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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor Jacket : A Well-Fitted Performance Insulator for Cold, Wet Conditions

For a long day of high altitude peak bagging in Colorado recently, I chose Mountain Hardwear’s hooded Compressor Jacket to keep the elements at bay. I think I made a great choice.

The Compressor's lofty synthetic insulation, high compressibility, and feathery weight made it a wonderful companion in the mountains. I stayed warm and dry despite chilly temps and blustery winds. And, while I’m continually impressed by the company’s innovative products, I’m no longer surprised at how great they are in use. After testing dozens of Mountain Hardwear jackets, pants, and backpacks over the years, I’ve become convinced that the company is one of the top outdoor equipment manufacturers.

When my wife and I loaded our packs for our traverse of the circular, high-altitude ridges above Rocky Mountain National Park’s Shelf Lake basin, we wanted to use gear that was functional yet incredibly light. For my insulation piece I brought along the hooded Compressor Jacket because it's light--weighing in at about one pound--and it packs into a tiny wad slightly larger than a mango. That means it takes up virtually no space in the bottom of my pack. I like compressible items because I can get away with a smaller pack, and smaller packs weigh less. Fast and light is great, but fast, light, and packable is even better.

Best of all, Mountain Hard wear's Compressor jacket is filled with a synthetic insulation, so unlike a down jacket, it stays warm when wet. That’s perhaps the most important reason this jacket will come with me in the mountains more often than my down jacket. I just don’t have to worry about freezing to death should a storm approach. 

The winds were howling when we reached the Continental Divide at 13,500 feet, and we were moving quickly so we would’t get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. I pulled my Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor Jacket out of my bag and instantly felt warm. The tightly woven outer nylon shell is pretty windproof, so the blustery cold didn’t penetrate the jacket. It has a cinch cord around the waist that I tightened up; this kept gusts from blowing up my back. I happily noticed that the jacket breathes pretty well, too–we were almost running, but I wasn’t getting clammy inside.

I usually shy away from hoodies because very few are designed properly, but the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor jacket has the most perfect hood I’ve ever used. There’s a small cinch cord that tightens the hood around the back of my head, so when I move my head, the hood moves with me. At the same time, there’s enough fabric in the neck area so when I turn my head, the hood turns independent of the jacket. The hood also has a slightly reinforced brim, and it fits perfectly under a helmet. All in all, the compressor has that rare quality of providing the warmth of a hoody but the freedom of movement of a regular jacket and beanie. I’m sold.

The fit of the Hooded Compressor jacket is typical of Mountain Hardwear: athletically cut for performance. The arms are long enough so I can reach over my head and not have the cuffs fall to my forearms; the body is tapered, so there’s no extra fabric to billow around; and the length is just right so as not to interfere with a harness or pack straps. For convenience, there’s a nice chest pocket to store a phone or keys, as well as two hand pockets and internal map pockets.

The Hooded Compressor Jacket has been in Mountain Hardwear’s lineup for a while, and deservedly so. It’s a classic all around mountain top - not just of the synthetic puffy genre.

The jacket is available in a hooded version for men (size S to XXL in black, orange/grey, and light blue/dark blue); in a hooded version for women (sizes XS to XL in black, blue/turquoise, and fuscia/purple); in a hooded boys version (sizes XS to L, black, green and blue); and in a non-hooded men’s version (sizes S to XXL, black, dark blue/light blue, green/grey and orange/grey). Mountain Hardwear also makes pants and beanies in the Compressor series.

Bottom Line: Ultralight, super compressible, and stays warm when wet. Great option for cold, wet days.--N.W. (Sept 11).

BUY ONLINE: $200, click for Altrec - some styles on sale for less than $120.

Manufacturer's Site: www.mountainhardwear.com

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.