Marmot Shell Clothing - Four Months Use

Scottish spin-drift, La Grave's finest ice-falls, Alpine north faces, Welsh rain and the night spots of Chamonix. A busy schedule for gear testing, but someone has to do it. After initial use back in November, I've put the Marmot clothes through the mill, and they've come out on the other side, just!

Ben Nevis - wet snow
© Jack Geldard
The Super Hero Jacket (Initial full review here) is a robust soft-shell, designed to cope with a bit of everything. I've skied, climbed, walked and partied in it and I have to say, the longer I keep hold of it the more I like it. Although the soft-shell fabric doesn't offer the same protection as a full Goretex shell, I've found that it's pretty invaluable for all those 'in-between' moments: skinning up the Argentierre Glacier, skiing the Valley Blanche, stomping in to a very windy Ben Nevis, climbing ice in good weather and, of course, going to the pub. After four months of heavy use the jacket looks like it has just come off the shelf, a testament to the build quality.

Initial reservations about the usefulness of the lightweight hood have also been quashed. The hood is perfect for those -15 moments; when approaching a route and the wind whips your head, the hood gives a welcome wind/water-proof shell and makes a big difference. I zipped the hood off when in the winter room of Alpine huts, as a Goretex hood is uncomfortable to sleep in. The lack of a wire brim also means that the hood squashes under a full shell jacket comfortably – meaning a better seal around the back of the neck when using the Super Hero as a mid layer.

Having said all that - this is definitely a jacket to compliment a full outer shell - not replace one. Would I want to be stood under a torrent of spindrift with this as my shell? No, but the compromise between protection and restriction is a good one in many circumstances. I used it as an outer-shell when ice fall climbing and during walk-ins in both Scotland and the Alps. I used it as a mid-layer whilst climbing in bad weather and was surprised by the breathability. The changes in fabric, including the extremely breathable armpit areas, really work. There was a marked difference between this and a previous windstopper fleece that I owned several years ago - which acted neither as a fleece or as a shell.

In Short: A perfect compromise between a full shell layer and a mid-layer, covering those 'in-between' moments. Well cut, well made and with intelligent features, the Super Hero is a useful addition to a technical layering system. Great as an outer shell in fair or summer conditions, partner it with a full shell in winter and it's a go anywhere, do anything jacket. I also like the name!

North Face of the Courtes - extremely low temperatures
© Jack Geldard
The Exum Jacket (Initial full review here) is another winner. Light, breathable and surprisingly tough. I've scraped it up chimneys, hacked my way up ice couloirs, climbed in the pouring rain, belayed in -18 temperatures, almost drowned in spindrift and walked my dog in the nearby field.

My initial review says most of the things it needs to - but here I'll add that four months down the line and the jacket is still beading water well. It is free from holes and tears and I haven't noticed any terrible niggles through extended use. The velcro on the cuffs is kept to a minimum, saving weight, but this does lead to them coming undone every time I change or remove gloves. That aside the main zip-baffle velcro works adequately, the cut is fantastic and the zips are easy to use with gloved hands.

Personally I would have preferred two internal pockets instead of one, enabling me to shove my mitts inside to keep them warm, as two large mitts won't fit in the single internal pocket. Instead I just shoved them down my jumper - which worked almost as well.

With all the pit zips open and the ability to vent through the pockets, I found hard uphill slogs not too sweaty (I don't think I can move fast enough to break a sweat!), but waterproof jackets are always a compromise in this area.

In Short: A great, lightweight shell. Tougher than initial appearances might suggest. Light enough for Alpine summer routes, tough enough for Scottish winter. Four months of hard use and it still looks and works like new. A great choice for an all rounder.

Scottish Weather
© Jack Geldard
The Exum Trousers (Initial full review here) didn't quite cut the mustard. Light-weight, with several good features, they would make excellent summer Alpine shell trousers. For the rough and tumble of Scottish winter climbing and winter Alpinism, they're just a little too fragile.

On the first Scottish mixed route I climbed in them I managed to split them from thigh to shin - the non-ripstop fabric opening like a zip. On long Alpine routes, ice-screws punctured them at regular intervals, helping with breathability but not reliability.

The fabric still beads well and the drop seat function is a life saver. The crampon protection patches on the lower legs need to be slightly bigger and cover a higher portion of the leg. The braces worked well and were simple and light. The fabric and baffles shed snow well and even after hours of breaking trail they didn't let any water through the zips.

In Short: Feather-weight trousers with heaps of good features. Will stand up to light use. Great for occasional Alpine summer forays as a super light shell. Not the first choice for everyday winter abuse.

For more information visit Marmot Website
Gear Forum 2 comments

This review has been read 12,585 times