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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > GoLite Wind River Softshell jacket > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly

GOLITE WIND RIVER SOFTSHELL JACKET
TEST SERIES BY PATRICK MCNEILLY

Phot Courtesy of GoLite


LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 01, 2011
FIELD REPORT - March 14, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - May 10, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Patrick McNeilly
EMAIL: mcne4752 AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 155 lb (70.30 kg)
TORSO SIZE 18.5 in (47 cm)
WAIST SIZE 34 in (86 cm)

I have been hiking for over 20 years but backpacking only since about 2002. Most of my backpacking is done as overnight trips and occasional weekend and weeklong trips. My typical pack weight is approximately 18 to 20 lb (8 to 9 kg) before food or water. Most of my backpacking is the three season variety in the mountains of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In addition to backpacking, I also fish, hunt, and enjoy orienteering. As a result, some of my backpacking equipment gets used in a number of different venues.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: GoLite
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.golite.com
MSRP: US$175.00
Listed Weight: 1 lb 6 oz (620 g)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 6 oz (620 g)
Size Tested: Medium
Color Tested: Ocean Blue/Granite
Other available colors: Black/Black, Granite/Granite

The GoLite Wind River Softshell is a relaxed fit, breathable jacket which is designed to provide a superior range of motion. The jacket is composed of a recycled polyester and nylon fabric which includes the addition of spandex and a durable water repellent finish. GoLite indicates that the jacket has reinforcements in high abrasion areas, articulated wrist cuffs, harness compatible pocket placement, and a bonded sleeve pocket.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Jacket FrontJacket Back

My first impression of the GoLite Wind River Softshell (aka the jacket) is that it is a quality item. The workmanship appears to be very good. I do not see problems with the stitching or other materials. The jacket shell is composed of two different fabrics. One fabric is softer and stretchier while the other is somewhat stiffer but still quite stretchy. The stiffer fabric appears to have a heavier weave to it and covers the tops of the sleeves and the shoulder area.
Fabric Close-up
Detail of fabrics on the shoulder


The jacket has a total of four pockets. There are two front hand warmer pockets which measure approximately 6 in x 10 in (15 cm x 25 cm) and have 6 in (15 cm) zippers which appear to be water resistant. The front pocket openings are located 7 in (18 cm) from the bottom of the jacket and GoLite indicates that they are positioned to be compatable with a harness. There is also a 4.5 in x 6 in (11 cm x 15 cm) pocket in the left sleeve which has a 4.5 in (11 cm) water resistant zipper. This pocket is large enough to hold a cell phone or music player. Lastly there is a 4.5 in x 8 in (11 cm x 20 cm) pocket inside the jacket located at waist level on the left side.

The jacket has a two-way main zipper on the front which is backed by a 1 in (2.5 cm) storm flap made of the same material as the main body of the jacket. The very top of the zipper is covered by a flap of material to prevent the zipper from touching bare skin.

Other features of the jacket include articulated wrists which also have hook-and-loop adjustable closures. The sleeves also have thin wristlets on the inside. At the bottom hem, there are single-hand adjustable draw strings on either side of the jacket. The jacket is lined with a microfiber fleece material. The collar measure approximately 3 in (8 cm) high all around and is lined with a very soft microfiber material which is different than the rest of the jacket's lining.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The cleaning instructions indicate that the jacket can be machine washed with like colors and should be line dried or tumble dried on low. The jacket can be ironed with a cool iron if necessary. GoLite recommends not to use bleach or fabric softeners when laundering. There is also a recommendation not to dry clean the jacket.

TRYING IT OUT

When I tried the Wind River Softshell on for the first time, I felt that the sleeves were a bit tight, especially in the forearm. There may have been two reasons for this. First, I tried the jacket on over a medium weight fleece which was a little tough to get on with microfiber liner of the softshell. Secondly, the inner wristlets may have been bunched up a bit as I put it on. I tried the jacket with lighter weight and smoother fabrics and did not have the same feeling. I would say that the jacket is best with light to medium weight garments underneath.

