MARMOT META SOFTSHELL
BY JEFF RUHLE
March 21, 2009
Waterville, Maine, USA
6' 3" (1.90 m)
175 lb (79.40 kg)
34 in (86 cm)
44 in (112 cm)
I developed a love for backpacking while spending the semester abroad in New Zealand. I enjoy playing games and seeing how little I can pack to keep my pack light, however, I always pack a lot of food. My favorite terrain is steep, rugged, alpine terrain with more vertical and less horizontal. Living in New England, I find a lot of this terrain since the trail makers don't seem to make many switchbacks. I also am highly involved with a large number of other outdoor activities like skiing, kayaking, climbing, and biking. Generally, I like to push my comfort zone.
Manufacturer: Marmot Mountain LLC
Model: Meta Softshell Jacket
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.marmot.com
Listed Weight: Unknown
Measured Weight: 23 oz (652 g)
Material: [Shell] WindStopper Soft Shell; [Lining] polyester fleece
Core Venting: No
Pockets: 2 Front, 1 chest
Seam Taped: Yes, fully
Powder Skirt: No
Zip-in Compatibility: No
Manufacturer Warranty: Lifetime
The Marmot Meta Softshell Jacket (from now on will be referred to as "the jacket") was primarily tested in the western regions of Maine and northern New Hampshire. Most of this terrain is no higher than 4000 ft (or around 1200 m) in elevation. This region is known for its winds, so good wind resistant gear is essential for venturing above tree line. The trails also have a tendency not to switchback and just blaze straight up the mountains, so breathability is also important for the climbs.
All of the hiking trips (four total) I have taken with this jacket so far have been in the winter, with temperatures around or below freezing. Two of those trips were in great weather, with clear skies, little wind, and temperatures in the 20s. One was north-bound on the Appalachian Trail over the Bigelow Range in Maine, making a loop by coming back down the Fire Warden's Trail. The second was up Tumbledown Mountain near Mt. Blue State Park in Maine. One trip to Tuckerman's Ravine was a clear day with temperatures in the 20s F (-7 to -2 C) but with high winds. The last hiking trip to the Mahoosuc Notch section of the Appalachian Trail was both snowy and windy. All were weekend warrior day-trips.
I also spent a 4 days wearing the jacket on a hut trip to Francie's Cabin (a 10th Mountain Division hut) in Colorado. The climate is very dry, although we received a lot of snow and moderate winds while we were out there.
Description of Features
According to the manufacturer, the jacket is meant to be a windproof, water-resistant outer layer for hiking, backcountry touring, skiing, and ice climbing. Its WindStopper outer material is supposed to stretch with one's movements, resist water, and block all wind, but remain highly breathable.
On each trip, it lived up to the aforementioned expectations. It blocked all the elements and did not restrict movement. On the inside, it is a nice plush fleece that provides a little bit of insulation (along with making it very comfortable). In all, I really love the fabric of this jacket.
The hood is not helmet compatible, although I did find that it fit over my climbing helmet. However, this causes the shoulders to pull up a little bit, which is not very comfortable (or stylish). When not wearing a helmet, it does have hook-and-loop patches on the back, and two drawcords which allow for a large variety in adjustment. One of the cords runs along the front edge, as usual, but one runs from the temples to the back of the head, which is surprisingly useful. It allows me to cinch down the front cord, but still keep the opening wide enough to see out of. The only problem I had is that the collar in the front does not come up very high when zipped. With a long neck like mine, this allows for a lot of wind to sneak in.
The pockets on the jacket are one of my favorite features. The two front pockets are very large with long, double-zippered openings. Opening them from the bottom allows them to function like the typical front pockets on any other jacket. However, when I have the hip strap of my pack buckled in, I can unzip them from the top and have enough room to get my hand inside. I find this to be one of the best front pocket designs that I have run across. The chest pocket is just a typical chest pocket, not too small, not too large. It is just the right size to fit my iPod or energy bar, and great for quick access.
The cuffs are the typical hook-and-loop/strap mechanism, allowing for very quick and easy adjustments. Unlike a lot of cuffs, however, they contain no elastic. I personally prefer this, as it does not rub against my skin all day, which can sometimes get very uncomfortable towards the end of a hike. The bottom of the jacket has an adjustment system as well, allowing me to tighten or loosen it with an elastic cord. The cord is accessed from the inside of the pockets. I actually prefer this access to be on the outside of the jacket, leaving my pockets free, but it makes no big difference and is just a matter of preference.
One of the two things that I do not like about the jacket is the pit zips. They are not very well incorporated into the jacket. To begin, they are very small, and provide little ventilation. When I am climbing hard, the five-inch (127 mm) opening feels insignificant. Second, they are wildly uncomfortable. Without long sleeves on an under layer, they rub against my arm nonstop. I would prefer the jacket without pit-zips rather than the current pit-zip design.
The second thing I do not like about the jacket is the overall fit. It is very loose and baggy. It fits somewhat like a large sweatshirt. In addition, it is very short, particularly in the back. When I sit down, it leaves a nice gap on my back between the pants and the bottom of the jacket, which is quite annoying. It was clearly not cut for someone of a slender, athletic build (which is strange as I would think that describes a large portion of their client base).
The Meta Soft Shell Jacket has some very well thought out features, along with some features that don't seem to be thought out at all. The hood, zippers and materials are all wonderful. However, I think the cut of the jacket needs to be taken in and the pit zips should be redesigned or left out completely.
-Comfortable fuzzy interior
-Large, double-zippered pockets
-Flexible adjustment in the hood
-Lack of elastic in the wrist cuffs
-Collar too short
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
-Pit zips very small and uncomfortable
-Cut of the jacket is way too short, and a little wide
-Elastic drawcord for the bottom adjustment is accessed from inside the pockets
Read more gear reviews by Jeff Ruhle