Nau Cleanline Jacket : For men and women
Read about the Nau Cleanline jacket in our trail archives. Click here for more workout wear reviews.


Merrell Fluid Jacket : Hard Core Function & Style

Merrell has hit a home run with its Fluid shell, a super light, packable, breathable rain jacket with some really cool features. It is now my shell of choice for all-day hikes, climbs, and activities where I need to be able to have the lightest, most breathable, waterproof jacket possible.

I've been having fun testing the Fluid this summer in Rocky Mountain National Park, where most of the hiking is above 9,000 feet and where afternoon thunderstorms are the rule, not the exception. Point is, up here I like to pack extremely light and be prepared for anything, and the Fluid shell fits the bill perfectly.

First, thanks to the Gore-Tex® PacLite® fabric, the Fluid weighs in at 1 lb. 4 oz. That's nothing! This jacket weighs less than half of what my old jacket weighs, and takes up about as third as much pack space. I love the fact that I have a full-featured waterproof, breathable shell that's both totally packable and effective. I've been caught in a few really nasty Colorado storms, and once I pulled out my Fluid, I've managed to stay completely dry. The material is great and the seams are welded tightly shut. I couldn't be happier. I should also note that the PacLite® material is super breathable too, so it's great for those muggy rainy days.

One thing I've never liked about shells in the past is the way the hoods have been designed. I like having a good hood on a shell so that when the rain comes, I can keep my head dry and, consequently, my body warm. But all too often the hoods just dangle, which means they can get full of water if it's a warm storm. Or they get caught in tree branches. Or my backpack. Or my camera strap. If they do have a stow-away hood pouch, the pouch is often too small and the hood gets bent out of shape -- so when I put the hood on, the visor support is crinkled and winds up causing water to drip in my face.

So in the past, I've tried to avoid waterproof shells with hoods. Thankfully, the Fluid is completely different. It's got a huge pocket in which to store the hood so the visor doesn't get bent, and the material is so light and thin that the pocket doesn't feel like I'm wearing a neck gaiter. I love the hood pocket's low-profile waterproof zipper, too. Nothing to get caught. I don't think Merrell could have done it better.

Another of my biggest complaints with shell jackets is the lack of pit zips. If you've ever been traveling in Central America or Southeast Asia and you've been caught in a torrential storm, you'll understand. If it's 90 degrees out and you're hiking through a jungle, you'll want to be as well-ventilated as possible in a storm. The Fluid has great big two-way waterproof zippers in the armpits. They open up huge, they ventilate well, and the zippers themselves are waterproof. Again, perfect. 

One hike I took recently involved a lot of scrambling, and I had to do it in the rain. I was constantly reaching up above my head to grab rocks or tree branches, and I loved how the articulated elbows of the jacket kept water from pouring down my sleeves. My old shell didn't have that feature, so when I bent my elbow, the sleeves wouldn't quite bend the same amount. The result was a big hole at the wrist, through which water would run. Of course, those old elastic cuffs didn't help close that hole either. Which is why I like the Fluid's awesome velcro cuff tabs. Combined with the articulated elbows, I have complete, unfettered, waterproof range of motion. 

All in all, I am super impressed with Merrell's new Fluid jacket. I wish I'd had one of these years ago!

Bottom Line: Awesome Gore-Tex® shell with a well-designed hood that's incredibly light and packable.--N.W. (Sept 08) 

Price : $230 (on sale for $145 at Sierra Trading Post; click on 2nd ad listed below)




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When lifting weights, always remember to protect your back by activating your abdominal muscles before performing each exercise.

Source: The Little Strength Training Book