Follow Bristol Shop manager, Tom as he takes on Mountain Equipment’s lightweight stretch fleece and gives his thoughts.
Anyone who spends time outdoors in the UK will understand the importance of having a good mid-layer in their layering system. Mountain Equipment has a variety of fleece and mid-layer products in their range; there are various weights and thicknesses, as well as some hybrid products that offer increased wind resistance when worn as an outer layer. I was given Mountain Equipment’s Lumiko Hooded Jacket to test on our staff trip walking the Scottish Highland’s Affric Kintail Way in September. The Lumiko Hooded Jacket is among the lightest mid layers in the range, prioritising breathability alongside impressive warmth-to-weight, and is made of 93% recycled polyester – a testament to Mountain Equipment’s commitment to sustainability.
The Lumiko jacket is a very lightweight and packable mid-layer with Mountain Equipment’s slimline active fit and a high elastane content for plenty of stretch. It has low bulk, stretchy cuffs, and a hem with cover-stitched seams for a close and comfortable fit. There is a surprisingly roomy Napolean pocket laminated onto the chest and a grown-on hood which features a high collar to add warmth right up to your chin. Along with a hood, the hooded jacket offers a full-length YKK zip which offers plenty of adjustability for warmth and venting in your layering system; making it suitable for warmer temperatures too. It is also Bluesign approved, which means they meet stringent standards for pollution control and produce the Lumiko sustainably and save resources compared to traditional textile manufacturing.
The fleecy ribs on the inside of the Lumiko jacket are designed to trap warmth very well for its weight whilst keeping it as breathable and packable as possible. This worked very well on our walk along the Affric Kintail way as it was still fairly mild and I would have been too warm on some of the uphill stretches in anything much thicker and less air permeable. On several occasions, I found myself able to undo the zip and continue on up the hills without getting too warm whilst other members of the group, who were wearing slightly thicker grid-backed mid layers, had to stop, take off their bags and change their layers. The Lumiko trapped heat very well when layered under my jacket but would not be too warm on summer days where a mid-layer is needed. Even when I let my back get a bit warm and sweaty under my pack and waterproof it dried very quickly. At only 235g on the kitchen scales, my size medium can be added to my bag as an extra layer for an almost negligible weight penalty.
The active fit of the Lumiko is close fitting to the body but, with a great deal of stretch, it didn’t feel clingy or tight. This also makes it easier to layer and, as it has a smooth outer surface, it does not catch on outer layers; sliding smoothly underneath instead. The extremely stretchy cuffs and hem finish off the fit very nicely to offer a soft and comfortable seal against the skin, for maximum heat retention, without the need for adjustment. The hem and sleeves are also long enough to keep me covered when reaching my arms up and stretching. I’ve thrown this jacket on straight against my skin first thing on a few chilly mornings and have found it to be very soft and surprisingly cosy for such a thick layer. I didn’t notice any seams or experience any bunching of fabric under the straps on my rucksack – the cover stitched seams must be doing their job well as nothing dug into my skin on the whole 44-mile Affric Kintail Way walk across the Highlands.
I received the Lumiko Hooded Jacket in the Majolica-Cardinal colour; a muted blue with an orange napoleon pocket and zip-pulls which I’m very happy with. There are brighter and darker colours in the range but this is a good balance for me to use more casually as well as on the hill. It is also worth noting that the Lumiko is available in a pull-over zip T version. This has a half-length zip, to further reduce weight and bulk whilst still offering excellent ventilation, and comes without a hood – something that may be preferable to some people, particularly when using it as an extra layer alongside other layers with hoods. Both versions have just one pocket. A Napolean chest pocket with ample room to accommodate most phones and other small items. This is almost a must-have feature for me on a lightweight mid-layer, as it gives me somewhere to put my phone when I’m rock climbing which keeps it accessible whilst wearing a harness and prevents it from being pressed against the rock. Some of you may ask why it’s so essential to have my phone so close to hand when enjoying the great outdoors. Well, it’s a lot easier to use a digital guidebook or photo on a phone than carry a whole book up a route.
Mountain Equipment says that the Lumiko Hooded Jacket is:
“A light and fast-drying stretch fleece jacket for climbing, hiking, and mountaineering.
With performance stretch fleece fabric and a slimline Active fit, the Lumiko is an ideal lightweight fleece layer for everything from climbing close to the road to big days in the Alps. A grown-on hood adds valuable extra warmth on belays and a zipped chest pocket keeps essentials secure.”
I have to agree with their description as it ticks all of those boxes. For anyone looking for a very light, packable and breathable layer for anything up to warm conditions this is an excellent option. It offers more warmth than you would expect from such a thin layer, without being too warm in milder conditions, whilst being breathable and drying fast enough to keep you dry when moving more quickly and going uphill. I now find myself wearing or carrying it nearly every day when I’m walking to work, out on the hill, or at the crag.