The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II is part of the newest generation of polyester membrane fabrics. This material is waterproof and breathable and made to stretch more than a majority of waterproof membrane materials and construction methods. The Quasar Lite incorporates stretch into the rain shell and takes it one step further in creating one of the stretchiest, waterproof jackets we have ever seen while allowing for exceptional freedom of movement. The Quasar Lite is also air permeable, meaning it is not only incredibly breathable, but you don't have to work up much heat for excellent breathability results - a commonality with some models we tested, particularly 2.5 layer ones. While there are a few downsides to this model, it is one of the best all-around and versatile models currently available.
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II Review
Cons: Average weight, slightly clammier feeling interior fabric than average
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II almost feels futuristic in your hands, thanks to its stretchy fabric. The Quasar is more than a one trick pony, as it's also incredibly breathable, and offers up top-notch pocket and hood designs. While the folks who will appreciate this model the most may be ice climbers, backcountry skiers, or those looking to make the most out of the exceptional mobility, it's also light and compressible enough to make an extraordinarily comfortable backpacking and hiking rain jacket.
The Quasar Lite uses a 2.5 layer proprietary fabric from Mountain Hardwear called Dry.Q Elite. Dry.Q Elite is a polyester waterproof membrane which allows the fabric to be stretchy.
Not only is the fabric stretchy, but it is waterproof as well. The other trait that many polyester waterproof membranes share, which Dry.Q Elite, found on the Quasar Lite includes, is that it's air-permeable for maximum breathability.
During our real-world testing and side-by-side lab comparisons, this jacket proved to be stormworthy. Its outer DWR was able to bead water longer than most of this model's direct competition could, and its hood, cuff, and front zipper design kept the rain out, taking considerably longer than other models to soak through.
Testing indicated that the Quasar is more weather resistant than the Marmot Precip, Patagonia Torrentshell, or Black Diamond Fineline. While it was slightly more weather resistant than its most direct competitor the Rab Kinetic Plus, it offered up similar performance to the Patagonia Cloud Ridge. The Quasar was not quite as stormworthy as the Outdoor Research Foray or Arc'teryx Beta SL.
The Quasar Lite sports a large helmet compatible hood with three elastic cinches, one laterally and two vertically, to adapt to a variety of users and headwear. These toggles can be tightened with one hand and loosened with two, and do an excellent job of cinching the large hood down to whatever size is necessary. Regardless of the headwear worn by the tester, when the hood was cinched tight, the Quasar maintained decent peripheral vision, allowing its wearer to look side-to-side without turning our face into the hood itself. While small and simple, our testers loved this model's plus-sized brim which was lightly stiffened by a low-gauge wire. Simply put, it kept the rain off our faces while hiking or hanging out in the elements.
Breathability & Venting
Dry.Q Elite is an air permeable, waterproof breathable fabric that was one of the most breathable in our review. It was also one of the few to offer real ventilation options.
For ventilation, the Quasar Lite has two seven inch zippered openings in the tricep area - on the back of the wearer's arm and above their elbow. At first, our review team thought this was an odd place to design a ventilation point; however, after testing it out, every single one of our reviewers loved it. It turned out to be an excellent place to dump excess heat and built-up moisture, but best of all, it did not let water in.
Many rain jackets don't often offer ventilation that you can use when it's pouring rain. You may find yourself walking up a brushy, overgrown trail, vents open, with a jacket that is letting in more water and not as much excess heat; this is a big reason we weight breathability higher than ventilation. With the Quasar Lite, Mountain Hardwear hit the sweet spot when it comes to vents that are able to effectively ditch a reasonable amount of heat and moisture while not letting rain inside.
The combination of exceptional breathability and ventilation in the Quasar Lite allowed it to score highly in this metric. Other models that offered a comparable amount of breathability and ventilation include the Outdoor Research Foray, which offers full-on poncho style venting, the Outdoor Research Interstellar, and REI Co-op Drypoint GTX, with the Rab Kinetic Plus, Patagonia Storm Racer, and Patagonia Cloud Ridge following closely behind.
