We've just got one of the new for winter Mountain Equipment Gore-Tex Pro jackets in for a look and it's really quite lovely.
We'll have full first impressions later this week, but we've just got hold of a new for winter 2014 Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket from Cotswold Outdoor, who have exclusive early stock of the ME Gore-Tex Pro range, and it's a really impressive bit of kit.
For starters, while it's not really the weather for Gore-Tex, we know from six months worth of using the fabric that it's a real upgrade on the original Gore-Tex Pro Shell. The only visible difference is a micro-grid pattern on the inside backer fabric, but it's appreciably more breathable in use, making it more comfortable when the going gets hot on the mountain - 'up to 28% more breathable' is the party line. 'Much more breathable' is what we'd say.
Where the Lhotse really shines though, is in the fit. We reported on ME's new cut a couple of months back, but the gist of it is that the brand spent two years working with elite Swiss pattern cutters to optimise the fit of their shell jackets - the aim was to eliminate loose fabric, but still create a cut that works for more people and doesn't limit mobility.
There are two versions: a closer-fitting Alpine Fit and a more generous Mountain Fit to allow for extra layers. We couldn't try the fit before as ME's sample size is 'large', but our Lhotse is a medium and uses the alpine version of the cut and it's immediately and obviously a brilliant fit and as good as anything else we've seen full stop.
Sleek But Not Restrictive
What's so good about it? Okay, it's sleek and slim in the torso and hips, hugs the curve of our lower back and should work well with pack and harness with minimal billowing. It's also wide enough for broad, climber-ish shoulders and has long, climbing-friendly sleeves that also roll up for extra cooling if you need it.
The clever bit about it all is that it does all that, fits closely with it, but when you reach out or up there's not only no restriction on your movement, it all happens without loose, billowing extra fabric because it's simply been cut really well. Those Swiss guys clearly know what they're doing.
If all that sounds unlikely, we'd suggest you simply go and try one of for size and see what you think. It's medium long as well rather than being a sawn-off dedicated climbing jacket, which promises to make it a cracking mountain all-rounder.
And The Rest
There's lots more to like as well, which we'll expand on in our full first impression test, but it has ME's excellent helmet compatible hood complete with wired and stiffened peak and enough room for a biggish lid without stinting on mobility or facial protection.
Zips on all three pockets - two hand-warmer, one chest - and the main front are all easy-running YKK Vizlon Aquaguard with plastic interlocking teeth. There are pit-zips using conventional water-resistant zips and generally details are nicely done - we like the Velcro hood-anchoring point in the share of an ME logo.
There are two grades of fabric used, the main body is a 40D but the shoulders hips and other vulnerable points use a toughed-up 80D version for more abrasion resistance.
Measured weight on our medium jacket is 520g, not the lightest shell out there, but then the Lhotse has three pockets, pit-zips, a big helmet hood, reinforcements and a longer cut.
We're thinking brilliant athletic cut, technical mountain all-rounder made from a really impressive fabric that allies the original Gore-Tex Pro Shell's proven durability and easy-sliding movement to a sleek, but non-restrictive fit. If you want more room though, check out shells like the revised Changabang using ME's new Mountain Fit as an alternative.
The price of the Lhotse is £300. Current available only at Cotswold Outdoor, see www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/Goretex-pro. More Mountain Equipment information at www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.