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What's in a name?
Kongur (7719) and Kongur Tjube (7595) I was 12 years old, it was 1981, and my Dad and I had gone to the local high school for a lecture by the legendary Pete Boardman about his recent Chinese expedition. Pete, Chris Bonington, Joe Tasker and Al Rouse formed one of the strongest team's Britain has ever produced and at 7,719 metres, their objective was the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
I listened, spellbound, as Pete revealed a mountain of great seriousness, an ascent of audacious bravery and a successful war of attrition that eventually gained them the summit against all the odds. The team had been pinned down in rudimentary snow coffins for four days, their food was all but finished and yet still they managed to complete a final days climbing on terrain Bonington later likened to the North Face of the Matterhorn. The mountain was Mount Kongur. Their clothing was supplied by Mountain Equipment.
There's no doubt the Kongur MRT jacket comes from quality stock. The normal Kongur has been a staple part of the Mountain Equipment range for many years and it has been wowing reviewers for just as long. The jacket has won Trail Magazine's 'Ultimate Waterproof' test 4 times and is the only jacket ever to score 50/50 in the magazine's history. It has just done it again by scoring 5/5 in last years November test. From this classic design Mountain Equipment have recently developed the Kongur MRT ('MRT' being 'Mountain Rescue Team') jacket. The jacket shares the same cut as the normal Kongur but features beefed up fabrics and other features designed for rescue teams but also suitable for other professional and private users.
The fabrics used for the jacket are some of the toughest that Gore make. Gore-Tex 3 layer Pro-Shell Ascendor is used for the torso area and this is backed up by black 3 layer Pro-Shell Lofoten fabric on the shoulders, down the back of the arms, the top of the hood and around the base. Both these fabrics feel extremely durable and in my extensive use of the jacket have shown no sign of wear or damage whatsoever. The Lofoten fabric feels similar to Cordura and I have no doubt it would stand up to just about anything users will throw at it. Pro-Shell is Gore's latest fabric innovation and although I haven't noticed any significant improvement in performance over XCR fabrics, it certainly performs well enough.
The Kongur MRT comes in the single colour option of true red and black. True red is bright but I've been surprised to have lots of very complimentary comments about the jacket's appearance when I've been wearing it out in the hills. The bright colour is backed up by 3M reflective stripping along the pockets, on the hood, around the cuffs and jacket bottom and down the arms. I had seen pictures of the front of the jacket before I received the test model and I thought they would have just put more reflective tape on the back where a rucksack would go. Of course I was completely underestimating the ingenuity of the Mountain Equipment designers - the tape on the back is bonded onto the fabrics of the arms and the back panel is sensibly left clear.
The fit of the Kongur MRT is generous. In some ME jackets I need a large but in this jacket a medium is perfect for my 38”-40” inch chest. The jacket is designed to be fairly long to offer good protection but this doesn't cause any problems if you wear it with a climbing harness. It has an effective drawcord system at the base and at lower back height, water resistant underarm pit zips and quick adjust Velcro wrist closures.
One feature that frequently sets Mountain Equipment Jackets apart from the competition in tests is their fantastic hood design and the Kongur MRT has their excellent larger helmet compatible design. This moves easily with the head and has a great adjustment system that allows it to tighten easily around the face while keeping the retracted cord from whipping into your face in strong winds. It also has a volume adjustment and a very substantial visor that is both wired and laminated so it keeps its shape in all weather and forms an arc around the face when you want to maintain your vision while keeping the spindrift out. Simply the best hood I have ever used for UK conditions.
There has been a recent trend of using water resistant zips without storm flaps for the front closure and pockets on jackets. They look great and certainly reduce the bulk at the front of garments, but they just can't keep out the worst of Britain's 'interesting' weather! Some UK manufacturers obviously decided that these zips just won't cut it and have carried on using storm flap systems. But water resistant zips are more weatherproof than standard zips so the ultimate combination would be water resistant zips covered by storm flaps. You guessed it – that's what Mountain Equipment use on the Kongur MRT pockets! A really bombproof system. The front zip uses a slightly different system of chunky standard YKK two-way zip covered by a double storm flap with drainage channel. Just as effective and with the advantage of a durable, easy to operate zip. Perfect.
The front pocket arrangement is also excellent. Two large chest pockets that are accessible while wearing a rucksack and two further map sized pockets sit behind these. You do need to fiddle a bit to slot a folded OS map into the pocket and the pockets do make the front of the jacket feel quite bulky but its still a really practical arrangement.
Apart from that it's all the little things you now expect on a jacket of this quality. Chin guards to prevent the zip rubbing, chunky zip pull-tabs, a two-way system on the front zip and a Velcro retainer that allows you to fold the hood back securely. There's no doubt this jacket has been very carefully designed. There's even a whistle attached to a lanyard in one of the pockets.
What's wrong with it? Nothing much really! I would have liked a sleeve pocket to keep my compass or Fruitella sweets in and an inside pocket would have been good too. It's also inevitably a little heavier than some other jackets due to the durable fabrics used, but at 640 grams it's still a very reasonable weight considering its features and durability.
Pulling on the Kongur MRT is always comforting. You feel confident it will stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws at you and will last long enough to pass on to your grandchildren. Its longer length and bulky pocket arrangement make it better suited to general purpose mountaineering rather than climbing, but there's no doubt it excels at that. It's an innovative product and I think Mountain Equipment should be applauded for producing it - a progressive product from a progressive company.
Price: RRP - £300.00
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