Sunday, 18 October 2015

Gear Review: Mountain Equipment Lhotse Waterproof Jacket

I thought I'd start off my foray into reviewing gear by having a look at one of my favourite pieces for the great outdoors; the Mountain Equipment Lhotse jacket. I have to say, I do have a soft spot for the kit that appears from the Manchester-based brands HQ and this is no exception.

The Lhotse sits towards the top end of ME's jacket spectrum - a few rungs down the ladder from the 'hard as nails' Tupilak jacket. This makes it quite expensive (the RRP is around £300) though I did get mine for around £250 after a bit of shopping around. For that money you are getting some premium materials, attention to detail and a jacket that will serve you well, whether it's as an everyday waterproof that lives in your pack during spring and summer or for keeping the elements at bay during autumn and winter. This is courtesy of the Gore-Tex Pro fabric that is used throughout the jacket.

The Lhotse uses two flavours of the fabric, a 40 denier face fabric for the majority, with an 80 denier fabric for the shoulders and arms which provides extra abrasion resistance when wearing a pack. I would have liked to have seen some reinforcement around the hips as well but that starts to push the jacket into Tupilak territory (which is 80D throughout). The fabric is a bit noisy but this doesn't detract from its use.

Let's look at my particular one in a bit more detail:
Front and side view
After parting with your hard earned cash you get the following features:
As you can see from the photo above, the fit is quite flattering (I'm wearing a medium over just a t-shirt). ME have spent a great deal of time refining the fit of their current range of jackets and long gone are the days of boxy and baggy waterproofs. This has a nice tailored fit with room underneath for mid-layers if required but doesn't feel overly roomy if put on over just a baselayer. The body is perhaps a touch longer than I would have liked but it does provide a greater overlap if you're wearing waterproof trousers as well. Adjustability is provided by a hem drawcord and sturdy cuff adjusters that allow you to seal out the elements.

The Hood
This is perhaps ME's pièce de résistance. The hood on this jacket is arguably the best I've come across in terms of fit and protectiveness. While designed to fit over a helmet it is unlikely that I will ever use it as such but it is adjustable to give a snug, protective fit over a helmetless head. The brim (or visor) is nice and solid and is un-phased by anything but the strongest of winds. It is 'grown on' and therefore offers the greatest protection against wind and rain.
The hood in action
There are a few clever details that I like hidden within this jacket. The first are the dual tether drawcords. Instead, on one continuous piece of elastic running around the hem of the jacket, this actually has three. Two between the front zip and the hips (on either side) and one longer one around the back. I like this for two reasons - you can adjust the front and the back of the jacket independently and there are no loops of elastic to get caught on errant tree branches or rocks.
Those clever dual drawcords
The pockets are massive and can easily store gloves, hats and snacks with ease as well as the eponymous OS map if you so choose. I find the Aquaguard zips are a bit stiff but they are heavy duty and provide a weatherproof seal though strictly speaking, they are not waterproof. If you want waterproof zips you'll have to look at the Tupilak Ultra and a forking out few extra pounds.
Those chunky YKK Aquaguard zips
The chest pocket easily fits and OS map
In Action
This is my go to jacket if the forecast is looking questionable or downright foul and often comes along 'just in case'. While all modern jackets like to boast about breathability, they will always be overwhelmed if you're slogging up a mountain side and this jacket is no different though the pit zips help a lot. There are more breathable fabrics available but increased breathability often comes at the cost of durability. I'd rather have a tough jacket like this that will keep me warm and dry when the British weather turns nasty.

The combination of a great fit, an unrivalled hood and the tough Gore-Tex fabric make this a highly recommended jacket, despite its high price. It also comes in the startling Citronelle colour way that appeals to my sense of style - keep an eye out for a running theme.
The Lhotse in full protection mode on Bessyboot
An icelandic trial for the Lhotse