Mammut Masao Hardshell Jacket Review
Hardshell jackets for climbing use need a broad set of attributes. The pocket layout needs to be suitable for use both with a harness and for storing the various other bits of equipment you need to carry, the hood needs to be large enough to fit over a helmet and yet offer protection in all conditions, the fit must allow layering underneath while also feeling trim enough to not bulk up and restrict visibility and all the zips and adjusters need to function effortlessly whilst still being user friendly with gloves on and in harsh conditions. Lastly, the jacket must be constructed from a fabric durable enough to cope with the wear of everything from being scratched against rock to long hours being rubbed by a heavy rucksack whilst also breathing efficiently in a range of conditions. So, when I was asked to test the Masao jacket, described by Mammut as a ‘robust Alpine hard shell’, it is against these criteria that it was always going to get judged……
Mammut have more experience than most in manufacture and design - they recently celebrated their 150th anniversary and, of course, any company choosing a Mammoth as it’s logo and brand name (chosen to represent strength and power) must surely feel it can stand by it’s reputation for quality! When I discussed Mammut with friends they knew of the company primarily as a rope manufacturer (and they did start out doing this), but less well known is that they have also been making clothing since 1978 as well.
They also have a strong environmental ethos. Mammut has been a member of the Fair Wear initiative (supporting fair and safe working conditions) for years and are also a member of Bluesign which focuses on environmentally responsible manufacture - all their ropes, for example, are climate neutral.
I have previously used a range of Mammut fabric products (including some of their boots, clothing and rucksacks). I am also very familiar with their ropes (I have used their ropes for over 30 years!), various items of climbing equipment and their superb Barryvox Transceivers. Mammut offer a broad product range and everything I have used has been superbly designed and well constructed - I certainly consider them a premier brand offering innovative and high quality products. so, I had high expectations for the Masao.
Before the jacket arrived I had only seen it on their website and so had no preconceptions apart from thinking it appeared well featured and looked well styled. When I unwrapped the parcel I was impressed straight away. The jacket sent was in a dark orange colour and looked great. I am a big fan of brighter colours in the mountains and could immediately see myself enjoying wearing it. It also featured nicely contrasting grey zips, drawcords and logos - the overall look of the Masao is great
The next thing to do was to have a feel of the fabric and I was just as impressed there too. The material, which I’ll discuss in more detail later, is Mammut’s own Drytech Premium fabric. This has a pleasant soft feel and a matte finish and yet also appears very robust. It is a thicker weight material of the type I would favour for heavier duty activities like winter climbing or adventures in very challenging weather.
On further inspection all the features I’d look for were there too. A front chest pocket, 2 side pockets and 2 interior mesh pockets offer plenty of storage. There are pit zips (I have previously declared myself to not be a big fan of pit zips, but as they often feature on jackets, I have learnt to live with them), a volume adjustable hood, hem drawcord, velcro wrist closures and weatherproof zips. The final detailing is great too. There’s a Mammut logo embroidered into the right chest and another on the back plus the Mammut Mammoth sits proudly positioned on the left arm. Everything was living up to my expectations nicely.
The Masao has taken a hammering this winter. We have had a very challenging snowy season north of the border and, while this hasn’t been the weather I would have chosen for our Peak Mountaineering course adventures, it has certainly offered a great testing ground with plenty of wind, rain, snow and very variable temperatures. The Masao has been used for climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking, plus it also had a few days out on skis with me in the Alps. It has, by any standards, been very well tested.
After my initial very positive judgements on the appearance of the jacket it was time to get to grips with the performance. Firstly, how about the fit? Well, I received a size medium for the test and usually also use a medium in Mountain Equipment, Rab, Patagonia and am generally a small in Jottnar products. The medium Masao fitted really well on my 5’8” and 40 inch chest frame. It has room for a few extra layers and a yet is a well engineered fit that doesn’t feel flappy or overly loose. I liked the fit straight away. There is plenty of freedom of movement for high reaches and the length is perfect for my height. Mammut have created an active cut for the arms that works superbly and, as the fabric has an element of stretch, it really felt comfortable for all uses.
The hood is well sized to fit over a helmet (I have tested it with a Petzl Meteor and Petzl Elios) and it offers good side protection when fully zipped up. There is a comfy beard/chin guard and the zipper top is nicely protected from the face by a zipper garage. The hood has a nicely stiffened peak and the rear volume adjustment can be made with one hand. There is also a hang tab on the outside of the hood and the hood closes easily with elasticated drawcord closures.
The other features work just as well. The cuffs cinch up well with velcro while also opening wide enough to accommodate gloves underneath if needed, the pit zips operate faultlessly and the hem drawcord does what a hem drawcord should. It is all very user friendly and efficient, which leads me to the pockets…..
On the outside there are side pockets and a front chest pocket plus two inside mesh pockets. This sounds like a great combo except that, for my activities at least, they aren’t ideal. The side pockets are positioned quite low and so, although they do sit clear of a climbing harness, they really aren’t in the ideal place for climbing. These pockets are actually quite big and can accommodate a map, but it will be partly tucked into the harness waist belt. The single chest pocket is in a better position but is rather small. It will just about fit an iPhone 6s (positioned at an angle) and would suit carrying a compass, energy bars or it could hold a ski area lift pass. I would overall have preferred larger chest pockets and no lower side pockets for my uses but I do accept that if the user isn’t wearing a harness there will be no issues at all (I should say that the Mammut website describe the jacket as an Alpine shell and yet suitable for various activities including walking and mountain hiking - so suitability depends on your activities).
On the other hand, the interior pocket configuration is great. The right hand interior mesh pocket is huge and has proved very useful for storing gloves. On the left there is a small velcro closing interior mesh pocket that snugly fits my iphone 6s and this has worked well over the winter. The small pocket also has an outlet for a headphone cable but I haven’t used that feature so far.
Beyond all the features, the usability of the product all about how the fabric performs. The Masao is made from Mammut’s own DRYtech Premium which is a 3 layer breathable fabric designed for, as Mammut describe, ‘reliable protection against the elements in all situations’. I have also been using a range of other jackets over the winter featuring Goretex Pro, Polartec Neoshell, Pertex Shield and Patagonia’s own H2No - so it is easy to draw comparisons between the performance of DRYtech against other market leaders.
I am delighted to say this fabric has performed brilliantly. It breathes extremely well, has fought off everything a wild Scottish winter can throw at it, drapes well and has stood up to long hill days and rough rock with aplomb. As the winter went on, and my confidence in DRYtech’s capabilities grew, it really became my winter suit of armour selected on the wildest and most challenging days. I really can’t fault it. A few months down the line, and with many winter adventures under it’s belt, the Masao is still looking as good as new and with very little signs of wear at all.
I really rate the Masao - I expected a lot and Mammut have delivered. It has shrugged off everything that has been asked of it and is ready for more. It isn’t made with a weight of fabric I will choose for warmer weather activities (although the medium size garment weighs in at a very respectable 450 grams), but for more challenging environments it is hard to beat.
It is also worth saying, that if you have an image of Mammut products being expensive, the Masao should happily dispel that. This top performing garment is a pocket friendly £240. Full details are available on the Mammut website here.
Posted by Paul
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