New From Mountain Equipment Spring 2015
Latest in our series of reports from this year's OutDoor 2014 Euro trade show is a fly-by on what's new from Manchester-based Mountain Equipment for spring 2015 including a pair of neat new jackets, some rather stylish-loooking legwear and the brand's 'ultimate' synthetic sleeping bag launch.
New Squall Jacket
ME describes its mission with the new Squall - above - as being to create 'the ultimate rock climber's soft shell' and in the flesh it looks great. The basics are that it's a stretchy, close-fitting, nigh-in windproof jacket complete with a full helmet hood that's designed to give decent protection without screwing up comfort and mobility.
It's even been given a chunky off-set zip both to give a better fit over the point of the chin and to team-up nicely with the excellent Eclipse Hoody fleece which features a similarly off-kilter zip. ME is particularly proud of the hood, which has had a lot of development to make sure it's genuinely helmet happy, but still able to give decent face protection and not compromise your ability to look up, down or sideways.
It's reckoned to be tough too thanks to mainly polyamide double weave fabric with 6% elastane for stretch and seams that are over-locked and top-stitched. One Napoleon-styled chest pocket only. Team it with the Eclipse Hoody and it should be up to most cragging conditions. All this and the price-tag is a very reasonable-looking £100.
Kinesis Jacket - Polartec Alpha insulation hybrid
We're fans of Polartec's Alpha insulation, but like Marmot, ME has decided that it works best in a hybrid format with the warmer Alpha around the core torso area and windproof Helium 30 fabric over a micro-gridded micro fleece elsewhere. The whole garnent is windproof, but the idea is that it's breathable enough to wear all day in the mountains in 90% of conditions in a sort of fit and forget fashion.
If it gets really gnarly, just chuck a lightweight waterproof over the top. Like the Squall it has a full helmet hood and is cut long and slim to work with a harness. There are hand warmer pockets too and if the sun shines too much, it's reckoned to be light and storable enough to stuff into a pocket and tidy away or clip to a harness. We'll come back to you with a price...
You might remember that the crack ME design team did a lot of work on jacket fit with a Swiss consultancy with what we reckon are market-leading results, now they've done the same thing with legwear, with the idea that a 3D cut gives great fit without compromising mobility.
The new Comici Pant is a light, but tough stretchy softshell trouser made from the same fabric as the Squall and designed to be used for pretty much anything on the hill from rock climbing through to trekking. ME' s in-house model and product man Rich Bailey describes the fit as 'fitted but not too tight' which sounds promising. Nowt worse than restrictive pants in the mountains is what we say...
Plenty of pockets, a double-stud waist fastening and a taper on the ankles to reduce flappage and allow you to see your feet on dinky little footholds complete the package. Not insanely expensive either at £70. There's a shorts version too, see the images below.
Also new in the legwear department are the Hope Pants, which we actually prefer aesthetically to the Comici - horse for courses there; they are designed as slightly looser fitting cragging pants, made from a tough-feeling fabric with water-repellent finish and come complete with a Tri-Glide belt.
Up close there are lots of neat little tucks and seams to get the fit spot on - the ME guys were wearing them on the stand and they look really nice. Both models, by the way, have proper zipped flies, which is good by us. Nowt worse than a zipless pant.
New Aurora Synthetic Sleeping Bags
The final new product highlight for spring 2015 is a range of top-notch synthetic bags called Aurora, which ME has dubbed the 'ultimate synthetic bag'. The three-bag range still isn't as light or durable as down, but the brand has tried really hard to make the performance as competitive as possible.
To do that, they worked with Leeds University to test all the available fills before deciding on a on a combination of two fills: Climashield Apex and Climashield Prism, which scored best in tests. Then to optimise performance, they developed new hoods and foot-pieces based on the top down bags.
The result is three new bags with comfort limit ratings of -2˚C, -7˚C and -12˚C. To put performance in perspective, the warmest Aurora 3 bag weighs in at 1695g and has a limit of comfort rating of -12˚C. The down-filled Glacier 750, a mid-market down bag with the same rating is 1450g, so the weight penalty for using the more water-friendly synthetic fill is a not ridiculous 245g.
Competition for the MHW Lamina series of bags maybe? We'll have to wait and see.
All the above are due out in spring 2015. For the current Mountain Equipment range see www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.