Mountain Hardwear Women's Quasar Lite Jacket | Review
MHW's lightweight women's alpine shell is nicely made and fits well, but does it cut the mustard for more general mountain and outdoor use?
'A cracking all-round, lightweight, waterproof jacket which is let down by a hood design which should be a lot better sans helmet'
Outdoors Magic: Nice fabric, good fit and generally excellent features at a decent light weight and a hood that will accommodate even quite high-profile helmets. Good value.
Outdoors Tragic: Hood struggles with bare head, fiddly stealth hem-cord adjuster.
Outdoors Grabbit? A cracking jacket unless you need to wear it without a helmet, at which point it becomes problematic thanks to restricted vision and a gaping neck. Otherwise it works really well.
Women's-specific lightweight mountain jacket / 2.5-layer Dry.Q Elite fabric / helmet hood with wired peak / twin zipped inside mesh pockets / 40D face fabric / two PU-zippered venting chest pockets / centre-front PU zipper / adjustable cuffs and hem / soft chin-guard
Full Review Below
MHW Quasar Lite - The Tech
The jacket uses MHW's own Dry.Q Elite Pro 2.5-layer fabric and it's good stuff. The 2.5 bit means that the inside of the jacket uses a print to protect the waterproofing bit, but all you really need to know is that it's light, feels decently tough and breathes pretty well.
Early 2.5-layer fabrics could feel a bit sticky against, say, bare arms, but that's not a huge problem here. Otherwise it's all state of the art stuff with fully-taped seams and adjustment all round.
'Totally helmet compatible, even with a bit to spare which can be adjusted to suit, and in a world where one size doesn’t fit all, I think this jacket is best suited to use where a helmet is indicated'
Zips are urethane-coated, water-resistant ones for both the main opening and pockets. Not as swanky or free-moving as the moulded-tooth Vislon type, but perfectly adequate. Finally, the two front pockets, sited to clear a belt or harness, are part mesh lined so that they can also act as vents if the going gets warm.
MHW Quasar Lite - Performance
Mostly everyone liked the basics of the Quasar Lite. At 330g it's decently light and packable for an alpine jacket and in the same ballpark as the Alpkit Balance for example. The fabric went down well too. It's quite light, but the 40D face material means it doesn't feel remotely fragile.
It seems to breathe pretty well - MHW says it uses 'a revolutionary air-permeable membrane' if you're interested - and kept us dry and comfortable. There is a little bit of a slick, 'waterproof' feel to the inside of the jacket, but it's not a big issue.
The cut went down well with all our testers. In a nut-shell it's 'just right' for those with hips, but not so shaped that it overwhelms narrower physiques. The only negative comment here was on the stealth rear hem-adjuster cord.
It's a slightly fiddly operation to release it even with bare hands let alone gloves, though tightening it initially isn't so bad.
Pocket provision is good. There are two pack and harness-friendly front ones that double as vents and can take a map, plus inside are two more: one is phone sized, the other tall and narrow. Water bottle sized maybe.
'No matter how I adjusted the hood, I could not pull the peak back far enough to give me the ability to see ahead more than 20 feet'
The elephant in the Quasar Lite room however, is the hood. 'The worst hood in the world,' said one tester, a tad harshly. The thing is that the hood's been designed to work with a climbing helmet, but as a result, is pretty dire without.
There's lots of excess fabric particularly around the neck, where it gapes open alarmingly for at least one of our test crew. It was hard to adjust the pull-cords so the hood sat evenly and even when fully adjusted, the commendably stiffened hood tended to fall forward and obscure vision.
MHW Quasar Lite - Verdict
There's lots of good stuff about the women's Quasar Lite. It's, erm, light and packable. The fabric works well and doesn't feel fragile. The cut is neat and worked for all our testers. And there are plenty of pockets too. Plus at £180 it's a very good price for a well-made alpine shell.
Unfortunately, while the hood works fine with a climbing helmet in situ, without one it's frankly a bit of a mess. There's simply too much fabric for the adjusters to deal with and you end up with a loose neck opening and a peak that flops forward to obscure vision.
Or in a nut-shell, nice jacket, shame about the hood. If you're after a waterproof purely to wear with a helmet, it's definitely worth a look, but for more general use, there are better dual-purpose options around.