Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, breathable material, trim fit, non-adjustable cuffs with thumb loops, excellent hood and waist adjustments
Cons: Not durable, interior pocket is hard to access, pullover can be a drawback, no pit zips, cuffs get wet and dry slow
Best Uses: High output alping and ice climbing, emergency use
If a lightweight, compact, waterproof breathable shell is paramount to your next alpine objective, the Mountain Hardwear Quasar is the ticket to the top. This ultralight climbing shell packs a fully waterproof, highly breathable, and well-featured hardshell into a mere 9.5 ounces. Whether it's in your pack or over your body the Quasar is so light, so compact, and so comfortable you'll hardly notice it.
But the Quasar is not even remotely durable. After four months of use our test model was riddled with tears and holes. After washing it once the hang loop delaminated! Consequently, we prefer the Arc'teryx Alpha FL becuase it provides a more durable jacket with a full-length zipper and helmet compatible hood, all for only 1.2 ounces more.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar takes ultralight waterproof breathable hardshells to the next level. This shell is a simple, refined, and highly functional piece that excels at all fast and light applications.
The Quasar uses Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite three-layer ePTFE membrane and an ultralight 15-denier ripstop nylon face fabric. The combination of an air permeable membrane and a thin face fabric create the most breathable hardshell we tested. The Quasar is our top choice for fast and light, high exertion activities. It dumps heat and water vapor faster than any of the 18 other shells we tested.
The Quasar is a dream come true for ultralight mountain people. Weighing only 9.5 oz. in men's medium this is the lightest and most compact shell we tested. The jacket has a half-length main zipper, a small hood that fits comfortably underneath a helmet, and a small non-zippered stash pocket on the inside of the wearer's left chest. For its weight, the Quasar has remarkably good adjustments at the waist and hood. (Other light shells such as the Mammut Felstrum Half Zip lack a waist adjustment.) And finally, the Quasar's wrist closures – which have a soft, stretchy extension that seals out cold air – are superb. For climbing, our testers prefer the Quasar's wrist closure to Velcro because snow and ice can freeze inside Velcro, rendering it useless.
The Quasar's fit is trim and athletic. This is not a shell for burly people with especially broad shoulders. Wearing the jacket, one feels light and free. The thin face fabric is softer and quieter than expedition mountaineering shells like the Rab Latok, Arc'teryx Alpha SV, and Patagonia Super Alpine. It feels like you're wearing a windbreaker – except the shell is waterproof. One of our testers fell in love with the Quasar and nearly refused to use any of the other 18 shells the rest of us tested.
The Quasar is a specialized shell for fast and light, high exertion activities. Its Dry Q Elite membrane, combined with the thin face fabric, is more breathable than any Gore Pro Shell jacket we tested, but it's not as warm. (Air permeable means that air passes through the membrane. The Quasar's Dry Q Elite is like a piece of mesh netting except with much smaller holes. Hot air can escape from the jacket, which can be a good thing, yet high winds can also blow cold air in from the outside. The Gore-Tex family is non-porous and completely windproof, i.e. air cannot pass through the membrane. The two technologies are different beasts. We prefer Dry Q Elite for activities that generate a lot of heat and moisture vapor, and we prefer ProShell for trips of longer duration – where there may be periods of low exertion and high winds.)
Being ultralight, the Quasar's face fabric is not particularly durable. Several large rocks fell on one of our testers while he was mixed climbing in Hyalite Canyon, MT – causing the jacket to tear in several places. The Quasar also showed signs of wear along the cuffs after only three months of use. Although we acknowledge that ultralight fabrics are not designed for extended use and abuse we found the Quasar to be shockingly fragile. The jacket's hang loop delaminated after washing it only once!
Ice and alpine climbing.
The Quasar trades durability for weight savings. It's one of the cheapest and most widely available hardshells, but a jacket with a stronger face fabric and more durable features (zippers, pull cords, etc) will last longer.
The Quasar - Women's, $400, is the women's version of this jacket.
This jacket is also available in the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Insulated, $340. It is designed to be light and fast and is a pullover style jacket with minimal features.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 8, 2013
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