REVIEW: Mountain Equipment Kinesis Range - the ultimate softshell?

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 UKC/UKH Gear 16 Feb 2021

For this season Mountain Equipment have refreshed their Kinesis range, offering two new legwear options as well as an updated jacket. Among the current generation of lined softshells the Kinesis is hard to beat, says Dan Bailey, but there's still room for refinement.

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In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I'm glad they've centralised the main zip on the jacket too. The offset zip within the previous version is one of those features that probably looked good on paper, and would probably have been alright if you spent the majority of your time with the hood up; however, if you happen to use the hood occasionally it just meant the whole jacket felt lop-sided a lot of the time.

The only other comment I've got is regarding those images of you wearing the Kinesis Base Pants - phwoooarrrrr!!!

In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

I always was a snappy dresser

 joe.91 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Great review, I was looking at the Base Pants as a thicker layer compared to replace I currently use in winter, some Smartwoold Merino 250 weight pants. I liked the idea of something warmer, with a wee bit of wind protection so that on days out like on the ben I could walk in without hardshells and still be warm and relatively protected. The Base Pants looked like they would fit the bill, having read the review I'm glad I didn't! 

 GCO 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I totally agree about the fit of the jacket. I anticipate using mine over a thin base layer, so opted for a snug fit which means it feels snug around the chest, but I didn’t want it baggy elsewhere. It’s fine and I really like the jacket for most activities on the mountain, at the crag, and much else. But sizing needs to be tailored (see what I did there?) to your expected use.

 ste_d 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Interesting review. I think this 'type' of softshell i.e. pertex type outer with a wicking lining is much underrated moving moisture really efficiently and drying quickly, also much lighter if you do need to carry it. Perhaps it's not as fashionable as some of the heavier stretch wovens which hang onto moisture for much longer. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned it's ability to wick, think this is pretty crucial with fabrics of this type. As you do mention I find it rare to snag fabrics like this, i.e vapour rise, driclime etc, whilst climbing however they are more likely to wear at the lower lumbar region due to repeated pack chafing. I'm still not convinced by rabs move away from the old vr lining but time will tell on this one. Can anyone comment on how the kinesis compares with polartec alpha?

 mcdweeb 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear: thanks Dan, informative review. Would the trousers definitely go over a touring ski boot?

In reply to mcdweeb:

Afraid I can't say (I don't own any ski stuff at all, which I was regretting big time recently) but they're easily wide enough to fit over B3 boots with some to spare.

I'll ask Mountain Equipment.

 Prof. Outdoors 16 Feb 2021
In reply to ste_d:

Also interested in the comparison between Kinesis/Vapour rise and Polartec Alpha. I have the original Rab Vapour rise. A couple of years ago Polartec Alpha was heralded as the new must have fabric that had warmth, light weight and breathability. Considering how wonderful the marketing said it was there seem to be very few manufacturers using it.

Perhaps the reviewers or users can enlighten us as to the differences and why Polartec Alpha seems so rare.

 ste_d 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

Yup I'm curious as to why more manufacturers aren't using alpha direct, from what I've seen it is very good indeed

Perhaps it is prohibitively expensive

Also I know it's not very glam but the moisture management, i.e. Sweat take up, movement and dispersal into face fabric to evaporate ability of alpha, old vr, driclime is a great performance feature but perhaps not easy to sum up in marketing blurb!

 Phil_Brock 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Completely agree with the fit comments r.e. the base pant. Mine are tight around the calves and baggy around the waist / upper thighs. Not entirely sure who they were tailoring it for! Pity as the fabric is great so if the fit was better I feel they'd be a perfect leg base layers in winter.

 greg_may_ 16 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I too have some of the base pants with the interesting tailoring. They ride up my calves if I've been doing a lot of high stepping with them on. Their warmth is great, fit is odd, but I can live with it.

 TechnoJim 17 Feb 2021
In reply to ste_d:

I've got a Rab Alpha Direct jacket which uses a Polartech/Pertex fabric. My main gripe with it is that I think it's too warm for the UK! 

I bought it to use as an all-day layer in winter. Thin base layer underneath, hardshell goes over the top when it turns really shitty. It breathes OK, wicks well and does the warm-when-wet thing brilliantly, but unless it's really baltic/windy then I often find that I'm overheating when on the move.

Your comment upthread about fabric wear from pack chafing is spot on.

In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Base pants with pockets and shell fabric? Hmmm...

Maybe better under a hard shell, as a composite, all-day setup?

 RichardJKnight 17 Feb 2021
In reply to TechnoJim:

I’d agree re it being “too” warm. I’ve had an alpha direct for a couple of years and wear with just a base underneath. When moving out of the wind I find I’m sweating quickly, but it does breathe well once you level out so the clammy feeling doesn’t last long. 

That said, its been brilliant in the recent couple of cold snaps, and the fabric isn’t showing any signs of wear/tear despite being scuffed against quite a few rocks. 

On the whole I’m happy with it, but will very likely try a Kinesis for days where it isn’t blowing a gale. I don’t like the fit of Rab VR jackets, they all seem pretty baggy around the waist when worn with a harness. 

