and other essential gear
- Dual-purpose, pack and harness compatible zippered pockets double as core vents
- Easy-slide, water-repellant 2-way AquaGuard® VISLON® center front zipper
- Body Fabric: 3L Dry.Q Elite® Synchro NBT
- Body Fabric Content: 56% Polyester, 44% Nylon
Center Back Length: 29″ / 74 cm
- Apparel Fit: Active
- Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz. / 656 g
Check it out on Mountain Hardwear’s site, HERE.