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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Brooks Range Ultimate Brisa Jacket > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Brooks-Range Ultimate Brisa

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - January 3, 2014

Field Report - March 10, 2015

Long Term Report - May 12, 2015

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 61
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking venues have been a combination of Minnesota, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona where I moved to take a new job about five years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I often carry some type of fleece jacket or pullover into the backcountry to keep me warm when temperatures drop.

Initial Report

Product Information

The Brooks-Range Ultimate Brisa is designed to be a highly breathable insulated jacket.  It is heavier than a windshirt or windbreaker, but lighter than the typical soft shell jacket.

Brooks Range Ultimate Brisa
The Ultimate Brisa Jacket, Photo Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co.

Manufacturer: Brooks-Range Mountaineering
Manufacturer website: https://brooks-range.com/
Model:
Ultimate Brisa
Year of manufacture: 2014
MSRP:
US $179.95
Color tested:
Black
Also available in Smoke (light blue) and Wheat (dark yellow)
Materials:
Nylon shell, Polartec Alpha in the torso, Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency in the arms
Size tested:
Extra-large
Also available in Small, Medium and Large
Weight: Measured: 15.4 oz (437 g)
Listed: 13 oz (369 g)
Typically manufacturers list the weight of a Medium size, so the discrepancy is expected.

The  features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • DWR shell finish to provide light precipitation protection
  • Chest pocket (visible in above photo)
  • Gasket cuffs to prevent heat loss from sleeve ends
  • Hem drawcord to prevent air leakage around the hips
  • Zipper chin guard to prevent neck/chin abrasion

Initial Inspection

The quality of manufacture is very high - I could find no loose stitches, frays, discolorations, etc. This is the first jacket I've handled with the combination of the new Polartec fabrics, so I laid it out with the right sleeve turned inside-out to see how they are used:
Ultimate Brisa fabrics

All of the fabrics comprising this jacket are remarkably soft.  The sleeve lining (photo left) is very lightweight, and has a "waffle" texture that is somewhat apparent from the photo.  The torso insulation is substantially thicker (Polartec Alpha) to better insulate the body's core.  The nylon shell has a beautiful sheen to it.  The color is labelled as "Black", but I think there is more gray fabric in the jacket.

Trying It Out

I slipped on the jacket and checked for fit.  I prefer a Large-Tall size due to my long torso, but with most makes I have to get an Extra Large to get the length in the arms and torso.  The Ultimate Brisa fit me very well, I didn't feel like there was excess girth to the jacket, but neither would I say it had an "athletic" fit.

The warmth from the insulation was immediately apparent.  Clearly this is not just a windbreaker, but a garment that supplies substantial protection from the cold.

I used the jacket on a cool day to run some errands.  I was wearing a long sleeve cotton shirt, and I found that the Brisa sleeves wanted to adhere to the shirt sleeves, which made it hard to get the jacket on.

Summary

I am looking forward to getting the Ultimate Brisa into the field and seeing how it performs under trying conditions.  I will be substituting it for a combination of a Polarfleece pullover plus a windshirt, which provide campsite warmth and a little extra protection on the trail during the early portions of my morning hikes.  It'll be interesting to see how well the Ultimate Brisa can supplant these two, plus serve as my pillow while sleeping at night.

Things I Like So Far:

  • Good quality design and workmanship.
  • Good warmth/weight ratio.
  • Very attractive garment.

Things That Concern Me Upfront:

  • Sleeves are a little tough to get over LS shirt with fabric that grips the insulation.

