Since it's introduction in the late seventies, the Gore-tex shell jacket has probably become the most ubiquitous piece of mountain clothing out there, used everywhere from the Keswick teashop tour to Patagonian epics. While Gore's virtual monopoly in the high performance waterproof and breathable fabric market is now being challenged, Gore-tex remains the standard by which all others are judged.
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The Changabang is Mountain Equipment's flagship all-round mountaineering shell - designed for day-in, day-out use as the primary weather protection layer. The jacket is made in Gore's latest 'pro-shell' offering, combing two tough but surprisingly lightweight mini ripstop fabrics - the appropriately named 'Ascendor' on most of the jacket reinforced by the slightly heftier 'Tenacity' fabric on the outer arms, hips and top of the hood (they've obviously noted how often people wearing helmets ... or is it just me? bash them against things).
"...The features list reads a bit like a guide to the tardis, seven pockets (now where did I put the keys...)"
Mountain Equipment Changabang Jacket
The features list reads a bit like a guide to the tardis, seven pockets (now where did I put the keys...), two-way pit zips, a removable snow skirt, waist and hem drawcords, wire peaked hood ... and an in-situ whistle!, but continuing the tardis theme the jacket somehow remains pretty light (approx 600g) and feels neat to wear.
The build quality is impressive - the external seams have a flat profile so there are no overlaps to catch and abrade, narrow seam tape allows as much of the fabric as possible to breathe and the whole jacket oozes a well designed and high quality feel.
So how did it perform?
The whole jacket feels tough and able to cope with anything the weather/wearer throws at it without feeling overly stiff or hefty. The pro-shell breathes well, with the huge pit zips allowing plenty of additional airflow when working hard e.g. skinning uphill. The cut is good with no lifting of the jacket or restriction when wielding ice tools above the head - the body is a little on the boxy side for my lanky frame (the sizable shoulders of ME sponsored Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner no doubt appreciate this space), but the waist drawcord allows it to be cinched in to a pretty decent fit. The hood is good: the wire-stiffened brim provides plenty of protection without restricting vision - as a British brand ME understand the horizontal nature of UK precipitation - and it adjusts easily to work with or without a helmet as required.
"...As a British brand, Mountain Equipment understand the horizontal nature of UK precipitation..."
On skis, the powder skirt does a great job of preventing snow up the back syndrome, the four big chest pockets (two OS map-sized reach-across, two high hand) happily swallow goggles, gloves, maps, ski-ties etc. and the upper arm lift pass pocket is very handy for days in resort.
All this does however come at a price: with an RRP of £330 the Changabang isn't a budget option whichever way you slice it. While the Changabang works very well as a climbing jacket it feels a bit overly featured for a pure climbing shell - I personally felt that while although the pockets, powder-skirt, pit-zips etc. don't get in the way, they aren't really needed on a pure climbing shell. To this end, the Changabang (as Mountain Equipment themselves market it) is best suited to users who benefit from the ski focused features by spending as much time hurtling down the mountainside as climbing up it - e.g. winter residents of (or regular visitors to) the Chamonix valley.
An excellent top of the range all round mountain jacket especially suited to anyone looking for a shell that performs for both climbing and skiing.
About Viv Scott
I've been climbing for a bit over ten years, and am currently based in Edinburgh having escaped from the southern flatlands. Climbing highs include Scottish winter climbing, a couple of trips to the Alaska Range, classic alpine routes, sunny ski touring, cragging in the UK and abroad, and beers and craic in the pub afterwards. Lows include Scottish winter climbing, alpine bivies, base camp blues, midges and the UK weather... I guess I'd like to be a jack of all trades and I'm definitely a master of none, but most enjoy the great variety of climbing and look forward to trips back to old favourites and hopefully many new and different places.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by vscott: