MERRELL ROVE TECH JACKET
TEST SERIES BY CHRISTOPHER NICOLAI
June 02, 2009
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thebootfitters at yahoo dot com
Seattle, Washington & Minneapolis, Minnesota
5' 11" (1.80 m)
172 lb (78.00 kg)
33" (84 cm)
40" (102 cm)
15" (38 cm)
34" (86 cm)
I have been backpacking for 10+ years in locales from Chile to Alaska. I have experienced temps from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C), heavy precipitation in virtually all forms, and winds exceeding 75 mph (120 km/h) - in everything from desert to rainforest to glaciated peaks. Most of my trips are 1-4 nights climbing/backpacking less than 15 miles/day (24 km/day) in the Pacific Northwest mountains or canoeing in Northern Minnesota. I prefer to pack a tarp and minimal gear -- less than 20 lb (9 kg) -- for backpacking, but may carry twice that on alpine climbs or winter trips to accommodate suitable gear and shelter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.merrell.com
MSRP: $129 US
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 1 lb 4.1 oz (570 g)
Size: Men's Large
Color: Brick Red
Country of Manufacture: China
Warranty: "Merrell warrants all products against manufacturer defects. Please note this warranty does not include normal wear and tear and product misuse. " (From the Merrell website)
Care Instructions: Machine wash cold; do not bleach; tumble dry low; cool iron; do not dry clean
|The Merrell Rove Tech Jacket (Fall 2008)|
The Merrell Rove Tech jacket is a simple full zip, hoodless jacket insulated with PrimaLoft One polyester insulation. It has 100 grams of insulation in the body of the jacket and 60 grams of insulation in the sleeves. The outer shell and inner lining are both 100% polyester. The outer shell has a DWR (durable water repellant) treatment to make it wind and water resistant.
My initial impressions of the Merrell Rove Tech jacket are mixed.
Things I like:
* Water-resistance (i.e. that it can be worn as an outer layer in light rain/snow)
* Some of the details, such as the cuffs, the placement and size of the zippered pockets, and the cinch collar at the bottom of the jacket
Things I don't like:
* Roomy, boxy fit
* Bulk & weight
* Some of the details, such as the zippers (which have been getting stuck) and the attachment of the arms to the body of the jacket (which restricts the motion of my arms)
TRYING IT OUT
I have already worn this jacket without additional insulation or outer shell protection in some cold, windy, rainy, and snowy conditions. While many factors contribute to perceived warmth, I have found it to be sufficiently warm during light activity in calm conditions even down to 0 F (-18 C). The outer shell has repelled brisk winds while skiing with only a hint of lost heat, and it has shed light rain and snow for multiple hours outdoors with only slight wetting of the fabric (which dried quickly from body heat once sheltered from the precipitation).
I really like the design of the sleeve cuffs! They have an inner, ribbed cuff that fits securely around the wrist and an outer insulated cuff that can fit over the top of gloves or mittens to keep out wind and snow. True, the double layer adds a marginal amount of weight and bulk, but this is a feature that I've come to appreciate while skiing and playing in powdery snow.
|The sleeve cuffs|
The pockets are not generously sized, but they are sufficient, in my estimation. The hand pockets easily accommodate a soft shell liner glove or fleece mitten. The chest pockets accommodate a small pair of foldable earmuffs or a small cell phone, keys and a wallet.
I ordered a men's size large, since that is typically the size that fits me best from most manufacturers in jackets and shirts. (I could not find any specific sizing details on the Merrell website.) The size large is likely the best fit for me, since the length of the sleeves and the jacket seem about right. However, the cut of the jacket is a bit roomy -- even boxy -- in my opinion. This may work well for some body types, but it feels like too much excess material for my relatively slender frame.
This roomy cut leads to a jacket that is heavier than it needs to be, in my opinion. All of the materials are lightweight, but the extra material to fill out the wider cut of the jacket lead to some extra weight. When rolling up or stuffing the jacket with little compression, it is roughly the size of a football (American). With compression, it can be stuffed to about the size of a one liter (one quart) water bottle.
I have had some issues with the zippers getting stuck in the lightweight fabric. It hasn't been difficult to get them unstuck, but it has been a minor nuisance dealing with them in colder temperatures.
The arms of this jacket are sewn onto the nearly circular opening of the main body of the jacket -- as if the main body were a vest and arms were attached as an afterthought. The result is that there is restricted free motion of the arms. When I raise my arms above my head, the bottom of the jacket lifts above my waist. This is somewhat mitigated by the convenient cinch collar at the bottom of the jacket that can be tighted with one hand, but still does not feel quite right.
Upon inspecting the jacket closely to write this review, I noticed loose threads and a small hole in the interior chest pocket. While this is easily repairable and only a minor inconvenience, it makes me cautious about the long term durability of the jacket -- especially considering my intended extensive use of the jacket.
