Jul 25 2012

Review: REI’s Shuksan Jacket


Staying warm and dry with REI’s Shuksan
made with eVent fabric.

For years I’ve been hearing about how much more breathable eVent™ is compared to Goretex™. As luck would have it, the samples that floated through the Couloir office always ended up covering another editors’ body. Frankly I was perfectly satisfied with my Schoeller™ jacket for most days since it was clearly more breathable than Gore, and in the sunny Sierra the necessity of allowing sweat to escape is more common than preventing moisture coming in. By virtue of its comparison with Goretex™ I assumed that even if eVent™ were more breathable, it would be a marginal improvement.

You can drop that myth in the round file.

On a spring trip to Alaska’s Chugach range the weather was unsettled. A combination of wet snow and fog required both waterproofness from outside precipitation, and superb breathability in an overly moist environment to prevent the dreaded sauna effect. It seemed like a perfect torture test for the Shuksan shell, made with eVent™ by R.E.I. Perspiration flowed as expected while I skinned up south Odyssey at Thompson Pass, but I was never drenched in sweat as I normally would have been with Goretex™. What is more, the Shuksan jacket is without pit zips, a vestigial feature with something like Schoeller™ fabric, and I would say the same for eVent™. I won’t claim it vented as well as Schoeller™, but it was close. Nor was it like my undershirt didn’t get wet with sweat, it’s a matter of degree. Wet is noticeably different than drenched and I was the former, not the latter.

Rippin’ fresh in humid conditions with REI’s eVent based Shuksan at Mammoth Mountain.

The construction of REI’s Shuksan was fully up to snuff with other mountaineering shells. Zippers are the waterproof variety, well placed, but typically difficult to move. You can’t just yank on ‘em without holding some material to pull against. Napoleon style zippers are mid-chest, with angled zippers on either size. The left pocket has a separate sneaky pocket for an MP3 player along with a slot to feed your headphone wires up to your head inside the jacket. The Napoleon pockets are big enough for stuffing small (<80mm) climbing skins in, but not the more common, shaped and fat, variety. A better place for them would be the mesh lined stuff pockets adorning the inside, also ideal for stashing snacks or a small drink bottle.

The Velcro™ cinch straps around the wrists worked beautifully. Unique to this jacket is a sleeve that is longer on top than the bottom, giving a bit more protection to the back of your hand from wind or rain. A subtle change from the norm, but a noticeable improvement.

The hood comes with a brim for keep precip out of your eyes, with elastic draw cords on either side and around the back to snug it up to your noggin’. These required a bit of fussing to get adjusted right, so I would advise you deal with this at home, not on a ridge in gale force winds. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised at the overall lightweight. If you’re looking for a new shell that improves on the standard waterproof/breathable equation, and is designed with ski mountaineering functionality in mind, you won’t go wrong with REI’s Shuksan shell.

MSRP: $289

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