Need a waterproof, breathable hard-shell jacket? Consider the Sierra Designs Mantra Fusion jacket. I recently tested this jacket while climbing the Grand Teton and this is what I found:
How is the fit?
The mechanical stretching shell provided full range of motion—fairly important when you’re climbing multiple pitches, traversing steep snowfields with an ice ax, scrambling over boulders and ledges, stemming up chimneys and rappelling. The mechanical stretching also lends itself well to the jacket’s overall fit. Even with a heavy-weight base layer top and a fleece jacket under it, the extra bulk didn’t restrict crucial climbing movements.
Mantra Fusion on the Grand Teton ascent
Is it waterproof?
Most definitely waterproof. It is constructed of 3L Waterproof/Breathable Tropozone (20,000/15,000) 40D fabric and has fully-fused seams to keep out rain and moisture. Fortunately, it didn’t rain (or snow) while I was climbing the Grand Teton but I did manage to remain bone-dry in the day-long deluges of spring in Minnesota.
Is it comfortable?
When climbing (or skiing or backpacking), your level of physical exertion ebbs and flows and is effected by elevation and weather. The Mantra Fusion’s underarm vents and two-way zipper allow you to regulate your body temperature as needed.
Climbing the Grand Teton, for example, required a 4:00 a.m. start from the lower saddle. I don’t have to tell you that at this time of the day, even in July, it is cold. But after scrambling up a steep talus field for forty-five minutes, I started sweating. This is when it’s nice to have a jacket with underarm zippers to let airflow in, and still maintain your core body temperature.
Mantra Fusion on the summit
Is it functional for climbing and hiking?
Ample storage, indeed. Two zippered hand pockets and zippered chest pocket for stashing energy bars, lip balm, sun block, headlamp, etc., as well as two internal mesh pockets for stashing items that need to be closer to the heat of your body or items to which you don’t need ready access.
Two final handy features are the removable, zip-off snow skirt and the interior Tricot chin guard, nice features that make this a truly multi-functional piece of outerwear for multiple seasons and conditions. We all know that glissading is the easiest and fastest way to descend a snowfield. Fun, but if you don’t have the appropriate jacket, you will get a bum full of snow. The snowskirt, when buttoned, helps keep your backside free of snow.
Just one, and it is minor. Hardly worth mentioning but I will do it regardless. I found the hood to be a slight nuisance when stashing my ice ax through the shoulder straps at the top of my pack. The shaft of the ax would get caught up in the hood and I would have to use both hands to move the hood. A little cumbersome and disconcerting when you are climbing to the icy walls of the Owen Chimney and there is a thousand feet of air between you and Idaho.
However, for as much bitching and moaning that I did about the hood on the climb, I was ready to canonize it “The Great Saint of Hallowed Jacket Hoods” when I reached the summit and the frigid morning winds bore down on me. It is, after all, fully-adjustable and large enough to fit over a climbing helmet (or bike helmet).
The Mantra Fusion debuted in Spring 2010 and retails for $249. Pair this with the Gnar down sweater (which I did when the temperatures plunged on the saddle the night before the climb) and you will have one jacket that you can literally use throughout the year and for multiple purposes.
If you live in Minneapolis, you can find Sierra Designs gear at REI. Or, visit Sierra Designs online and check out their complete line of quality outerwear for climbing, camping, biking, and anything you want to do outside.