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Regular UKC Gear Reviewer Charlie Boscoe puts the Mountain Equipment Compressor Hooded Jacket through its paces...
eing a UK based company, you'd expect that Mountain Equipment know a thing or two about insulation suitable for wet weather. They were one of the first manufacturers to make effective synthetic belay jackets and have made some really stand out pieces in this genre over the past few years so I was looking forward to checking out the Compressor.
The first impression is that this is at the lightweight end of the scale and for me, it's close to being as thin as meaningful insulation can get. These thinner synthetic jackets really seem to have taken off in recent years and with good reason – they're incredibly versatile and I've used them for just about everything from walking to the shop right through to climbing alpine routes above 4000m. They obviously don't offer the warmth of heavier jackets but a good option is to take two for super cold days instead of having one big jacket, a policy which further increases the versatility of your kit. Anyway, I digress...
The Compressor is made of just 2 fabrics so there is no “60% of this fabric, 10 of this, 5 of this etc.”, just He30 on the outside and Primaloft One on the inside. The He30 fabric is exclusive to Mountain Equipment and is sold as being extremely lightweight and windproof, as well as being breathable and very resistant to tears.
My initial impressions were actually not that good, as the fabric doesn't look and feel quite as nice as some out there and I actually got the impression that it might be a bit flimsy and pathetic. To my surprise, it seemed to actually feel more sturdy the more I used it and now it feels as tough as old boots, which just goes to show that a quick squeeze of a sleeve while looking at jackets in a shop is utterly useless! I really noticed the increased wind resistance too – it really adds to the warmth of the Compressor and makes it feel much more snug than a “normal” belay jacket in bad weather.
About to involuntarily test the Compressor's resistance to abrasion and snow!
© Charlie Boscoe, Apr 2014
The Primaloft One works well too but whilst it's not quite universal, it can be found in plenty of kit so I shouldn't give the Compressor too much credit for that one, although the wind resistance of the He30 probably helps the Primaloft keep you warmer than it might without a decent outer fabric.
Features wise, Mountain Equipment have kept it pretty simple. There's a chest pocket (somewhat amusingly referred to an a “Napoleon pocket” on the official information sheet) which is well placed and deep enough to swallow a smartphone. Elsewhere there are 2 zipped pockets at the waist and all of the pockets are easily opened with gloved hands due to the simple and effective string draw cords. Ideally I'd also go for a small inner pocket just to keep a liftpass or car keys in but that's a small gripe.
Ice climbing in the Compressor. Photo Charley Radcliffe.
© Charlie Boscoe, Apr 2014
Elsewhere there is a hood, which will accommodate a helmet but only just. This makes it really snug without a helmet but it can feel slightly stretched with a lid on, and fits much better underneath a helmet than on top of it. Whether the slightly smaller hood will be a good or bad thing will depend mainly on what activity you're doing and what the conditions are like but I actually preferred it to a cavernous hood which isn't cosy and flaps about in the wind.
Elsewhere, the Compressor is simplicity personified, with stretch cuffs on the wrist and a straightforward waistband which can be tightened on either side and which doesn't seem to slip open over time. You'd have thought that this would be universal in jackets but it's amazing how often you have to tighten up your waistband on some models I've used. The zips, meanwhile, are solid YKK ones and the front zip opens from both directions, making the Compressor much easier to use for belaying. The final feature is the way that the Compressor stuffs into onto the waist pockets and there's also a handy little karabiner carry loop so that it can be carried on a harness.
Checking conditions on the north face of the Pointe d'Orny.
© Charlie Boscoe, Apr 2014
Overall, I have to admit to initially not being sure about the whole “feel” of the Compressor, in particular the outer fabric but I have been proved completely wrong. It's not going to keep you warm on a winter alpine route or on a brutal Scottish day, but for everything else, this is a superb, lightweight piece of kit.
What Mountain Equipment Say:
A carefully engineered and exceptionally packable synthetic layer that keeps going in the face of the worst conditions.
Whether used as a highly insulating mid-layer or super-lightweight belay jacket on the steepest lines PrimaLoft® ONE insulation works wet or dry. With an adjustable hood and cutting edge fabrics it offers high levels of warmth and total protection from icy winds.
Features & Benefits
MORE INFORMATION: Mountain Equipment Website
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Charlie Boscoe: