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Mountain Hardwear Mercurial Jacket : Up To Any Weather

I've been wearing Mountain Hardwear's new Mercurial soft shell jacket for the last few weeks in New Zealand, where I'm traveling, backpacking, and rock climbing.

So far, I'm impressed - but I always say that when I test Mountain Hardwear equipment. The Mercurial jacket is super light, stretchy, breathable, water-resistant- and wind-proof.

A few days ago I climbed at a North Island crag called Froggat Edge, where the wind was so fierce it almost blew me off the rock. I was really happy to be wearing the Mercurial jacket because I stayed warm and comfortable. I have bad elbows, and I need to stay cozy in the cold or I'll start to seize up - and that leads to injuries when I'm attempting harder routes. MH's proprietary Motivity fabric performed flawlessly. It's got a slight stretch to it, so I had a lot of freedom of motion as I climbed, and it totally blocks the wind. It also breathes quite well, so I didn't get cold and clammy. Throughout the day, my arms, elbows and core never chilled.

The jacket's added warmth comes from its bonded fleece lining. The Mercurial jacket is the perfect weight and warmth for energy-intensive activities on cold days. Lots of soft-shells don't have an inner lining, which makes them great for layering, but the Mercurial jacket fills a void in my outdoor wardrobe. At one pound 13 ounces, its warmth-to-weight ratio is spectacular.

There are a few specific things that make this jacket really stand out, the first being its well-shaped hood. I normally avoid hooded jackets because the visors tend to get in the way or just don't fit properly. This hood is shaped perfectly, and it's got a great adjustable cord on the back that makes it snug on my skull. When I turn my head, the hood turns. That's how it should be. The Mercurial's hood is pretty low profile as well, so it fits well under my helmet.

Second, the jacket has a trim, athletic cut, which keeps its weight low and its warmth and comfort high. Third, it's got a great cinch at the waist that I use to keep the gusts out. And last, I love the zippers! They're water- and wind-proof, and the pull tabs are made of a sticky rubber material that just feels solid to grab. In addition, the front zipper has a big fat baffle in front of it that retains heat well. I've really noticed that in the wind.

The Mercurial jacket is available in gray, blue, red, and mossy green. For women, Mountain Hardwear makes a jacket out of the same material, called the Barisian jacket.

Bottom LIne: Warm, wind-proof, water-resistant soft shell that's great for colder climates thanks to its integrated hood and bonded fleece lining . --N.W. (Nov. 09)

Price: $175 click here to shop

Manufacturer's Site: www.mountianhardwear.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.



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