Warm for a midweight synthetic insulated jacket, and boasting a full complement of climber-friendly features, the Shelterstone offers superb value to winter climbers and hillwalkers alike, says Martin McKenna. It may lack the high-end finesse of its close cousin the Fitzroy, but for many users it'll be all the jacket they need.
Mountain Equipment have a lot of experience designing clothing well suited to the changeable but often rather miserable mountain conditions we have here in the UK. Their synthetic insulated jackets are a good example. A new addition to the range, which complements the popular Fitzroy and the mega-warm Citadel, the Shelterstone is the lighter of the three. This tradeoff on warmth comes with the upside of being more packable and less weight to carry, so despite the implication of its name (very long belays on very hard routes) we think the Shelterstone is ideal for days where standing about for very long periods is less likely - such as easier winter climbing, mountaineering, hillwalking or ski touring.
Not being quite as warm arguably makes it more versatile for use in autumn and spring, when the Fitzroy - and more especially the Citadel - can seem like overkill. And thanks to the use of slightly less snazzy fabric and fill, the Shelterstone is also a lot more affordable, which arguably makes it more appealing to hillwalkers who may not need the out-and-out performance of Mountain Equipment's more techy jackets.
On the kitchen scales I make it 590g for a size Small (ME say 650g, though don't specify the size). We reckon that counts as a heavier midweight in synthetic insulated jacket terms. Scrunching down to a reasonably compact size in the stuff sack that comes provided, it's not a weight or bulk that should trouble you in a winter pack.
The Shelterstone is available in both men's and women's sizes. Mountain Equipment describe the cut as a "mountain fit". This means the jacket can be worn over a typical winter mountaineering layering system, including midlayer and shell. The jacket is not overlay baggy and doesn't feel excessively oversized, so you won't feel lost in it if wearing it on a rock climbing day for example. I opted for a size small, my usual size. I've found the fit near perfect, with enough room for a few layers, and still room to accommodate some movement when swinging axes.
The hem of the jacket covers a comfortable amount of the bum, so standing around on a winter belay you do feel protected. On me there's no appreciable hem lift when my arms are raised, so I can climb comfortably and the jacket stays tucked under a harness (worth knowing if you're on a route in more hostile jacket-wearing weather). The hem can be drawn in with two cords - as usual with ME, these are the non-catch type that you can't accidentally snag or clip a carabiner to.
The adjustable sleeve cuffs are wide enough to fit over medium-weight insulated gloves, but I do find it a bit of a stretch to pull them over a bulky heavyweight gauntlet or mitt.
An all-important feature on any winter mountain jacket, it's surprising how often hoods are done badly. Mountain Equipment tend to do them well, and the Shelterstone is no exception. The hood is genuinely helmet compatible, so I can wear a helmet comfortably, with no limit on head movement. There's a two-way adjustable drawcord system to get the exact fit required, so you can cinch things down onto a bare head when you're out without a helmet (for an all-round jacket like this, that is going to be a lot of the time).
There's a rear drawcord at the back of the hood and two connected drawcords on the outside face of the jacket that can be pulled to reduce the hood volume. The jacket doesn't need to be unzipped to adjust these, however I do find pressing the drawcord button (which is sewn into the jacket) to release the drawcord quite challenging. It can be hard to find and then hard to press with gloves. The hood has a small visor to keep rain and snow away from your face. I've also appreciated the high collar, which covers the neck well in cold and windy weather, whether or not you've got the hood up.
The fabric on the Shelterstone is a nice balance between light and protective. Its 40D Drilite Loft main body fabric will take a good amount of abrasion while remaining light and easily packable. The fabric performs exceptionally well in a strong wind, keeping all warm air inside the jacket. Thanks to ifs PFC-free DWR, the outer fabric is water resistant so it can withstand some light rain or snow. In heavy rain it does wet through, however even when wet I've found I stay remarkably warm.
The insulation within the Shelterstone is 100% recycled Polarloft, and there's plenty of it at a weight of 115g/m2 throughout. It's definitely warm for its weight! This type of Polarloft is layered inside the jacket in sheets, which means less need for stitching and no baffles as on a down jacket or synthetic down-like fill. Polarloft has good water resistant properties that add to its ability to still perform when wet.
The Shelterstone has three external zipped pockets, two hand warming pockets that have a decent capacity and a large chest pocket that can accommodate an OS map. Inside the jacket is a small zipped personal belongings pocket, designed for a phone or other valuables. Finally there is a large mesh pocket that is ideal for storing a pair of climbing gloves while at a belay.
The jacket is secured using a full length two-way zip. A small popper at the bottom of the jacket allows the bottom zip to be pulled up slightly, perfect for belaying but while keeping the jacket covering your body and trapping as much warm air as possible.
The jacket comes with a small stuff sack and that can be used to compress it, and includes a loop for clipping to a harness. This is a more viable option with the comparatively compact Shelterstone than the massive Citadel, for instance.
The Shelterstone is a fantastic insulated jacket for winter on the mountains, particularly if you are likely to encounter wet and windy conditions like we so often do in the UK. As a midweight jacket with a midrange sort of insulating feel, it's especially suitable for chucking on during short periods of inactivity, or in exceptionally wild conditions while moving. Its fabric balances weight, packability and durability to make it a versatile jacket - and it has good environmental credentials with its 100% recycled Polarloft insulation and PFC-free DWR. At £200 it's middle of the pack price-wise, which will help it appeal to slightly less 'high-end' users such as hillwalkers and backpackers, as well as fully committed mountaineers. Since you get an exceptionally high quality jacket for the money, we think this is great value.