The Mountain Hardwear Drystein II is the company's top-tier alpine climbing hardshell.
The Drystein II uses Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite three-layer ePTFE membrane and a midweight ripstop nylon face fabric. Dry Q Elite, being air permeable, is slightly more breathable than Gore-Tex Pro Shell- it's best for high output activities. Unlike most hardshells tested the Drystein II has softshell panels underneath the arms and around the front handwarmer pockets
The Drystein II has two handwarmer pockets and two crossover chest pockets on the exterior, and a small zippered pocket and mesh stash pocket inside. This plethora of pockets makes the jacket good for extended trips with lots of gear. The hood is comfortable both when worn over a helmet and when not.
The Drystein II's fit lies closer to expedition shell than all-purpose. There's plenty of space for layers and the cut will fit a wide range of body types.
Unlike the company's Quasar, our testers were relatively unimpressed with the Drystein II. The jacket's features are hit and miss. We expected something better in the revised version of the shell. There are several areas for improvement.
The main zipper and all exterior pocket zippers are hard to open. This is typical of all new watertight zippers, but even with significant use the Drystein II's zippers require solid effort to pull them. The main zip uses a smaller gauge watertight zipper that's far harder to open than most other expedition shells. We much prefer a zipper that has larger teeth, one that opens quickly with just one hand. The Arc'teryx Alpha SV and FL, Millet K Pro, and Rab Latok all have excellent main zippers that open quickly and easily.
The Drystein II's pockets, though not terrible, leave much to be desired. The crossover chest pockets are the smallest of all 19 shells tested. We prefer larger ones that are set slightly lower, like on the Rab Latok and Arc'teryx Alpha SV. The handwarmer pockets are missing a bottom seam- as is items inside the pockets fall all the way to the waist hem. If you put something in the pockets while wearing a backpack's waistbelt then take the belt off, the things will fall to the waist hem. In order to put the pack on again you need to lift the things out of the pocket or up within the pocket, put the pack on, and then put them back in the pocket or lower them down. The Drystein II needs higher hand pockets!! Note, in the photo below, the Rab Latok's pocket design. The Drystein would be better off with something similar to that shell's pocket.
Expedition style hardshell pocket critique, L to R: Rab Latok (excellent), Mountain Hardwear Drystein II (a little low), Patagonia Super Pluma (a little small), Arcteryx Alpha SV (fantastic storage and easy access but don't accommodate hands).
The hood drawcords, though they adjust with excellent flat hidden cinchers, lack a colored piece to help you find them quickly (see the Patagonia Super Pluma and Alpine). More importantly, they adjust in two ways: either pull the exterior cord loop or the end of the cord that lies inside the chin area. Neither are easy to do because the former forces you to stuff the extra cord down through the bottom hole and the latter requires opening the main zipper (which, as said above, is difficult to do with one hand) and then pull the cord tight. Many other hardshells have better cord adjustments- the Patagonia Super Pluma and Alpine, and Arc'teryx Alpha SV, have our favorite hood cord adjustments.
On a smaller note, the Drystein II's interior zipper pocket is tiny. Although it doesn't need to be large, most other shells have more spacious interior zip pockets that can fit more. The miniscule weight gain is, in our opinion, well worth it.
The Mountain Hardwear Drystein II has internal stash pocket and zippered pockets.
Compared to other jackets in the $600 price range the Drystein II is a relatively poor value. The shell's hit and miss features combined with the Dry Q Elite membrane (not as warm as Gore-Tex Pro Shell, i.e. great for high output activities but not as good for low output activities) lead us to prefer other jackets. In the field our testers almost always reached for the Patagonia Super Pluma and Arc'teryx over the Drystein II. Both of those shells are also backed by two unconditional warranties (Gore-Tex and Partagonia or Arc'teryx), where Mountain Hardwear's warranty covers only defects in materials and workmanship.