The amount of stretch that the jacket has is quite remarkable. I feel that I have great freedom of movement with the jacket on and don't have any problems with reaching up. The jacket seems to just move with me.

The location of the pockets is quite good. The front pockets are at just the right height for me. I cane easily slip my hands into the pockets. These pockets also seem quite deep and appear to provide lots of space for various items. The sleeve pocket is easy to access and of a reasonable size. The interior pocket seem to be in an odd place. Since it is at waist level, I need to unzip the jacket quite a bit to access the pocket. I will keep an eye to see how useful this pocket ends up being.

Zipper bottomAll the zippers work smoothly but one problem I did find was with the two-way main zipper. When the bottom part of the zipper is moved up the teeth tend to separate and it is a little difficult to get the bottom of the zipper to zip closed. This is something I will monitor and mention in future reports.

SUMMARY

The GoLite Wind River Softshell Jacket appears to be a well constructed product. The jacket has a fairly snug fit and may be best with lighter weight layers underneath. The jacket stretches and provides a good freedom of movement. The pockets appear to be placed in good locations but the interior pocket may be a little hard to access. One initial problem noted was the two-way zipper which was a little hard to close at the bottom.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Ridgetop in Virginia
I have worn the Wind River Softshell on five local day hikes in central Maryland or in the Michaux State Forest in southern Pennsylvania. I brought the jacket along on one weekend trip along the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia. I have also worn the jacket on numerous road and trail runs, as well as two orienteering events here in Maryland. The outings were all on maintained trails, with the exception of the orienteering events which involve frequent off-trail travel. The trips ranged anywhere from 3 to 10 miles (5 to 16 km) per day and were at elevations of 300 to 4000 ft (91 to 1219 m). The temperatures on these outing ranged from 18F to 50F (-8 to 10 C). I did encounter light to moderate rain and snow on some of these trips, as well as some very windy conditions [20 to 35 mph (32 to 56 kph)], particularly on my weekend outing in Virginia.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Since I have been testing the jacket during the winter and we have had a rather cold winter here my first observation is that the jacket is not very warm. I guess that is not unexpected since the jacket is thin and doesn't have much in the way of insulation. However, I can say that that I like the jacket for those times that I am actively hiking or running. The jacket provides reasonable wind resistance so that when moving around I am not bothered so much by the wind gusts but if I stopped on a windy ridge I was typically looking for another layer to put on.

I did get opportunity to test the jacket in moderate rain and snow and found that water does bead up on the softshell but does seem to get absorbed by the fabric over time. At this point, I have not noticed that water actually penetrates the jacket and thus I have remained dry on my hikes.
Water beading on sleeve
Water beading on fabric


One thing that I like about the jacket is that the fabric on arms and shoulders doesn't snag on branches or thorns. This has been very evident while orienteering where it is not uncommon to run through briers or other thorny patches. The Wind River Softshell has not snagged on these in either of the two events that I was at. This, along with the wind resistance and waterproofness, has made this jacket my go to item for cold weather trail running and orienteering.

One area that has been a bit of a problem is with the sleeve cuffs. The cuffs fit tightly and partially cover the back of my hands. They can feel warm when the temperature gets above 40F (4 C), which I find uncomfortable. The only way I have found to keep them from covering my hands is to tighten the hook-and-loop wrist adjustment but this doesn't alleviate the uncomfortable feeling. In addition, I find it difficult to pull the cuff back when I want to check my watch or try to stuff the ends of my gloves under the cuff.

The snug fit of the jacket doesn't allow for much layering but stretches well and I feel that I have a good range of motion. My initial concern with the jacket's main zipper has not been much of an issue. It has operated smoothly throughout the test period. The pocket placement is good and I have been able to use the front pockets even when wearing a hip belt. The pocket on the sleeve has been very useful for holding granola bars, energy gels, and my MP3 player. I haven't found the small inner pocket terribly useful, particularly since I often wear a pack with a hip belt and can't easily access this pocket. Lastly, while the collar provides good coverage of the neck, the fabric strip behind the zipper is fairly stiff and doesn't want to fold down when the jacket is partially unzipped. This causes on half of the collar to stand up and can flop around hitting me in the face when I am running which is annoying.