Comfort and Mobility
The Quasar Lite is part of the new generation of laminated and coated polyester membranes that allow for a waterproof rain shell to be quite stretchy, where most traditional ePTFE membranes (most types of Gore-tex and eVent) can only offer minimal stretch or none at all.
Even with much competition from other polyester membrane models and new wave Gore options, the Quasar Lite remains impressively mobile and its fabric one of the stretchiest we've seen.
In fact, the only comparable model that offers as much stretch is the Rab Kinetic Plus. The Quasar Lite provides some of the best freedom of movement in any model we tested; we could easily move our hands straight above our heads with almost no pull back from the sleeves to our wrists and virtually no movement of the hem at the bottom of the jacket.Comfort
Unlike some of the other stretchy models, like the Rab Kinetic Plus or Patagonia Storm Racer, the Quasar Lite does not have the same cozy, interior feel. While the Quasar isn't uncomfortable, it also isn't anything to write home about, feeling nearly as clammy as other similarly priced models. While it was able to move the moisture effectively, it felt marginally stickier than similarly priced models.
We loved this model's functional pocket design. The Quasar Lite sports two hip belt and harness-friendly pockets, which strike a delicate balance of handwarmer pocket comfort without getting in the way or becoming pinched against our skin when wearing a backpack. These two primary pockets are lined with an almost no-see-um netting weight mesh (think tent door mesh, but stretchier and more comfortable) that allows these pockets to double as vents.
This was the only model in our review that featured two interior water-bottle pockets in addition to the two exterior access handwarmer pockets. The interior water bottle pockets don't zip or seal, and most of our review team commented that while we didn't use them often, they are a sweet place to put a hot water bottle to warm up with.
At a hair over 12 ounces for size medium, this jacket is of average weight.
It's still plenty light enough for backpacking, day hiking, alpine climbing or other weight-conscious activities, though some impressively light models exist out there, like the Patagonia Storm Racer (6 oz), Outdoor Research Helium II (6.5 oz), or the Black Diamond Fineline (7.5 oz). We'd much rather have the Quasar Lite if we were looking at a week long trip with a grim, rainy, and wet forecast.
The Quasar's 40D face fabric is average in overall durability.
The Quasar is longlasting and resistant to tearing. From a jacket construction standpoint, polyester is subtly more durable than nylon. We were impressed with how long the DWR held up; even after a few weeks of heavy use, when most DWR on jackets starts to decline, this model was still going strong. The Quasar is durable enough and an ideal choice for heavy-duty backpacking and ski touring.
The Quasar Lite packs down to a decent size. It's plenty packable for backpacking, mountaineering, and hiking, though there are lighter, less versatile models out there if that's what you've got your eye on.
The Quasar is one of the most versatile models we tested. It's light and compact enough for backpacking, alpine climbing, or other weight-conscious activities, but its still weather resistant and durable enough for ski touring or occasional downhill skiing. We loved this model for ice climbing where we took it to the Canadian Rockies, as its stretchy fabric allowed for excellent freedom of movement for activities with our hands above our heads. It strikes a nice balance of a slim fit, but can still accommodate layers underneath, which again, adds to its versatility. It's a touch on the heavier side and a little overkill as a just-in-case style jacket that might live in the bottom of your pack; however, we recommend the Quasar for any application.
At $300, the Quasar Lite is one of the most expensive models in our line up, though fairly on par price wise with the majority of its direct competition. For the cost of the Quasar Lite, you get some of the stretchiest materials with a top-tier range-of-motion and an above average amount of breathability and solid storm worthiness. However, do note that high performing models in a cheaper price range exist in our fleet, such as the REI Drypoint ($250), Outdoor Research Foray ($215), and Patagonia Storm Racer ($250).
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite is one of the most versatile models in our review. Unlike the Rab Kinetic Plus, layering is more achievable and thus will be better suited for hiking and backpacking rather than just alpine and ice climbing (two activities this model also does quite well). Its stretchy fabric truly impressed our entire review team with the mobility it provided; while the fabric isn't the most comfortable against our skin, this model is certainly one of the most breathable. The Quasar is one of the best rain jackets currently available thanks to its excellent freedom of movement and breathability, alongside solid storm worthiness and an extremely respectable weight and packed volume.
— Ian Nicholson