Posts Tagged Polartec
I’ve seen a few technical shells for this price in stores, but until I tried out this Jammu one from North Face, I can’t say I’d ever worn one out in the field. This being the Practical Travel Gear blog, my main question was, “Is it worth it? Is any jacket worth four Ben Franklins?”
The answer, as it is often, was “It depends.” If you’re just walking between buildings on city streets or going from airports to taxis to hotels, probably not. One of the other fine travel jackets we’re reviewed will do just fine. If you’re really going to spend hours outdoors though doing something active—skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, winter rock climbing, or summiting a mountain for example—then all the wizardry that went into the Jammu could go a long way toward keeping your body temperature regulated.
The Polartec Neoshell is the supporting actor in this show. It’s an alternative to other name brand and proprietary membranes that claim to let hot moisture escape while keeping outside water out. There’s a weakness to most of them though in that “breathable” doesn’t mean it really breathes. At least not air. So the jacket designs usually incorporate armpit zippers, eyelets, and other adjustments to allow actual air to get in and out. Polartec has spent a fortune developing and then advertising a solution that is waterproof and blocks 99.9 percent of wind, but still allows tw0-way airflow.
I have to admit I haven’t had the chance to try this out in sub-zero temperatures, but will be doing that on a Rockies ski trip in January because I trust it will deliver. Meanwhile, I have taken it on several hiking trips where I was huffing and puffing in cold and windy weather. (In Bulgaria there was snow on the ground in some places.) I stayed relatively dry with a synthetic or merino wool baselayer underneath and felt a tad less overheated then I have with jackets using other membranes. No sweaty clothing when it was time to take this off.
To the naked eye though, the attributes that stand out with this jacket are the quality construction and the attention to detail. Yes, it’s made in Vietnam, probably in a factory that also cranks out the sub-$100 North Face jackets you see on every college campus, but it’s obvious that this model has gotten extra care. All the seams are taped well, the stitching is professional, and there are no stray threads anywhere. The adjustable hood, which is helmet-compatible, moves side to side with your head, unlike a few I’ve tried where when my face moves the hood covers half of it.
This Jammu jacket is thin and light enough (one pound, 10 ounces) to pack in a carry-on, but it performs way above its weight class. With a comfortable brushed interior and fabric with plenty of give, this is a multi-situation piece that won’t be too hot in April showers, but will keep you toasty without a whole lot of layers under it in a blizzard or some biting cold wind. It’ll move with you when you’re doing something strenuous, or look like an expensive, quality jacket when times are not so demanding.
In the end, the one thing that has bothered me about the price has been the elevated sense of what I’m wearing is worth. Instead of hanging my jacket on a coat rack somewhere or leaving it on a hook to go exercise at the gym without a care, now I’m scared someone is going to go, “Ooooh, nice jacket!” and walk off with it. This thing comes with a lifetime warranty and I’d like to come close to getting its full potential. So I’m keeping a close eye on it.
The North Face Jammu technical jacket comes in green or black and for now the prices are just shy of $400 no matter where you buy it. If you’re in that kind of price range, it would be hard to find a better waterproof, windproof shell on the market. Get it direct from North Face or follow these links to Backcountry and Altrec.
I’ve reviewed a lot of travel towels over the years and the only ones I’ve kept using were from Discovery Trekking. You can see my review of them here: Travel Towels That Actually Work.
A good towel just got better though: this Ultra Fast-Dry Towel now incorporates Polartec Power Dry fabric to improve the drying time without it losing any absorbency.
The elements I liked about this travel towel the first time around are still there. It soaks up far more water than it looks like it will, performing like some “As seen on TV” miracle cloth. It takes a bit longer than with fluffy cotton terrycloth—the price you pay for something so packable—but with an extra minute of effort you can fully towel off a body that’s coming straight from the shower or a swimming pool. Although it doesn’t feel as good as terrycloth either, compared to some of them I’ve used, this one is very soft. It doesn’t feel scratchy against the skin.
The real benefit of this travel towel though is that it enables you to pack one while still packing light. The medium size, which will be fine for most travelers, folds up to about the size of a noise-reduction headphones case, or smaller than a typical guidebook. You can cram it into any corner of your bag and it’ll pop out working fine. If you need to sink wash it, just wring it out after and it’ll dry quickly.
It’s treated with a silver derivative to keep it from getting smelly, but the fact that this one dries so quickly helps. Even in a humid bathroom my test version dried in a couple hours. In the breeze or the hot sun, it was ready in under an hour. This is a big help when you’re a backpacker on the move or you’re camping and need to pack up everything and go.
If you go on the company website you’ll see an array of 18 colors—including two prints. The eight sizes seem like overkill, but if you want you can go from one barely larger than a washcloth to one that’s 34″ X 58″
Sure, I’ve got so many t-shirts that I could wear one a day for months and not repeat, but only a few of them let me dry off quickly when I’m working up a sweat and keep smelling good enough to wear again the next day. This Marmot tee made with Polartec fabric is one of them. And my new favorite.
Wicking t-shirts have come a long way from when they were straight synthetic fabric that was one step up from your aunt’s blouse or a leisure suit shirt from Saturday Night Fever. If you buy a cheap one, that’s usually what you’ll still get. This one lists for $40, which is certainly a step up, but a couple of shirts like this can be a secret weapon in the war against airline baggage fees.
