Mountain Hardwear's Super Chockstone Jacket
As always, we're looking at the Super Chockstone from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: Chest 42", Waist 33", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: 2014 version, size = Medium
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Chockstone™ Doubleweave Softshell (Nylon / Elastane)||91% / 9%|
|Treatments: DWR finish||-|
|Weight (Size Medium, 2014 model)||358g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest =||Medium|
|Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£55.00|
Introduction: The Hard Knock Life of a Soft Shell Jacket
In our view, the purpose of a softshell jacket is to protect you from rock, undergrowth, harsh wind and light precipitation; NOT to keep you warm. When you're on the move (carrying all your food, shelter and equipment) you should generate plenty of heat, and when you stop, an insulating jacket is a far better option to keep you cosy. So when we're looking for a softshell, we're not looking for a "stretchy waterproof" or a "Polartec oven with a zipper"; what we are looking for is a simple, breathable, weather resistant, tough outer layer that's going to take all the hard knocks, so you don't have to. We also don't expect to shell out so much money (hint: Arc'teryx), that we're worried about "denting" our soft shell armour.
Enter Mountain Hardwear's Super Chockstone jacket. A thoughtfully designed and elegantly simple, nylon based, softshell jacket.
Form & Function
The Super Chockstone features two zipped, harness / pack compatible, side pockets. These voluminous pockets easily containing multiple OS maps (if necessary), hats, gloves and much more. The pockets cover almost the entire face of the jacket, running from about 5 inches above the hem to the Mountain Hardwear logo on the chest.
In addition there's an interesting, quite spacious chest pocket purposefully situated on the right side; Mountain Hardwear realised that most chest pockets are on the left, and so in order to maintain balance and harmony stuck theirs on the right. A small thing, but appreciated on more than a few occasions.
The single hem cinch works well and doesn't slip or loosen. There's a slim stitched elasticated seam about 5 inches above the hem that runs across the front face, just below the two side pockets which, in conjunction with the hem cinch, secures the jacket to ones lower hip / backside, preventing it from riding up when reaching above ones head. Such details hint at the jacket's target customer: the climber.
The arms are quite long, but tapered toward the wrist, and not having bulky features at the wrist, any extra length simply gathers at the wrist and goes unnoticed. Reaching above ones head, the sleeves don't ride up and ones wrists remain covered.
The Chockstone Weave is 9% Elastane and is stretchy without feeling flimsy. Aside from allowing a great degree of movement when climbing, this also allows the jacket to accommodate other layers, including insulated jackets when necessary (as pictured above).
Lightweight, yet rarely carried
The Super Chockstone weighs in at a mere 358g (size Medium), so it doesn't add too much to your load should you need to carry it, though it's ideally an early Spring / late Autumn piece, and at these times of year we've rarely found ourselves not wearing it.
Zipping along the wrong side of the tracks
One of the things that sets the top mountain brands apart (Mountain Equipment, Mountain Hardwear, Rab etc) is their zips (for some reason, a decent zip cannot be taken for granted in the 21st Century). The Super Chockstone uses YKK Vislon zippers which glide easily, though "on the wrong side of the road"; being American they zip up differently. No points deducted, as it's not hard to manage the switch.
Hooded or not?
If I was a mountaineer / out and out climber, I may well opt for the hooded version. But for someone who regards mountains as an obstacle between point A and B, who's generally looking for the least, rather than the most difficult route over said obstacle, i.e. for the mountain trekker, we recommend the hoodless version. In Winter, when the wind can literally feel like it's scraping the skin off your face, a hood can be a necessity, but that's why in Winter we pair the Super Chockstone up with the hooded Rab Boreas. In late Autumn and Early Spring, we recommend Sub Zero's Meraklon lightweight (34g) balaclava which can fold up into a hat (see 2nd pic). This blocks just enough wind to take the edge off and can be doubled up over the ears, if necessary.
There's really almost none. But let's dig deep and see if we can find a minor niggle.
Although the elasticated cuffs allow for some stretch, there are times when you'd like a little more. Only half the cuff is elasticated, and though this works well to keep out the cold, should you want to pull up the sleeves to vent some heat, if you have large forearms, you might struggle to get the sleeves up to the elbow. It's not something any of us at Scramble have moaned about, but it could be a negative for some, and so for that we'll dock half a point for function.
Conclusion & Rating
In terms of wear and tear, we've thrown cacti, volcanoes, granite, thistles, thorns, barbed wire, slate, scree ... well pretty much everything at it, and after a wash it still looks almost new. So, yes, it's tough as nails, and just what you'd want from a mountain soft shell. Comfortable, light, tough, breathable, highly functional and not bad looking to boot. The Super Chockstone Jacket is Scramble's top pick in the Lightweight Softshell Jacket category.
Something for all seasons? Not quite, but perhaps one half of the ultimate 4 season Softshell
The Super Chockstone jacket is the ideal outer layer for trekking conditions equivalent to UK early Spring and late Autumn. However, we really consider the Super Chockstone as one half of the perfect 4 Season Softshell.
When paired with Rab's Boreas Pull-on, you have a double layered Winter Soft Shell, with a Rab inner and a Mountain Hardwear outer, combining to form a breathable yet highly wind resistant, reasonably water resistant, tough and functional Winter jacket for active use.
However, unlike a traditional alpine softshell, these two items can be used independently. So, in Summer, late Spring and early Autumn the Rab Boreas Pull-on provides ideal protection from the elements without causing overheating; likewise Mountain Hardwear's slightly heavier Super Chockstone will cover the remaining seasons: early Spring, and late Autumn.
Note: Mountain Hardwear's Super Chockstone size Medium fits nicely over Rab's Boreas Pull-on size Large.
Rating (out of 10)
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
See our related note on thermal mid-layers explaining why Scramble doesn't recommend a thermal component for active wear.
Last Updated: 03/04/17