Mountain Equipment Women's Manaslu Jacket | Review
A seriously gnarly women's-specific mountain jacket that mixes the best Gore-Tex waterproof fabric available with no-nonsense cut and lots of useful features.
'A serious, burly, mountaineering jacket that makes few concessions to high street fashion, but kicks ass when the going gets tough'
Outdoors Magic: Great fabric, serious components, awesome hood, pit-zips, all-round bomb-proof feel, good, functional cut. Handsome.
Outdoors Tragic: Slightly noisy fabric, hood didn't suit all testers, high price.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if you're mainly looking for a hardcore mountain jacket with enough space for warm layers underneath and a cracking helmet that'll take a hood if necessary. No expense spared, no compromises made. It's the Landrover of waterproof jackets.
Women's-specific waterproof mountain jacket / 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric / adjustable helmet-compatible HC hood / reinforced shoulders and sleeves / women's Alpine fit / Storm construction throughout / three large pockets with YKK® moulded Aquaguard® zips / zipped mesh inner pocket / 2-way YKK® WR underarm pit zips with laminated and bonded entry / adjustable laminated cuffs and dual tether hem drawcords
Full Review Below
Manaslu Jacket - The Tech
UK-based Mountain Equipment has a reputation for full-on mountaineering kit put together using top notch fabrics and components and the Manaslu is its top-of-the-range women's waterproof shell.
It's not cheap at £330, but for your money you get the toughest Gore-Tex available, Gore-Tex Pro, smooth-running YKK moulded zippers all round and one of the best adjustable helmet hoods out there. It's all put together using ME's proven 'Storm Construction' with taped seams, carefully placed to minimise any possibility of leakage.
'It feels like a proper winter mountaineering jacket' - Caroline
Critical stress points are bar-tacked to make them stronger as well. And on this jacket, potential wear areas like shoulders and outside sleeves use a heavier version of the fabric to make sure they can cope.
Finally, the ace up ME's sleeve is a cut developed with specialist Swiss mountaineering clothing designers to make sure that the jacket fits neatly, but without restricting movement, which is vital if you're climbing or mountaineering.
In short, it's a super single-minded design using the best fabrics and components with the sole aim of making it as protective and functional as possible in high, wild environments.
Manaslu Jacket - Performance
If jackets were television programmes, the Manaslu would be Game of Thrones or Vikings. Everyone who used it remarked on its high levels of burliness and mountain intent. 'Feels like a proper winter mountaineering jacket' said outdoors instructor Caroline.
That's partly because the fabric sort swaggers as it moves. It feels super tough without being ridiculously thick and breathes nicely too, keeping you comfortable even when you're working hard. The only downside is that it's slightly noisy and a little stiff compared to more civilised jackets.
It also has gnarly, big-toothed zips for the good reason that they're robust, very water resistant and slide easily too. Speaking of which, big zip-pulls mean they're easy to operate with gloved hands.
'Pay off for the bulkiness is a very reassuringly sturdiness. This is a very serious jacket. I’d trust it in the very worst of conditions' - Alison
And then there's the hood. ME has a reputation for making some of the best hoods on the market and you can see why. It fits over a climbing helmet without restrictive head movement, but also has enough adjustment to be used over a bare head or beanie.
Once it's on and cinched up you feel properly snug and protected from the weather with a sort of overhead canopy effect from the stiffened peak. To be fair, our smaller-headed testers did find the hood a tad voluminous without a lid. Our advice is to try before buying.
There are three exterior pockets, plus an internal mesh one, all designed to work with a harness or a pack. The chest pocket takes an OS map, but annoyingly for Caroline it sat right on her nipple. Not popular and the lower two pockets are too small for a map.
Fit was generally liked. It's cut slightly shorter than some for climbing use, sitting just above the widest part of the hip and has enough room for a warm layer underneath without being flappy and baggy. Sleeves are long enough for climbers too.
Finally, although the fabric is decently breathable, you can also minimise any sauna effect using the handy venting pit-zips to introduce some fresh air to, well, your pits actually.
The only real downside is that, in Alison's words, it's 'a wear-all-day jacket'. At 470g for a size 12 its not super heavy, but it's not something you'd want to stash in your rucksack unless you really had to and consequently not a jacket you'd carry 'just in case' - both the Rab Flashpoint and the Alpkit Balance are better choices for that.
Manaslu Jacket - Verdict
Of all the women's jackets we've tested, this is the one we'd unhesitatingly choose for full-on mountaineering and winter mountain walking use. The Manaslu exudes a sort of reassuring burliness and copes brilliantly with rain, snow and wind. It's a reassuring mobile refuge from the storm.
It's been properly designed and cut for mountain use with a cracking hood that's one of the best out there, with or without a climbing helmet. The only real downsides are that its swaggering mountain woman looks seem a little out of place in gentler surroundings - think Tank Girl at a garden party - and it's slightly bulkier and heavier than less robust shells.
If you're after a serious women's mountaineering jacket though and can afford the £330 price-tag, it's one of the best around.