Published on December 18th, 2012 | by Greg0
Mountain Hardwear Alakazam: Slope Style
If we’ve learned anything from our mother’s advice, it was this: always invest in a good jacket. It’s all too easy for a winter trip to turn a bit sour when your jacket doesn’t breathe and you overheat. Or when you take a light fall, wipe off some powder, and realize that you’re soaking wet and suddenly freezing thanks to open sleeves or poorly-constructed zippers. Mountain Hardwear has long offered some of the best, serious gear on the market- we’ve used their tents for quite awhile- and have been testing out their new top-of-the-line jacket, complete with a new fabric technology called Dry.Q.
The Mountain Hardwear Men’s Alakazam Shell is a feature-packed piece of apparel. An interesting combination of hardshell and softshell, it offers a looser fit and material that feels more comfortable and less crinkly than a traditional hardshell. Skiers, especially, will appreciate the removable powder skirt and room for a midweight underlayer or base layer.
There was plenty to love about this jacket- starting with the zippers, which rank among the best we’ve seen on any garment. Flat, waterproof, and reasonably easy to pull even with gloves on, there are even pit zippers for ventilation. We didn’t need them for the most part, but it’s nice to know they were there. There are plenty of pockets as well, a bit surprisingly, including upper and lower ones on both the left and right sides, and even some inside.
The same treatment applies to the sleeves and cuffs, often weak spots on most jackets. The balance is always between comfort, durability, and water-proofing- the most comfortable and softest fabrics tend not to be delicate, and not especially moisture-resistant. These were lined with a nice stretchy elastic material, and felt soft without being plush, tight without being constricting. Fit is adjustable via velcro straps (similar to those we’re starting to see become common), and there are even thumb holes! The sleeves could be a bit longer though, we found; other than that, the Alakazam seemed true to size.
It’s not an ultra-lightweight garment; you’ll need some room in your bag, as it is a little bulkier than some shells. But we feel that it’s worth the trade-off for a better-feeling material and lots of thoughtful inclusions. Similarly, the hood isn’t adjustable, but works better than almost any other lightweight hoods, thanks to a bit of solidity and a nice collar that extends up a bit past where the hood begins, offering some protection even when the hood is down. It sits a bit low though, and isn’t as adjustable as we would have liked. The seams are taped incredibly well; we challenge you to find the Alakazam in a store and look at them carefully to appreciate the craftsmanship. It’s all about the details- the chin guard lining to prevent chafing, interesting interior water bottle pocket/pouch, headphone port on a separate pocket, and nice color choices (ours was white, but blue, black, and orange options are also available.
Of course, you can expect to spend a fair bit on a technical ski jacket like this one- the Alakazam will set you back about $500 or so. One important note on styling- ours is flat white, and doesn’t feature the gray panels you may see on some pictures (likely from the previous year’s model). It appears the same is true of other colors as well; they’re mono-chromatic, though with nice color pops on the zippers. The Alakazam is available now- and highly recommended for those serious about skiing and winter sports, as it’s the best technical shell we’ve yet tried.