MERRELL VERT JACKET
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
March 28, 2009
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John R. Waters
White Lake, Michigan USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
178 lb (80.70 kg)
My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously.
My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Merrell, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.merrell.com
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: Insulator alone - 15 oz (425 g), Jacket with hood - 26.5 oz (751 g), Hood alone - 3.5 oz (99 g), Everything all together - 45 oz (1276 g)
Colors Available: Black and Moss
Color Tested: Moss (green)
Sizes Available: Small to XXLarge
Size Tested: Large
From the Merrill Web site: "The Vert jacket features Merrell Opti-Shell™ fabric and a water-resistant Merrell Opti-Warm™ insulator that doubles as a stand-alone tech sweater on nicer days. A removable hood, pit-zip venting and plenty of well-positioned storage pockets make this coat everything you ever wanted for ventures to new outdoor places."
|Merrell Vert Jacket with Insulator|| |
|Merrell Insulator Worn Solo|
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS-Nov 08
Thanks to the Merrell website pictures and text description, I had a pretty good idea of what I thought the Vert Jacket would look like. I'm happy to say, upon arrival, the Vert lives up to those expectations. As I inspected the jacket, I noted the following features:
Merrell Opti-Shell™ waterproof, breathable fabric
This is a sharp looking jacket. Its fabric is smooth and classy looking. The taped seam for the front zipper is black on my Moss colored version and looks slick. It is a trim fit. My chest measures 42" (107 cm) and my waist is a 36 (91 cm). If my waist was any larger I am certain that the LARGE size I selected would fit too tightly. As long as I continue to work out and don't drink too much beer I should make it to the end of the test period.
|Merrell Opti-Warm™ zip-in, water resistant removable insulator|
What a neat insert! They call it the "insulator", which sounds like some science fiction thing ... like the Terminator. But it is quite a nice jacket that can be worn separately. It is attached inside the cuff with a snap loop that wraps around a nylon loop, behind the neck the same way and then with zippers on both sides. I can easily unsnap the cuffs and neck loop, unzip both sides and remove it. I wasted no time in doing so and have already worn it a few times while out and about. Note though that this liner is for trim bodies. It's very form fitting and, like I said, I think I barely look good with a 36 in (91 cm) waist. If my waist were larger, I don't think I would like the way I looked in it.
I guess I'd have to see the manufacturing specs to know for sure. Some of the material is brushed soft, like the collar flaps, to make it as soft as cotton.
|Insulator Zip & Snap Attachment to Shell|
|Pit Zip Opening||60 grams (2 oz) of insulation in liner jacket |
Merrell calls the liner Opti-Warm™ and I can only assume it is their trade name for the synthetic fill used in the "insulator" liner. I'll have to test how cold it can go.
Fully seam taped for maximum waterproofness
Yes, very well taped and sealed. The zippers all seal tightly and have tape seals. I'll be sure to wear this in some nasty rain and snow storms. My wife wants to hose me down right now from the well hose.... maybe later if I am in the mood.
Venting pit zips for removing unnecessary heat
The pictures show the large 15 in (38 cm) long pit vents that can stretch to 3 in (8 cm) wide. These zippers do not have taped seams but do have fly covers their full length. I can not reach into the interior through these vents.
Removable contoured hood
Yes, it is removable. It snaps under a collar flap with two snaps on each side and then is attached with a zipper in the center. I discovered the shoulder pocket on the left arm neatly stores the hood when folded properly. It also makes me look like I was really working out on just my left bicep and forgot about the right one. There is a draw string at the rear that I am still trying to figure out how to use. I cannot get the draw string to draw the hood tighter yet. I need to figure this function out.
|Removable Hood w/Adjustable Drawcord & Barrel Lock|| |
|Adjustable Drawcord w/Barrel Lock on Back of Hood|
|Interior media/ storage pocket |
The interior storage pocket is under the insulator jacket. If the jacket is fully inserted into the shell, it cannot be reached from the interior without unzipping the left side of the liner. However a cable, such as a headphone cable, can be run out through a rubber grommet. The pocket is about 6 in (15 cm) high and at the deepest point about 6 in (15 cm) deep. Inside the pocket is an elastic topped insert for a separate device, such as a small cell phone or mp3 player, that stretches to 2.5 in (6 cm) wide and is about 3 in (8 cm) deep. I've already had my cell phone successfully inserted. Only issue is that it can't be reached with the liner in. So whatever goes in here will need remote controls when the liner is used.
