chriswrote a review of Mountain Hardwear WindStopper Tech Jacket - Men's on April 23, 2011
I've been nitpicking over a jacket to replace a 13yr old Windstopper Tech (made in the USA!), as you can tell by some of my posts on here already. I have purchased both new and old versions (plus my OLD old version that I already owned), and thought I'd provide my 2 cents as someone who is pretty obsessive (both are size sm, black. My original grill jacket is a medium, and I just never quite grew in to it like my parents had hoped haha. I'm 5'7, 140 lbs). 90% of the time, this jacket is a normal everyday jacket for me, and only maybe an optimistic 10% of the time will it actually be doing anything technical like backpacking or camping. I wear it all the way through the winter in NYC with just a lined hoodie underneath.
My overall consensus is the same as the other person who did a comparison: the new version is a better technical piece, but only marginally. And that margin shrinks if you aren't engaging in high-abrasion activities like rock climbing. For those still on the fence and looking to lock down a jacket that they don't have regrets over, here are all my observations:
Fit - Tie: This is pretty close. I feel like the new one fits a tad bit closer to the body in the arms and lower torso, which I like. There are extra panels that go from the back of the shoulder/underarm down to the bottom, and they have a very slight taper to them, whereas the old jacket just has one giant panel that covers the entire back from arm to arm. The fit benefit from those panels in the new version is so slight that I don't think it's a big sway one way or the other. The new jacket has a stiffer feel from the softshell, the older one fits loose like a sweatshirt. The new jacket is 3.5cm longer at the front zipper and all that length is added on below the pockets, so it comes down further than your belt now rather than falling right at the belt-line.
Pit zips - Tie: The review on here that says the old ones are "25%" larger is a huge exaggeration. According to a ruler, the old pit zips are 2.5cm larger. The new version has a double zipper so you can really fine-tune your pit comfort. I say it's a tie because your pits won't notice that additional 2.5cm on the old, and as far as the new double-zipper, are you really going to fine-tune your vent that much? I sure won't. I'm going to zip it open, and closed. Maybe sometimes halfway open. Oh my! But it'll always be from the same side. I guess it gives you the choice which side I prefer to zip/unzip from and can concentrate my zippers there.
Pockets - Old: this dead horse has long been beaten, the old one has an internal chest pocket. (personal note: I stopped using my internal pocket on my old jacket for a couple weeks to see if I could live with out it. I didn't think I could. Sometime around this week I forgot I even had an internal pocket. So personally, I'm not using this as a criteria to decide. But you might). Other pockets are identical; the hand pockets are still mounted nice and high so they are accessible/out of the way of a pack hip belt.
Draw string - New: The old version has the draw string sheathed in the same nylon that's on the shoulders. On the new one, the drawstring is more on the inside along the bottom hem of the jacket, right along the inside of the bottom of the fleece. It feels put together better. That nylon got pretty brittle and eroded away in a few parts on my old jacket, but 0 parts of the fleece wore through, so I have more confidence in the fleece holding up over time.
Collar - New: The new collar fits nice and snug with a soft microfleece liner and a chin guard. The old collar is loose around your neck and sucks at keeping the wind out. And to answer the question I posed earlier, yes, the new collar folds down just fine.
Cuffs - Tie: With bare wrists, I find next to no difference in the cuffs. I thought the new cuffs would bunch up with a hoodie on, but they work just fine. The old cuffs ("powerstretch") were accused of stretching out and losing their snugness. If that's true, it's pretty minimal, cause my 13yr-old powerstretch cuffs on my old-old jacket are still fine. I don't ever pull my jacket sleeves up on my forearms, so there's that I guess.
Waist - New: The waist fits a lot more snug, maybe thanks to those tapered panels along the sides. Maybe you like a loose waist, and untucked sheets when you're at a hotel. I like being tucked in.
Lining - Depends: The mesh linings are identical, but the new version also has microfleece under the areas that have the softshell (shoulders and down along the top of the arms). Next to skin, the new version feels nice and cozy. With a sweatshirt on, I never felt particularly hindered at all once the jacket was on, but getting in and out of the sleeves the microfleece presents a bit more friction. That microfleece is definitely warmer, and more durable than the mesh (experience note: first areas that broke down in my jacket were the mesh lining in spots that, on the new version, would have that microfleece. Once that mesh came apart in spots after many years, then the windstopper followed shortly after).
Durability - New: Higher impact material on the outside and the inside along the shoulders and arms will certainly add some toughness. Zippers feel great on both, slightly sturdier on the new one. Also the way the draw string is sewn in, and the newer jacket just has an overall sturdier feel to it. I am weary of the double-zipper on the pits on the new one, but that's just from an assumption. That said, my old-old jacket made it through everyday use + backpacking trips through the Rockies + a host of other abuse, and the outside never broke down, not even on the shoulders or elbows. It was the lining that gave way and left the windstopper vulnerable to damage. After a decade.
Warmth - New: The softshell adds even more weather resistance, yes, but I think the real difference is the microfleece along the arms. That, plus the more snug collar and waist, and added length in the torso too keep drafts from coming in around the belt area.
Weight/packability - Old: The old jacket compresses more and is some slight amount of weight lighter.
Subtlety - Old: Maybe only matters if this is your "around-towner," but the black old is much more discreet. The nylon blends pretty well with the fleece and it doesn't look transformer-y. The softshell material on the new one stands out against the black fleece. Both jackets have MH logos on the left chest, back of the collar, and "Windstopper" embroidered on the wrist of the right sleeve. New guy also has a MH logo on the left bicep.
That's 3 ties, 3 wins for the old version, 5 wins for new, and one that's personal preference. Overall, I'd say if you want it to just break the wind but mostly let your base layer(s) do the insulating, want a more subtle look, and are really in need of that internal pocket, you'll be happy with the old version. If you want to sacrifice casual style for techy style complete with an additional MH logo, you want a jacket that will both break the wind but also provide some coziness if you're just wearing a t-shirt, and you want the one that will deal with serious winter weather better, then go with the new one. As of writing this, I'm on the brink of moving to a warmer climate, so I don't yet know which jacket I'm going to keep. Ah, decisions. Either one will be a great companion for many years