I plan to contact Merrell's customer service regarding the ripped seam of the pocket, and will comment on this experience in my field report.
|Loose threads & hole|
Finally, while this is primarily a matter of preference, I have found that I miss having a hood on my insulated jacket. The top opening of the jacket does not fit securely around my neck and allows precipitation to enter and some warm air to escape. I will still use this jacket more than the minimum number of uses, but because of this, I may end up using a hooded jacket during some outings on which I prioritize greater heat retention.
Overall, I like the jacket and am glad to have the experience of trying it out. However, after having used it for a few weeks, I have determined that it is not a jacket that I would seek out to purchase for myself. Between the fit issues, the ripped seam in the interior pocket, and the weight & bulk without a hood, it has too many compromises in areas that matter to me for my outdoor recreation use. At the same time, it some attractive features that I am looking forward to testing more thoroughly.
THE SHORT STORY
I have to say that I have really grown to appreciate this jacket! While I still feel it is not the minimalist type of jacket that I might prefer for taking into the backcountry (with the headphone cord port and all), it has become my everyday jacket on cool to cold days around town. And it has proven itself to be warm and comfortable during light activity even in temperatures well below 0 F (-18 C). I had the small section of ripped seam repaired via Merrell customer service, and the jacket has held up admirably to a fair amount of use and abuse. The only real signs of wear are some soiled areas around the cuffs and collar (and a small tear in the fabric on the outside of the sleeve that was caused by user error).
I still don't care for the boxy fit of the jacket, nor the cut of the sleeves that make them too short on my wrists when raising or stretching my arms. But I have received more than one complement from friends, indicating that they liked the look of the jacket. I suppose that counts for something.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
What locations and conditions has the jacket experienced? Can I address instead what it hasn't experienced? Until recently, when the city temperatures have started to climb to 40-50 F (5-10 C) or warmer, I wore it virtually every time I left the house -- whether for skiing, for hiking, for snowshoeing, or simply for going to work and running errands. For the rest of the season, it will likely be relegated to use as insulation during rest breaks unless the temperatures drop again.
* I have worn the jacket too many days to count (roughly 75 days) while walking to and from my bus stops in an urban setting in Seattle, Washington on cool or cold days. Temperatures have ranged mostly between 25 F and 45 F (-4 C and 7 C). I have experienced precipitation in the form of light to moderate rains and snow on many of these days.
* I spend approximately 20% of my time in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have also used the jacket on a regular basis in the urban environment there. Temperatures have ranged mostly between -10 F and 35 F (-23 C and 2 C) during my time in Minneapolis. I have experienced snow falling during some of my visits.
* I used the jacket while skiing on at least ten occasions and sledding on four other occasions, either in the Cascade Mountain Range in Central Washington or in Southern Minnesota. Two of these were overnight outings during which I slept in an igloo once and under the stars once. Temperatures during these outings have ranged between 10 F and 35 F (-12 C and 2 C). Snow has fallen intermittently during some of these outings. Winds have gusted as high as 25 mph (40 km/h) on some occasions.
* I have used the jacket on two snowshoe outings in Minnesota, including a three-day excursion into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota. Temperatures have ranged between -20 F and 10 F (-29 C and -9 C). Light snow has fallen during some periods of these outings. Winds gusted as high as 15 mph (24 km/h) on some occasions.
* I have used the jacket on two day hikes into the Cascade Mountain Range in Central Washington, with temperatures ranging between 10 F and 32 F (-12 C and 0 C). Snow fell intermittently during one of these outings, and wind was a significant factor as well -- gusting as high as 30 mph (48 km/h).
* I wore the jacket as a belay parka while ice climbing with a partner near Saint Paul, Minnesota. The temperature was approximately 20 F (-7 C). There was very little wind, and the skies were overcast.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
For the most part, the jacket has performed admirably during the past couple months.
WIND / WATER RESISTANCE
It has shed light precipitation -- both around town and on the trail -- quite well. With enough exposure, the exterior of the jacket began to wet out, but even after experiencing a few hours of lightly falling moist snow while skiing, I did not feel any moisture penetrating the jacket. It had also shed wind fairly well. I haven't noticed perceptible heat loss from wind until the wind speeds start to exceed 15-20 mph (24-32 km/h). Only on overnight trips or when the precipitation has been heavy have I felt the need to wear a shell over this jacket for protection from snow and rain. I have also found that when the jacket does get wet, both the insulation and the shell have dried pretty quickly.
As alluded to above, I have found the jacket to be sufficiently warm for me even down to approximately -10 F (-23 C), provided that I am maintaining a light activity level -- such as an easy hiking pace with very little weight, or easy snow shoveling. If my activity level increased above these levels, even at these low temperatures, the jacket became too warm and I had to open the front to vent or take it off. When the temperature dropped even lower when I was mostly inactive during late evenings and early mornings of my outing to the Boundary Waters, I found that I needed to throw on an outer layer of insulation to keep warm.
In warmer temperatures, even above freezing, I have appreciated the jacket as instant warmth during rest breaks while hiking or snowshoeing. On these occasions, I missed having a hood, but I discovered other times while skiing that I prefer to not have a hood. The lighter weight insulation in the arms of the jacket has not diminished my overall warmth experience.
