New for this winter, the Kalanka is Mountain Equipment's top-end alpine jacket and the only one in their range made entirely from Gore-Tex Stretch Pro Shell. It's other stand-out feature is the new Super Alpine HC Hood, which has been completely redesigned to make it truly helmet compatible in severe conditions.
Lots going on with the Kalanka, first it's made entirely from the stretch version of Gore-Tex Pro Shell, a tough and slick-moving fabric that's not quite the most breathable out there, but is light, durable and dependable.
Next tech highlight is the use of Riri Aquazips for the main and pocket openings, they're a cunning and very water-resistant design using interlocking plastic teeth to keep water at bay - tough too. And the main zip is backed with a storm flap.
Finally, ME's new hood is a corker. It's designed to be big enough to hold a helmet and still allow full head movement and decent coverage of the face to protect against frost-bite and spindrift. It also incorporates gripper strips, so the hood sticks to the helmet and moves with it, which is dead cunning.
Mountain Equipment has set the benchmark for workman-like, no-nonsense, UK-friendly waterproof jackets, so we were expecting an efficient jacket, but with some interesting new additions. The first thing we'd say, is that while the new fabric feels nice thanks to the stretch, in practical terms it didn't make much odds, because for us at least, the cut is quite generous.
That's ideal if you're built on the large side, but means the material quite simply never has to stretch. It also has very long sleeves, rather like a Rab cut, which mean that while they never pull up on climbing moves, they also tend to hang at knuckle length if the cuff adjusters are undone for venting.
In short, try for fit before you buy. In any case, there should be room for a decent-szied mid-layer if needed.
The detailing on the Kalanka is excellent, we really like the Riri Aqua-zips and found them effective and easy to use with no snagging or bagging and we appreciated the neat stealth construction with hidden stitching and neatly bonded-in zips. Plenty of pockets too.
Where this jacket really excels is for helmet use. The new Super Alpine HC design can be cinched down to work without a helmet quite happily, but it's when you pop a lid on that it really makes sense. The high volume means you can still move your neck and head easily and the chin-guard will come up above nose level for full face protection - that might sound obvious, but apart from the excellent Berghaus Raptor hood, we've found most so-called helmet hoods to be compromised, particularly with a taller helmet or if you have a long neck..
The other neat trick is that grippy urethane strips inside the hood grip the helmet and stop it sliding inside the hood. Works well, so hats off to ME on that front.
One thing that isn't quite so effective is the hem-cord arrangement. There are shock cords front and back both exiting from the same holes at the side and all identical, which means you never know which tensioner you're pulling on - it's not a major issue, just a slight glitch that could easily be fixed. We tied a couple of identifying knots on the front tension cords.
Excellent hood design makes the Kalanka a top buy if you're planning on using it in genuine alpine or Scottish winter climbing scenarios where you want head and facial protection while wearing a climbing helmet. We also like the detailing and the neat Riri Aqua-zips work very well.
The cut isn't quite as fitted as some, which will make the stretch in the fabric redundant for lighter-built users, but it also means it should cope with insulation layers in extreme conditions and accommodate more generously-built wearers.