Following on from my review of the Mountain Equipment Hope Pants (see UKC Review), I have been out and about on the UK crags in the Squall Jacket - and yes it has seen some squalls!
The Squall is a super light soft-shell jacket constructed of a high stretch breathable/windproof fabric. It is designed to be worn as an outer layer, keeping out the elements out on cold/windy days (i.e. those days discussed earlier – ‘British’ days); however, because the jacket does not feature a membrane the breathability is above and beyond you're average softshell - as a result it's use extends beyond the cooler seasons and into a more general year-round lightweight windproof.
Featuring Mountain Equipment’s superbly designed Mountain HC (high capacity/helmet compatible) hood it really does have the capability to keep the elements at bay. Features like the offset zipper, which rather than coming up centrally beneath your chin goes to the right side of your cheek, means that whilst the hood is up there isn't any annoying/chafing zipper right in your face. Whilst this feature was ideal for when the hood/zip was up, when down it meant that there was a bit of extra of material to flap around and considering I wore the hood down 90% of the time the flapping did get to me after a while. It is worth mentioning that most of my personal use has been throughout the spring, so this feature is potentially more applicable to those operating in cooler conditions when the hood is more frequently up (it would be perfect for the Alps).
The cut, much like the Hope Pant, is exceptional and provides complete freedom of movement, with limited (if any) ride when the arms are raised above the head. Body-wise the jacket has a slim/athletic cut, feeling quite snug for it's size, but with generous arm length. Elasticated cuffs keep the wrists nice and snug, but not too tight, and hem draw cords at the waist allows further to both fit and temperature control.
Were I to make a single change to the jacket it would have been to include a reversible zip on the Napoleon chest pocket, in which to stuff the jacket into when it wasn't required. Having discussed this with Mountain Equipment they explained that this had been considered, but due to the garments highly breathable nature it was more likely to be a 'stay on' piece throughout the whole day (plus there would have been a weight/bulk penalty to adding an additional feature). Personally, I'd still have been all for it - irrespective of the weight. Sometimes you don't know what the temperature is going to be like, frequently there can be a chilling breeze at the top of the crag, then by the time you abseil in it can be scorching. I really don't like overheating and I really I don't like wrapping things around my chest/waist, it gets in the way of your harness, gear and slings and causes a bit of a mess. In all fairness the solution is quite simple - use a stuff sack (which is what I did) - but a reversible pocket would have been a neater solution in my opinion.
The Squall is an ideal outer layer for cold/breezy days and would be perfect for use in the Alps. It is exceptionally lightweight and stretchy, with a great cut, and as a result easy to forget that you've got on.
The ultimate rock climbing Soft Shell; light, tough and protective it's a definitive choice for everything from big walls to sea cliffs.
Lightweight stretch double weave EXOLITE 125 fabric gives unhindered mobility for exposed Dolomite ar'tes allied to the toughness required for open book corners in Yosemite. A helmet compatible hood and offset front zip with shaped and pleated face panel seals out icy gusts.
For more information visit the Mountain Equipment Website.
About the Author:
Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager at UKClimbing.com.
He's a passionate climber, hot yoga addict and eater of vegetarian food. He has done more UK trad routes than he's had roast dinners (and that's got nothing to do with the vegetarianism).
Aside from UK trad, he's dabbled with alpine climbing, Scottish winter, Himalayan climbing and more recently Peak limestone sport climbing.
- He keeps an occasional blog about his adventures here: Rob Greenwood Climbing