With a street price of around £260 the Masao sits comfortably in the mid range when it comes to hardshells, but with a serious feature list and Mammut's renowned build quality it punches well above its price point.
What the manufacturers say:
Robust alpine Hard Shell jacket made from elastic DRYtech material. The functional hood, backpack-compatible pocket position and useful little details make it a good companion for various activities.
- Weight 470g
- Vertically and horizontally ajustable, helmet compatible, hood
- Splashproof 2-way front zipper
- 1 chest zipper pocket
- 1 internal zipper pocket and 1 multimedia pocket with cable outlet
- 2 backpack and climbing harness compatible zipper pockets
- Pre-shaped sleeves with Velcro fasteners
- Adjustable hem width
- Hem drawstring can be adjusted with one hand
Mammut Masao on test:
When the Mammut Masao arrived the intention was to do a quick turn around - test it for a month and write it up. Somehow that's turned into a 6 month, longer term, review. As part of Mammut's Summer catalogue and using the brand's own DryTech Premium rather than the ubiquitous GoreTex the assumption was this was a middle-of-the road 3 season hardshell that while well made wasn't going to fire the imagination.
As it turned out it the Masao's arrival coincided with 2 weeks of completely rain-free weather, making a hardshell overkill and restricting testing to how breathable the fabric is. Late summer and autumn, however, provided a bit of everything. Wind, rain, sleet and snow were thrown at it over a period of 3 months everywhere from Langdale to Zermatt. Despite the combination of good old British weather and the more extreme demands of an Alpine October, however, it never felt as though the Maso had been pushed even close to its limits.
The fit is pretty predictable, with some brands you need to buy smaller or larger than normal but with Mammut a Medium is a Medium. There's room for a base layer and substantial mid layer (think Berghaus Extrem Hoody/Rab Alpha Flux Hoodie) underneath without restricting movement, and the hood is both easily adjustable and helmet compatible.
The peak is stiffened, without being too stiff, and volume adjustment is well catered for with a single-handed rear adjuster and elasticated drawcords that pull the hood tight. With a high front that reaches up to nose level the result is a jacket that eliminates draughts and cold air entering. To complement the hood elastic the hem also pulls in tight with a simple, single handed, drawcord and the cuffs seal securely with the almost universal Vecro adjusters. While some cuffs using Velcro can be a bit stiff and the Velcro tabs a bit narrow the cuffs of the Masao are both very flexible and have a wide adjustment capacity. As with the hem and helmet adjusters we found that operation in gloves was little more effort than gloveless.
You get a loy of pockets on the Mammut Masao; 2 hard warmers, a chest pocket, and 2 internal mesh pockets. The chest pocket will just about take an iPhone 6S, although there's an internal pocket designed for phones and is accessible with a rucksack on. The 2 hardwarmer pockets are much larger and will each take an OS map. Inside the jacket you get a large mesh pocket on the right hand side, complete with zipper while on the left you get what Mammut call a "multimedia pocket"; essentially a phone sided mesh pocket with Velcro closure and an exit hole to route earphone wires inside the jacket to the hood.
Large handwarmer pocket and hem adjuster
Internal pocket large enough to take a map
Multimedia pocket with exit hole for wires
For hillwalking we found the combination of pockets as close to perfect as you can get. With a pack on every pocket sits in just the right place; the chest pocket avoiding straps and the handwarmer pockets sitting high enough above the waistbelt to be accessible. With a climbing harness, however, you effectively lose access to the bottom quarter of the pocket although the full length of the zip is accessible.
The Mammut Masao's DryTech Premium is a 3 layer membrane, in common with many waterproof shells, but apparently it works in the opposite way to all the other hyrdrophobic membranes - Mammut use a hydrophilic membrane! The idea behind it is that the membrane actively absorbs perspiration before transporting it to the outer layer. Whatever the science is behind it it works. The Masao has proved to be on a par with hydrophobic membranes but seems to have the edge when it comes to breathability. Yes the pit zips help with ventilation but even with a substantial mid layer underneath condensation was never an issue.
Accessible 2 way pit zips
The collection of individual features, from multimedia pocket to single-handed adustment all round make the masao suitable for a multitude of outdoor activities. The fabric has more of a softshell feel than many hardshells and you get 150 years of build quality behind it, meaning you can feel confident in its quality whatever the situation. If there's a downside it's been in terms of cleaning it - an accidental brush with some oil on an alpine gondola has proved extremely difficult to remove. On the plus side a jacket we assumed was more appropriate to 3 season UK use has proved itself no matter what we've thrown at it; summer autumn or winter!