Outdoors alakazam2

Published on December 18th, 2012 | by Greg


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.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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