Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $359
Pros: Perfect fit makes it comfortand and unrestricting, customizable features.
Cons: PacLite is less breathable and less durable than Gore Pro Shell and Active Shell, hood is restricive when worn over a helmer, no interior zip pocket option,
Best Uses: PacLite is best an an occasional use "insurance piece"
The Beyond Clothing Ridgeback is a custom-built hardshell jacket. Just enter measurements for your body and chose from various build specifications, and the computers and people at Beyond Clothing sew up a jacket custom made to fit your unique body. The Ridgeback, therefore, is the best fitting hardshell we tested. It's comfortable and unrestrictive, and the ability to build a jacket that fits your body and your intended uses is awesome!!
Unfortunately, the Ridgeback uses Gore-Tex PacLite, an outdated waterproof breathable material typically found on budget, occasional use hardshells. We believe the Ridgeback would be significantly better if offered in Gore Pro membrane or another higher quality waterproof breathable material. We therefore, prefer other shells.
The custom process also takes extra time so if you need a jacket soon we recommend a shell which can be purchased from major online retailers. The Arc'teryx Alpha FL is both widely available and our Editors' Choice Award winner.
Check out our complete Hardshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models we tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Beyond Clothing is a small Seattle-based custom company dedicated to making the best fitting cold weather apparel. Each item (whether it be the Ridgeback jacket, softshell pants, or a fleece jacket) is made to fit your unique body. The order process takes place online and is simple and straightforward. We measured nine parts of our upper body and then answered eight questions about our build (how jackets normally fit and how we like them to fit). Software analyzes your information, creates a pattern, and a human makes the cuts and sews the jacket together.
The Ridgeback is Beyond's top-tier hardshell. It uses an American made 2.5 layer Gore-Tex membrane very similar to PacLite. For $359 the shell comes standard with two handwarmer pockets and a hood. From there, you can from several additional features: pit zips cost an additional $30, inner pocket ventilation $30, and an inner cargo pocket $45.
The best part of the Ridgeback is the jacket's customized fit. Based on our experience testing the company's Cold Fusion Shock softshell and the Ridgeback we can definitively say that you get the best fit with Beyond. The shell is supremely comfortable, provides an unrestricted fit, and is simply a pleasure to wear.
Though the fit is superb, the Ridgeback could be improved significantly through better materials and better features. This is the only hardshell tested that uses a 2.5 layer PacLite material. PacLite is less breathable and less durable than Gore Pro Shell, and even less breathable than Gore Active Shell. In many ways, PacLite is an outdated technology used on budget hardshells. It was designed for weekened warriors that wanted something lighter and more packable than Gore's higher end products. Since the Ridgeback is a "top tier" shell we believe it should have the best materials available- like the other eighteen shells tested. Gore Pro Shell would be great, and ideally another version (with a half length zipper and no pit zips) could be offered with Active Shell. We can't recommend a custom made shell that's cut with PacLite.
As for the jacket's specific features: the hood on the Ridgeback we tested could be slightly larger to better accommodate a helmet. The two-way main zipper is only necessary if the shell is sized to fit over your harness (most climbers wear the shell tucked under the harness). Perhaps the type of hood and zipper could be offered as options when building the jacket.
After testing Beyond's Cold Fusion Shock (an exceptionally good softshell) we had high expectations for the Ridgeback. Unfortunately, we don't believe that it's worth getting a custom made shell out of PacLite. ProShell and Active Shell, though not made in the USA, are superior waterproof breathable technologies. See our Best Hardshell Jacket Review for more information on the types of waterproof breathable technologies.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: July 18, 2013
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