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Backcountry Jacket Sale? 18 January 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing.
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I see Backcountry.com is rolling out their best sales of the season right about now.

At least they’re honest about the discount.


Review: Mountain Hardwear Alchemy Jacket 31 October 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Reviews, Skiing.
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What is the bomb? This jacket. This jacket is the bomb. I don’t even know what metaphor means, but this jacket is it. If you enjoy being outside at all, ever, in any chilly circumstance, you will enjoy the Mountain Hardwear Alchemy jacket. You will not enjoy lesser, more expensive products.
Here’s the deal: I spent an entire year as a ski bum wearing nothing but the Alchemy and the occasional onesie on the slopes and discovered that this jacket cannot be destroyed. After gloves, boots and pants all failed, it had refused to died. In fact, after  90 days of abuse the thing looks like it just came out of the packaging, save for the tiny (2mm) fray where I greeted a tree mostly with my side. Skis sharp enough to draw blood never left a mark on the Alchemy. No stitch has failed. Whatever this material is, it’s tougher than chain mail.It might even stop a bullet.

But you don’t buy the Alchemy to stop bullets. You buy it to stay warm. And when used to that end, it is worth every single cent. With the correct layering strategy (base, t-shirt, wool shirt, fleece pullover–for me) the Alchemy has proved comfortable when the wind chill drops below -20. Faces freeze at those temperatures, but the jacket keeps going strong. It is absolutely impervious to wind. If, in a gale, you feel the tiniest bit of cold leak through your zipper or a cuff, you are not wearing the Alchemy. The neck a waist cinches and the lined cuffs block any wayward air. On a bike, on the hill, or on the crag, the jacket will keep you warm.

But most of my experience has been on the hill, and there, the Alchemy performs better than even a hard shell. Its flexibility makes it feel like another shirt, important when you know exactly where you’d like to make your next pole plant. Its three external pockets provide easy access to keys/cell phone/chapstick, even when wearing a backpack. Mountain Hardwear, good folks that they are, thought of that. An internal pocket can holster an iPod. The material sheds snow and rain, too, and looks good doing it. If you think you need a hood, think for a minute about the last time you saw anyone–anyone at all–with his hood up on a hard shell. Then forget you were ever concerned.

In fact, only two things should give you pause: the lack of pit zips and the awkwardness of wearing the jacket around town. On the first point, the Alchemy’s breathable, but armpits get hot even when the core is comfortable. Zips would help. On the second, the Alchemy looks good when you’re out pursuing your “active lifestyle,” and that’s fine, but don’t expect to wear it around town much. Pockets accessible with a backpack on, force you to explain that, no, you’re not trying to grab your nipples, when you shove your hands into your pockets for warmth. So if you’re in town wear something else.

If you’re planning on doing anything outdoorsy, though, buy the Alchemy. It’s on sale now at Backcountry.com and it’s the bomb.