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Nick  Drake

Nick Drake

Nick Drake's Passions

Snowboarding

Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on June 21, 2018

2 5

Got these looking for a low cost training shoe. Photos make them appear to be somewhat of a performance downturn last, in real life they are flat. As the shoe was designed for growing feet they have basically zero knuckle to the big toe. That is combined with very little support (no midsole) really reduces power. Compared to a pair of pythons you might as well be in vibram five fingers.

If you're on a problem with a foot hold way out to the side or you need to stab and pull with toes on something steep the lack of knuckle to the big toe is a real downside. It's just harder to pull yourself in than in pytons, dragos, or teams. Heel hooks and toe hooks are not great either.

For lighter climbers looking to do gym mileage in the easy grades I suppose I could still see these, but if you're climbing over V5 or so look elsewhere.

I did find another use for these where they flat out kick ass though, pure friction slab. The flat toe and soft sole conform to every divot. When it's 40-60 degrees xs grip might as well be super glue on granite. I fully attribute these to my first 10+ friction onsight.

(1)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on June 21, 2018

Excellent specialty shoe
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This shoe is amazing on certain rock types and styles, calling it an "all arounder" is pushing it though. It excels on plastic, sandstone, and granite that involves mostly smearing/smedging. Anything that involves a heavy amount of toe and heel hooking this is what I reach for. Previously I used skwamas for those problems, the drago is significantly softer and lets me get more rubber into the rock. The soft heel cup deforms into the features of rock better than the skwama and inspires more confidence. On rock that involves smearing these might as well be cheating, you can get so much rubber in contact with the rock. In the gym they excel on volume/comp style problems and being so soft they are great for training foot strength.

Now the downside, let's take this quote:
"thin and flexible Vibram XS Grip 2 sole gives you the ability to edge on micro edges and smear with confidence"
I have to laugh at the first part of that, you can't have your cake and eat it to. You don't get the most sensitive shoe on the market and have it do micro edging, sorry. I will say that *for the degree of sensitivity* this shoe edges fairly well (compared to teams of maverinks), however there is absolutely no midsole. Most all shoes have a some type of midsole under the toes to provide additional stiffness, which provides the platform to edge. If you want a bit more edging ability the chimera has a TPS insert that goes across the toes only (no ball of foot, still killer for smearing). When it comes to edging on slab to just slightly overhanging rock the drago flat out sucks. If you're on a slightly overhanging route that requires you to pull with your toes in a high rockover they just don't do so hot. The best shoe in that department for me has been the testarossa (it's like having talons with friction). I wore the drago and testarossa back to back and then with one model on each foot on a sport route that required mostly thin edging and had a lot of those rockover moves, the pump was far less with testarossas on. Also tried them back to back at the gym one day on a problem that had only single wood screw jibs and features of wall for feet, the testarossa allowed me to float without crimping hard, had to bear down on my fingers in the drago.

So in summary, if you like sensitive and soft shoes I'd recommend these for 99% of plastic (especially steep bouldering), steep sandstone, granite bouldering that requires mostly smedging, anything hooking intensive. If you don't have strong feet these will not work well for you.

I do not recommend these for limestone, granite with angular features and low friction, serpentinite, or any thin edging route.

(7)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on July 20, 2017

2 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I've used a wide variety of ropes from projecting sport routes, long rock alpine routes, waterfall ice cragging, etc.. and the nano has by far the weakest and most delicate sheath of any rope I've ever touched.

On it's first outing, a 6 pitch granite alpine route with no snags or falls (lead or follow) it already showed fuzz on the sheath in many places. Last weekend I was belaying my follower up a pitch in Squamish and watched as green threads shaved off as the unloaded rope slide over a very rounded edge of rock. Weak. This has been the experience with another partners 70m nano as well, we used that one for cragging as well as alpine (mostly index granite) and it was dead in 3 months of occasional use.

