Mountain Equipment Orbital - Women's Review
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Mountain Equipment Orbital - Women's
|Price||$119.60 at Backcountry|
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$399.00 at Backcountry
$179.40 at Backcountry
|$209.21 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Soft and supple, durable, breathable, weatherproof||Comfortable, durable, breathable, simple||Durable, comfortable, versatile||Lightweight, breathable, packable||Durable, breathable, lightweight|
|Cons||Less streamlined design and extra large brim restrict mobility||Fewer overall features, less versatile||Shorter back length limits use in extreme weather||Less protection from wind chill, less durable||Less comfortable, chest pockets hard to use|
|Bottom Line||A soft, supple, and stretchy 3-layer hardshell ready for rugged mountain conditions||This is a remarkably weatherproof stretchy hardshell that feels more like a softshell||This a versatile, durable hardshell offers a lot for a reasonable price||This lightweight hardshell is well suited to milder climates and higher output aerobic activities||A lightweight and durable 3-layer shell for a variety of outdoor adventures|
|Rating Categories||Mountain Equipment...||Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0||Patagonia Triolet -...||Patagonia Storm10 -...||Outdoor Research Mi...|
|Weather Protection (30%)|
|Mobility and Fit (20%)|
|Venting and Breathability (20%)|
|Features and Design (10%)|
|Specs||Mountain Equipment...||Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0||Patagonia Triolet -...||Patagonia Storm10 -...||Outdoor Research Mi...|
|Measured Weight||12.9 oz||12.5 oz||16.4 oz||8.3 oz||11.9 oz|
|Length of back, from base of neck to bottom||28 in||26 in||26 in||26 in||27 in|
|Material||3 layer DRILITE STRETCH 20D fabric with fluorocarbon free DWR||3L recycled polyester knit face with PU membrane and recycled polyester backer/Proflex||3L 75D 100% recycled polyester Gore-Tex shell with a waterproof/breathable barrier and DWR finish||H2No Performance Standard shell: 3L 20D 100% recycled nylon ripstop face, 7D tricot backer, waterproof/breathable barrier and DWR finish||AscentShell 3L, 100% nylon 20Dx45D mechanical stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 30D woven backer|
|Pockets||1 internal chest, 2 hand||1 internal chest, 2 hand||2 external chest, 2 hand, 1 interior mesh bucket||1 external chest, 2 hand||2 external chest, 2 hand (jacket stuffs into left pocket)|
|Helmet Compatible Hood||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Harness and Hip Belt Compatible||Yes, high pockets||Yes, high pockets||Yes, high pockets||Yes, high pockets||No|
|Drawcords||3 hood, 4 waist||3 hood, 2 waist||3 hood, 2 waist||1 hood, 1 waist||3 hood, 1 waist|
|Adjustable Cuffs||Yes, Velcro||Yes, Velcro||Yes, Velcro||Yes, Velcro||Yes, Velcro|
|Two-Way Front Zipper||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Warranty Policy||Fully guaranteed to the original owner against defects in components, materials and workmanship.||Guarantee covers the original owner with proof of purchase, for the usable lifetime of the product||Ironclad Guarantee||Ironclad Guarantee||Infinite Guarantee|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Equipment Orbital jacket is a high-performance 3-layer hardshell that is so soft and supple it feels like a softshell.
The Orbital from Mountain Equipment is one of a new crop of shell jackets that protects like a hardshell but feels more like a softshell. The stretchy Drilite fabric is soft and supple while still fending off stormy weather. After years of conditioning to think that a hardshell must be stiff, jackets like these are challenging our concept of what it feels like to be weatherproof. Overall, this jacket performed well in inclement weather, keeping us sealed and dry through stormy weather. All of the zippers are either waterproof or have storm flaps, and the sleeves are slightly asymmetrical, giving a bit more length at the back of the hand, a feature we absolutely love in how it seals better around our gloves.
The Orbital is well suited to colder climates due to the slightly thicker material, and is best for higher aerobic output activities due to the breathability of the fabric plus the pit zips. We prefer stiffer material for rain, in general, as it can better manage drips and shed them away from the body, whereas this more supple material conforms to the body and can steer drainage drips closer to the body. Still, this piece offered great protection from the elements.
Mobility and Fit
For the fabric feel alone, the Orbital would get top scores in mobility. This jacket feels like your favorite sweatshirt. The arms are slightly more spacious to fit warmer layers underneath and still allow comfortable ranges of movement. The main trouble we encountered was with the extra large and stiff brim material on the hood. When not wearing the hood up over the head or helmet, this brim was very difficult to tuck out of the way and often pushed at the back of our neck, which could be very uncomfortable and require adjustment as we were looking around.
When moving fast and generating more body heat than the jacket can pump through the fabric, you can open the pit zips. They only open from the top, but this proved sufficient with the breathability of the fabric, and the simplicity and single zipper pull ensured minimal impact to the mobility of the arms–sometimes pit zips make the underarms feel stiffer and reduce the ease of arm movements.
Venting and Breathability
The Orbital jacket is a highly breathable hardshell. Compared to some other hardshells made of similar stretchy fabric, this one is a bit thicker. This provides more protection against a strong, cold wind and makes the jacket better suited to colder temperatures. Fortunately, it has pit zips. They only unzip from one end (top down), but we appreciated the simplicity and this ensured that adding a stiff zipper under the arms had minimal impact to the jacket's mobility.
The Orbital is relatively lightweight, falling in the middle of the pack of jacket weights in this review. We find that more supple fabrics feel heavier overall than some of the Gore-Tex products, perhaps due to the way they drape on the body. The Orbital has a generous cut in the arms and hood, adding fabric weight, and pit zips, which add weight.
Features and Design
The Orbital is much more feature-laden than other similar stretchy hardshell jackets. It has pit zips, which some manufacturers skip in these kinds of shell jackets. We liked these and felt it was a good fit for the slightly thicker fabric in this model. This jacket also has a lot of adjustment points for the hood and hem. The hem adjusts on both sides, and in two directions each, which we found to be a bit too fiddly–we prefer simplicity over fine-tuning what quadrant of the hem should be exactly how tight.
The hood provided some trouble for us. It is spacious and accommodates a helmet easily, but the stiff brim was so large that it felt too heavy and floppy and was very uncomfortable when we were not wearing it and had it draped behind our neck. It would restrict our head movements often. Additionally, there is quite a lot of texture on the hood between the cinches being external and exposed to snow and ice buildup, and the cinch around the crown of the head also being exposed and forming a circular seam around the head. We prefer smooth face fabric textures to reduce the amount of nooks and crannies in which snow and ice can build up.
Should You Buy the Mountain Equipment Orbital?
The Orbital is an excellent cold-weather hardshell for higher-paced aerobic activities in harsh mountain environments. It is durable and well-made, with design features consistent with its intended uses and environments. If the larger, stiffer brim isn't a deal breaker for you, we think this jacket is a great value.
What Other Hardshell Jackets Should You Consider?
For a similar stretchy hardshell that is a little simpler, check out the Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0. But if you've determined that this type of stretchy and supple hardshell is not the right fit for you, check out the highly breathable and fully featured Norrona Trollveggen Gore-Tex Light Pro or the more affordable Patagonia Triolet.
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