LOKI TAK LIGHT SHELL
BY TRAVIS CROOKE
November 15, 2009
Steamboat Springs, Colorado (CO), USA
6' 1" (1.85 m)
182 lb (82.60 kg)
The first time I went backpacking overnight was in college. Since then, I have explored many of the forests, shores, deserts, and mountains of America, Mexico, Patagonia, and Europe. I live in the Rockies, and work winters as a fully certified ski instructor, and summers as a bicycle and raft guide. Lately, I have been a fan of the multi-sport outing. For these I use bikes, skis, snowmobiles, and boats to get to good backpacking spots. I spend a lot of time on and off trails. Function and durability are more important to me than saving weight.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.lokigear.com
MSRP: US$ 189
Listed Weight: 19 oz (539 g)
Measured Weight: 19.5 oz (553 g)
LOKI is a small business located in Grand Junction, Colorado. The company takes its name from the shape shifting Norse God of Mischief. LOKI integrates built-in mittens and face warmers into all of their jackets, thereby transforming a normal jacket into a ninja's dream outer layer. The idea is beautiful because the mittens and face shield can hide within the garment, giving it the appearance of a normal coat, or they can be employed and I can then report to ninja practice.
I reviewed the Tak Light Shell Jacket (referred to as the Tak) in a size Large. This is LOKI's raincoat. The jacket is made of Asgard 2.5 material, which offers rain protection without insulation. The material includes ripstop technology and is akin in thickness to other three-layer raincoat material, but is only a two-layered fabric. The Tak is water resistant and yet breathable at the same time. I have not found the perfect raincoat yet, and as my gallant quest continues, I thought I would review this garment for Backpackgeartest.org. I reviewed the topaz (orange) coat , but it currently comes in black, molten (red), and black / fog (black and gray).
|Fishing the Afternoon Showers|
I live in Steamboat Springs, CO. Everyday around three of four o'clock in the summer it decides to rain. Showers generally last an hour, at which point the skies clear and I go fishing. This works out perfect for an initial impression because it rains long enough to test the waterproofing. After I got the jacket, I waited for the clouds to roll in, and took my dog for a walk when Frey (the Norse God of Rain) decided to unleash a whopper upon the valley. At first, the jacket held up extremely well. As a matter of fact, the jacket faired better than any rain coat I have initially tested and better than my dog. She refused to come out from under a log during the storm. The weatherproofing was superb and beads of water formed all over the surface of the garment. As the garment ages, these beads tend to permeate breathable layers. This in turn causes the outer layer to become wet but the inside remains dry. While the wearer remains dry in both scenarios, the latter causes the garment to hold water and it becomes heavier due to exposure. Weight is usually avoided if possible while backpacking, so this is a very pertinent consideration when choosing rain coats. It was nice to see the jacket bead, but I was curious as to whether the resistance would hold over time.
The jacket comes with a main zipper with one slider, which I like because it is easy to zip quickly in a storm. I find that jackets with two sliders often become difficult to zip together, which is not what I want when Frey is serving up a nasty portion. The Tak is not welded, but all of the seams are taped and sealed.
|Backside of Mit|
|Palmside of Mit|
LOKI jackets come with mitten and face warmer options. For the mittens, LOKI makes jacket arms about 3 inches (7.6 cm) longer than other jackets I have used. There is a little flap at the end of each sleeve, and if I grab it with my other hand and fold it over the cuff, like one would do with those sandwich bags that are not zip locks, my hand is magically inside of a built-in mitten. The back side of the mitten is Asgard nylon and the palm is a thin, slightly sticky rubber. The mitt keeps my hands dry and warm. I thought it was a bit gimmicky at first, but as I used it over the past year it has proven its worth. Similar to the mittens, the face warmer hides within the coat until called upon. All I have to do is take off the hood, pull the warmer over my head so that it is around my neck, and then put the hood on again. These features are easy to manipulate on the fly and make the Tak a unique raincoat option. I was concerned with the construction and quality of the jacket. I also wondered if it would compare to other raincoats I have reviewed. I decided an intense backpacking trip was in order.