Before you say, "but it's a skinny rope, that's what happens!" I have an 8mm Mammut phoenix half rope which has seen far more abuse with a sheath in great shape. Take a look back at specs. Nano has an extremely low sheath percentage, clocking in at a whopping 27%. If you multiply that by it's weight you'll see it's got about 14 grams of sheath mass per meter. That's the same as a super skinny 7.5mm mammut twilight half/twin rope.

I've had good sheath life from a beal joker 9.1 and the bluewater icon might as well be a tank. If you're looking for a single rope to take on alpine routes where the rope will be dragging over rock I would recommend these.

There is an area the nano shines though, hard sport redpoints. This rope packs a good amount of core for it's size, it has so little drag through biners and belay device that it's great to clip. If you're going for that 35m enduro fest and the rope is just getting loaded on the smooth surface of biners this is a great option. I still wouldn't use it as a work horse for repeated whips though. It definitely does loose elasticity and need to be flipped after about two higher force falls if you're projecting.

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on April 3, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 155 lbs
Size Purchased: medium

I typically run hot when active and cold when stopped. The original nano air was too warm for me while active. I have also owned a 40 gram primaloft gold jacket with fleece side panels (ala Atom LT) and found it didn't breath well enough on the back panel when active.

The nano air light is a great piece for me in that it's a medium boost of insulation when worn over other layers, or much warmer under a wind breaker. Since I typically am wearing a pack less insulation on the back is appreciated. I consider it to be a much more versatile fleece (can't get much out of a fleece over a windshirt).

Some examples of use:
*Ice climbing WI4-5 pitches with a thin t shirt and grid fleece around -10 to -5F. Used a thin windshirt over the top during windy approach and on easier approach pitches.

*Ski touring with no base layer at 27-30 degrees. Just to test breathability. Would sweat a bit in the front with zip down. Threw a hard shell over the top only and the whole jacket was dry and warm to the skin by the base of the run.

*Ski touring insulator for the ride down. I'll typically tour up in a very thin synthetic t or long sleeve and need more for the ski down. The nano is the perfect touch of warmth. Easier to slide on fast than any of my fleece mid layers. Dries out the base layer very fast when I do sweat on the up, especially in the back.

*Hiking and cragging in 40-50 degrees. It offers a boost of warmth on the flatter portions of approaches, if it's a steep uphill I would still strip down to a t-shirt. While cragging moderate rock with temps around 40 and some light wind I left the nano on, did not overheat climbing and was just comfy while belaying.

I see myself bringing this along for alpine climbing in the summer. On the descent of routes I think it will be a perfect boost of warmth over a windshirt. Since I can pull it on and off quickly it's much more versatile than taking a windshirt on/off to get a fleece underneath.

My only gripe about the piece may be specific to my build, but it's shared with a lot of climbers. I have relatively low body fat and "popeye" forearms, lots of veins close to the skin. My elbows and underarms have been cold when I wear just the nano light or have it over a windshirt. I wish they would have the waffle fabric cover the back, sides, and armpits only. I could use a little bit more warmth under the forearms. Minor gripe.

Fit wise, I"m 5'8" and 155lbs, most of the weight in the thunder thigh quads.

(6)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on January 25, 2017

2 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: True to size
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 155 lbs
Size Purchased: medium

I am not sure what rab was really going for here. I got this looking for something which could be used on colder ski tours, over a t shirt for summer alpine rock and over a base layer for ice climbing. Many of the "alpha" pieces out there have too much insulation and/or don't have a breathable enough outer fabric.

For you TLDR folks, it's a glorified 100 weight fleece with some wind resistance that gets cold with even the faintest bit of snow.

The big hit against the paradox is that outer fabric has no DWR and sucks up water like a sponge. While this might be great for spreading out moisture when you sweat to evaporate it also works the other way for external moisture. When it wets out the lining fabric makes full contact with your skin, which quickly makes you cold. A thin 100 weight fleece puts less fabric in contact with your skin and is warmer when wet.
This made it useless for ski touring, where I'll frequently be out with light snow fall or brushing tree branches. In that application it would be a the single layer.

The other knock against the exterior fabric open weave would not hold up to abrasion. I would not expect it to hold up to even one thrutch up a granite chimney. So that takes it out for summer rock.

