Follow Tom, our Bristol shop manager as he takes on Mountain Equipment’s epic Gore-Tex jacket and trousers and gives them proper testing along the Affric Kintail way.
Mountain Equipment is a UK brand with over 50 years of experience making dependable gear for use in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet. They have been brand partners with Gore-Tex, the world’s leading waterproof and breathable fabric technologies, for over four decades and are one of Gore’s foremost research and development partners. It comes as no surprise then, that the majority of Mountain Equipment’s waterproof garments feature Gore-Tex waterproof membranes.
Anyone who spends time on the hills and mountains of the UK will know that you’re likely to run into wet and windy weather and that using a waterproof jacket and over-trousers is essential. With a range of waterproofs, from extremely lightweight and packable to heavier-weight and very durable, the Mountain Equipment Saltoro Jacket and trousers are products that use an innovative combination of Gore-Tex Paclite 40 dernier fabrics with Gore-Tex 75 dernier fabrics in higher wear areas. Along with full seam taping, this offers waterproofs that are lightweight, breathable, reliably waterproof, and have a small pack size. The 75 dernier Gore-Tex reinforcements provide added durability where it’s most needed for regular use with a pack or harness.
I recently had the opportunity to put the Saltoro Jacket and trousers to the test in the Scottish Highlands on a staff testing and training trip, walking the Affric Kintail Way; a 44 mile multi-day walk from Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness west to Morvich in Kintail. Whilst we felt pretty lucky to have some bright and dry weather, you may not be surprised to hear that Scotland had some wet weather to throw at us. The repeated showers of the first day and wet final day in the mountains certainly made me appreciate being kitted out in some reliable waterproofs.
I received the Saltoro jacket in the Mykonos/Majolica colour scheme; a bright blue for Gore-Tex Paclite materials featured in the main body, hood, and half the arms with a darker colour for the Gore-Tex 75 dernier reinforced areas across the hips, shoulders, and tops of the arms. It’s a colour combination that is bright enough to be seen but not so outrageous that I’d feel completely out of place using it more casually in the city. The jacket features a 2-way YKK moulded centre zip with an internal storm flap, and two large hand pockets, with YKK water-resistant zips, which are positioned high enough to avoid harnesses and hip belts and YKK water-resistant pit zips. Mountain Equipment’s Mountain HC (helmet compatible) hood has a stiffened peak and is fully adjustable, with a rear adjustment cord to reduce volume around your head and pull-cords at the front for cinching it down to keep foul weather out. The jacket also features adjustable cuffs, dual hem drawcords, and a dropped rear hem.
The Saltoro trousers feature the same combination of 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite with the 3-layer Gore-Tex 75 dernier reinforcements on the knees, seat, and inside of the ankles. They have 2-way ¾ length bonded YKK water-resistant zips with internal storm flaps, a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement, an elastic waistband with a draw cord, and adjustable cuffs.
Both the jacket and trousers come in Mountain Equipment’s Alpine fit. This sits in the middle of their Active fit (their trimmest fit) and the roomier Mountain fit. They say it provides the perfect middle ground and I have to agree. For me, the medium sizes are roomy enough to accommodate some extra layers but not enough to have excess fabric flapping in the wind and adding to the pack size. The pre-articulated knees and sleeves, along with the gusseted crotch, allow me to move freely in the jacket and trousers and I can lift my arms right above my head with the hem of the jacket barely lifting at all. The adjustable cuffs of both garments are easy to fit under or over gloves and boots comfortably with the dropped rear hem on the jacket ensuring my backside stays completely protected from the elements too. The raised pockets ensured that I didn’t have anything digging into me under the hip belt of my pack as we made our way through the highlands and the shorter-than-average pit zips were easy to operate using the hand on the same side. All of the zip pulls have pull cords on them, which I found easy to operate with gloves on. That is with the exception of the bottom trouser zip pulls to keep them from being caught underfoot. I found the Mountain HC hood easy to adjust so that it moved well with my head, and cinched down enough to keep the rain and wind at bay, whilst maintaining a clear field of vision. Having since tested it over my climbing helmet and I’ve found that, whilst it’s not as roomy as other more dedicated alpine climbing jacket hoods, it was able to accommodate the helmet comfortably and still provide adequate protection from the elements. This is an important feature for me as many sections of my maintain “walks” could more accurately be described as scrambling, making it essential that I can wear my helmet.
Most importantly of all, both the Saltoro jacket and trousers kept me dry in prolonged rain and wind, the extra venting from the pit zips and venting afforded by the 2-way zip on the trousers allowed me to dump excess heat and sweat on the up hills and both pack down small enough to carry in case of showers. They are also light for all-season mountain waterproofs; my medium jacket and medium regular trousers weigh in at 410g and 298g respectively on the kitchen scales.
Mountain equipment says that the Saltoro jacket is:
“A lightweight and protective waterproof shell with hybrid GORE-TEX construction for trekking and backpacking in the mountains. GORE-TEX 75D and GORE-TEX PACLITE® fabric are combined to give a lightweight, comfortable shell that retains the durability required for regular use with a pack.”
I’d say that description is spot on, but would even suggest that it could be used for more mountaineering applications. Although, for more frequent use with a helmet, I would opt for a shell with a slightly larger hood. I would highly recommend the Mountain equipment Saltoro waterproof jacket and trousers to anyone who is looking for a lightweight and breathable waterproofs which pack small enough to be stashed for mixed weather days but are durable enough for regular use with a pack in wet conditions.