Field Report

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
January 6-9, 2015
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Clear Creek Trail
31 miles
(50 km)
2643-7260 ft
(806-2213 m)
Sunny, 22-60 F
(-6-16 C)
January 24-25, 2015 Saguaro National Park, near Tucson, Arizona Italian Spring Trail
24 miles
(38 km)
4000-8560 ft
(1219-2609 m)
32-65 F
(0-18 C)
Very windy
Day 1: sunny, day 2: hazy clouds
February 2-5, 2015 Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Tanner and Beamer Trails 30 miles
(48 km)
2650-7400 ft
(810-2260 m)
35-70 F (2-21 C)
Mostly sunny, occasional hazy clouds
March 8-9, 2015
Santa Catalina Mountains, near Tucson, Arizona
Romero Canyon Trail
12 miles
(19 km)
2800-4500 ft
(790-1370 m)
40-70 F (4-21 C)
Sunny, light breeze

Clear Creek Trail

Since this was my first experience with the Brisa jacket, and I wasn't sure what kind of temperatures I was going to encounter, I brought a down vest to layer underneath in the event I got cold (see my report on the Outdoor Research Transcendent vest).  As it turned out, it was a good thing because it got pretty chilly at night and the old sleeping bag I took on this trip must be losing loft so I needed extra layers at night.

Brisa with down vestWhen I set out at the South Kaibab trailhead it was pretty cold, 22 F (-6 C), so I layered the vest beneath the Brisa as can be seen in the photo at right.  This lasted about 30 minutes when I became overheated and peeled off the vest.

About an hour later I broke out into the sun and immediately had to stow the Brisa jacket and hiked in shirtsleeves.  At this time the air temperature was 45 F (7 C).  It should be noted that I seem to generate massive amounts of body heat, and can hike at very low temperatures with a minimum of clothing as long as I keep moving.  Also, despite the fact that it was deep winter, the Arizona sun can be very warming even in January.  When figuring how much clothing layering I need, I have to take into account wind and sun, not just air temperature.

This pattern was repeated for the next three days: hike with the vest beneath the Brisa for about 30 minutes, remove the vest and continue with the Brisa for about another hour, then hike in shirtsleeves.

On nights one and two I slept with both the vest and the Brisa on in my sleeping bag.  Both nights fell to freezing temperature or just a little below, and I was quite comfortable with the layers.  The Brisa is quite nice to sleep in - the fabric is very slippery, so when I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag I didn't have any issues with the bag adhering to me.  On this third night in Bright Angel campground it was warm enough that I slept in just my base layers, and used the Brisa as a pillow.  I turned it inside out so the insulation was on the outside to minimize the rolled up jacket from slipping out from underneath me.  The Brisa makes a great pillow!

Overall, it was a very successful first outing with the Ultimate Brisa jacket.  It was a little warm for me to hike in during the day, and I needed an extra layer in the evening and early mornings, but it did what I needed it to do.

The more I wear it the more I find it a very attractive garment.  The cut of the two fabric colors is very nice, and the outer fabric has a really nice soft sheen to it.

Italian Springs Trail

This was a quick overnight with some serious altitude involved, a training hike for my next Grand Canyon trip.  I took a different middle layer than the prior trip, this time I brought my trusty 200wt Polarfleece pullover.

When I got into camp it was about 40F (4 C), so I added the pullover beneath the Brisa.  I was really nice and toasty in this combination, but when I tried to take the Brisa off to change into my sleeping attire I had serious difficulties getting if off.  I had expected this - Polarfleece against Polarfleece is a sticky combination.

For sleeping that night I ended up wearing the pullover and using the Brisa as my pillow.  It turned it inside out so the fleece was against my face, not the slippery shell.  This worked quite well.

The next morning when it came time to eat breakfast I thought I'd try a different permutation and put the pullover on over the Brisa, thinking that the slippery shell would allow the pullover to be pulled on and off easily, and I was right!  This worked like a dream and kept me very warm even though the temperatures hovered around the freezing point.

On my descent I wore the Brisa over my day layers, same as my Clear Creek trip which was a light Merino wool T-shirt and a nylon long-sleeved hiking shirt.  This combo was perfect for about 3 hours, much longer than previous, as it was very windy and overcast.

