The Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor is a jacket with a lot of promise, but misses the mark by just a bit. It earned a high warmth score and a good weather resistance rating (largely due to its bulk), but received low scores in most other metrics.
This jacket is perfect for layering over top of all you other layers for warmth. Fuzzy hand pockets make it a nice choice for warmth and comfort at the crags.
The Super Compressor is insulated with 100 g/m2 Thermal.Q Elite, Mountain Hardwear's proprietary insulation. To get into the fine details, the Super Compressor's construction uses two layers of Thermal.Q Elite (60 g/m2 and 40 g/m2), to create air pockets in the body of the jacket. Mountain Hardwear purports that this contributes to increased warmth with no additional weight. While this jacket was a good bit more lofty than the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody, we only found it to be marginally warmer. The very lofty hood adjusts with independent bungy cords along the sides of the face, but it is enormous. Even with an old school climbing helmet on, there's room to spare. A more snugly fitting hood would increase this model's warmth.
This jacket has a very warm hood, but it is also quite large. We found it difficult to adjust well to seal in warmth and not fall over our eyes. It does, however, fit really well over a helmet.
Weight & Compressibility
Weighing in at 21 ounces (size large) on our digital scale, this is the second heaviest model we tested after the super warm Patagonia DAS. Unlike the other heavy jackets we tested though, the Super Compressor's insulation compresses reasonably well, and the jacket stows away into its chest pocket. Rather than a sewn-in clip in loop, Mountain Hardwear adds a clip in loop to the stuff pocket's zipper pull. While it's nice to have a clip loop, we feel adding it to the zipper pull is a long-term liability for zipper function.
Unlike the other heavily insulated models we tested, the Super Compressor stuffs away into its chest pocket. This is a great feature for backpackers and hikers, and it makes a perfect pillow for camp.
The Super Compressor has some awesome comfort features, but misses the mark in places. The hand pockets are lined with soft micro fleece and insulated on both sides, which is super cozy if you want to warm your bare hands. Also contributing both to looks and function are the wrist cuffs. Like The North Face ThermoBall Jacket, the cuff elastic is about an inch and a half back from the end of the sleeve. This both looks great and plays nice with light gloves. On the other hand, the hood of Super Compressor is giant size, and we couldn't find a way to adjust it that sealed in warmth well, or kept it from falling over our eyes.
This jacket has a nice cuff design, and small features like ergonomic zipper pulls and microfleece patches at the chin. That said, the floppy hood and a main zipper that often snagged limited its comfort score.
This jacket uses two layers of insulation, one sewn to the inner liner and one sewn to the outer shell in torso area. This means no stitching passes completely through the jacket, which improves weather resistance. In the areas that use a single layer of insulation (the hood and under the arms) it is quilted to the liner fabric and not the shell to preserve wind resistance.
Breathability is not the strong point of any heavily insulated synthetic jacket and that holds true for the Super Compressor. In all but the coldest temperatures, this is not a layer for active use.
While we feel this jacket is stylish for wear around town, we should point out that it runs very large. Our lead tester who's 5'11" and 190 or so, often finds himself right in between a medium and large in most upper layers. But our size large test model of the Super Compressor is huge. Trying on a medium confirmed the sizing, as the medium still had ample room for LOTS of layering underneath. We should also point out that the hood is also of large volume; you may find that it falls over and covers your eyes even when using the adjustments.
While we feel this jacket is more stylish than the Patagonia DAS, the floppy hood may not be the look you want. To note, this model runs VERY BIG; you'll want one size smaller than your usual size.
While Mountain Hardwear markets this as a "belay parka," we feel it is better suited to less technical pursuits. That said, the fact that it compresses well and stuffs into a pocket makes it attractive to backpackers and hikers. Additionally, tthe cozy fleece-lined pockets are more geared to keeping your bare hands cozy in town or at the sport climbing crag.
At $295, we have a hard time recommending this jacket. At this price point, we think the Patagonia DAS Parka is a higher performing technical belay parka, and the Atom AR from Arc'teryx is nearly as warm, and more comfortable and stylish.
The Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor tries hard to be a lightweight synthetic belay parka, but just doesn't perform quite as well as its closest competitors. It is certainly warm, but lacks some features we expect for technical use. What is does have going for it are compressibility and the ease of packing it away in its chest pocket. This will make it attractive for backpackers in damp and cold environments.
The Super Compressor is a good choice for big warmth around camp or at the crags. Fleece lined hand pockets are a cozy plus for bare hands.