The jacket has survived many brushes against rock while hiking and encounters with low hanging sharp branches. Nothing in the field has caused the jacket any harm. (Only when I left a building in a hurry once did the sleeve of the jacket get caught on the door hinge and it ripped. The repair process and customer service experience are summarized below.) I have laundered the jacket once since receiving it -- per the product care instructions tag. The writing on the tag showing the care instructions is fading significantly, but is still readable.
The pockets are well positioned for easy access and are large enough to accommodate a lot of glove and mitten bulk. I am not a fan of listening to music while in the outdoor environment, so I have not yet used the cable opening in the interior chest pocket. I absolutely love the cuffs on this jacket. While they most certainly add some weight, the design of these cuffs is great for keeping out snow and keeping warmth in. My perception after laundering the jacket once is that the zippers have a little greater tendency to get stuck. It seems that the hand of the outer face fabric has softened slightly, and is now more likely to fold over the zipper while in action and get stuck. I have found this to be the case both for the main zipper as well as the pocket zippers.
CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE
As indicated in the initial report, I noticed a small section of seam that had ripped in the interior chest pocket of the jacket. I found a toll-free number on the Merrell website to call for customer service. I was placed on hold by an automated system for approximately 15 minutes before a live representative answered the phone.
Brenda was very pleasant to deal with, and I explained the situation to her. She suggested that I had two potential options. I could send the product back to Merrell for replacement of a similar product. Since they no longer made this specific model, I would have to pick a comparable jacket to replace it, which wasn't really a viable option in my situation. Or, I could take the jacket to an establishment that offers sewing repairs and mail or fax a copy of my receipt to Merrell. Brenda indicated that I would then receive reimbursement from Merrell for the cost of the repair (up to USD$25).
I managed to find a dry cleaner establishment in my neighborhood that did sewing repair work. They did a fine job of repairing the blown seam. I delayed sending the receipt to Merrell, so I have not yet received word back from them, but expect to do so soon. I will update how this experience ended during the final report in a couple months.
CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE (cont.)
I am pleased to report that within two weeks of sending a copy of my receipt to repair the jacket, I received a check for the amount of the receipt from Wolverine, the parent company of Merrell. I feel that Merrell handled this issue fairly and promptly. It's good to know that they follow through with their guarantee!
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
With warm temperatures during most of my day trip outings, I only found two additional occasions to use the jacket since the field report.
* On a day hike into the Cascade Mountain Range in Central Washington. Temperatures started out at about 60 F (16 C), but toward the end of the hike, the winds increased, snow started to fall, and the temperature dropped considerably. Elevations ranged between 1,500 ft (450 M) and 4,500 ft (1,370 M).
* On a four-night canoeing trip into the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. Temperatures reached as high as 70 F (21 C) during the day, but dipped below 40 F (4 C) at night. Winds were generally very light, but a cool breeze blew in every once in awhile that prompted me to don the jacket. No precipitation fell during the times I was wearing the jacket.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The jacket continued to perform admirably during these final outings of the testing period. Below are a few noteworthy observations:
* The sleeve of the jacket got caught in a door in the urban environment and suffered a small tear in the sleeve near the cuff. Though the fabric continued to snag on things during use, I did not notice the size of the tear increasing. Note that I plan to repair this tear before further use after the test period has ended.
* Toward the end of the testing period, the DWR seemed to be wearing off such that the jacket wetted out more quickly than when I first received the jacket. Granted, I had laundered the jacket once without reapplying any DWR treatment.
* I tried out the headphone port with my iPod Touch, which fit snugly inside the stretchy mesh pocket inside the interior chest pocket. The port worked well and posed no trouble while slipping the headphone cord inside the jacket, but the loose threads snagged on the jack when I attempted to pull the cord back out through the port. The cord didn't snag on subsequent uses, but there were still some loose threads dangling.
* I found the fabric of the jacket to accumulate stains from the mixture of dirt, sweat, fire charcoal, etc. to which it was subjected. The stains accumulated particularly around the cuffs and around the neck of the jacket. Standard laundering according to the care tag (not using any stain products) did not remove the offending stains. While this is not a big deal to me when I use the jacket most of my outings, it does make the jacket a bit grungy-looking for everyday wear.
SUMMARY & CONTINUED USE
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by this jacket. The jacket provided nearly instant warmth on many occasions when needed on several outings. I am still not a fan of the boxy fit, but after a few uses, it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. A consequence of the boxy fit, though, is that it has a bit of extra weight and bulk. I have even come to appreciate a hoodless jacket for those occasions that I wear a helmet (such as while skiing -- at least when it's not snowing and snow can fall inside the neck of the jacket).
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
While I still maintain it is not a jacket that I would seek out to purchase because of the fit, weight, & bulk, I do plan to keep the jacket in my arsenal to pull out when I wish to wear an insulated hoodless jacket. Skiing in colder conditions is probably the best example of this niche in my typical winter season.
I thank Merrell for their respectable customer service in addressing my issue, and both Merrell and BackpackGearTest for allowing me the opportunity to test this jacket!
Read more gear reviews by Christopher Nicolai