You see this Marmot Lightweight Tee is indeed light, as in 4.8 ounces (136 grams) in your luggage weight tally. Most of your toiletries probably weigh more individually than that. The real key though is the Cocona yarn from Polartec that’s spun into the recycled polyester. It’s made from the “activated carbon of coconut shells,” which would seem to be a handy resource. Think about all that VitaCoco water that leads to enough discarded shells to fill a container ship. Here’s the whole Cocona explanation, but the surface of it aids the wicking process and naturally fights odor. Kind of like merino wool does, but in a stronger fabric that’s cooler.
As usual, I was surprised at how well it worked. I’d take this shirt out biking, wear it to the gym, then take a walk in the hot sun to run some errands. After a few days of this, I’d expect it to reek badly, but it was still more than bearable. That’s a huge plus when you’re traveling, especially if you’re in hot countries and are lugging a backpack or suitcase up stairs and onto trains and buses. A few items like this and you don’t have to be doing sink laundry every few days.
As for performance, I loved the feel and fit of this stretchy Marmot shirt. I look better in this than most others I’ve tried and it’s not so thin that you can see every chest hair. (No, real men don’t wax.) It has thin mesh panels on the sides and under the arms though to allow better ventilation.
The flat seams make it comfy with a backpack or messenger bag and the tagless collar is a welcome touch. I packed this on one trip where I intentionally stuffed it into my bag at the last minute and did the same coming home. It looked fine, wrinkle-free both times.
There’s also a women’s version and if you want one for a base layer for cold climates, you can get long sleeves for just $5 more.
See more travel clothing reviews on Practical Travel Gear.
Lately, I’ve been wearing the Patagonia Adze jacket everywhere I go, and I won’t lie: I’ve enjoyed the many compliments. It’s tailored and stylish enough to look great with jeans, and yet warm enough to be my go-to spring ski jacket. It’s performed well during a weekend at Tahoe, an overnight snowshoe trek in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Wilderness, and every day in-between, on the commute to and from work.
For those of you (like me) who are suckers for all things shiny and pretty, the Adze comes in six great colors; the mango is bright and cheery, and more importantly, doesn’t show dirt (not even the usual smudges my downhill skis tend to leave on my jackets’ shoulders after carting them to and from the car).
The shell is made of Polartec Windbloc stretch polyester (with some spandex tossed in) and lined with color-coordinating fleece at the neck and wind flap. Two outer pockets plus one internal provide enough room to store ski or outdoor essentials such as keys, Chapstick, sunscreen, and some cash, and the cuffs are tailored at the wrists so the sleeves don’t get in your way. (I also like that they’re adjustable with velcro, to better fit the cuffs of ski gloves underneath.)
The Adze blocks out the wind very well, and the DWR coating does a decent job keeping you dry even in heavy snow. (Note: it’s water resistant, not waterproof.) The lining is made of something called microgrid fleece, which is very soft without adding bulk. There’s a drawcord at the hem if you want it (I haven’t needed to use it). The wind flap at the neck doesn’t give full face coverage, but provides all you need in fair to moderate weather. The only time I don’t reach for the Adze is when I’ll need a hood.
For travelers, this jacket would work well for non-summer travel in varying conditions. With windblocking technology and enough water resistance to get you through drizzly, misty days, it can take you from Seattle to the Azores to Ireland.
My only complaint is that the Adze isn’t as fitted as most women’s jackets on the market today. (It’s a bit boxy.) At 5’4″, the sleeves of an Adze medium fall a bit long on me, so if you want a more tailored fit, size down. If I weren’t wearing this over several layers of ski clothes, I’d have opted for a small.
The Adze retails for $139, making it reasonably priced in the realm of performance jackets. Find it at Amazon, Altrec, REI, MooseJaw, and other outdoor retailers. And yes guys, there’s also a men’s version. See more details on it at the Patagonia.com site.
For serious warmth and comfort without a lot of bulk, this Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T base layer is a dream on the slopes and off.
Sometimes I receive items I pass on to my personal trainer spouse to try out since Kara only has so much time to put the torrent of new travel gear through the wringer. Most of these items don’t get her too excited, but sometimes a piece of travel apparel will actually get a real reaction and then I know I’m onto something.
She says this advanced stretchy fleece from Mountain Hardwear is worth getting excited about. My picky reviewer especially likes how it stays in place and doesn’t ride up when she’s on a run or hiking. It fits really well and is flattering to the figure when you want to stay warm without bulking up. She found it surprisingly warm for something so thin: “What’s this thing made of anyway?”
If you want to get technical, it’s made from Polartec Micro Power Stretch fabric, but all us normal people need to know is that it weighs a mere seven ounces but is incredibly warm and comfy. Plus it’s wicking, quick-drying, and stretchy. Despite all the wonder fabric properties, it’s soft against the skin.
The zipper at the top has a little tuck-away piece of fabric protecting it and there’s a stash pocket on the sleeve that will hold a music player or cell phone. You’ll look like a superhero in this, and probably feel like one too. The Micro Power Stretch Zip Tee comes in five sizes and three colors.
Hey guys, don’t feel left out. I didn’t try this out personally, but I’m confident the male option is equally impressive. Check out the options on that version here at Amazon.