Ortovox Merino Windbreaker Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Futuristic Merino/nylon weave, wind resistance-to-weight ratio, size of chest pocket
Cons: Awkward fit, oversized packed-parcel, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We've been excited to get our hands on this jacket since it was first previewed out Outdoor Retailer in the summer of 2018. The Ortovox Merino windbreaker is designed with proprietary "Merino Protect" — a revolutionary weave that incorporates Merino wool and nylon in a single layer. While this new technology didn't quite transform the category in the way that we once expected it might, this Merino windbreaker does shake things up when it comes to redefining expectations of a weight-to-wind resistance ratio.
Even though it weighs in at only an ounce more than our lightest jacket, the Merino windbreaker feels much more substantial than many of the other wind jackets we tested — and as a result, does a great job in blocking the wind. In our lab testing, this new material was by far the hardest to force air through, and this showed in the field. Standing on an alpine ridgeline during a ski tour, this thick-feeling jacket kept us warm and protected against a cold, strong winter wind.
The sturdy zipper is reinforced with a storm flap, and every hem and cuff is supported by a thick elastic, even the front of the hood. We particularly appreciate this thoughtful addition, as many hoods — even when cinched down — struggle to stay attached to your forehead in a strong wind. The elastic hem around the waist could benefit from the support of a cinch, as this single barricade didn't keep the wind from blowing up into our core as much as we had hoped.
Breathability and Venting
The Merino windbreaker feels a bit heavy to grab before heading out on your next run, but we were happily impressed by the breathability of this new fabric. This jacket does not include any vents, so there is some heat pooling, particularly around the upper armpits and shoulder blades. But there is an unexpected airiness in the chest and core, and although it's sticky while actively sweating, the jacket quickly dries off on your body.
A particularly interesting observation we noticed during an extended uphill run is that while the fabric gets damp during high-output activity, there are no moisture droplets visible on the inside. Just like a Merino wool baselayer, the blended fabric of the Merino baselayer works to actively wick up and evaporate sweat, leaving you dry and comfortable to keep pushing your limits.
Weight and Packability
The Merino wind breaker feels much heavier than many other competitors when you first pick it up. But weigh and compare them all side-by-side, and this jacket tips the scales at only half-an-ounce more than the majority of the field.
The jacket packs into its own massive chest pocket, resulting in a parcel that is thin but much larger than it needs to be — the packed pocket could be easily downsized without losing any function. In fact, while you would think that an extra-large pocket would make packing easier, we noticed that the bunched material often needs to be held in place to ensure that it doesn't get caught up in the zipper. To their credit, the designers did include a storm flap that both hides the chest pocket and helps prevent zipper-catch when inverted, a very thoughtful design point.
Fit and Functionality
With so much thought put into material research and design, the Merino windbreaker has room for improvement when it comes to fit. We expected a classically tighter fitting, Euro-styled cut to this jacket. But the jacket has a very short torso, and with the snug elastic of the waistband, we found ourselves constantly adjusting to try and pull this jacket down over our waistline.
As mentioned above, this jacket includes many features to improve wind resistance — a storm flap behind the zipper, a fully elastic hem, half-elastic cuffs with an extension to help cover the back of the hand, a slight drop seat, and most importantly, an elastic band in front and back to lock down the hood. Initially, we thought the huge chest pocket — tall enough to fit a full-size UTM map (!) — was an awesome break from the norm, only to find our phone and gloves constantly falling out as we tried to zip it up.
All of the benefits we know and love of Merino wool — the unmatched thermoregulation and insulation when wet — come through in this jacket, thanks to the revolutionary blend of 55% Merino wool and 45% nylon into a single-layer fabric. This magic material is backed by a DWR coating, which makes the Merino windbreaker feel more substantial than its weight suggests.
In a light rain down low, and heavy snowfall up high, this jacket proved its worth as a lightweight alternative to a rain jacket. We noticed in our lab testing that while the Merino Protect material is visibly dampened by water running down the outside, underneath our clothes stayed completely dry.
If you strive to be the kid on the block with the newest and coolest technology, than the Merino windbreaker is justifiable. But otherwise, we find it difficult to reconcile the steep price tag attached to this innovative piece of technical outerwear, especially when compared directly to other, better-performing jackets in this category.
The Ortovox Merino windbreaker is an example of material technology that may well be a revolution for lightweight, technical outerwear. While it may benefit from some design adjustments — and a healthy dose of market competition to help lower the price tag — we're excited to see how this piece influences the future of wind jackets.
— Aaron Rice