Is it a 'do everything' jacket, or a 'do nothing' jacket?
My clothes usually fall in to two camps: the 'keep me warm' camp (woolly jumpers, fleeces, down jackets etc.) and the 'keep me dry' camp (waterproof outers). The DriClime Catalyst at first glance does neither of these things, or so I thought... I thought wrong!
What is it:
The shell is made of a tightly woven ripstop nylon that as been coated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellency). This means it's super wind-proof and extremely breathable. The DWR coating means it is fairly waterproof too. I wore it in light rain and it kept me bone dry. A torrential down pour (British summer anyone?) would see you getting pretty wet though. So it's a wind-proof/water resistant shell.. with an added bonus, the inner layer:
Lining the Driclime Windshirt is Marmot's DriClime fabric, which is basically a base layer fabric. It is two separate layers, made of 100% polyester. The inner (next to the skin) layer has a soft feel that is designed to absorb any sweat from your skin. The outer layer (next to the nylon shell) moves sweat from the inner layer and spreads it out so that it evaporates on the jacket surface, keeping your skin as dry as possible.
Marmot says: "The key to DriClime is 3-Dimensional Wicking. As moisture moves from the inner fabric touching your skin to the outer fabric, it spreads out across the outer fabric to speed the drying process. DriClime never stops working; it continually passes moisture through to the outer surface for fast evaporation. It is not a finish that washes or wears out; it works forever."
All this means that the DriClime is a very versatile jacket. It can be worn next to the skin as an all-in-one base and shell. It can sit over a normal thermal top adding more insulation and a wind-proof layer. It can be a great mid-layer, ideal for hill walking and climbing. It's a 'do everything' jacket!
I have been wearing mine recently road cycling - the jacket is comfortable enough to wear next to the skin, the wind-proof nature is ideal for cycling, the zip means I can ventilate if it gets on the warm side and the shower-proof nature means I don't get caught out. It slips in my pack for those mountain cragging days too, and as it weights next to nothing - (340g!) I barely notice it's there.
I look cool in anything (yeah, nice photo - Ed), but in the DriClime I feel cool on hot walk-ins and I don't freeze in icy winds. Brilliant.
Differences between the DriClime Catalyst and the DriClime Original:
Essentially the two jackets are very similar, but the newer Catalyst has a few funky features:
More info on the Catalyst: Marmot Website
The Catalyst has elasticated cuffs on the sleeves, a draw-cord on the neck (that tucks away) and a handy outer chest pocket. These are photographed below.
I'm a sweater. I sweat - a lot. It really is a bit of a pain. One of the downsides of being a sweater (aside from the smell) is trying to find the right clothes to keep you comfortable. There must be an antiperspirant module in the French guides' course because I can't quite see how else they dryly swagger about in black softshells in hot sun whilst I, even wearing light trousers rolled up above my knees and a tee shirt, still represent an economically viable source of brine. The thing is, when a sweater gets moving, whether well clothed or naked he (and it usually is a he) will still ooze water like a wet sponge out of a bath. Clothing choice is about wicking and quick drying fabrics, which hopefully move some of the moisture away from the skin and into a humid microclimate which forms around me, so when I bought a Marmot Driclime Windshirt I was of course keen to put it through its wicking paces.
Its first test was a run on a hot day and despite overheating horrendously with it zipped up, it wicked and I remained relatively dry which, believe me is nothing short of miraculous. Things boded well and it went in the bag to the Alps where it pretty much excelled at everything that was thrown at it. The Driclime Jacket consists of windproof fabric shell called Banshee (which is similar to Pertex) covering a micropile liner, two of the finest fabrics on the market. This combo produces an incredibly light and packable jacket which blocks the wind, sheds snow and light showers and wicks like an absolute beauty. The micro pile is warm when wet, it honestly still does the job when soaking wet - the tips of the piles dry quickly and provide warmth.
Add to this extremely quick drying times (a few minutes in a breeze) and you get a pretty amazing garment. The DriClime is a perfect soft shell for the Alps - it doesn't give too much insulation, it is incredibly light and will cope with most of the weather you can throw at it. For alpine rock climbing, where you don't want to be dragging heavy packs, it absolutely excels - tied round your waist it is barely noticeable and yet provides enough warmth for windy belays/summits on a warm day or for rapping off in the start of a storm. The soft micro pile is really comfortable on the skin, and this further increases the versatility of the garment, as it can eliminate the need for a base-layer in many situations. The cut is excellent for climbing - allowing good arm movement without the sleeves riding up. It is nicely trim (for me...) without loads of baggy fabric to flap about and be irritating.
The beauty of the DriClime jacket is not only in its performance when on the body, but its light weight and small pack size when in the rucksack, something which will appreciated when trying to get everything into that tiny sack. My one small gripe with the jacket is the cuffs, which are pretty tight on my forearms when you push them up. Given that my forearms are pretty average for a climber (I am about in the middle of the 'pepperoni thin' to 'complete beefcake' scale) I guess lots of people will have the same problem. It's not exactly a major issue though, and it doesn't stop the DriClime jacket being my new favourite garment. Sorry trusty Paclite smock...
More details on the Marmot Website