Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $325
Pros: Custom fit, non restrictive, many feature options.
Cons: No external chest pocket option, difficult hood pull cords.
Best Uses: This jacket is good for most winter activities, but its best for ice and alpine climbing.
Manufacturer: Beyond Clothing
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There is currently no way to order this jacket, we recommend checking out the Arc'teryx Venta SV and our complete Softshell Jacket Review.
Beyond Clothing's Cold Fusion Shock is a custom made, perfect-fitting, highly mobile softshell with custom features. Enter your upper body measurements online, choose a color, choose the features you want, and four weeks later you'll have a top performing jacket made especially for you. The custom tailored concept is luxurious and the results top-notch. The Cold Fusion Shock is our second highest rated softshell because it's comfortable for everything from ice climbing to cold weather Nordic skiing. Stretchy, warm, and breathable Schoeller WB-400 provides an ideal barrier between you and cold windy weather. If the jacket doesn't fit perfectly Beyond Clothing will take it back and make it right. Downsides: the hood closures require two hands and the waist closure lies hidden in the hand warmer pockets. Otherwise, this is a stunningly high performance jacket.
Check out our Softshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models we've 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 Cold Fusion Shock 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 Cold Fusion Shock comes in five color options and can be adorned with any or all features imaginable. You can opt for a zip-off hood, an attached hood, or not hood at all. Pit zips, pockets, thumb loops, and even the color of the logo are customizable. The price starts at $250 and goes up depending on what you add. Our version (see complete measurements and specs above) included an attached 3D hood, pit zips, and a watertight main zipper. The total was $327.
As one might suspect, a custom-made softshell fits splendidly. We opted for a technical (snug) fit and couldn't have asked for anything better. There's just enough room to comfortably fit a lightweight fleece (such as the Patagonia R1Hoody) underneath. The arms, chest, and torso feel unrestricted and free. This is partly due to the fact that the area under the arms is well designed. Most softshells leave five to eight inches of space in the sleeve beneath the armpit. This accommodates a wide variety of body types, but lifts the jacket up when you raise your arms. The Cold Fusion Shock lifts only slightly, which keeps your waist insulated and feels less restrictive. The jacket's agreeable fit is also partly due to its material: Schoeller WB-400, a warm and stretchy Swiss-made softshell fabric. The inside is lined with brushed fleece, making it one of the warmest softshells tested. It's also the only softshell with a flap of fabric behind the pit zips (to block wind). The Cold Fusion Shock is high up on the breathability spectrum, but not as water resistant as some of the other jackets tested here. It performs very well in below freezing temperatures.
Finding a softshell with just the right features is very challenging. While not all of the features are the best (see below), Beyond Clothing allows you to get exactly what you need and nothing else. This is a huge benefit because it allows ice climbers to get hoods and pit zips, and Nordic skiers to get neither of those.
Customizing a jacket's fit can greatly improve its performance. Alpine skiers require a spacious fit while alpine climbers want a trim fit. People who do all types of winter activities can get a jacket somewhere in between.
Of the sixteen softshells reviewed here, the Cold Fusion Shock is the only one that's handmade in America.
When we published our first review of this jacket in March 2011, we identified five areas where the Cold Fusion Shock could be improved. This list included a larger hood that could better accommodate a helmet, shallower pockets, smaller velcro closures at the wrist, a chest pocket option, and one-handed adjusters at the waist and on the hood. In early June 2011 we received, without any notice, an updated version of the jacket that corrected four of the five drawbacks we previously listed. This is impressive!! And it shows that Beyond Clothing can receive feedback and update a product in a short time span. The jacket is much improved.
While changes to the pockets, hood, and wrist closures are crucial, the jacket also now boasts a new feature: an interior zippered pocket for an ID, key, or other small essentials.
Unfortunately, the jacket still lacks one-handed pull cords on the hood. (You'll have to use two hands and might need to take a glove off.) The jacket could be further improved by moving the waist adjustment cords from inside the hand warmer pockets to outside at the waist.
Beyond these two drawbacks, the Cold Fusion Shock is a marvelous jacket that combines an unbeatable fit with high quality materials and a good blend of features. We highly recommend it.
Tips: Plan ahead, production takes four to five weeks. Have someone else measure you. Then have another person do the same and take the average. Try on the other jackets you own and think about how they fit you and how their fit could be improved. This will be well worth the effort. Every time we put on the Cold Fusion we're shocked by how well it fits.
Ice and alpine climbing.
While the price is high, do consider that this jacket is handmade in America. It's a good value.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: June 5, 2013
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