Mount Zirkel is north of Steamboat and reigns supreme as the region's highest peak at 12,180 feet (3712 m). To summit, it is a grueling 25 mile (40.25 km) hike, most of which is a scramble above treeline. A hiking partner and I set off for the summit at five in the morning. It was chilly hiking in the early hours before the sun had risen above the peaks in the area, so I put the jacket on to begin the hike. The coat is thick enough to keep me warm on brisk mornings, but thin enough to still wear for summer storms. The Tak is cut well and formfitting. It boasts articulated elbows and shoulders so the fit is slim but nonrestrictive. I like this because less bulk and increased mobility is good stuff on my backpacking adventures. I quickly warmed while hiking, so I vented the pit zips.
|Setting up camp in the Zirkel Wilderness|
|Pit and mesh pocket zips|
There are two zipper sliders on the pit zippers. This feature is great when backpacking because the straps of the backpack sometimes get in the way of the venting zips on my jacket if I can only zip the sliders in one direction. It got a little hotter as we hiked, so I then unzipped the front pockets. These pockets are lined with mesh , so they double as front vents. They are situated 6 inches (15.2 cm) above the bottom of the coat, which is great because this places the pocket just above the hip belt on a backpack. The pockets are still accessible while hiking without unclipping the pack.
LOKI incorporated a zippered compartment on the back of the Tak (N_Pak they call it), which essentially allows the wearer to stuff the jacket into itself for storage. The jacket packs with straps on the outside so it can be worn as a backpack. I like using the straps to clip the jacket to the outside of my backpack with carabiners so I can quickly grab it if Frey sneaks up. On our way down from the hike, we were running from a hailstorm, but did not have the assistance of Zoran, the Norse god of speed. As a result, a bombardment of thunder, hail, and rain ensued. Great for gear testing. Again, the weatherproofing was crucial. The water beaded up but I remained cool with all of the vents open. My arms did get sticky, and the fabric tends to cling to skin that is sweaty. This stickiness is a minor inconvenience that I do not like.
I wanted to know how the jacket held up to monsoon amounts of rain, so I took it white water rafting. I have taken it rafting many times and have tracked the weatherproofing over the year that I have owned it. Initially, the weatherproofing works very well, but like other jackets I have used, it loses its beading capacity over time. On a five-day raft trip on the Green River, Utah, it rained the whole time. Coupled with rapids, I got a good understanding of the jacket's potential. The Tak withstands rain very well, and I especially like that it dries quickly. If exposed to constant water, the outer layer does soak up water and appear wet after about 30 minutes of exposure. The inside remains dry. This barrier has gradually decreased over the course of a year so that now the jacket does not bead. The inside of the coat still remains dry. While rafting I noticed the mittens collecting water. A little pool forms inside the mitt or in the little flap on the sleeve. This is a minor annoyance but worth noting. I also liked that the jacket has two cinch cords at the waist that prevents water from seeping inside the jacket from the bottom.
|Cinches for the Hood|
The hood of the jacket needs redesigning. The hood is slightly too small to fit over a helmet. I wore the jacket when summitting Torreys Peak (a Colorado 14er) for a ski descent this spring. It was an ideal outer layer and it protected me from the 70 mile per hour (113 kmph) winds that greeted me at the summit. Thanks Njord, Norse god of wind! However, my climbing helmet did not comfortably fit under the hood and I broke my goggles as a result. The hood also has an optional brim that I think is geeky. I would recommend that LOKI incorporate a wire brim instead of the flap they currently use. The flap does nothing for function nor for style. Just look how geeky Average Joe looks in that first photo! The cinching mechanisms on the hood are well designed.
|Attacking a couliour|
Rain gear has to dry well, and the Tak does just this. As noted previously, the jacket dries quickly in the field. In addition, LOKI has included sturdy hooks both on the inside and outside of the coat that allow the jacket to hang securely while drying. I find that heavy jackets laden with water often strain the hanging hooks, but the LOKI hooks are designed for function.