Dual zip secure hand pockets both inside and outside
Merrell doesn't mean two zippers on each pocket. They mean there is one zippered pocket on the left and one on the right of both the shell and the liner. The shell's zippered pockets have a rain flap but are not taped at the zipper seam unless it is taped underneath and I can't see it. The liner zippers are not taped and do not have a rain fly.
|Interior Media Pocket & Cord Port|
Adjustable drawcord hem
The entire bottom of the shell can be drawn closed with a drawcord. Haven't tried this yet.
Velcro® adjustable wrist closure on shell
The Velcro (hey I can use the trade name rather than "hook 'n loop") wrist straps are hefty and can really tighten up the wrist cuffs.
Elasticized cuffs on insulator
Yes, the insulator has elasticized cuffs. I have to say again that this design is for a trim body. Fully stretched out and flattened the maximum width is 5 in (13 cm).
|Adjustable Hem Drawcord w/Barrel Lock|| |
|Insulator Snap Attachment to Shell Sleeve|
Additional initial impressions
Because the zippers are new, they are sticky. Hopefully they will become easier to use. Right now I have to hold the top of the open zipper on both the shell and the liner to get the zipper to pull up, otherwise it just locks up.
TRYING IT OUT
I had a cold morning the other day, when it hit 22 F (-6 C) here. I had to take an early morning hike up to a tower site at 5700 ft (1700 m) and power cycle a router. I had on a Capilene tee, a really thin wool long sleeve crew, a thin technical pullover and a cotton pullover all under the Vert with the Insulator zipped in. I was comfortable and did not break a sweat and never got chilled. I worked outdoors at that temperature for about 30 minutes very comfortably and I was just sitting at a laptop. So I am curious to see how low the Vert can go with thin technical layers. One additional note about size though. With those 4 thin layers, my arm pits were at the limit for mobility. This jacket fits tightly.
Before I ordered this jacket I went to the Merrell web site for sizing. The charts were confusing and indicated that I may need an extra large because of their shoulder and chest measurements. I always wear a large or 42-43 jacket. I called Merrell and their customer support gave me completely different measurements over the telephone and said the web site was questionable. Ok, so fix it, please! The web site said I needed an extra large, but the arm length was 37. I ordered a large after talking on the phone with customer support and the arm length fits great. The shoulder width is perfect. There is nowhere in Colorado that I could find to try this on. Most dealers carry Merrell shoes, but not their clothing. SO the process of picking the perfect size was a challenge. I would have liked to have tried on the extra large for kicks, but I am only 5 ft 9 in (1.5 m) and weigh 170 lb (77 kg). I'm not an extra large guy.
I like the way this jacket and the Insulator look when worn both together and separately. Smart looking and classy. The fitted form has a lot to do with it.
Bad Colorado weather. Although we live in the "banana belt" here in Canon City, Colorado, I'll be tripping off to high mountains, snowy, cold and windy conditions. And in January, will be Michigan, where the weather is generally miserably damp and cold at that time of year. The Vert Jacket will definitely get a work out over the next few months.
Uh-Oh, I can see my wife coming after me with the hose ... later!
Please see below for the results of my first two months of testing the Merrell Vert Jacket.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the past several weeks, my Merrell Vert Jacket and I have been between 5000 ft and 12,000 ft (1524 m and 3658 m) above sea level. We've been together in temperatures between 1 F (-17 C) with blowing snow and wind of over 45 mph (72 kph) generating -30 F (-35 C) wind chill temps) and 50 F (10 C). We've been in rain, freezing rain, snow and sunshine. And we've travelled probably 50 or 60 mi (80 to 97 km) on trails hiking and snowshoeing with and without packs. We've been pretty much a close pair and very active.
