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Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Review

Closer to a rain jacket than a hardshell
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Price:  $250 List | $137.47 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to tighten drawcords
Cons:  Glossy internal fabric, poor mobility, hand pocket zippers not waterproof
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 6
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 6
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 5
  • Features and Design - 10% 6

Our Verdict

At just 11.4 ounces for a size large, the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Paclite would be exceptionally light for a hardshell. Unfortunately, after three months of testing, our review team concluded it performs more like a rain jacket than a technical hardshell. The principal issue is the 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite fabric that's plenty waterproof and breathable, but doesn't hold up well to abrasion and is quick to feel clammy due to the glossy internal surface. We were also disappointed to discover that the zippers on the hand pockets are not fully waterproof. The Exposure 2 Paclite is still a solid rain jacket, but for technical uses like backcountry skiing or winter climbing, you're better off with a true hardshell with a burly 3-layer fabric, like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

Before we get started, we want to emphasize that this a review of the Gore-Tex Paclite version of the Exposure/2. Mountain Hardwear also manufactures other versions of the Exposure/2 made with different fabrics. We haven't had a chance to tests these other versions, and they are assured to perform differently.

Performance Comparison


The color of your jacket is usually inconsequential. In a wilderness setting  however  it has a huge influence on visibility. That's why we suggest the red or blue versions of the Exposure/2 rather than the black shown here.
The color of your jacket is usually inconsequential. In a wilderness setting, however, it has a huge influence on visibility. That's why we suggest the red or blue versions of the Exposure/2 rather than the black shown here.

Weather Protection


The Exposure/2 Paclite suffers from a few flaws that limit its weather protection. Our biggest concern is the hood, which features a flimsy brim that directed water into the chin of the hood during our shower test. We were also unimpressed with the wrist cuffs that incorporate elastic and Velcro in a simple design that was ineffective at keeping the sleeves in place or sealing precip out.

The Exposure/2 hood worked well with a helmet on  but without one on water poured off the brim and straight into the jacket at the corners of the chin.
The Exposure/2 hood worked well with a helmet on, but without one on water poured off the brim and straight into the jacket at the corners of the chin.

Another issue is the zipper on the long hand pockets. These zippers are not fully waterproof and include a sizeable hole at the bottom where water easily poured through.

Weight


At just 11.4 ounces for a size large, this jacket is among the lightest hardshells in our review. That makes it a great choice for drier climates where you do not wear a hardshell every time out, but you still want one in the bottom of your pack for emergencies. Unlike many of the other ultralight hardshells, however, the Exposure/2 doesn't come with a sack or pocket that you can easily stuff it in to.

Ice climbing was one activity where the mobility of the Exposure/2 was particularly frustrating. Any time arms were raised to swing an ice tool the sleeves rode up.
Ice climbing was one activity where the mobility of the Exposure/2 was particularly frustrating. Any time arms were raised to swing an ice tool the sleeves rode up.

Mobility and Fit


The Paclite fabric on the Exposure/2 does not stretch at all. The jacket is cut in a way that our lead tester described as baggy in the sides of the torso while the sleeves and hem feel short; these attributes result in a jacket that left us disappointed with its overall fit. The chief complaint is that the sleeves seem to rise up whenever we raise our arms overhead. All in all, we think it feels much more like a rain jacket than a technical hardshell.

The look  feel  and performance of the Exposure/2 indicate that it's better suited for rainy day hiking than backcountry skiing or winter climbing.
The look, feel, and performance of the Exposure/2 indicate that it's better suited for rainy day hiking than backcountry skiing or winter climbing.

Venting and Breathability


The same stretchless Paclite fabric that harms this jacket's mobility score also compromises its venting and breathability performance. Our testers found that moisture quickly collected on the inside during our stationary bike test. It's hard to say whether this was more or less moisture than jackets with Gore-Tex Pro fabric, but the glossy internal surface of Exposure/2's Gore-Tex Paclite material certainly makes it feel clammier.

To make matters worse, this jacket is not fitted with any pit zips, so your venting options are limited if you start to overheat. In fact, if that happens, you're probably better taking the jacket off, rather than quickly soaking yourself from the inside with your own sweat.

This rubber loop on the end of the waist drawcord masking tightening a cinch. The hood drawcord is fitted with the same convenient loop.
This rubber loop on the end of the waist drawcord masking tightening a cinch. The hood drawcord is fitted with the same convenient loop.

Features and Design


Our favorite feature on this jacket is the rubber loops on the waist and hood drawcords, which make tightening either an effortless task, even with gloves on. We're not huge fans, however, of the large hand pockets because they extend low enough to irritate your hips if you're wearing a harness. The zippers on these hand pockets are also not fully waterproof. The breast pocket, in contrast, employs a trustworthy taped zipper and is large enough to store most phones.

On the bottom edge of the hand pocket zippers on the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 there is a significant gap. We easily fit a few pine needles through this hole and noticed an annoying leak during our shower test.
On the bottom edge of the hand pocket zippers on the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 there is a significant gap. We easily fit a few pine needles through this hole and noticed an annoying leak during our shower test.

Value


Mountain Hardwear can reduce costs considerably by using Gore-Tex Paclite rather than Gore-Tex Pro fabric in this version of the Exposure/2; that makes it one of the most affordable jackets in our hardshell review. Unfortunately, the same Paclite fabric undermined its overall performance. Despite the low price, we don't consider it a great value.

The hook-and-loop wrist cuffs are super basic and proved to be ineffective at keeping the sleeves in place.
The hook-and-loop wrist cuffs are super basic and proved to be ineffective at keeping the sleeves in place.

Conclusion


With the exorbitant price of many hardshells, it can be tempting to seek out less expensive options. At just 11.4 ounces for a size large, the Exposure/2 is a particularly tempting ultralight model. After three months of testing, however, our review team thinks the search should continue. The Exposure/2 makes a great rain jacket, but we don't feel that its performance is high enough for technical hardshell applications like winter climbing or backcountry skiing.

Jack Cramer