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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Chaos Mistral Multi-Tasker Pro > Test Report by Andrew Buskov

Chaos Mistral FrontChaos Mistral
Multi Tasker Pro
Chaos' multi-functional hinged balaclava.
Andrew Buskov
Initial Report: January 24, 2011
Field Report: April 3, 2011
Long Term Report: June 5, 2011

Tester Biographical Information:

Name: Andrew Buskov
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 223 lbs (101 kg)
Email: Rescue(at)Corridor9(dot)net
City, State Zip Madisonville, Kentucky  USA

Backpacking Background:

I’ve been backpacking for years now, and have slowly started developing my ideal style. I’ve gotten my winter pack weight down to roughly 25 – 30 lbs (11.3 - 13.6 kg) before water, but consider safety and comfort above weight. Day hiking is nice, but getting out over multiple nights is really what I enjoy. I like to take my time and absorb the scenery as opposed to hiking hard. I also like being comfortable and insist on an air mattress. I usually tent or hammock, but stay in shelters when needed.

Product Information:

Item: Mistral Multi Tasker Pro
Manufacturer: Chaos
Website http://www.chaoshats.com
Year of Manufacture: 2010
MSRP: $24.99 US
Listed Weight: N/A
Actual Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)

Product Overview:
(From Manufacturer's documentation & Website)

The Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava is the top of the line in the Mistral series of products. As part of the Chaos Thermal Regulation line and combining aspects from the standard Mistral Balaclava, Mistral Multi Liner, and Mistral Neck/Face Protector, the Multi Tasker Pro provides the best in protection against the wind and elements. The Pro Stretch Multi-Functional Hinged Balaclava has face inserts to protect from wind, a 3D form fitting flat panel construction, and Lycra binding around the face. It is an ideal balaclava for layering under a helmet or for use alone while out in the cold weather.

Initial Impressions:

The Mistral Multi Tasker Pro arrived to my door in good condition with attached hang tag style packaging. It was complete and was as described on the website. All seams appeared to be in good condition with no loose threads or frilling areas. The fabric itself appeared to be very consistent with no pilling or snags. The mesh that is sewn over the mouth area was nice and tight with no pulled threads or snags.

After removing the balaclava from its packaging I immediately noticed how warm and form fitting it is. Even while holding it in my hands I could feel the warmth radiating back to my skin from the material. I slipped it over my head and instantly felt 'ninja like'; it was very form fitting, warm, comfortable, and concealing. The large/x-large size fit very well to my head and didn't feel overly loose at all. I usually wear a 7 1/4 hat size, so I'm on the bottom end of the large hat range. I was worried about this when I submitted my size because I could find no sizing chart listed on the website at all.

The Mistral Multi Tasker Pro is sewn in such a way so that the top that goes over the head can be rolled back toward one's neck. This allows the wearer to remove the hood and provide some relief during hot situations. It also allows the wearer to slip the balaclava around the neck without worrying about stretching out the face area. In addition to the special design of the hood section, there are special inserts in the face area that help to block the wind. These stretch from the bottom of the neck area up the front of the face. There appears to be some sort of plastic material sewn in between two other pieces of fabric, and feels like it blocks a good deal of wind from my initial evaluation.

In the middle of the wind blocker section there is a normal piece of thin mesh that covers the mouth area. This is a welcome design feature as I've often gotten colder with other wind blocking hoodies due to the moisture from my mouth being wicked into the material versus being passed to the external air. I'm looking forward to testing this in the cooler environment to see how well the air exchanges thus limiting the moisture buildup. There is a different texture between the wind blocking material and the rest of the balaclava. However, the interior feels as if it's made from the same material; a soft fleece. On the lower left side of the balaclava is the Chaos Thermal Regulation logo screen printed in retro-reflective silver.

I definitely like what I've seen so far and I am looking forward to testing the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava during my hikes and other cold weather activities.

Field Report: April 3, 2011

Testing Locations:

Over the last two months, I've been able to use the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava on multiple occasions where the temperature outside dipped into the 'cold' range. In that time I have been able to take three day-hikes where the temps were hovering near freezing. There was no precipitation on these outings, and the wind was slow, but steady. The last time I used the balaclava saw the most weather though. During this activity the temperature was around 38 F (3 C) with rain, then sleet. I was out for about 10 hours this last time but have used the balaclava a total of roughly 6 days in temperatures ranging from 24 F to 55 F (-4 to 13 C).