All of my testing during these two months was done in south central Colorado - mostly in the Pike Peak area and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
|I never was cold during any of these trial periods. In fact, I was quite comfortable even in those -30 F (-35 C) wind chill situations. It was so windy on this one hike up into Mt. Evans in Colorado, that when I put my snowshoes down on the ground to put them on, I ended up running after them across the trailhead parking lot. How cold was it? It was so cold that the tip of my index finger went completely numb while putting on my snowshoes. But the Vert kept me warm and comfortable. It did it even with light winter layers underneath. I hate having bulky clothes on for winter activities. At these frigid temps I was fine with a thin silk long-sleeved layer, a Capilene tee, a light textured fleece pullover and a light wind jacket. These are very light layers. Combined with the Vert's insulator liner, this 5 layer package was so flexible and comfortable I could have remained out at these temps for hours and actually had to unzip the Vert to cool down while in motion. |
I've actively snowshoed at temps as low as 10 F (-12 C) in calm winds with just the 4 layers I had on under the Vert. But with the wind and snow blowing so hard on this particular activity at almost 12,000 ft (3658 m), the Vert was needed, as was double layer gloves and full face protection.
|Merrell Vert on Mt. Evans, Colorado|
With 2 layers of gloves, I did find it difficult to unzip the side pockets. Grabbing the zipper was difficult and frustrating with it being so cold and windy. I ended up quickly removing my glove to get into my side pockets when I needed to. I was able to do so even with my pack on though, since the side pockets were positioned just rearward of where my pack straps crossed over my middle and chest. I think I'll add a long nylon loop to the zippers when we end up in situations like this.
I've worn the insulator alone at temps as low as 20 F (7 C) and was quite comfortable with just 2 or 3 thin layers underneath. The flexibility of having a two part system like the Vert is quite enjoyable.
The insulator has always come out of its shell without any issues and always returned equally as easily. I was concerned that clipping the loops on the sleeve cuffs to the interior of the jacket cuffs was going to be challenging, but it turns out that doing so is really quick and easy, even when wearing the insulator. The loop and snap behind the neck is difficult, but not impossible, because I actually did it a few times while putting the shell on when wearing the insulator.
What IS difficult is to get the hood on while wearing the shell without some practice. After much trial and error and mental visualizing, I can manipulate the zipper connection at the back of my neck and zip the hood on while wearing the jacket. Granted, there is no way I can do it with gloves on. I can easily get the snaps in the collars on each side snapped and in place ... again, without gloves on. This now allows me to neatly fold the hood and store it into the sleeve on the left arm and take it out as needed. I hate wearing a hood that cannot be stored because I hate putting the thing on my head and dumping water and snow on myself. This hood system works well and all it took was a little time to get the feel for securely putting it on and off. Now, if I can figure out how to work the hood's draw string I'd be happier, because I am still unable to get it pulled tight around my face.
I've caught the jacket on twigs, sharp pieces of metal, my snowshoe cleats and other stuff and there has not been a twinge of a snag anywhere. I was sure I ripped it once or twice and was shocked that I was saved from ruining the thing. It still looks new after being through a lot. The real test will be maybe sledding down one of our hogbacks and doing a few sommersaults in the mud and rocks.
I like this jacket. It's a knockout looker. Very sleek and attractive. Classy. It's tough. It's warm. It's a flexible shell system. I really like the insulator and enjoy wearing it all by itself. This is a keeper. We're going to be doing a lot more winter testing so it's still got a lot more abuse to look forward to. So far I think it'll take what I can give it without any trouble.
