Monday, May 04, 2009

Mountain Hardware Exposure 2 Parka

I'd been dissatisfied with my Winter coats for awhile.  For a variety of reasons none of the coats I own met my functional needs of Winter wear in my mid-Atlantic climate.  So, back in January I went over to REI to look for a new coat, with several criteria in mind:

1. I wanted a shell, not an insulated parka.  This will let me layer according to the temperature, and extend the usefulness of the coat beyond Winter.
2. It needs to be waterproof but breathable.  It rains a lot during Winter in SE PA.
3. It should have pit zips to allow cooling when it's warmer or if I'm exerting myself.
4. The color should be either neutral or something that will blend in with the crowd in an urban environment.  I work in Center City Philadelphia, so camo sticks out like a sore thumb.
5. The cut should allow CCW.
6. There need to be a good number of pockets, both inside and outside.  At least one of the pockets accessible from the left (I am left handed) should be large enough to CCW a 2" S&W J-Frame in a pocket holster.
7. A hood is required, and it needs to be large enough to comfortably fit over either a baseball cap or a watch cap.  A good size brim would be valuable, as would the ability to be rolled away when not in use.
8. The outside surface shouldn't be too slick.  I dislike it when the strap of my bag slides off my shoulder because it can't get any traction.
9. The coat needs to be made well.  I'll pay for quality.
10. It needs to be parka length, not just waist length, and have a two way zipper.

After going to REI and examining several different jackets, I came home with a Mountain Hardwear Exposure II Parka in sapphire blue and black.  They also make the parka in several lower profile colors but this is what REI had in my size.  This color is low profile in an urban environment, anyway.  Plenty of people are wearing colored coats and this will blend in with the crowd.

The outer shell is Nylon in a textured "Dobby" weave, with MH's "Conduit" waterproof laminate membrane and durable water repellent finish.  The texture met my criteria for not being too slick.  Inside, there's a Coolmax mesh and taffetta lining.  The Coolmax helps wick away perspiration.  Also inside is a powder skirt that you can snap together to keep snow from being blown up the jacket if you're boarding or skiing.  It would be valuable if you got caught in a blizzard, as well.  There are glove rings on the outside of the forearms, and the ends of the sleeves can be adjusted for weather tightness via Velcro straps.  There are drawcords at the waist and at the bottom hem which can be used to snug the coat against you to seal out drafts.  The hem drawcord can be adjusted with one hand from the outside.

I'm 5'6" with a gut and found a Large to fit me well when worn on top of a fleece layer.  The sleeves are long enough so that I can keep my hands completely covered inside.  This can be useful, e.g., if I forget gloves or just want a little extra warmth when I'm not doing something which requires my hands.  The sleeves could be a little roomier for adding extra layers underneath but I think the coat will work OK for me as-is.  The temps around here during the Winter are generally in the 30s or 40s, sometimes dipping into the 20s.  It sometimes does go lower, especially at night, and of course we sometimes get colder Winters.

The body is long enough to cover me down to below my butt, which makes it warmer than a waist length jacket.  There are pit zips for ventilation (very important to keep sweating under control), several pockets (see below), and a hood that's big enough for my needs.  The front is closed by a two-way zipper, covered with dual storm flaps to keep out wind and water.  The zip goes up high and combined with the generously sized hood, really allows you to seal out the weather.

There are three pockets accessible from outside the jacket.  Two chest pockets and one Napolean pocket on the left, which is big enough to hold my iPod, a phone, and some other stuff.  The fleece lined chest pockets are good sized, closed with zippers covered with Velcroed flaps.  Inside, there's a large zippered security pocket and a mesh pocket for a water bottle, useful to keep your water from freezing in cold weather.  It's big enough to hold a 32 oz. Nalgene.

The hood was a big deal for me, one of the first things I checked out while trying it on.  I wear eyeglasses and so like to wear a baseball cap to help keep rain and snow off the lenses.  When I put the hood up I don't want it to scrunch the cap down on my head, a problem I had with my last shell.  The Exposure II's hood is generously cut so that this doesn't happen.  It also has a laminated brim.  Last night when I got off the train it was raining and I was wearing a knit watch cap, sans brim.  The hood's built-in brim kept my glasses dry.  The opening of the hood can be cinched down to minimize the entry of precipitation or wind.  The hood can also be rolled away if you won't be using it.

Now that I've had it for several months I feel that I've given it a good shakedown.  I've been very pleased. When worn over a a Columbia Titanium fleece jacket it's very comfortable down into the high 20s (F).  For lower temps I add a heavier shirt, long underwear, and a fleece vest or sweater as needed.  It worked well to keep me warm and dry when sledding in windy, snowy weather.

I've been wearing the MH shell without a fleece layer for the past month or so as a raincoat.  It's as good in the rain as it is in the snow, and during the warmer weather we've been having I appreciate the pit zips.

Mountain Hardwear advertises this parka as suitable for snow sports and mountaineering.  Overall the design is well thought out for these uses or as a shell for a commuter.  The quality of construction is outstanding.  Seams are neatly sewn and sealed.  I don't see this coat wearing out anytime soon.  If I could add anything, I'd add a sleeve pocket, and maybe pockets down at the bottom front of the jacket, or a poacher's pocket in the back (you can't have too many pockets, IMHO).


Anonymous said...

One of my main considerations in a winter coat (or a summer raincoat) are "handwarmer" pockets. Many designs lack those, and so I won't buy them. In fact, I figure coats that lack handwarmer pockets were probably designed by someone in southern California who doesn't ever need to put their hands in their pockets to warm them in cold weather.


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