Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $200
Pros: Warm, highly weatherproof, good zipper, functional pockets, many features.
Cons: Bulky cuffs, ugly chest pocket, not breathable, no stretch.
Best Uses: Alpine skiing, rock climbing.
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
The Mountain Hardwear Alchemy has been discontinued because Mountain Hardwear dropped thier contract with W.L. Gore Associates, which makes Windstopper and Gore-Tex membranes. See our full Softshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models that we've tested and are currently available. In case you stumble upon an Alchemy for sale somewhere we've left our original review, which was written in March of 2011, intact for your viewing pleasure. (Note that because we've tested numerous newer jackets and have expanded our comparison many of the comments and comparisons below are no longer accurate.)
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mountain Hardwear Alchemy is the burliest non-hooded softshell weve reviewed. It is well equipped with features that add performance: the cuffs have a fleece lining that seals out cold air and a pull cord does the same for the collar (this is only jacket with this feature). The Alchemy is made of two-way stretch Gore Windstopper with a warm fleece lining. This is the warmest non-hooded softshell and the third warmest overall.
The Alchemy jacket is best suited to dry cold weather activities where theres no need for a hood. We like it for spring skiing and multi-pitch rock climbing but we prefer a light fleece and windshirt.
The fit is slim and true to its size. Theres sufficient space for a base layer and thin fleece, but little else.
The Alchemy is well featured, but almost too much so. The non-adjustable cuffs have a thick flap of fleece inside. This is designed to seal out cold air, but it is bulky and rather tight. Large warm gloves fit well over the sleeves but the bulky fleece makes it difficult to tuck thin liner gloves underneath. We believe the jacket would be better without the bulky fleece lining at the cuffs.
Another drawback is the ugly chest pocket. Numerous testers agreed that the pocket was obnoxious to look at and left the front of the jacket visually unbalanced. The pockets welded construction (no sewn seams) creates thick dark borders around a light grey center. Its perfectly functional but unpleasant to the eyes.
More importantly, the Alchemy is heavy, warm, completely windproof, and very durable. This is good for some occasions (like climbing a heinous offwidth 1000 feet off the ground), but bad for most others. The jacket is not very breathable, which also limits its uses. We think youre better off with a lightweight fleece and windbreaker or a lightweight synthetic jacket.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: March 13, 2013
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