Please see below the results of my final two months of testing the Merrell Vert Jacket.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|Merrell Vert Jacket Worn Snowshoeing at the Tennessee Pass||I've used the Vert exclusively all winter on many treks. Since my last report I've used it on several miles of snowshoeing and hiking trails in temps from 5 F (-15 C) to 60 F (16 C), as well as wearing it for normal everyday wear around town and for work. |
Some of the locations where I snowshoed and wore the Merrell Vert Jacket:
Sangre de Cristo mountain range - west of Westcliffe, Colorado about 9,000 ft (2743 m) above sea level. Using different trails on 3 different snowshoe treks about 2 or 3 mi (3 - 5 km) each. Temperatures ranged from 5 F (-15 C) to 22 F (-6 C).
Ski Cooper at the Tennessee Pass in Leadville, CO - over 10,000 ft (3048 m) above sea level. I snowshoed for 2 days and over 9 mi (14 km) in temps from 12 F (-11 C) to 28 F (-2.2 C) in moonlight and sunshine.
Other locations used for regular hiking ranged from 5,600 ft (1707 m) above sea level to over 7,000 ft (2134 m) with temps ranging from 14 F (-10 C) to over 60 F (16 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I find that wearing the insulator and the shell together above 35 F (2 C) is too warm for me, especially if I'm walking or hiking. When snowshoeing it's way too warm above 20 F (7 C) and I have to shed either the insulator or the shell. I figured out that, even though it is pretty simple to zip in and snap up, if I think I'm going to get into a position where I need to shed a layer, I can wear the insulator in the shell without zipping it in or snapping in the sleeves. The insulator stays in quite well and there are no issues with not securing it in. I can then quickly take them apart. The insulator can be folded up and put in my pack. The shell due to its bulk needs to be strapped to the back of my pack.
I now keep the insulator and shell hanging on separate hooks in my closet so I can grab one or the other or both as needed. Both have hanging loops, by the way. The loop on the shell seems a little flimsy, like it will not hold both together on a hanger without giving up after a while though it hasn't yet.
We still have not had any rain here or in the mountains, so the Vert has been subjected to snow and sleet but not rain. We need the water here. It's one of the driest in many years. So I can not report on how the Vert handles a drenching downpour. I can report that it handles snow well. I've not gotten wet or damp at all and the fabric dries quickly.
The jacket and insulator have not proven to be 100% windproof though. We get gusty winds many, many days here when winds gust to over 50 mph (80 kph) and I can feel the difference between wearing a true wind jacket and the Vert. In fact, when it was colder, like under 20 F (-7 C) and gusting all day constantly at 30mph (48 kph), I wore a lightweight wind jacket under the Vert. That worked just fine.
There has been no sign of wear and tear on either the shell or the insulator. The only issue I have is that the zipper on the insulator jams up a lot the closer I get it zipped up to my neck. It goes up fine, but I get trapped when trying to unzip it if it's within 6 in (15 cm) of the top. It's not possible, as far as I can see, to unzip it with one hand when up at the top (I'm right handed). I, almost all the time, have to pull the zipper straight with my left hand, or hold the top zippers together, while playing with the zipper with my right hand to get it open.
Well, we had a few inches of snow here in Canon City, Colorado, last night (March 27, 2009) and other areas all around us got up to 24 in (61 cm). We had the snowshoes and sleds ready when they posted the winter storm warning, but it didn't pan out for us.
But I may still be using this jacket and liner yet if we can get away to do some more hiking in the mountains. However, this is basically it for the year since the sun is shining, the temp is going to be around 60 F (16 C) today and whatever snow we had on the ground is almost all melted. If I do get out and up in the mountains yet this year, I'll be wearing this jacket shell and or the insulator liner. And while I might put the shell away for the spring, the insulator will still be available for those cooler days and nights.
This has become a favorite member of my gear closet. It performs well. It's versatile. And it's darn attractive. It can be worn on the trail and around town. The insulator extends its usefulness into spring and fall seasons, because the insulator is an attractive jacket on its own.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
My thanks to Merrell and BackpackGearTest.org for introducing me to this great jacket system.
John R. Waters
Read more gear reviews by John Waters