Just In - Marmot Artemis Jacket
Just in for review is Marmot's new-for-2014 Artemis Jacket, a lightweight, full alpine shell with a helmet-compatible hood and pit-zips that uses a new, ultra-breathable 2.5-layer fabric that's genuinely vapour permeable and, says Marmot, right up there with the very best fabrics out there for breathability.
New Super-Breathable Fabric
That fabric is something called Nano Pro Membrain, It's a PU membrane that's been engineered to not just improve breathability, but according to Marmot, grab it by the scruff of the neck and slam dunk it into the basket. In lab tests it scores an improbable 47,000g per sq metre over 24 hours for moisture vapour transfer, most conventional waterproof fabrics are down in the 20K range, so that's impressive, though our experience is that real life use is a better guide - more about that shortly.
It's also a 2.5-layer fabric, which means it has a protective print on the inside face rather than a full inner material layer - it basically saves weight. Plus the fabric used for the Artemis is a stretch one to allow closer fit and reduce any restrictiveness.
Feels Light, Very Light...
The first thing you notice is that the jacket feels very light for a full alpine shell: our medium test jacket weighs just 340g on a digital scale, which is impressive. Doubly impressive given that it's by no means a minimalist design with full helmet hood, pit-zips, twin pockets and full adjustability - no elasticated hems here.
The cut is medium length for a technical jacket and close, but not tight on us - the generous stretch in the fabric should give some leeway as well. The main-zip complete with internal storm-flap is a modish, slick-running YKK Vislon - we love those zips, they don't snag and they're highly water-resistant - while pockets and pits get conventional water-resistant, urethane-coated items. The pit-zips are storm-flapped too, which isn't always the case.
Hood And Pockets
Hood is generously cut to swallow a climbing helmet and has a stiffened, wired peak to boot, though the one on our test jacket could be stiffer. Not a problem with a lid on, but with a bare head or hat, more stiffness would be a good call. Otherwise the hood fits well with the front adjusters hidden away to avoid flappage.
One thing we're not sure about is the depth of the front pockets. The openings are well above harness levels, but the bags reach right down to the hem, so if you have stuff in the pockets and then add either a harness or pack, the pocket contents can fall below belt level or sit under the belt. Nice big pockets, but a bit low slung, we'll check to make sure this is the case with production jackets too.
Overall, it's a nicely cut, unrestrictive jacket with full adjustment at hood, cuffs and hem. But what about that trumpeted breathability?
First outing, oddly enough, was a high tempo walk across central London during the tube strike. No hanging about as we were late for a meeting and worn over a baselayer top and lightweight fleece. Normally we'd expect to get a little humid in these circumstances, but the Artemis genuinely left us dry and comfortable. Not the the ultimate test, but promising.
A few days later, we got heavy on the jacket wearing it over a proven, high-wicking baselayer top for a two-and-a-half hour hilly cross bike ride in damp, cloddish conditions. It's the sort of use where most waterproof jackets simply can't cope with the heat/sweat output, so normally we simply wouldn't even bother wearing one.
And here's the thing. We didn't use the pit-zips, or roll up the sleeves or open the venting pockets either, but as with our stroll across the Smoke, we stayed remarkably comfortable. Not completely dry because we were working hard and sweating, but there was no 'boil in the bag', steam-cooked sensation and when we got home, the baselayer was just very slightly damp, suggesting that it had been drying on the move.
Right Up There
To be honest, you can't ask for any more from a waterproof. We reckon we'd have been no drier or more comfortable in most soft shells and we've used less comfortable windproof tops before now. In other words, so far we're very impressed both with the breathability of the Nano Pro Membrain fabric - right up there with Polartec's NeoShell based on our experience so far - and with what promises to be a light, no-nonsense technical mountain jacket.
In the longer term, our big question would be over the durability of the fabric. Don't get us wrong, it doesn't feel fragile and despite the soft handle, the fabric is Nylon and yes, the shoulder area is, we think, reinforced with a tougher material, but with a jacket as light as this, you do wonder how it'll cope with more sustained wear.
Otherwise though, we're impressed. Lab test figures are all very well, but so far real world experience suggests that Marmot's new fabric is right up there with the best on the market.
More to follow. Once available this spring, the Marmot Artemis will retail for £200 in the UK.
More Marmot information at www.marmot.com.
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