SUMMARY

The GoLite Wind River Softshell is a form fitting, waterproof, and breathable jacket which seems to best suited to vigorous activities. The jacket has very functional front and sleeve pockets but its internal pocket is not easily accessible when wearing a pack with a hip belt. The tough fabric on the should and sleeves does not snag on bushes or thorns. The jacket has articulated wrists that can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and difficult to pull over gloves.

Likes:

1. Stretch fabric
2. Doesn't snag on brush
3. Wind and water resistance

Dislikes:

1. Wrists can be uncomfortable
2. Internal pocket not accessible
3. Collar can flap around

This concludes my Field Report, please check back later for more information in the Long-Term Report.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and GoLite for the opportunity to test this jacket.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have continued to wear the Wind River Softshell on three local day hikes in central Maryland and on one overnight backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I also wore the jacket on road and trail runs during this portion of the testing. Lastly, I used the jacket during two orienteering events here in Maryland, one of which was held at night. Since the jacket was not too heavy, I even brought it along on a cruise to Bermuda (Ok, not backpacking but it did come in handy). All outings were on maintained trails, with the exception of the orienteering events. The trips ranged anywhere from 3 to 10 miles (5 to 16 km) per day and were at elevations of 400 to 1350 ft (122 to 411 m). The temperatures on these outing ranged from 35 F to 75 F (2 C to 24 C). I did encounter light to moderate rain on some outings but nothing involving heavy downpours.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Over the long-term test period the Wind River Softshell has continued to perform well. I have not had any failure of zippers or pockets. I have picked up a few small snags in the fabric on the front of the jacket. These were a result of my night orienteering since I couldn't see as well to avoid some of the briers and thorns. I would have to say that this is not at all a problem and the jacket has stood up to some fair abuse.
As the weather has turned warmer, I have found that the jacket has been useful as a light layer to ward off a chill. The jacket can become a little too warm if I am hiking and the temperature is greater than 60 F (16 C). The jacket is breathable but there are some limits to this. For example, there have been a couple instances where I was actually running, with the temperature about 40 F (4 C), and I was sweating and the shirt I was wearing was soaked. I am not surprised by this since these were vigorous runs with hills and I expect that even the most breathable of fabric would have had similar issues. This may also help to explain the fact that the jacket performs fairly well as a windbreaker. As I mentioned above, the jacket was handy on my Bermuda cruise when I was running on deck with a breeze blowing and temperatures near 60 F (16 C). The jacket worked perfectly in these conditions.

I need to mention that this jacket does seem to retain odor, especially after an outing where I might have been sweating heavily. This has been more evident during the long-term testing, I believe do to the fact that I am wearing it with fewer layers underneath. Washing the jacket has removed the odor easily but I have found that fairly frequent washings are necessary with the Wind River Softshell.

I have remained dry during any rain events but the jacket does seem to absorb water (but not penetrate) if exposed to rain for an extended amount of time. This can make the jacket feel somewhat heavy which I really don't like too much. However, staying dry is more important to me than the extra weight.

SUMMARY

The GoLite Wind River Softshell is a form fitting, waterproof, and breathable jacket which seems to be best suited to vigorous activities. The jacket has very functional front and sleeve pockets but its internal pocket is not easily accessible when wearing a pack with a hip belt. The tough fabric on the shoulders and sleeves does not snag on bushes or thorns. The jacket has articulated wrists that can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and difficult to pull over gloves. In warmer weather, the jacket can retain odors but these are easily removed after washing.

My likes and dislikes haven't changed significantly from those listed in my Field Report, with the possible exception of the odor retention as a dislike.

CONTINUED USE

I expect that I will continue to use the Wind River Softshell. I will use it mostly for trail running and hiking in the future, rather than backpacking.

This concludes my reporting on the GoLite Wind River Softshell. I would sincerely like to thank GoLite and BackpackgearTest.org for the opportunity to test the jacket.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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