Final and most annoying knock, the cuffs are not fitted at all. It's clear that Rab left them a bit wider to slide up your forearms, but they didn't do anything with elastic. There is significant fabric bunched up, it actually doesn't layer nicely as a base because of this. Your typical ice gloves don't go over it well either. I'm not sure what Rab was thinking here, they've had nice details on other coats.

At the end of the day I could see this for trail running on cool fall and winter days. I could also see it for on trail hiking.
I think you'll get most versatility from a thin fleece and a wind shirt for other applications though.
Also of note, if you're looking for a layer for alpine rock/ice the nano air light nails it everywhere Rab fell short.

(0)

 

Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on January 11, 2017

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I've used the jul 2 as my primary device while cragging and gym climbing since July, around 200 pitches outdoors. Device has been paired with the Edelrid Strike carabiner, it works best with this carabiner.

For the fat to mid size ropes most people tend to crag/gym climb with of 9.6-10.3 it works great. Your average gym climber who doesn't want to drop the coin on a grigri, but would like some brake assistance will really like this device. Advantages over mega jul:

* Pays out slack to a leader MUCH smoother. While sport climbing when a leader needs to go for a high clip fast I can pay out two arm lengths of slack very fast, never worry about shorting them again (happened with mega jul even after months of use).

* Easier to use in normal "tube device" style. The mega jul locked too easily, I found myself lead belaying with my thumb pulling up on the wire almost constantly. It's much easier to keep a firm hand on the brake strand and pay out just like using an ATC.

* Stainless runs down around the thumb cable. This makes it nicer for lowering your climber and paying out slack quickly. On the mega jul you could have the rope drag on the crease of your thumb, not chance of that with this.

* Smoother lowering, it's easier to hit the leverage "sweet spot" than with a mega jul.

* Slight bit of slip before lock up. Less than with a regular tube device, not ass aggressive as a grigri. For trad I think this is an advantage to possibly reduce peak force on your placement. For sport where that doesn't matter I still prefer the hard lockup of a grigri, it's easier to time my jump for a soft catch.

No product is without flaws. The downside to the nice feed of the jul 2 is that it provides less assistance on thinner ropes. There is a chart that comes with the device for recommended climber weight to rope diameter. In general I would not use this device for skinny single

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on January 11, 2017

2 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

For general cragging or gym use with medium to fat ropes I highly recommend the Jul 2 over the mega jul. I used the mega jul as my primary device through the summer of 15 and spring of 2016. In theory it's great, but I found too many compromises in real world use. If you typically use a medium rope in the 9.4 to 9.6 range it's ok. Some downsides:

* It only works best when paired with the correct carabiner profile. It truly does work best with Edelrid's Strike HMS biners BD vapor was too narrow to pinch skinny ropes enough. Petzl Attache locked and paid out slack well, but made for a jerky lower.

* Listed rope range is beyond optimistic, 9.2-9.8 is more realistic. Paying out slack with a 10.2 gym rope is a bear, it does not perform well with fat ropes at all. Even using a 9.8 rope to lead belay there is quite a bit of drag if you need to pay out quickly for a high clip (much more than a grigri). On the other side of the spectrum, I took a fall using 8mm half ropes with only one rope loaded. My belayers hand was pulled into the device, it provided minimal assistance. An ATC or reverso with 2 biners provides much more braking power with half ropes.

* Rappelling in "auto lock" mode is a joke. Even using a biner to open the device. I tried with different ropes on many occasions. There simply was no way to get a smooth rappel, herky jerky was the name of the game. I gave up and would just use it flipped to rappel, negating one of the selling points.

* Guide mode sucks. Paired with a fully round stock biner (metolius element) there was still a lot of drag pulling rope through. A reverso, ATC guide, or kong gigi (my favorite) pull MUCH smoother and can let you just pull on the brake strand to take in slack. I had to pull up slack on the climber side so that I could pull through the brake strand with the megajul, negating the benefit of guide mode (having a hand free to eat, drink, check beta, etc.). Using the I beam style Edelrid strike biner drag in guide mode is even worse. You can bring a round biner for the rope and use the strike to attach the megajul to your master point, but make sure you hang the device off the narrow end of the biner so you don't scar the rope bearing surface.

* Brake assist is limited. For normal length sport and trad lead falls it is more than enough (belayer will need to apply only minimal force, device does most of the work). When the fall forces go up in a longer fall it seems that the rope flattens more, the amount of assistance doesn't go up, belayer will have to still grip the rope firmly. It's not like a grigri in this respect.

With these downsides the mega jul hasn't been out of my gear closet in months. I started using a jul 2 for cragging with medium size ropes and an ATC guide for my multi pitch/alpine routes. I also use a grigri for climbing with skinny singles.

(4)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on December 14, 2016

Great touring pant
5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 155 lbs
Size Purchased: medium

I have used these pants touring a few days and am very impressed with the new "flow" membrane. The prior helly pro membrane seemed to be a bit more breathable than gore pro, but this is another leap forward.
One day touring the temps started at 29 degrees in the lot and dropped to low teens as forecasted by mid day. My BD co-efficient base layer (pataguchi R4 equivalent) was great later in the day, but far too warm at the start, I sweat quite a bit in the legs even with vents open. When we got to the top I zipped the vents back up and the base layer was still damp on the outside. At the bottom of the run I open the vent again, base layer was nearly dry already.

The right thigh pocket is aptly sized for a lower profile beacon, my pieps micro is hardly noticeable. Vents are easy to operate on the go and positioning them slightly back means you're less likely to drop snow inside when you brush against a snow covered branch. Tabs adjust the waist well, no need for a belt.

Fit is true to size, not a baggy cut nor euro "technical".

(1)

 

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Nick Drakeposted an image about on October 27, 2016

Perfect jack of all trades

There are better quiver shoes for certain routes, but if you don't want a gigantic quiver of shoes the katana has everything covered. I've used them on granite and sandstone friction slab, crack climbing, long alpine routes, edging the nubbins at smith, and vertical to moderately overhanging sport. They excel at granite trad, the thin toe profile makes jamming thin hands and pods on finger cracks excellent. With the stiffer sole you can really torque them in well.

I went a half size down from my street shoe for a fit that left my big toe curled with the shoe, but no knuckling. It's a much looser fit than I typically had used, but the edging has been quite good due to the downturn and stiff sole. If I was not jamming I would go down one size.

42 street (measure 26.5cm)
40.5 TC pro (performance fit)
41.5 techno X
39.5 python

Photo is on the offwidth 5.9 pitch of the gendarme on the complete north ridge of Mt Stuart.

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on October 27, 2016

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I picked up a 70m in the spring and have used it as my all around workhorse and has seen about 200 pitches. Everything from pitches of rough lower angled granite, some TR use, and lots of overhanging sport falls working routes. I have not had to cut the rope yet and the sheath is still wearing well.
It has a great sweet spot of soft catch without too much stretch.
It does have just a tad bit of a "soft" hand feel, my slightly stiffer sterling nano does clip a tad easier (and wears MUCH faster).

(0)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on August 8, 2016

5 5

I was tired of using my light weight top loading alpine pack for cragging, getting to things in the bottom was just a pita. The full side zip and cavernous body on the creek make getting around so much easier.

The capacity on this thing is massive, 50L is understated. In the main compartment I have fit two pairs of shoes, harness, 70M 9.8, full rack of doubles from tips to 3, #4, #5, two sets of nuts, 16 alpine draws, two nalgenes, and helmet.
The outside pocket took a windshirt, puffy, food, etc...
I would normally split the load up with a partner, but it's great to know you have that much capacity if needed. It actually carried pretty well also.

The flat haul bag style bottom is great, no more pack falling over constantly. Fabric is bomber, zippers are burly.

My only gripe is that I wish it wasn't only available in black. Melts chocolate or makes for warm beer if you can't find shade.

(1)

 

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Nick Drakewrote a review of on August 5, 2016

Solid fast and light alpine pack
3 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

This is a good pack for climbs you'll need to wear a pack and aren't planning to bivy. On the approach I've fit rock shoes, harness, 60m skinny rope, windshirt, puffy, helmet, and a 1L water bottle in the main compartment. Dome took food, hat, sawyer filter, tat, knife, medical stuff.

Plus:
Virtually disappears while technical climbing, shoulder straps could be a bit more flexible (but this would reduce comfort on the way in)
Lower compression strap angles up, this curves the pack a bit for your lumbar once you cinch it down. If you put your approach shoes in toe down it will angle the bag in at the base and make it easier to get to your chalk bag.
Secure and easy to use axe carry.
Fast to strip waist belt and lid/strap.
Velcro on lid keeps it secure when on route.
Pretty light for the amount of features.

Cons:
210 fabric on side panels is weak, won't stand up to a lot of hauling or grinding sharp granite in the long term. Wish they did 420D on the whole body.
Foam backpanel is very thin/flimsy. Does not stop cams from poking you in the back. Substituted with denser 1/8" foam bivy pad on mine.
Waist strap is ridiculously narrow, maybe 9/16". Doesn't put weight on your hips, digs at you with a thin/no shirt on. I slid on some hip pads from an old pack that I use on the approach.
Crampon carry strap goes through a slot that is narrow and the full width of the pons. Kind of a PITA to put back in the field, if I use them I leave the straps on, would like to strip them while climbing.
Long torso length for one size fits all, I'm about 18" torso and I have the shoulders snugged up all the way. If you're a small in most packs this will likely be too long for you.


(6)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on October 12, 2015

3 5

They almost nailed it, weight is amazing for the size, still has a generous rope radius for a "featherweight" biner, and they clip nicely. For me there is one major problem with the photons though, weak gate tension..
I purchased 10 to try out for my 60cm alpine draws, but I found that they would frequently cross clip with each other when racked on my harness because the gate tension is so low. Not exactly what you want to find when you've just made a tenuous placement in a steep stance and only have one hand to sort out the cluster.
The second strike against them on gate tension, I tried using them to rack nuts. While making a high step with my right foot I looked down to see that my thigh had nudged the gate open and a nearly brand new DMM offset nut was falling off. There goes $15 in to a bottomless offwidth, think it had been placed all of twice. To clarify here, the racking biner for my nuts was oriented gate in on the front of my gear loop, just my leg moving upwards had opened the gate and a nut slid right off. Ridiculous.

I've never had those problem with any biner on my or a partners rack. That covers a lot of brands and a lot of models. I stuck with BD OZ for my 60cm slings now.

I now have the photons on the rope side of 5 quickdraws, with BD oz biners on the gear side (clean nose is nicer to pull out of the cams sling). They work well in this application, the rubber insert in the QD dogbone seems to eliminate the cross clipping problems that I had on 60cm "alpine draws".
I still use them on my 120cm slings when I rack around my shoulder and clip together, no worry of cross clipping there.

I've also used camp orbits on sport draws and have the nano 22 as my cam racking biners, the gate tension on both of those is perfect. If camp matched their gate tensions this would be a perfect biner.

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Nick Drakewrote a review of on August 6, 2015

5 5

Incredibly light, great fit that does not shift on your head, low profile fits well under hoods, and venting is perfect for hot days. The only thing which will tip you off that you have a helmet on is that when you sweat a lot the cushion on your forehead will stay damp (no way to avoid that), otherwise it's like not wearing a helmet at all.

The foam and shell are actually noticeably thinner than the BD vector. Even knowing the shell had kevlar material I was skeptical of it's impact protection on the back. Last weekend I unfortunately was able to test it's level of protection, but thankfully it performed perfectly. I was leading a moderate pitch just before our bivy and took a lead fall that dropped me on to lower angle terrain (piece was slung long for drag). When my feet hit I was knocked backwards and smacked my head on the left rear portion of the helmet. The shell and foam crumpled, but I came out of it just fine. We bivied and completed the route the next day with nothing more than some bruises to my body and ego. I think in terms of protection from impact the new foam helmets are load better than the old plastic buckets. I'll definitely be picking up another vapor.

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on June 23, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Got a few sets for racking and had a chance to use them on a few multi-pitch climbs so far. I also used a few on alpine draws to see how I liked the size.

With a very narrow nose it was easy to fit a large amount of gear on a loop. The change in the nose shape makes it more of a straight shot when pulling the biner off a loop than the prior nano 23 design. A great diagram of the change is here: http://blog.weighmyrack.com/light-carabiner-camp-nano-22-upgraded-from-the-nano-23/

Gate tension is greater than photons, just slightly softer than the current BD oz biner. No problems cross clipping like you get with the photons.

As for draws, I felt they were ok on the gear side and clipped a skinny 8.9 well enough with their deep basket. If I was climbing near my limit and placing gear high I would want something larger though, the gate itself just isn't that wide, it would be hard to aim for if you're not clipping at the waist.

The only reason I don't give 5 stars is that would have to be a fully clean nose to get a perfect score, there is still a notch on the gate. With the angle of the nose I never snagged them (even on the rope), but of course the potential is still there. This is really nit picking for the weight and price though.

(0)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on June 23, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Got a few sets for racking and had a chance to use them on a few multi-pitch climbs so far. After leading on them my partner ordered a few sets for his rack the next morning, they're that nice.

With a very narrow nose it was easy to fit a large amount of gear on a loop. The change in the nose shape makes it more of a straight shot when pulling the biner off a loop than the prior nano 23 design. A great diagram of the change is here: http://blog.weighmyrack.com/light-carabiner-camp-nano-22-upgraded-from-the-nano-23/

Gate tension is greater than photons, just slightly softer than the current BD oz biner. No problems cross clipping like you get with the photons.

I used a couple on draws as well. I felt they were ok on the gear side and clipped a skinny 8.9 well enough with their deep basket. If I was climbing near my limit and placing gear high I would want something larger though, I'll keep using BD oz for my draws. Keep this in mind if you climb a lot of straight splitters and clip right to your cam.

The only reason I don't give 5 stars is that would have to be a fully clean nose to get a perfect score, there is still a notch on the gate. With the angle of the nose I never snagged them, but of course the potential is still there. This is really nit picking for the weight and price though.

(0)

 

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Nick  Drake

Nick Drakewrote a review of on November 26, 2014

Great fit, poor drying time
2 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size

I really wanted to love this piece, but sadly it fell short in two areas. First off I'll start with the good:

Perfect athletic fit. I'm 5'8" and 160-165 and it is size perfectly to fit over a base layer to light insulator (think R1 or the like). The hood is absolutely fantastic, when zipped up it does not flap in the wind, no need for drawcords and perfect visibility.
With the spandex weave it moves well with your body. The single weave fabric on the body blocks just the right amount of wind when you are active, note it DOES let some through. For activities like ski touring, mountaineering, or alpine climbing in warmer weather it strikes a good balance.

The bad:
The high spandex content and poly makes for much longer drying time when the body does wet out. There is no DWR on the main body either, so if used while it is snowing your body heat can melt the snow and fabric soaks up the water like a sponge. I originally purchased this for ski touring and mountaineering, but found that it if it was snowing at all it would wet out. As for the long drying time, when you sweat it does transfer moisture well, but if you're wearing a pack it will wet out. Yes it's best to de-layer, but some times that isn't an option if you're moving through an area with objective hazard. When it does wet out from sweat or precip it simply takes forever to dry. I will frequently wear a thick puffy while transitioning or eating, but even with one over the top the zephyr would rarely dry by the end of lunch break. This made it useless for me on multi-day trips, I need to know that my layers will dry out.

I ended up returning the zephyr and going with a westcomb crest made out of pertex equilibrium (unique nylon weave). It blocks a similar amount of wind, is half the weight, breathes just as well and dries MUCH faster. Downside is that the cut is not nearly as well fitted as the zephyr (althrough crest hood does go over a helmet).

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