Now that it is spring in the mountains it’s time to test out some softshell jackets. Although expensive, I have always been a big fan of Gore-Tex material. It’s been around for a long time and it’s proven to work. Several competitors have started to release materials to compete with Gore-Tex and I am always interested to see how they hold up. Mountain Hardwear uses one of these materials in their outerwear. It’s called Dry. Q Elite and we put it to test in a variety of spring conditions in Colorado with the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic jacket. It’s hard to say which material performs better, but we can say with confidence that both Gore-Tex and Dry Q Elite kept us dry in the wet heavy spring snow. Like Gore-Tex Dry Q Elite also breathes really well. On several short but strenuous hikes we never had issues with moisture build up on the inside of the jacket. It seems to breath the instant you put it on, and if that’s not enough the pit zips dump heat well. I was very happy with the way the Dry Q Elite performed, keeping you dry from both the outside and inside. So yes, dry Q Elite works, but what about the rest of the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic jacket? The Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic jacket has plenty of great pockets including two on the chest, two hand warming, and one sleeve pass pocket. The two vertical chest pockets are well placed and easy to use, and the hand warming pockets are nice and wide making it easy to get your hands in and out. The left one also has a key clip to help keep your keys there when you realize you’ve been skiing with your pocket open all day. The pit zips work well, and are easy enough to use with one hand, but you cannot access them easily with a backpack on (Outdoor Research jackets are some of the only ones we’ve seen that makes this easy). The outer material of the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic feels soft, yet rugged at the same time, and even after a few close calls with tree limbs, the jacket held up well. The active fit is a bit more conforming, and I opted to go for the medium over the small so I could have a bit more room to layer. The sleeves of the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic were a bit long, but not so much that I couldn’t make it work. I did wish the waist was a bit longer in the back, but again it wasn’t bad. The Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic fit well enough in the shoulders and chest, and I didn’t have to cinch down the waist too tightly. I didn’t find the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic too overly baggy, but definitely not as conforming as you’d expect from an active fit (although again I went with a medium over the small for more layering room). I have noticed some people complaining about the mid-section, but in the jacket I had I never noticed an issue with it being too baggy, although it did sometimes ride up a bit on me.
Overall I’d recommend the Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic jacket. The Dry Q Elite works really well, and can definitely compete with Gore-Tex fabrics for waterproofing. It’s also highly breathable, and perfect for long backcountry ascents or hiking to your favorite stashes. The outer material is soft, but feels rugged and durable. The pockets are functional and plentiful, and the hood, powder skirt, and draw cord hems to a good job of keeping snow out.
Jacket Size – M
Normal Specs– 5’10”, 160 lbs,
Upper Body– 34.5” Chest, Torso Length 23” (collar bone to pant button), Shoulder Width Approx 22”, Arm Length 18.5” (pit to wrist)
Lower Body– 30” Waist, 38” Hips, 30” Inseam, 22” Thigh
Turn On’s: Active fit jackets that fit well around my chest and torso, but don’t restrict movement. Size S Pants that have a bit more room in my thighs, that way I can actually use my pockets. And of course getting first chair with 12” of fresh powder on the mountain.
Turn Off’s: Size S Jackets that are too tight, and Size M jackets that are too loose in the waist. I really don’t like a loose waist that can allow cold air in, and I don’t like having to cinch down the waist. I also don’t like jackets that ride up when I’m skiing, The jacket should stay in place. Pants that fit too tight in the thigh, and I can’t use my pockets. Crowds in the mountains, and not being able to find a place to park in at the trailhead or ski resort.