Beamer and Tanner Trails

bb04The weatherman was predicting a week of unseasonably warm temperatures with virtually no chance of rain, so I decided at the spur of the moment to head off to the Grand Canyon.

I wore the Brisa at night while sleeping, as it dropped down to about the rating of my sleeping bag at night.

As the photo at left shows, I also wore the Brisa in the morning while making breakfast, breaking camp, etc.  On this trip I occasionally wore my down vest beneath the jacket for extra core warmth.

The Brisa jacket performed very well in these conditions, though as usual I got too warm after an hour or so of hiking in the morning and had to peel it off as I warmed up.

After this trip, which included a lot of camping in the sand, I threw the jacket into the washing machine to clean it up.  It came out looking like new!


Romero Canyon

bb05Quick sub-24-hour backpack up into the mountains just to get some fresh air for a night.  I wore the Brisa in-camp during the evening (photo at left), used it for a pillow while I slept, wore it again while making breakfast and breaking camp in the morning, and for the first 30 minutes of the hike out.

I was pleased with the warmth it provided during the morning hours.  I didn't bring any extra insulation layers on this trip, so the jacket was worn directly over my base layer.

As usual, on the hike out I started to overheat after about 30 minutes of hiking and stashed the jacket in my pack.


Summary

The Brooks Range Ultimate Brisa has shown itself to be a versatile and attractive garment.  I've used it for twelve days on the trail, on mountain tops and canyon bottoms.  It has provided significant warmth for the weight and pack volume, and works well with layers under or over the jacket.

Good stuff:

  1. Extremely attractive garment.
  2. Lots of warmth when I needed it.
  3. Lightweight, packs easily.
  4. Turned inside-out it makes a great pillow.
  5. Slippery shell makes it easy to add/subtract layers over the jacket.

Could be better:

  1. Can be a bit too warm when hiking in the sun.
  2. Side pockets seemed to be located very far back, not comfortable to have my hands in the pockets for long periods of time.
  3. Inner insulation, especially the sleeves, likes to stick to garments that are not slippery requiring some effort to get the jacket on/off when worn over some types of layers.

Please check back in about two months for my Long Term Report.

Long Term Report

It was a busy couple of months - only time for one 3-day/2-night backpacking trip up into the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona on May 5-7.  I wore the Brisa both mornings, and used it rolled-up in a ball both nights as a pillow.

Day 2 morning: temperature was 50 F (10 C) with no wind.  I kept it on while having breakfast and breaking camp, but took it off before I hit the trail as things were warming up quickly, and I was comfortable with just my shirt on top.

Day 3 morning: temperature was 42 F (6 C), winds were gusty up to 20 mph (32 kph).  Due to the cooler temperatures and wind chill I kept the Brisa on when I began hiking out, and took it off after about an hour when the sun came up over the mountains.

The trails during this trip were very brushy, and much of the brush had thorns.  I did get a few snags/thread-pulls in the jacket, so it is not impervious to sharp objects.

In addition to the backpacking trip I used the Brisa jacket extensively during a 3-week trip to Florida.  Some of the nights were cool, and it was nice to have the jacket along when going out in the evening.  It is such an attractive jacket that I enjoyed taking it out on the town with me.

Summary

It has been my experience that the optimum temperature for hiking in the Brisa jacket is in the low 40's F (just above 4 C).  When it gets much warmer than that I start to overheat.

My bottom line: the Ultimate Brisa is a fantastic jacket for cool evenings and mornings on the trail or in town.  It has great warmth for such a lightweight garment, and it is very attractive.  I intend to continue to use it for trips when I expect that the temperatures will dip down to just above freezing at night, as it beats taking an insulation layer plus a wind breaker.


Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Brooks-Range Mountaineering for the opportunity to contribute to this test.



Read more reviews of Brooks Range Mountaineering Equipment Co gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Brooks Range Ultimate Brisa Jacket > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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