As I mentioned in my Winter Layering System post a few weeks ago, my clothing system for winter hikes is based on a simple base layer and a light outer layer with little or no insulation while on the move. I’ve had the perfect outer layer for my legs for the past few years (a pair of Patagonia soft-shell pants), but I’ve had trouble finding the perfect layer for my upper body. Until now.
|Kermit in the winter forest of Vermont.|
I picked up a Marmot DriClime Ether wind shirt on sale a few weeks ago, and it’s exactly what I needed for my upper body outer layer. I’ve had a perfectly good Montane Featherlight Smock wind shirt for the past several years, which weighs half what the Ether does, but the Ether is better suited for my uses in winter.
What I was looking for in the wind shirt was very light insulation, and the Ether is exactly that. The DriClime fabric is a nylon shell with a thin fabric lining, so it’s somewhat less insulation than my normal base layer, but it stops the wind quite well and acts as just an extra shirt over my base. The hood is unlined, but is just enough to supplement my hat and balaclava while hiking. Since I overheat easily while hiking in winter, the amount of extra warmth from this jacket is just enough. The whole jacket weighs 8.4 ounces in size small, which is exactly on spec (Marmot reports 8.8 ounces for size medium). Kudos to you, Marmot, for being right on with weights!
|Armpit vents and hidden hand-warming pockets.|
There are four zippers in the jacket– a full front zip, a chest pocket (which doubles as a stuff-bag for the whole jacket), and two hand-warmer pockets with self-sealing zippers. I didn’t use the hand-warmer pockets much, but they’re so well hidden when zipped up that you don’t really notice them at all. (I thought this was pretty neat until Yvonne told me wedding dresses have the same kind of hidden zipper, so it’s not really a new thing.) Each zipper, when opened, can act as pretty good ventilation, along with the mesh armpit panels that vent quite nicely as well.
|A handy stuff sack. I don’t use this feature, really, but it’s neat anyway.|
On the ten-mile hike from Glastenbury back to the trail head, where the temperature never rose above 2 degrees, the jacket performed perfectly as far as venting and insulating. I kept it zipped up right to the chin, with all the pockets closed, and my body stayed at an even temperature while hiking. At breaks I took out my down jacket immediately upon stopping for real insulation, so I never chilled too much and I never overheated. The few times I sweated through the DriClime jacket (after breaking trail in somewhat warmer weather), I either opened the zippers to vent some more or took off the jacket entirely for a while. The sweat dried out in minutes.
|Fits like a shirt, and looks snazzy, too.|
And finally, the jacket is wonderfully form-fitting, as athletic wear almost always should be. Size small fits me like a glove, with no room for flapping in the wind, and the hood fits snugly around my head, even with a balaclava and hat on underneath.
The Ether is a limited garment, but I can see it being very handy in all seasons. Since it weighs just as much as my Montbell UL Thermawrap jacket, I wouldn’t carry both in three-season backpacking, but for really warm weather I would probably bring the Ether for cooler weather in the evenings. In colder conditions, it acts only as a supplement. The only other major drawback to this jacket that I’ve seen is that it isn’t durable enough for me to be totally careless with it. As I’ve said before, though, I tend to be careful with my outdoor equipment, so this isn’t something that bothers me.
You might have already been able to tell that I’m a big fan of very simple and functional outdoor equipment, and the Ether fits that description quite well. There are no extra frills, no fancy bells and whistles. It’s a wind jacket with a few pockets and a hood. It’s exactly what I wanted for winter hiking. Nothing more, nothing less.