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Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Review

Closer to a rain jacket than a hardshell
Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $250 List | $129.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 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  ⋅  Nov 8, 2020
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 15
  • 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 an exceptionally light hardshell jacket. 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 interior fabric. 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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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  
Price $129.97 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$332.50 at Backcountry$249 List
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Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to tighten drawcordsLightweight, form fitting, great storm hood, superior construction quality, reasonable priceCheap, ultralight, solid weather protection, impressive breathabilityStretchy, light, very packable, affordable, quite breathableGood ventilation, bargain price, lightweight, fully waterproof
Cons Glossy internal fabric, poor mobility, hand pocket zippers not waterproofCrinkly and noisy, very little ventilation, few pockets, short front hemNo internal pockets, poor ventilation, unreliable hood drawcordsHand pockets are a bit low, hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on, fragileInterior fabric is clingy, feels delicate, limited drawcords
Bottom Line Closer to a rain jacket than a hardshellThis hardshell is an alpine climber’s dream, and is really great for skiing as wellAn affordable hardshell that can get the job doneThe best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are keyThe lightest hardshell that includes pit zips
Rating Categories Exposure/2 Gore-Tex... Arc'teryx Alpha FL REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Outdoor Research In... Marmot Knife Edge
Weather Protection (30%)
6.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Weight (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Mobility And Fit (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Venting And Breathability (20%)
5.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Features And Design (10%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Exposure/2 Gore-Tex... Arc'teryx Alpha FL REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Outdoor Research In... Marmot Knife Edge
Pit Zips No No No No Yes
Measured Weight (size large) 11.4 oz 11.8 oz 11.0 oz 11.2 oz 12.4 oz
Material Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5L 100% nylon w/ DWR coating Gore-Tex with N40p-X face fabric Gore-Tex Active 3L AscentShell 3L 100% nylon 20D stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 12D backer Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5L 100% Polyester
Pockets 2 hand, 1 chest 1 external chest, 1 internal chest 2 hand 2 handwarmer, 1 chest 2 hand, 1 chest
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Draw Cords 1 3 3 3 1
Adjustable Cuffs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Two-Way Front Zipper No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Before we get started, we need to emphasize that this a review of the Gore-Tex Paclite version of the Exposure/2. Mountain Hardwear manufactures other versions of the Exposure/2 made with different fabrics. We haven't had a chance to tests these other versions, and there's no doubt that they perform differently.

Performance Comparison


The color of your jacket is usually inconsequential. In a wilderness...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weather Protection


The Exposure/2 Paclite suffers from a few flaws that compromise 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 are also unimpressed with the wrist cuffs that incorporate elastic and Velcro in a simple design that is 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...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Another issue is the zipper on the vertical hand pockets. These zippers are not fully waterproof and include a sizeable hole at the bottom where water can easily pour 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 don't end up wearing a hardshell every time out, but you still want one in the bottom of your pack for emergencies. Unlike some of the other ultralight hardshells, however, the Exposure/2 doesn't come with a sack or pocket to conveniently stuff it in.

Ice climbing was one activity where the mobility of the Exposure/2...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Mobility and Fit


The source of all the Exposure/2's problem is the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric. This material doesn't stretch at all. The jacket is cut in a way that our lead tester described as baggy in the torso while the sleeves and hem feel short. The result is a jacket that left us disappointed with its overall fit. It was particularly frustrating when we raised our arms overhead and felt the sleeves and hem simultaneously move out of place. All in all, we think it moves and feels much more like a rain jacket than a technical hardshell.

The look, feel, and performance of the Exposure/2 indicate that it's...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Venting and Breathability


The same Paclite fabric that harms this jacket's mobility score also compromises its performance in venting and breathability. 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 made it feel much clammier.

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

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

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, sports a trusty taped zipper and is large enough to store most phones.

On the bottom edge of the hand pocket zippers on the Mountain...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


Mountain Hardwear should be able to keep weight and costs by using Gore-Tex Paclite rather than Gore-Tex Pro fabric in this version of the Exposure/2, and indeed, it's one of the lightest and most affordable jackets in our hardshell review. Unfortunately, the same Paclite fabric undermines its overall performance in several ways. 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...
The hook-and-loop wrist cuffs are super basic and proved to be ineffective at keeping the sleeves in place.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


With the exorbitant price of many hardshells, it can be tempting to seek out less expensive options. Weighing in 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 like its performance is high enough for technical hardshell applications like winter climbing or backcountry skiing.

Jack Cramer