Monday, 30 July 2018 09:23

Mountain Equipment Women’s Squall Jacket – tested and reviewed

Written by

A decent softshell jackets happens to be one of those key investment pieces part of every outdoor enthusiasts wardrobe, which will get worn time and time again. So how did the Mountain Equipment Women’s Squall Jacket get on being tested on some of Chamonix’s classic alpine rock routes?

The Mountain Equipment Women’s Squall Jacket is a great jacket if you’re looking for a lightweight jacket that strikes a compromise between technical fabrics and something that feels breathable and kind next to the skin. Mountain Equipment have delivered everything you’d expect from a performance piece - a flattering and true to fit women’s specific fit jacket that is breathable, reasonably fitted , good level of protection against the elements and an essential for your next summer trip.

ME Womens Squall Jacket 1 

Mountain Equipment’s description:

The ultimate rock climbing Soft Shell; light, tough and protective it’s the definitive choice for everything from big walls to sea cliffs. With its cavernous helmet compatible hood, offset front zip and minimalist single pocket design the Squall is truly at home in any climbing situation. A stretchy double weave EXOLITE fabric and precise Active fit offers both the toughness and unhindered movement necessary for those who find themselves making moves on hard rock and ice.

Price: £100.00 Weight: 280g (Size 10)

Technical Features

 EXOLITE 125 stretch double weave Soft Shell fabric

 Mountain HC Hood is fully adjustable

 Women's Active fit with articulated and pre-shaped sleeves

 Over-locked and topstitched construction throughout

 2-way YKK® offset moulded centre front zip

 Zipped Napoleon chest pocket

 Adjustable cuffs and dual tether hem draw cords

 Packs into chest pocket with twin karabiner carry loops

 Weight: 280g/9.9oz

ME Womens Squall Jacket 2

Breathability

Weighing in at a mere 280g, Mountain Equipment’s Squall jacket is definition alpine. A lightweight, durable item made of EXOLITE 125 stretch double weave Soft Shell fabric, it is thinner and lighter than the other softshell Mountain Equipment offer in their range. Compared to the Mission Jacket , there is a significant weight saving of 340g making it a jacket that is light enough to justify taking it out for long days where good weather is anticipated.

For a breathable shell without the weight, this was the jacket best suited for when moving fast and light in the mountains means warmth isn’t the biggest consideration. Even when fairly static, the jacket provided the right insulation as my outer layer. Wearing the jacket at the abseil points off Petite Aiguille Verte, the jacket gave sufficient protection against the elements, although when it got a lot cooler it was noticeable.

Even with the mountain hood up (which is roomy and allows for a helmet to be worn underneath) the softshell still felt breathable, meaning when the weather warms up it doesn’t feel super stuffy keeping the shell on.

The only feature I felt was missing from the jacket was a UPF rating against the sun. Whilst this is less important for a product used during winter mountaineering, the Squall jacket is a summer and potentially transitional product used all year round under other layers. Whilst I feel that the softshell offered some necessary protection from the sun’s strong rays, it would be a useful feature for consumers to know that the product protects them from the sun.

ME Womens Squall Jacket 3

Water Resistance

Wearing the jacket in the rain, the softshell is shower proof and when a light rain shower hits you can see moisture beading on the surface of the jack but is no substitute for carrying a waterproof! A trip to Vallorcine crags resulted in running from the crag as the rain hit and a fairly wet-out jacket. However, the EXOLITE material seemed to dry fairly quickly once the sun came out, and didn’t hold onto moisture for as long as expected.

Wind Resistance

When the weather turns, the jacket seems to cope with the use of performance fabric using the breathable, wind resistant EXOLITE soft shell material. I found the the softshell’s women’s specific close active fit was a key factor in staying warm, trapping insulation where it was needed and had long enough sleeves that allowed adjustment around the wrists to prevent additional warmth from escaping. The product’s adjustable features, such as the cuffs and dual tether hem drawcords around the base of the jacket, allow it to fit closely to the bottom of the torso and avoid heat loss when it got cooler. It also has easy to use toggles, which could be adjusted whilst wearing gloves on. The product performed well in wind resistance , especially when climbing on mixed routes where there wasn’t guaranteed good weather throughout the route.

ME Womens Squall Jacket 4

Features

The Mountain Equipment Women’s Squall jacket had a small zipper pocket known as a ‘Napoleon Pocket’ at chest height on the right hand side, which at a push, could fit a mobile phone and lift pass. However, I found that this pocket was sometimes limited in how much it could fit in, and often wished ahead of longer routes for a larger pocket to put snacks in and additional gloves. For most alpine routes, the jacket you wear first thing will stay on for the best part of the day so it required a bit much thought working out what I could fit in this pocket and tuck additional items in my other pockets.

The ME Women’s Squall Jacket has the quality finishes you’d expect, with over-locked and topstitched construction throughout as well as an offset moulded centre front zip which allows you to zip two ways, meaning you can wear the jacket over the top of a harness without needing to adjust the harness and tuck underneath. Additional features include the jackets foldaway function where it packs into the small chest pocket with twin karabiner carry loops to clip onto a harness.

I found that the jacket didn’t have the additional bulk of previous softshells and the material and finishing looks relatively unaffected. Durability wise, the material feels pretty tough, and showed no signs of abrasion even after nearly two weeks of everyday wear squeezing through pinnacles of rock and climbing, which I was impressed to see.

ME Womens Squall Jacket 5

Cost

At £100.00 for a softshell jacket, I felt the price was fairly reasonable for a decent piece of kit.

Look

The jacket is available in a range of colours, from Sangria (red), Lagoon Blue, Cosmos ( a Dark Grey/Black), Kumquat ( Orange) and Nightshade. For the purpose of this test, I was given a Nightshade squall jacket which although wasn’t the first colour of choice, over the trip grew on me. It also had red accent colours on the trim, which I liked, with easy to use cord pullers, which were minimal in weight and great for functionality.

When moving quickly through the mountains, the kit required needs to protect you from a combination of extreme and challenging elements. Overall, I feel confidant that the Mountain Equipment Women’s Squall Jacket would be used on repeat alpine adventures, and also a product that will see testing on British rock routes.