Lightweight softshell jackets are a summer staple for both walkers and climbers. We compare 11 models here.
The Super Hero Jacket isn't only for Super Heroes, and just to prove that point, Marmot sent me one to test. I don't do any saving the world activities, but I do get out climbing a lot – and I dragged this jacket along with me.
First off, what is it?
The Super Hero (I still smile every time I write that) is a tough, durable, soft-shell jacket; designed to cope with a bit of everything. It's made from Gore windstopper fabric, it has two side pockets, one internal pocket and one chest pocket, and features a zip off hood.
In this day and age we all hope manufacturers have got the basic principals of jacket design sorted; two arms, a neck hole and a zip up the front. The Super Hero ticks all those boxes. As an addition, Marmot have come up with the technically named 'Zonal Construction', which basically means that they have used different fabrics for different areas of the jacket. A prime example is the armpit. I'm not sure about superman, but I like a bit of fresh air under there, especially if I'm walking in to a mountain crag, and I instantly noticed the lack of pit zips. Instead, is a quite nifty, highly breathable venting fabric, which is more comfortable, lighter and as effective as a zip. Great!
The neck area has a nice fleecy lining, meaning no chaffing on the chin and there are some other fabric changes going on that, well, I didn't work out what they did. The areas that are likely to get the most wear and tear are re-enforced and the whole thing smacks of toughness.
I opened up the collar to reveal the hood (in a howling gale with sleet in my eyes) and was a little disappointed. Initially the hood seemed quite floppy, and as I wasn't wearing a helmet at the time, the brim flapped across my eyes. The reason for the hoods thin fabric and lack of wire brim is so that it can fold away, making the jacket look more streetwise. This didn't really concern me as I groped around the windswept hillsides of mid-Wales.
However, after a couple of easy to manage adjustments on the drawstrings and Velcro tabs, the hood did transform in to a use-able weather shield, not quite as good as a full weight hood, but better than a wet head. I think the jacket will mainly be used with the hood tucked away, and if you're caught out – then it's good enough to stop spindrift from going down your neck, and it fits over a helmet easily. It's made from Marmot's own Precip coated fabric, which is very lightweight and waterproof. I would have liked to have seen a drawstring around the neck – so a quick pull could seal it up without the need to unfold the hood, but I can live without it.
The fabric of the jacket is 'water resistant', so I didn't have high hopes of staying too dry, but it did a fine job, with only a couple of damp patches around my rucksack straps after a good few hours of Welsh rain, making this an adequate emergency rain jacket.
The fit was really, really good, with plenty of movement for climbing. The jacket length fits under a harness without riding up, and the side pockets are just high enough to make them use-able with a harness on.
I'm not known throughout Llanberis as a style icon, but I'll have a stab that the Super Hero looks pretty cool (well no-one laughed at me in the pub) and would be equally at home on the North face of the Eiger as it was in the Llanberis chip shop.
A well made, bomb-proof jacket that manages to blend street fashion with mountain features. A full weight hood and a neck draw-cord would function better, but look worse. The fit is great and the fabric works as a wind-proof and emergency rain shield. It does everything it says on the tin, and does it well. I'll be taking it to La Grave this winter.