The Mountain Hardwear Quasar takes ultralight waterproof breathable hardshells to the next level. This shell is a simple, refined, and highly functional piece that excels at all fast and light applications.
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar (front) and Patagonia Super Pluma (rear) head into the Cascades. CiloGear 30L Worksack and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack shown.
The Quasar uses Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite three-layer ePTFE membrane and an ultralight 15-denier ripstop nylon face fabric. The combination of an air permeable membrane and a thin face fabric create the most breathable hardshell we tested. The Quasar is our top choice for fast and light, high exertion activities. It dumps heat and water vapor faster than any of the 18 other shells we tested.
Mountain Hardwear Quasar has a low profile hood with two thin drawcord adjustments. Ultralight yet functional.
The Quasar is a dream come true for ultralight mountain people. Weighing only 9.5 oz. in men's medium this is the lightest and most compact shell we tested. The jacket has a half-length main zipper, a small hood that fits comfortably underneath a helmet, and a small non-zippered stash pocket on the inside of the wearer's left chest. For its weight, the Quasar has remarkably good adjustments at the waist and hood. (Other light shells such as the Mammut Felstrum Half Zip lack a waist adjustment.) And finally, the Quasar's wrist closures — which have a soft, stretchy extension that seals out cold air — are superb. For climbing, our testers prefer the Quasar's wrist closure to Velcro because snow and ice can freeze inside Velcro, rendering it useless.
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar's excellent wrist closure is comfortable, seals out cold air, and has an integrated thumb loop.
The Quasar's fit is trim and athletic. This is not a shell for burly people with especially broad shoulders. Wearing the jacket, one feels light and free. The thin face fabric is softer and quieter than expedition mountaineering shells like the Rab Latok
, Arc'teryx Alpha SV
, and Patagonia Super Alpine
. It feels like you're wearing a windbreaker — except the shell is waterproof. One of our testers fell in love with the Quasar and nearly refused to use any of the other 18 shells the rest of us tested.
Chris Simrell climbs ice in the Mountain Hardwear Quasar, made of the Dry Q Elite waterproof breathable membrane and a superlight 15-denier face fabric.
The Quasar is a specialized shell for fast and light, high exertion activities. Its Dry Q Elite membrane, combined with the thin face fabric, is more breathable than any Gore Pro Shell jacket we tested, but it's not as warm. (Air permeable means that air passes through the membrane. The Quasar's Dry Q Elite is like a piece of mesh netting except with much smaller holes. Hot air can escape from the jacket, which can be a good thing, yet high winds can also blow cold air in from the outside. The Gore-Tex family is non-porous and completely windproof, i.e. air cannot pass through the membrane. The two technologies are different beasts. We prefer Dry Q Elite for activities that generate a lot of heat and moisture vapor, and we prefer ProShell for trips of longer duration — where there may be periods of low exertion and high winds.)
Being ultralight, the Quasar's face fabric is not particularly durable. Several large rocks fell on one of our testers while he was mixed climbing in Hyalite Canyon, MT — causing the jacket to tear in several places. The Quasar also showed signs of wear along the cuffs after only three months of use. Although we acknowledge that ultralight fabrics are not designed for extended use and abuse we found the Quasar to be shockingly fragile. The jacket's hang loop delaminated after washing it only once!
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar's hag loop delaminated when we hung it to dry after washing it for the first time. This is the least durable hardshell tested.
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar's ultralight 15-denier face fabric is not as durable as the 40-150 denier fabrics found on most other medium and heavy duty shells. This photo shows the jacket's 3 layers: face fabric (red), membrane (white), and liner (grey).
As for smaller drawbacks we found the Quasar's mesh interior pocket to be hard to access quickly because you have to open the main zipper in order to get to it. The pullover design can be a drawback for some people (though our testers love it). The cuff design and fit means you'll likely have to remove large gloves to take the shell on and off. We also found that the cuffs absorb and retain water, which makes them ill-suited to backpacking (it's likle having a you have a cold and wet sock wrapped around your wrist). The lack of pit zips requires you to layer properly and vent via the main zipper. These minor drawbacks, however, are insignificant in the bigger picture. The Quasar performs very well at alpine climbing- it was our testers top choice for all things vertical and cold.
Ice and alpine climbing.
The Quasar trades durability for weight savings. It's one of the cheapest and most widely available hardshells, but a jacket with a stronger face fabric and more durable features (zippers, pull cords, etc) will last longer.
Max Neale with the Mountain Hardwear Quasar on the Ciley-Barber, Mt. Katahdin, Maine.