The KUHL Parajax is a wind jacket that cuts weight without cutting features. Unlike other single-layer nylon options, this jacket includes zippered hand-pockets and mesh venting across the back to help prevent any buildup of heat or perspiration. A lightweight jacket that packs down well and does a good job of keeping you protected from the elements, the Parajax hits the mark for a piece that can be happily stashed in any pack. At a retail price of $109, it is slightly more costly than similar jackets. But considering the additional features, this jacket is certainly one to consider from a brand known for building quality outdoor gear.
KUHL Parajax Review
Cons: Overall a slim fit that constricts athletic movements
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|Pros||Reinforced seams, mesh venting across back, zippered hand-pockets||Low price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coating||Lightest in the category, tiny packed size, larger chest pocket||Stretchy nylon, comfortable, very breathable||Great pocket space, neck snap for venting, brim gives some sun protection|
|Cons||Overall a slim fit that constricts athletic movements||No feature to stow-away hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activity||See-through material, under-performing DWR fabric||Sleeves a tad short||Hood brim is goofy looking, internal pocket low, not the best breathability|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight jacket loaded with features like zippered pockets, cut in a European-style||The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standard||An ultralight jacket purposefully built for fast and light mountain missions||A stretchy and hyper mobile windbreaker that breathes well.||A solid jacket at a great price. The pocket options were best in class.|
|Rating Categories||KUHL Parajax||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Outdoor Research Tantrum II||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Breathability And Venting (30%)|
|Weight And Packability (20%)|
|Fit And Functionality (10%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||KUHL Parajax||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Outdoor Research...||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Measured Weight, size M||5.0 oz||3.9 oz (size L)||3.5 oz||4.6 oz||4.7 oz|
|Material||12D nylon ripstop||100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish||100% nylon ripstop, woven w/ DWR treatment (Green Theme Technology "Breathable Water Protection Technology")||100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop||20D nylon|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand||1 zip (chest)||1 chest||1 zip (chest)||2 external hand, 1 internal zip|
|Safety Reflective Material?||No (company states reflective trim, but too little stitching to be very visible)||No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible)||No||Yes, reflective logo||Yes, reflective logo|
|Stuffs into itself?||yes, stows in hand pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes|
|Adjustable Cuffs?||Elastic||Half Elastic||Elastic||Elastic||Half Elastic|
Our Analysis and Test Results
One important thing to note with this jacket is the design. As with many of KUHL's products, the Parajax follows the lines of a slim-fitting, European cut. A medium was a little too small for a 5'10", 165-pound, skinny mountaineer's frame — our recommendation is to size up. While this jacket was not too small to put through our rigorous field testing, its overall tight-fit did inhibit some movement, particularly while rock climbing.
Even through our experience, we believe this jacket is well-mapped for an athletic build; with a few slight adjustments the Parajax could easily gain back the points it loses on fit. We found that this jacket is very comfortable to wear running and ski touring. Magically, it even still supported layers underneath, thanks to a tall and comfortably sized collar. With built-in venting and lightweight nylon construction, this jacket is a good option for high-output activities both in the city and mountains.
The lightweight The Parajax impressed when it came to wind resistance. In our first side-by-side comparison in a cold, summit wind, there was a noticeable difference in this jacket thanks to its reinforced seams — it is also nice to have hand pockets to keep our hands warm.
Upon further side-by-side testing, our investigation revealed that overall the Parajax does not perform quite as well as the Editor's Choice Patagonia Houdini, with slightly more wind penetration particularly in sustained winds. But it does perform similarly to our Best Buy award-winner, The North Face Flyweight Hoodie.
Breathability and Venting
Out on trail runs, the feel of the Parajax was very comparable to the other single-layer nylon options, feeling only slightly more congested due to its slim fit. But the material did not feel as clammy through the arms as the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell — and when things really did get sweaty, elastic cuffs allowed for the arms to easily be pushed up.
On ski tours, this jacket did a good job of managing heat over longer periods of exercise. A well-placed mesh vent across the top of the back helps dump heat and perspiration that rises from your core, that otherwise could easily be trapped in this tight-fitting jacket.
Weight and Packability
The designers at KUHL chose to build the jacket with a superlight material — a single-layer nylon weighing only 30 grams per square meter, comparable to the material used in the Distance shell. This provided the freedom to incorporate more features than other ultralight options, while still keeping the weight low at 5 ounces.
We found that the Parajax easily packed down for storage in the small pocket of our mountain bike hydration-pack, excellent for those evening rides when the temperature dropped as soon as the sun fell below the horizon.
Fit and Functionality
This jacket gains points in functionality when you consider features included in the Parajax that its competitors lack: zippered hand pockets; a mesh-lined vent across the back; and a seam-overlay of grosgrain ribbon for added durability. A very thoughtful point is sewing the inside seams of the hand pockets to the jacket itself — thus creating two additional stuff pockets! Considering that this jacket only weighs 1 ounce more than the Houdini, all of these additions are impressive for such a lightweight package.
But the points that this jacket gains in functional design, it loses when it comes to fit. From the first time trying it on, it was apparent that the Parajax leans heavily on the European-style of tight-fitting athletic apparel — even more so than the slim-fitting Flyweight Hoodie. This jacket worked great when it came to leg-powered activities like running or even mountain biking, but was constricting for any activity that required freedom of upper body movement. If you are a climber, we highly suggest sizing up.
The Parajax receives middle-of-the-pack scores when it comes to water resistance — not performing nearly as well as the Houdini, but outscoring both the Distance and Flyweight Hoodie. At the end of our hose test, our arms were still relatively dry, but the jacket had soaked through in spots on the chest and back.
Thanks to its lightweight construction, the Parajax did dry out on the clothesline in an impressive 36 minutes; the extra brushed nylon of the elastic hems stayed wet for longer, but not enough where we wouldn't be comfortable stashing it back into our packs.
Thanks to added ventilation and hand pockets, the Parajax performs well as a colder-weather running or cycling jacket. We found that the zippered pockets were great for stashing snacks for a mountain bike ride, and were a welcomed feature when we needed to keep our hands warm on alpine runs. When it comes to style, for those who appreciate a slim European-fit the Parajax is also a great option as a streetwear jacket that is still worth its weight in the mountains.
Based on the ratings, this jacket stacks up pretty evenly in performance with the Flyweight Hoodie. However, at a retail price of $109, the Parajax will cost you nearly $30 more than our Best Buy award-winner. If you place value in the style of streetwear, then the extra cost is merely a matter of fashion.
A solid wind jacket, the Parajax is the type of layer that does everything well but does not necessarily excel in any one category. Maybe it was the overall tight fit, but we felt a little too restricted in this jacket to really flush out its full potential. With some minor tweaks in design, this could be an incredibly functional jacket that brings together thoughtful features not found in other lightweight wind jackets.
— Aaron Rice