Seen on here on test over the last few months and long due a review is the Meru Jacket from The North Face’s Summit Series.
The Meru is part of the kit that Conrad Anker’s team used on their epic trip to the mountain of that same name and its design comes from the needs of the users on that climb, but does that mean that we can’t make good use of it?
464g for a size large fully featured mountain jacket sounds good to me. The weight is largely down to the fabric which is Gore’s Active Shell. I think it’s a great fabric, about as good a moisture management performance as you’re likely to get in a membrane based waterproof fabric, soft and comfortable to wear as well as small packing. Hide your belt buckle under your midlayer and wear a rucksack that fits you rather that bouncing all over your shoulders and Active lasts well, then you’ve got a chance of getting your money’s worth, treat it like an everyday jacket and there’ll be no use in complaining that you’ve put a hole in it. In saying that, The North face have taken a look at the vulnerability of the fabric in hard use and have strengthened the Meru a little.
The layout says climber, the pockets are all arranged to be accessible from a central point when hanging from a wall in a harness. This fine unless you want to put your hands in your pockets a lot. The external pockets have water resistant zipped entries and are big, pretty much the whole chest are is pocket for a huge amount of storage. The pockets are mesh-backed though, so no double Active fabric to compromise breathability. The mesh is double layered though, giving two extra stuff pockets on the inside, these are big two and the jacket is cut a little larger both for comfort and to allow for all the storage.
The main zip matches the pocket zips but in a slightly heavier grade and has a full length baffle with a nice fuzzy section on the inside at the top to rub your nose on when it’s dripping or you need a bit of luxury while facing icy summit horror/the wait for the bus.
The cuffs are nice, there’s a regular velcro adjustable tab, but the shaping is good, it curves down around your knuckles. The cuffs are wide too, you can pull the sleeves up to your elbow should the need arise.
The hood is big enough for a helmet but fits my bare or be-hatted head fine with its decent range of adjustment. The face adjusters are nicely done, little loops to tighten on the outside with hidden cordlocks inside the layers of fabric. Nice and neat, and okay to operate with gloves, certainly no faffier than all-exposed adjustment.
The adjuster at the crown that deals with overall hood volume works well, it pulls the hood in and locks onto your head with compromising vision, but it has that odd cordlock hidden behind a flap thing that The North Face are so fond of. It’s easy to tighten but difficult to loosen in general, and with gloves on it’s impossible. Surely I’m not the only one who’s said anything about this?!
The peak is right, stiffened and a good size giving protection and clear visibility.
The shoulders and hips have some printed rubbery feeling dots to address the vulnerability of the Active fabric in sustained hard use. They’re well spaced and I haven’t suddenly found myself with wet shoulders due to a lack of breathability, so it’s a good move probably, making Active shell better for general use has to be a good thing.
The cut is excellent, full freedom of movement with good length on the body and the arms. Don’t let the association with the Meru trip and all the superhuman feats put you off, the Meru Jacket is still basically just a well designed and functional mountain jacket and I’ve been pulling it on when the sky gets annoyed at me for months now, and quite happily too, despite that daft volume adjuster.