 TobyA 17 Feb 2021
In reply to ste_d:

When Alpha was first launched maybe 8 years ago it came lined, so you sort of felt like it was something like Primaloft - some new synthetic insulation that was just meant to be more breathable. I wrote this in 2014 and reading it again now, it's interesting that I said I still thought a gridded micro fleece and a windshirt was a more flexible combo for me - which is of course basically what companies like Rab and ME did over the next few years by ripping out the liners of their Alpha pieces and basically making the Alpha equivalent of things like the Kinesis or the VR stuff. I've never tried any unlined Alpha clothing though, so don't know if I would be less sceptical about it than the first lined stuff.

 TobyA 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

> Perhaps the reviewers or users can enlighten us as to the differences and why Polartec Alpha seems so rare.

I've wondered if it was after all the marketing buzz when Alpha first came out (as used the US special forces etc.) and then UK firms started using it in the unlined version, they looked at their newest, greatest and most hi-tech advanced "active insulation" pieces and said to themselves "oh... it looks a bit like a late 80s Buffalo mountain shirt doesn't it? Bugger."

 Prof. Outdoors 17 Feb 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Yes, looking like Buffalo mountain shirt is not the best recommendation.

I actually use Buffalo Special 6 shirt and Mardale Pile/Pertex jacket and despite trying layering systems as well as Paramo still find Buffalo the best for me in winter. Worn next to the skin of course as designed to be really effective. I am even contemplating the Buffalo Teclite shirt for warmer weather.

They will not however, win any contest for fashion, tailoring, design or street cred.

Am following this thread with interest as Kinesis/new VR could be a consideration.

 ste_d 17 Feb 2021
In reply to TobyA:

I've used both versions, the alpha hyper lite lined in the form of Montane hydrogen and alpha direct in the form of marmot 60

I have to say I'm not sure how the hyper lite version is supposed to perform to optimum with an extra lining providing an extra barrier to vapour, feels like it needs another high performance wicking base underneath which seems to defeat the object and warm things up excessively

Of course all these things are very personal, I run slightly cool, and I also don't motor along quite as much as I used to which keeps my temperature down, then of course factoring in weather

I do think though that there is nothing wrong with admitting that alpha direct is an updated version of buffalo, a great compliment no...

Whilst I'm on the subject of anyone from marmot wants to pipe up and tell me if driclime has a future?

 Prof. Outdoors 17 Feb 2021
In reply to ste_d:

Interesting to hear that Alpha Direct may be an up to date Buffalo.

Another "trouble" with Buffalo is they just go on and on. Whatever the merits of the system they are very good value for money.

If Covid had not been around I would be on the hill in a timewarp wearing my Buffalo top and could use my Sheffield made POD rucsac and Mountain Technology Ice Axe.

I need help.

In reply to mcdweeb:

Mountain Equipment confirm that they go over Scarpa f1 touring boots. From a pic they've sent me it looks like quite a comfortable fit with those. Hope that helps? 

 Inhambane 18 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

How warm is the Kinesis compared with the other ME softshells ?  

 TobyA 18 Feb 2021
In reply to mcdweeb:

I have no idea about these trousers but I have seen in the past some trousers that go fine over one touring boot and not at all over another - it does seem that lots of AT boots in recent years have come with much lower volume ankle cuffs than some older models!

 Prof. Outdoors 18 Feb 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Sorry, couldn't resist my misinterpretation.

Must like a freemason.

 Aled Williams 19 Feb 2021
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

I own both the new ME Kenisis and  RAB Vapour rise summit and the RAB Alpha direct jacket.

The alpha direct is by far the warmest of the three jackets as others have said, and I find it hard to use in the UK under our normal temps. 

I can't see much of a difference in performance between the kinesis and the VR summit, although there are differences is the feature sets.

The Kinesis packs into its own pocket, has a slimmer cut than the VR summit, and I think the hood is probably better dur to the adjustment method its also bigger. However the hood rolls away in the VR summit and still perfectly fits over ever helmet I've used with it (old meteor/new sirocco/Vector). I also personally prefer the cuffs as well. The Summit on my body shape also fits slightly longer in the back I.e it covers my bum, which is good if using a harness.

I really like all of these jackets


 Prof. Outdoors 19 Feb 2021
In reply to Aled Williams:

Well written opinions, thanks.

Mountain Equipment stuff is generally well made and well thought out. I know Rab have a mixed reputation but my stuff has been fine.

Looking forward to actually seeing Kinesis in the cloth. so to speak.

 Osiris 25 Feb 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I did a small experiment: showered wearing only kinesis base pants and special 6 buffalo shirt, then put on some soft shell trousers and went for a walk (breezy, cold but mild wind) for about 30 mins. After five minutes my top half felt largely dry and relatively comfortable, but my legs remained cold with a feeling of damp. I then put some brynje leggings on which instantly improved the leg warmth. The buffalo fleece pile is much thicker so it's no surprise it was warmer, but at least for me, I'll be wearing these base pants with an additional baselayer as they certainly are not warm when wet, unlike the buffalo which I could wear alone in winter. The base pants did dry more quickly than the buffalo, but actually felt more damp when worn next to skin. They're not any better than merino when it's damp, but will dry quicker I reckon. Obviously this isn't anywhere near a real mountain scenario, but I can conclusively say I'd rather have buffalo on a very wet and cool day than I would this kinesis material. 

Post edited at 11:21

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