High Peaks Pinnacle II Fleece Jacket
By Raymond Estrella
May 18, 2006
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Web site: www.campmor.com
Product: High Peaks Pinnacle II Fleece Jacket
Year manufactured: 2004
MSRP: $90.00 (US)
Weight listed: 1 lb 12 oz (.79 kg) Weight measured 1 lb 9.5 oz (.72 kg)
Color reviewed: Charcoal (Black is also available)
Warranty: (Quoted from web site) “All merchandise in resellable condition may be returned for a refund within one year of purchase when accompanied by your receipt. If used and found defective, we will exchange or repair within one year of the purchase date when accompanied by your receipt.”
The High Peaks Pinnacle II Fleece Jacket, (hereafter called the Pinnacle or the jacket) is a heavyweight fleece jacket. It is made of “450 gm double-sided, non-pill 100% polyester fleece” and “abrasion-resistant nylon”.
The entire coat is made of the fleece. The nylon is used to reinforce the jacket at points of wear. It occurs under the forearms and the top of the back and shoulders. The same material is on the outside of the collar.
A YKK zipper runs up the front of the jacket. It extends to the top of the collar, which stands up when the zipper is all the way up. Once the zipper is down a bit the collar lays down as seen in the picture above. A 1.25 in (31 mm) piece of nylon backed fleece runs under the zipper acting as both a draft stop, and a snag guard.
On the front of the jacket are three zipper accessed pockets, one on the right chest and two lower hand-warmer pockets. All are covered by a double thick nylon shingle. At the bottom of the Pinnacle is an elastic drawstring secured by a cord-lock on each side. The cord-locks are attached to the body of the jacket allowing for one-handed adjustment from either side. The Campmor logo is stitched on the back of the jacket below the collar.
Inside of the jacket on the left side is another zippered pocket. It is a small one, big enough for a wallet and keys, or a few snacks.
The sleeves end with a cuff made of doubled fleece. They do not seem to have any extra elastic in them, but are still in good shape with no bagging. Under each sleeve is a 14 in (36 cm) zipper or “pit-zip” running from a few inches (9 cm) below my armpit, to just above my elbow. These zippers are backed by a piece of fleece for a draft stop.
All of the zippers with the exception of the inside pocket’s have nylon zipper pulls attached to facilitate their use with gloves on.
This jacket has been on almost every winter trip I have gone on in the past two and a half years. It has been on at least eleven trips that I can remember. I have worn it at elevations ranging from 7,000’ to 13,300’ (2,134 to 4,054 m). The temperatures seen on these trips were in the teens to twenties F (-9 to -4 C) as a norm, but saw it near 0 F (-18 C) on occasions. It has been on my back in beautiful weather, and full on blizzard conditions. I do most of my winter hiking in the Sierra Nevada and White mountains, along with local stuff in the Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio areas. But I also wore it on Mount Shasta last year, where it was 13 F (-11 C) and storming.
I bought this because I wanted a heavier fleece garment than the ones that I owned at the time, as I started mountaineering and was doing more winter specific backpacking, and I wanted something that would keep me warm while hiking hard. I carry a down parka or jacket always, but can not hike in them, I get much too hot. I have a high metabolism and put off a lot of heat. And I sweat pretty darn well too. (Oooh, gross.) So I bought the High Peaks Pinnacle II Fleece Jacket and matching Pants, (see review) to fill this need. As a rule I wear an Arc'teryx mid-weight base layer under it.
At 450 g (15.9 oz) per yard this is some thick fleece. It has no wind blocking film in it though, so a strong wind will punch through it. Which is fine with me. When the wind blows too hard or is just too frigid, I put a shell on over the jacket. That of course makes me instantly too warm.
That is where the excellent pit-zips come in. These are long enough to be very useful for me. And they match up quite well with the Sierra Designs MX-31 mountaineering shell I use. They vent superbly. And the zippers track well. They do not snag often, something that drives me nuts. I have very little patience while climbing a 40 degree slope with a 60 lb (27 kg) pack on, with snow blowing in my face. Go figure.
I like the major reinforcing on the shoulders and forearms. It adds weight but is well worth it to me, when carrying heavy winter packs, to not be trashing my fleece.
I have read statements about how fleece insulates when wet. I always said to myself, “right, who’s going to get their fleece wet in winter conditions”? And then I got my own example on Shasta in 2005.
We went to climb Mount Shasta with a very tight time frame. We could only free up four days from the office and my brother-in-law Dave and I live down in Huntington Beach, the other end of the state from Shasta. So we drove up in one day and hiked up to Lake Helen the next. We had one shot at the summit. They were calling for bad weather so we got up at 2:00 A.M. to try to beat it. We made to within 900 vertical feet (274 m) of the summit when the storm hit the peak and was rushing down at us. We stayed ahead of (below) it back down to our camp, where it caught us as we were breaking down. We hoofed it down as fast as we could. Even though it was 13 F (-11 C) when we left Helen, I was burning up. It was too cold to just wear the shell, so I took it off and just wore the Pinnacle Jacket with the pit-zips open.
While we were in the storm (total white-out) the wind was swirling around and blasting us with tiny little snow balls, I couldn’t call them flakes. Somewhere around 8,500’ (2,590 m) we got below the clouds. Suddenly there was no wind to speak of, and huge snowflakes falling on us. I did not bother to put my shell back on just kept on truckin’ for the trailhead. My body heat was melting the snow on the Pinnacle jacket. It was soaked through. We stopped to talk to a guy that wanted to know how it went on the mountain and water was running out of it. (And out of my goggles too.) Dave asked how I wasn’t freezing, and I honestly told him I was fine. It was still in the 20s F (-2 to -6 C) at this point. I took it off at the truck and had to put it in the bed, it was so wet. But it insulated just fine. Here is a picture of it when we were stopped.
At night I use the jacket (and pants) to help keep my water from freezing. I wrap my water in the fleece and put the whole works inside of my pack. It seems to help.
I have been very happy with this jacket. I see myself using for many seasons to come.
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Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella