Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Climb Jacket
- Wednesday 5th February 2020
Reviewed by Keith Sharples
Lightweight down/synthetic jackets have become the go-to outer for many climbers in recent years for use in all but the most demanding conditions. Typically, such jackets are light enough to throw into your 'sack and not stress about the extra weight, warm enough to keep out the cold at the crag during extended belaying sessions and yet they’re slick to wear down the pub afterwards or even shopping. Many such jackets, however, aren’t really designed to wear for actual climbing.
Mountain Hardwear designed the Super/DS Climb Jacket to give warmth and freedom; they say ‘if you were a climber at the Red River Gorge in the fall or warming up at the boulders before the sunrise, you would've had to sacrifice movement for warmth. Well, now you'll never have to.’ The Super/DS is a hybrid jacket mixing down and synthetic insulation within a new stitch-free baffle and stretchy fabric designed to facilitate maximum freedom of movement whilst providing warmth.
The jacket utilises a two-way stretch fabric (comprising 85% Nylon and 15% Elastane) throughout. The main body, arm panels and hood all feature 700-fill RDS-certified down insulation within what they describe as a ‘revolutionary interwoven, stitch-free baffle construction’. The underarm, shoulders, central (rear and top) hood and lower body panels are, however, constructed with 60g synthetic insulation. Two harness-compatible zipped hand pockets, light elasticated cuffs and an elasticated hem drawcord complete the simple design of it and it is available in four different colourways, weighs in at 460g for a men’s Medium and has an RRP of £270.
Materials and Construction
The stretchy 138g/m2 Toray outer fabric and the construction of the down-insulated main panels of the Super/DS are the most striking features of the jacket. The addition of 15% Spandex (elastane) to the fabric means that the whole jacket stretches nicely when worn and unlike many lightweight jackets it can be easily worn whilst climbing without suffering any restrictions in movement. Like many, it’s reasonably wind and shower resistant and the fabric seems reasonably resilient to scuffs.
Let’s talk about the down/synthetic insulation mix next. The 700-fill RDS-certified down consists of a 90% goose down and 10% goose feather mix and whilst it offers good insulation it comes up a bit short in comparison to other similar lightweight jackets which often use 800-fill 100% goose down fill. The synthetic insulation used for the non-down panels is based on a lightweight 60g Primaloft material. Whilst it appears that there is a single layer of this insulation in the underarm panels the lower body, shoulder and hood panels feel considerably thicker so must, presumably, comprise multiple layers of the insulation.
In down-filled jackets, the construction – specifically the space given to the down to fully loft – is all-important. Whilst many jackets use a straightforward sawn-through construction, the Super/DS utilises a stitch-free baffle construction where the outer and inner fabric layers have been woven, rather than stitched, together. The arms, front, back and hood panels have an alternative ‘hit-miss’ construction such that the entire panel is one large down-filled construction. The rationale behind this, according to Mountain Hardwear, is that this gives less cold spots and also reduces down migration. It’s easy to see how cold spots are eliminated and down leakage too but it seems counter initiative that the quasi ‘open’ baffle construction will reduce down migration.
The rear body panel showing the construction
The Super/DS is quoted at weighing-in at 460g for a men’s medium which is a shade heavier than many lightweight jackets. The jacket isn’t supplied with a stuff sac, so you have to invest in a third-party product if you’re looking to stow the Super/DS. Remember here that the use of synthetic insulation means it won’t pack down as small as a pure down jacket.
Whilst Mountain Hardwear describes the fit of the jacket as ‘active’, in practice, it’s a ‘straight up and down’ cut rather than a tailored fit. This will suit some of medium to bigger build but those on the thinner side will find that the cut is generous around the midriff and feel a tad bulky and baggy. Moving up to the shoulder and arms of the Super/DS these are reasonably accommodating even for those who have broader shoulders and bigger arms than most, but again, the stretchy fabrics help prevent any movement restrictions.
The rear panel is quite a bit longer than the front and together with the elasticated/drawcord hem you shouldn’t be bothered if it’s a windy day or on longer belay shifts. Sadly, that doesn’t go for the hood or the cuffs. Yes, the cuffs are lightly elasticated and yes they’re big enough to pull the jacket on over lightweight gloves but personally, it would have been nice to cinch down the cuffs, not least to keep them back a bit when and if the jacket is used for climbing in. Finally, let’s finish with the hood where, frankly, Mountain Hardwear appear to have scrimped a bit. Sadly, there’s no means of either adjusting the volume of the hood or cinching it down to keep the wind out. Frankly, both omissions are more than a bit irritating on a so-called ‘climbing’ jacket.
In terms of features, the Super/DS isn’t especially well-endowed. In fact, the two zipped hand pockets are the only features you get on the jacket as alas there are neither any internal nor chest pockets. The use of synthetic fill at the base of the body panels, together with the two harness-compatible zipped pockets, suggests that the intended use of the Super/DS is beneath a harness. That being the case, all is well. However, those that intend/favour using the jacket over a harness should note that the main YKK zip doesn’t have a double zipper which is another frustration as the belay loop on your harness is obscured by the jacket forcing the user to pull the jacket up to belay.
Overall the Super/DS has some excellent innovative aspects like the stretchy fabric and baffle construction. It’s a well-made and finished jacket, it’s reasonably warm and light and performs well as a belay jacket in all but the most testing of conditions. Sadly, however, it has limited features as well as some disappointing design errors and omissions which you don’t expect to see on a jacket with such aspirations at this price point. If only it had an internal and/or chest pocket, adjustable cuffs and hood and a two-way zip it would have ticked way more boxes; without these it’s a little lacking.
Below: The lower body panels and main zip
Below: The front and the rear of the hood