Performance:

My outdoor activities have been infinitely more enjoyable over the past few months thanks to the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava. I never really knew how cold my face was getting during the winter months until I tried using a balaclava like this one. No longer are my cheeks wind chapped, my lips blistering, or my ears burning with pain. My face, ears, and neck feel comfortable during the whole trip and end up in the same condition as they were when I left.

On all of my outings the weather started out being quite cold.  What made most of these outings even worse was the windy conditions that were experienced in the early morning. Most of the time, the wind chill made the temperatures feel anywhere from 10 - 20 F (6 - 11 C) colder. Because of this, I started each outing with the balaclava in its standard (full face) configuration. I could really feel the warmth of the radiant heat off my head being reflected back from the material. This kept me warm and comfortable in the early morning chill, and throughout the day on especially cold days.

On a couple of occasions I was able to slide the hood portion off of the back of my head as I was feeling a bit too warm. When I did this, I generally kept the lower face portion in place as the cold air was a bit too much for my lungs to take. Having this ability kept me from getting overheated, but did not make me feel overly cold. As the Chaos Mistral is hinged, I was able to more comfortably wear it in this configuration without feeling constricted around the back of my neck or at the base of my skull. This is definitely a welcome feature as I don't particularly like wearing tight hats or scarves; I always feel like I'm choking for some reason when anything gets around the nape of my neck.

Only a few times was I able to slide the balaclava all the way off my head and around my neck as the temperatures didn't warm up enough. However, I did note a few negatives on the few times that I was able to wear it in this configuration. First, I was unable to quickly find the hood portion easily and a couple of times I actually pulled the base of the balaclava over my head rather than the hood. In addition, I found that even if I did grab the hood portion correctly, the base portion tended to move with it as well. This caused the base portion to be easily untucked from my coat, causing my neck and top of my back to feel a draft. While this was not a condition that I experienced a lot, I found that it was the norm when I slid the balaclava completely off of my head.

The other negative that I found while wearing the Chaos Mistral was with regard to the lack of a vent around the mouth area. Because there is a strip of plastic in the wind blocker section, all moisture from my breathing is forced up and out towards the eyes. This is definitely not a good escape area as it causes lots of problems when wearing goggles and glasses. On all occasions that I was using any sort of eye protection, that eye protection fogged up significantly due to moisture in my breath. At the least, this caused an inconvenience as I was unable to clearly see. However, at one point it caused quite a hazard as I was wearing the Chaos Mistral at a rifle shooting match and was unable to see anything past the lenses of my safety glasses. In the end, I had to remove the Mistral as it was just a bad situation all around.

Even with the negative aspects noted I've still found the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava a welcome addition to my cold weather gear. It has been my go-to piece of headgear since its arrival and has proved to be not only warm but comfortable in all sorts of configurations. I've been pleased with the use and durability of this item. During the next testing phase I will comment on any washing problems or concerns as a good cleaning is definitely overdue. In the end though, I definitely foresee this as being a well used item in my cold weather activity arsenal.

Long Term Report: June 5, 2011

Testing Locations:

Unfortunately, over the past few months, use of the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro balaclava has been extremely limited. While I have taken it with me on a number of day hikes and trips, it has not seen the outside of a pack due to a completely absent spring. Temperatures in my area went from freezing to sweltering over a period of one week in March. As such, there haven't been any cold days since for me to continue use.

Summary:

Before, when I went out hiking in the cold, I used to get a runny nose and cold nose. Many times I was forced inside due to cold, and precipitation. Now that I've been using the Multi Tasker Pro, I've found that my hiking and outdoor activities are that much more enjoyable. Over the life of this test I've seen snow, sleet, rain, freezing cold, and ice. I've been able to stay out in the cold when others were forced inside.

The Multi Tasker has a number of different configurations that make it so much more comfortable than any beanie or hat I've ever experienced before. I've been able to keep my face warm while venting heat from the top of my head, and I've been able to drink from my wide mouth bottle without having the top of the balaclava covering my eyes. In all, the Multi Tasker really is a versatile little piece of clothing.

Just from my use to date I can tell that the Chaos Mistral Multi Tasker Pro will be in my hiking pack for many years to come. I'd like to thank Chaos and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in testing the Mistral Multi Tasker Pro.



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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Chaos Mistral Multi-Tasker Pro > Test Report by Andrew Buskov



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