Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $175 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros: Stretchy and comfortable, inexpensive, wind-proof, interior sleeve cuffs with adjustable strap on exterior.
Cons: High pockets aren't quite right for a harness.
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, ice climbing, backcountry skiing.
The Mountain HardWear Barisian is phenomenal. It is light and flexible, and slightly insulated with a thin fleece layer, like the new version of the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody - Women's, but with the added benefit of being windproof. It wins our Editors' Choice award for doing what all the other soft shelljackets in this review strive to do, but better. It beats the other windproof softshells, the North Face Apex Bionic - Women's and the Marmot Reyna, by being more breatheable and easier to move in, and beats the stretchier softshells like the Patagonia Guide Hoody and the Arc'teryx Gamma MX by being more versatile with added protection against wind. The Barisian has the most desirable features of a softshell such as an adjustable hem, a helmet-compatible hood, and adjustable sleeve cuffs, but remains streamlined with only two hand pockets. For a jacket with more features like bonus pockets and headphone specific hole, the Marmot Reyna provides extra comforts. If you prefer something warmer than the thin Barisian, the Arc'teryx Epsilon AR has the thickest insulating fleece layer.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Barisian is primarily made of a material called Motivity Soft Shell that is windproof while remaining soft and comfortable, moving with your body while wearing it. None of the other windproof jackets, like the Marmot Reyna or the North Face Apex Bionic, have this supple feel but instead are stiff and less comfortable. The flexibility of the Barisian makes it a better choice for activities like climbing or Nordic skiing that involve a lot of movement.
The Barisian has the best sleeve cuffs of any jacket in this review. There are internal sleeve cuffs with a thumb loop that fit snugly over your wrists, keeping out cold air and wind. The outer sleeves have an adjustable Velcro tab so that they can be secured over the cuffs of mittens or gloves, which is ideal for climbing or skiing when you want to keep snow out of your jacket.
The Barisian remains light because of its simplicity. (It weighs just over a pound, roughly the same as the Reyna, Guide Hoody, and Gamma MX.) It has just the necessary features to make it useful, such as an adjustable, helmet compatible hood and an adjustable hem. It remains streamlined with only two hand pockets instead of multiple unnecessary ones like on the Marmot Reyna, which has five pockets.
Mountain HardWear advertises that the hand pockets are chest high, making them accessible while wearing a harness or a pack waist belt, which we would normally find to be an exceptional feature. Though not quite chest high, the tops of the pockets are slightly higher than on other jackets. However, the inside of the pocket reaches all the way to the bottom hem. Items inside your pockets still sink down to rest below the harness or waist belt, rendering the higher pockets useless. The design could be improved by moving the whole pocket up higher still, and by sealing off the inside of the pocket before the bottom hem so you could still reach that pesky chap-stick at the bottom of your pocket while in your harness.
The features such as the higher pockets, helmet-compatible hood, and flexible fabric make this jacket well suited to alpine and ice climbing. Since it it windproof and light, we find it to be an excellent jacket for back country skiing. It is breatheable and moves easily while wearing, so it works well for other winter aerobic activities such as snowshoeing or Nordic skiing.
At $180, the Barisian is one of the least expensive softshells in this review, tying the Guide Hoody and being beaten only by the Apex Bionic. This is a fantastic bargain for such a comfortable, breatheable, and windproof softshell.
— McKenzie Long
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Most recent review: February 27, 2012
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