Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Crossover chest pockets provide easy access to storage, comfortable helmet compatible hood, drawcords are easy to use.
Cons: Heavier, less durable and more expnsive than similarly featured hardshells.
Best Uses: High output alping and ice climbing.
The Mountain Hardwear Victorio is one of four medium duty climbing-specific shells we tested. Compared to its competitors (the Rab Stretch Neo, Arcteryx Alpha SV, and Montane Mohawk) the Victorio has inferior features and offers less shell for your dollar. By most standards its an excellent jacket, but when pitted against 20 other shells in our "hardshell Olympics" the Victorio finishes in the second tier.
For the latest and greatest in foul weather protection opt for the Arcteryx Alpha SV. This fortress of a jacket represents the ultimate in simplicity and function, and boasts a slew of well-refined climbing specific features. This shell is super durable, spacious, and only weighs 16.9 ounces.
At 14.1 oz, the Patagonia Super Pluma is our top rated all-purpose hardshell. With two high set hand pockets, the Super Pluma lets you shelter your paws while walking around urban environments. It's also widely available for $125 less than the Alpha SV, so it's a great value.
Going fast and light? Take the Arcteryx Alpha FL with you. Weighing only 10.7 ounces this ultralight shell boasts Gore Active Shell (more breathable but less durable than Pro Shell), a comfortable helmet compatible hood, a large watertight chest pocket, and the best drawcord adjustments of any lightweight shell tested.
For those on a budget we recommend the Rab Stretch Neo. Available for around $350 this jacket is nearly half the price of the Arcteryx Alpha SV, weighs nearly the same amount, and has nearly the same feature set. It's an excellent value.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Of the twenty-one hardshells we tested four were medium duty climbing-specific with crossover chest pockets. These have a very similar set of features, weigh between 15.8 and 18.7 ounces, and utilize four different waterproof breathable technologies. These jackets are the Montane Mohawk (eVent), Rab Stretch Neo (Polartec NeoShell), Mountain Hardwear Victorio (Dry Q Elite) and Arcteryx Alpha SV (Gore-Tex Pro Shell). All of them excel at alpine climbing and technical mountaineering; they're reasonably lightweight, sufficiently durable, have hoods that are designed to be worn over a helmet, and their crossover pocket design helps to keep the user balanced on technical terrain. This type of hardshell arguably offers the greatest performance for its weight, and, though designed for climbing, they can be used for anything. Below we discuss how the Victorio compares to its three closest competitors and to the other seventeen shells tested.
The Victorio utilizes as time-tested crossover chest pocket design, which provides excellent storage and easy access while on the go. In addition to the main two pockets the jacket has a small interior zippered pocket and an even smaller zippered pocket on the zeft bicep. The Victorio also comes equipped with a secondary waist drawcord that helps to pull the center of the jacket in, thereby providing a more customized fit. The hood is large, truly helmet compatible, and is comfortable when worn with or without the helmet.
Compared to the three other shells with nearly the same features, the Victorio performs poorly. First it's the heaviest (18.7, or >20% more than the Montane Mohawk). Next, its features are not nearly as refined nor as easy to use as the Arcteryx Alpha SV's. And at $500, the Victorio is considerably more expensive than the Rab Stretch Neo, which offers near identical features yet weighs less.
Mountain Hardwear says that "DryQ Elite waterproof/breathable fabric moves heat and body vapor fast to keep you dry on the inside as well as outside." Don't be fooled- no waterproof breathable technology is capable of keeping you dry on the inside. Every material steams up and remains so when you're working hard. Being air permeable, Dry Q Elite is very slightly more breathable than Gore Pro Shell. Pro Shell, however, is warmer (because it's completely windproof). See our main hardshell review for more info about breathability and different waterproof breathable technologies.
We believe the Rab Stretch Neo offers more performance for your dollar. But the shells are so similar that the Victorio is a fine substitute if you come across it for less.
— Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 2, 2012
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