Mountain Equipment’s new for autumn 2013 Lhotse Jacket using the latest version of Gore-Tex Pro fabric is available early and right now from Cotswold Outdoor and promises to be a real benchmark mountain shell jacket thanks to the combination of an absolutely outstanding fit, an excellent new fabric and ME’s proven design and detailing.
There are two main stand-outs to the 2013 Lhotse, the new Gore-Tex Pro fabric and a sleek new cut which ME has spent two years working on with expert Swiss pattern cutters.
The fabric is the new version of what was originally Gore-Tex Pro Shell and all you really need to know is that while it’s just as tough and light as the original, it’s significantly more breathable – ‘up to 28% claims Gore’ – and six months of trialling it suggests that’s about right.
It’s all achieved through a new membrane technology that means it’s 100% EPTFE. It’s cracking hard-wearing mountain fabric, that puts Gore-Tex back in the mix when it comes to breathability. Visually the only difference between old and new fabrics is that the inside, ‘backer fabric’ of the new version has micro-grid rip-stop pattern for show, while the old one is plain with no cross-hatch lines.
The other big development is ME’s new Alpine Fit – there’s more detail here – which took the brand two years of development working with expert Swiss alpine pattern cutters. These are the guys who control the fit of a garment and the aim was to produce a new ME cut that would be a closer, more efficient fit, but without compromising mobility or limiting who can wear the jacket.
It’s all about designing in 3D, tweaking seams and panels for the optimum fit for the human body and it’s a time-consuming, expensive process using lots of prototypes and tweaking to reach the optimum fit – actually there are two in both men’s and women’s versions, a sleeker Alpine Fit and a more generous Mountain Fit designed to accommodate thicker layers underneath.
This is a first look rather than a full test thanks to the current hot dry conditions, but we can already tell you that the cut of the Lhotse is superb and a benchmark for modern waterproof shells. What’s so good about it? First it properly hugs the contours of the body, it’s slim around the waist and hips, sucks in to the lower back, but has enough volume for broad climber-type shoulders, chest and upper back. It has a proper ‘just right’ feel to it.
On top of that, length for us is enough to give decent crotch protection in the wet but without hindering leg movement and ME has lengthened its sleeves to minimise any ‘pull-up issues when climbing.
Where the ME cut really moves the game on though is that it does all this without remotely hindering mobility or compromising fit by adding clumsy baggy areas of excess fabric. You can reach out and up and the thing fits and moves like a second skin. It really is that good.
On top of that, you’re getting a whole raft of top spec and proven features and design touches. ME’s HC helmet hood is excellent – plenty of room for any helmet we’ve used with full lower facial protection and great head movement. And it works without a helmet too.
The main and pocket zips are the excellent, robust and smooth running YKK Vislon with interlocking, moulded plastic teeth giving a highly water-resistant seal, there are three big pockets, simple adjustable cuffs using the body fabric for tabs, captive draw-cords for the hood and pit-zips too with more flexible water-resistant zips.
Finally, while the main body fabric is a 40D version of Gore-Tex Pro, the shoulders, hips and lower back use a more abrasion-resistant, heavier 80D fabric which helps give the whole jacket a robust, reassuring feel.
Last but not least, we’re extrapolating from our extended use of a pre-production Gore-Tex seeding jacket, the fabric is the best mountaineering material Gore-Tex has ever come up with. It’s appreciably more breathable than before, so you stay more comfortable when giving it hammer, but it retains the original’s toughness and the smooth inner surface which slides easily over lower layers for good mobility. Oh, and it’s decently waterproof too.
Like we said initially, it’s early days, but the Lhotse and it’s other ME stablemates for this autumn 2013 have all the signs of being a new benchmark in mountain shells with a combination of a superb fit, an excellent tough and breathable fabric and the no-nonsense features that have made the brand a favourite choice in Britain’s mountains.
It’s a proper all-round mountain waterproof that you could use for anything from alpine mountaineering to UK hill walking and expect to last too. If you were being hyper-critical, you could quibble over the 520g weight, there are lighter options out there, but it’s actually about right for what you’re getting.
In short, we reckon ME is onto a real winner here and we’re looking forward to seeing if the new Mountain Fit and women’s versions of both cuts are as impressive.