Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket Review
There are so many activities and situations where a windproof, showerproof, highly wicking and lightly insulated layer really works. It could be mountain biking, climbing, walking, scrambling or a host of other times - in a generally mild and damp climate this sort of garment is a brilliant option. I was recently asked to test a jacket smack bang in this category and it has become my most worn garment over the last few months. Here's my thoughts about the Mountain Equipment Kinesis hybrid jacket.........
On first acquaintance the Kinesis is a smart looking hooded jacket with a full length zip. The hood is lined and helmet compatible with a volume adjusting system. The cuffs have simple elasticated fastenings and there is a chunky full length 2 way zip. There are 2 hand warmer pockets and a zipped mesh interior chest pocket and drawcord adjusted hem. Everything you need and yet simple and uncluttered. The fit of the Kinesis could be bought large enough that it can be layered over a base layer and mid weight fleece if needed but it is really designed to fit over a baselayer alone. It is also light with a size large weighing in at only 325 grams.
Of course, the features of a jacket of this type are easy enough to explain, but the real magic behind any technical garment nowadays tends to show itself in the materials used and with the Kinesis it is essential users understand what lies behind the jacket’s construction.
The shell of the jacket is made from the highly breathable but totally windproof and showerproof Helium 30 fabric. Helium 30 combines fine denier yarns and a high thread count to create a fabric that is exceptionally light (only 30 grams per square metre), compressible and breathable. Its dense weave also ensures the highest levels of wind resistance.
The Kinesis is insulated using a combination of materials. In the body Mountain Equipment have used 60 gram Polartec Alpha. This is a highly breathable synthetic insulation designed for high output stop start activities. The sleeves and hood then have a microgrid insulated lining. This offers a slightly lower level of insulation to the Alpha body, but is again ideal for strenuous use.
I have been using the Kinesis pretty much constantly for a variety of activities over the past few months. This has included plenty of hillwalking days, climbing on a range of route types, scrambling and mountain biking. It has really ticked all boxes for a broad range of uses and a wide variety of conditions.
I have been a big fan of Polartec Alpha insulation since first using it in the Rab Strata Hoodie jacket some time ago (this was reviewed here). That jacket was used everywhere from the Himalaya to Welsh sea cliffs and I loved it. It is billed as insulation that can be used in a wide range of conditions and can keep a user comfortable during strenuous exercise because it wicks so efficiently - and it happily lives up to that billing.
The exceptional wicking qualities of Polartec Alpha means the user stays comfortable during stop start type high output activities because if the garment can wick away moisture efficiently both while on the move and static then it keeps the user more comfortable and warmer. There is lots of amazing technology that goes into this (due in significant part to the way the insulation is woven) but suffice it to say it works extremely well and does exactly what Polartec claim.
Infact, Alpha is really a game changer. Now you can stay comfortable both while working hard and then when you stop too - it really suits a broad range of activities and energy outputs. In the Kinesis Mountain Equipment have used a 60 gram per square metre Alpha for the body. This works brilliantly but also offers lightness and it feels none bulky when worn over a base layer. It is very flexible.
Having a lighter weight insulation for the arms and hood is a logical move and the microgrid fabric is both warm and comfortable. This is another highly breathable insulation layer but it is also very lightweight. All in all the insulation in the Kinesis is spot on.
On first acquaintance I was impressed by the lightness and ‘silkiness’ of the Helium outer shell fabric. Impressed, but also slightly concerned that it wouldn’t be very robust particularly when the user is carrying a rucksack or climbing in the jacket. To test this I have deliberately worn the jacket for plenty of climbing sessions and when carrying a heavy rucksack. It has a few light scuff marks but the fabric has proven to be very durable. I have also worn it deliberately in showery and damp weather and again it has stood up well - it actually takes quite a decent amount of rain before dampness starts getting through.
As mentioned earlier, Mountain Equipment have deliberately kept the jackets features simple and uncluttered. They have focussed on giving just what the user needs and this is the right approach - there is everything you need and nothing more. More importantly, every feature that is there works well. The hood accommodates a helmet (tested with a Petzl Meteor and Petzl Elios) and the chunky 2 way zip is a great addition - lots of similar jackets have only a one way zip and I do value the extra functionality of the 2 way version.
The collar zips up quite high which offers a good level of protection when stood on chilly belays and the hood has a volume adjuster and drawcord system which works well. The hood also has a stiffened brow which is a great addition when using it in challenging weather and the pocket has a carabiner clip in loop which allows the jacket to be stored and carried easily.
There are 2 decent size hand warmer pockets and another mesh inside chest pocket that will hold larger smart phones comfortably. The hem also has a simple drawcord that does its job as you’d expect.
The bulk of this review has focussed on the technical insulation and fabrics used in the Kinesis and this is quite right because that is the jacket’s key stand out feature. Of course the zips, pockets and other design features do their job really well, but the main thing is the clever materials that allow users to stay comfortable in varied conditions and through a broad range of energy outputs.
It is very efficient and that is due in no small part to the amazing Polartec Alpha insulation and the Helium shell supports this by keeping the wind off, helping to keep warmth in and shedding a decent amount of moisture. It won’t be warm enough for really cold temperatures but served me really well in a UK spring and would be top of my list for summer Alpine challenges. It is all in all a very powerful little package and if your preferences are climbing, hiking in mixed conditions, mountain biking in chilly weather or any similar stop stop aerobic activities then please do put the Kinesis on your list. The Kinesis retails for £140 and is also available in a female fit and various colours.
Posted by Paul
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