After reviewing, not to mention rating, the Mountain Equipment Squall Jacket and Hope Pant last year I was happy to hear that ME had plans to extend their range of rock climbing clothing for 2016. Over the past few months I've been using several products from the collection, including the Flash Hooded Jacket, Redline LS T, Groundup Plain T, and the Beta Pant. All have a neat blend of style and functionality, being appropriate to wear both on the crag and in the pub (although you may get some funny looks depending where the pub is). Whether it be sport climbing in Spain, trad climbing on the grit, or bouldering on the limestone each one has been put through its paces - here's how they did.
Flash Hooded Jacket £90
While it's not necessarily appropriate to begin by rating colour, I have to admit that when I first saw the colour of the Flash Hoody I was sent my initial concern was one of style. It is very, well, European! That said I’ve grown to love the colour in question and, whilst I’ve never thought this before, it did make me look younger (concerning, since this now means I’m old…). Digressions aside, there is a whole range of colours available for those of a more conservative disposition - click here to see them!
Back on to more pertinent matters - performance. The Flash Hooded Jacket has a very luxurious feel, which can be attributed to the exclusive 240g drirelease fabric used throughout. This is a super stretchy material, which feels almost like organic cotton, and has a more relaxed finish/feel than your average 'fleece'. The fabric, coupled with the superb cut, means that there is excellent freedom of movement, with limited baggy space around the underarms. There is also plenty of length in the sleeve for those long in arm (I have a +6 Ape Index, so can say this with some authority).
On the topic of luxury, it is definitely of a more luxurious weight than your average fleece too - coming in at 455g. That said, along with the extra weight comes extra warmth, so it’s a good layer for a cold day.
Durability-wise the Flash has lasted well, with the only issue being the stitching around the neck/hood which unpicked quite quickly. Whilst this doesn’t seem to have had an effect on the functionality (it appears more cosmetic), it’s obviously not ideal.
Redline LS T £45 and Groundup Plain T £40
Both products feature the same, luxurious (n.b. this is the last time I'll use this word, promise...) feeling drirelease fabric, only in a lighter 175g form. This fabric, as per the Flash Hoody, is soft to touch and feels great next to the skin. In many ways it feels like a premium organic cotton product, only it's synthetic - therefore drying much quicker and theoretically smelling much worse. The matter of smell is supposedly reduced by the Polygeine treatment each of the two items feature, but it is hard to quantify the effect of this. Over the past few years I have found the smell of all synthetics to have got better; as such I can only assume either that I smell better (unlikely) or that the treatments used on synthetics are of a higher standard than they were back in the reign of the smelly helly (more likely). Either way, the Redline and Groundup tend to smell if you've had a big/smelly day, but if you're wearing them more casually they will last for a few days before the honk sets in.
In terms of performance they both performed well, wicking well and drying quickly (even quicker if you used Nikwax Basefresh, click here for a video). I mentioned the versatility of the Redline LS T earlier, but to reaffirm this statement I would say that I ended up using the Redline as a midlayer just as much as I used it as a baselayer/t-shirt. Due to its fitted nature, it provided a great deal of warmth for its weight, yet breathed incredibly well too - therefore making it ideal for a wide range of conditions.
I’m not sure how you review style, but I thought the colour offerings + stripes were great - a photographer's dream in fact!
Beta Pant £75
Alongside the Hope Pant, reviewed last year, the Beta Pant has swiftly become my trouser of choice throughout the spring/summer months.
There are a number of features differentiating between the two, but the main thing is weight - the Beta Pant feature a significantly lighter material and are therefore far better suited towards use in warm weather. With the mixed spring we’ve had (i.e. sun one day, snow the next) I’ve used them throughout pretty much all conditions and can say with some confidence that they’re definitely on the cooler side, but as soon as it got warmer (i.e. not freezing) they were ideal.
Features-wise I loved the elasticated waist belt, but thought the string system was redundant (assuming the fit was right). In addition to this, when you knotted the chunky cord/tape supplied it created quite a sizeable knot, which became a little uncomfortable if you were wearing a harness - as such I removed the cord after a few months use.
The pockets throughout are large and if the rumours are correct, the back pocket was specifically designed to fit the pink Fontainebleau guidebook (courtesy of ME Designer Sam Stephenson). Whilst I didn’t use it for this exact purpose, I like that as a design philosophy.
As with many ME pants they are also available in a Short, Regular, and Long leg length, which has a real appeal for people such as myself who have disproportionately long legs for their size.
A neat range of products that will take you from bouldering in winter to trad/sport throughout the spring and summer. The feel of the whole range is very much one of quality, each being soft to touch and pleasant to wear owing to the drirelease fabric (which is excellent).
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