The Tak is a great backpacking coat, but it is also good for bicycle touring. The sleeves are designed to be three inches longer to incorporate the mittens, but the longer sleeves are also convenient when reaching for the handlebars on a bike. I commute on my bicycle, and when it rains, I flip over the mitts and my hands stay dry and protected from precipitation. I use the face warmer to ward off bugs and hail. In addition, it hides my identity when sneaking out of unsightly establishments in the wee hours of the night. The cuffs are tight around my wrist, which prevents cold air from sneaking up my arms and circulating around my core. I wish that the sleeves had Velcro cinch closures around the wrist, but this is impossible to have with the mittens at the same time.
Be warned, LOKI is a small company. This can be good or bad. I have visited their headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. I met the owners of the business and they are extremely good about their warranty. If a problem arises with a garment, chances are good that an owner or designer will personally address the issue. The fact that the company is small is annoying because quantities are limited. I wanted a black jacket, but had to wait a year for it because they had sold out of that year's quantities. They only produce one shipment a year. The next year they lost my order, so I ended up with an orange jacket instead. I stand out when hiking Europe, but the orange is a nice option. It is easily seen on rainy days when colors are not vivid.
|Spring Hop Turns!|
The LOKI Tak Lightweight Shell Jacket is one of the best raincoats I have used. Like most raincoats I have owned, the beading has decreased over time, but the inside of the jacket remains dry. The mitten and face shield features set this jacket apart from other brands, and the quality of construction is superb. There has been no fraying or rips after a year. I would trade all of the features for a jacket that beaded water permanently, but I am yet to find one. Reapplying waterproofing finish is simple and not a problem with this jacket. This is an ideal backpacking coat that is reliable and sturdy. It packs well for hiking and is easy to put on. The features make it versatile for other sports as well (decreasing the need for 3 different rain coats), and the company is small so they are easy to contact with warranty issues.
THINGS I LIKE
|Top of the World|
Face shield (Helpful for ninja training)
Long sleeves (Good for tall people and cyclists)
Backpack strap option (Packable and easy to attach to packs)
Bottom zipper snap (Keeps the zipper cover flap closed)
Hood drawstring closure (Quick and easy to do when wet or wearing mittens)
Hand pocket / front vents
Double slider pit zips
Articulated elbows and shoulders
Sturdy hooks for hanging
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Hood is too small to fit a helmet
|Hood is too Small for a Helmet|
Hood flap looks silly and is not functional
Coat is sewn, not welded
Mittens can get hot in summer and collect water in monsoons
No neck gasket, so rain leaks down neck unless hood is on
Neck warmer is restrictive if hood is down
Waterproofing deteriorates over time
No Velcro cinch on wrist
FIELD REVIEW CHART
Review Location: Yampa River, CO
Temperature Range: 32°F (0°C) - 85°F (29.5°C)
Trip Length (Days): Single day outings
Weather: Heavy Afternoon Rains, occasional snow flurries, partly cloudy
Pack Weight: 7 lbs (3.2 kg)
Review Location: Mount Zirkel, CO
Temperature Range: 50°F (10°C) - 77° F (25°C)
Trip Length (Days): Two days
Weather: Sun, hail
Pack Weight: 53 lbs (24 kg)
Review Location: Gates of Ladore river section, Green River, UT
Temperature Range: 55°F (12.8°C) - 91°F (51°C)
Trip Length (Days): Six days
Weather: Rain… the whole time
Pack Weight: N/A (all my stuff was on a boat)
Review Location: Torreys Peak, CO
Temperature Range: 11°F (6.1°C) - 35°F (19.4°C)
Trip Length: One day
Weather: Clear sky, 70 mph (113 kmph) winds
Pack Weight: 35 lbs (15.9 kg)
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by Travis Crooke