MERRELL VERT JACKET
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
March 24, 2009
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5' 11" (1.80 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and
snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for
the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all-terrain, off-trail kind
of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on
the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate
rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in
excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Photo Courtesy of Manufacturer|
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.merrell.com
MSRP: US $249.00
Listed Weight: None
Measured Weight: 2 lb 14.3 oz (1.31 kg)
Shell: 1 lb 13.1 oz (0.82 kg)
Insulator: 1 lb 1.3 oz (0.49 kg)
Other details: Color as tested is Moss. Size as tested is XXL.
Description and Technical Information from Manufacturer's Website:
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.
Men's Sizes: S-XXL
*Merrell Opti-Shell waterproof, breathable fabric
*Merrell Opti-Warm zip-in, water resistant removable insulator
*60 grams of insulation in liner jacket
*Fully seam taped for maximum waterproofness
*Venting pit zips for removing unnecessary heat
*Removable contoured hood
*Interior media/storage pocket
*Dual zip secure hand pockets both inside and outside
*Adjustable drawcord hem
*Velcro adjustable wrist closure on shell
*Elasticized cuffs on insulator
The very first thing that struck me about this jacket was the fabric used on the outside of the shell. The outer fabric of the shell is a nylon that has a smooth feel but is a weave I have not ever seen before. It gives the fabric a matte appearance, and is very attractive. The color of this fabric is slightly lighter than I expected from the website photograph, but I like it very much.
The insulator is a darker green nylon material that has a feel similar to lightweight ripstop (though it does not appear to be ripstop material). The inner fabric of the shell is a similarly soft nylon that is grey.
Overall, I found the styling of the jacket very attractive. I would describe the styling as subdued, in that it isn't a jacket that jumps out at me, but rather has very clean lines and would look just as good on my way to the office as it would on the trail. In terms of styling, I feel it will be appropriate for me to use in a variety of settings.
The insulator attaches to the shell by means of two zippers and three snap closures (small loops of webbing with small snaps on them that close around loops sewn into the insulator). The zippers attach to the shell just to the inside of the main zipper closure, and when removed the insulator can be worn separately, closing in front by means of the same zippers that attach it to the shell. The snap closures are placed at each wrist and one behind the neck.
Under close examination, I could find no flaws in the stitching or components (such as zippers, elastic pull cords and locks, etc.). The stitching appears very well done.
The insulator has elastic cuffs at the sleeves. The shell has adjustable Velcro closures and elastic cuffs, and an elastic drawcord waist, with pull tabs and toggles on each side.
The jacket is also equipped with underarm zippers for ventilation (pit zips), which when unzipped reveal a mesh panel. I hope this feature will help prevent the snagging I've encountered with some other jackets when these zippers are open, and hope the mesh does not have an adverse impact on ventilation. I will monitor this closely during testing, as I often need jacket ventilation.
In most jackets I wear an XL mens, however Merrell's website sizing information placed me clearly in the XXL range. The XXL fits me perfectly, with room enough for a base layer and additional insulating layer, provided the insulating layer isn't too bulky. As I test the jacket, I will be paying very close attention to any limitations it imposes on my range of motion, though none were immediately apparent. The jacket does ride up on me when I reach over my head, but the length of the jacket allows for coverage to below my waist even then. Overall, the jacket is very comfortable in terms of fit.
The jacket offers a number of pockets. The first two, which are immediately apparent, are accessed through vertical zippers on the front of the jacket. Unlike many handwarmer pockets, however, they run very high. While the placement is quite comfortable when my hands are in them, the additional height of the pocket appears that it would allow me to store much larger items in them than a typical, shorter handwarmer pocket. It will be interesting to assess how useful this feature is.
Also in the shell is an interior pocket just inside the left breast. This pocket has a zippered closure, an interior sub-pocket with an elasticized top, and an exit port for headphones. The sub-pocket fits my cell phone and mp3 player well, and there is still a good deal of space for other items in the main pocket. One potential drawback to this pocket is accessibility. When the insulator is zipped into the shell, I have to partially unzip the insulator from the shell to access the zipper for the pocket. It will be interesting to see if I find this inconvenient.
The insulator has two handwarmer pockets as well, however these are not accessible when the insulator is attached to the jacket. When worn independently, either alone or under the shell but not zipped to it, they are accessible (assuming, of course, that I unzip the shell).
An additional pocket is located on the outside of the left sleeve.
|Hood Adjustment is Easy|
The hood is made of the same materials as the shell, and is attached by means of a short zipper across the back of the neck and concealed double snaps at the front edges of the neck. Though I have not tried it with my climbing helmet yet, there appears to be ample space. There is an elastic draw cord with toggle on the back of the hood that adjusts the hood's volume for when you aren't using a helmet. In many other jackets I've owned these types of adjusters have been problematic in that the hood isn't shaped well after adjusting it down, however the adjustment on this hood seems to work remarkably well for me, and when adjusted down for use without a helmet maintains good coverage without excessive bulk anywhere. The hood does not move with my head, so side vision is somewhat limited without turning my body. The opening around the face is fairly deep on the sides, however, so I don't anticipate problems with peripheral vision, but may encounter problems with coverage in the rain.
The front zipper of this jacket uses water-resistant zipper tape backed with a small flap of the exterior fabric. My experience with water-resistant zipper tape in our heavy rainfall has been mixed, and I look forward to evaluating how it will perform on a jacket. All other zippers are standard zippers, and while many zipper pulls have easy to grip dots on them, they are small, and may pose problems in operating with gloved hands.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Hang tags were provided describing the Opti-Shell and Opti-Warm materials used, but no further documentation was included. The only other instructions provided were the sewn-in care instructions. For the shell and insulator, the care instructions are identical: machine wash warm, do not bleach, tumble dry low, cool iron, do not dry clean.
TRYING IT OUT
I've worn the jacket to work for several days now. One morning was 35 F (1.7 C), 100% humidity with light rain, and a westerly wind off the harbor of approximately 15 mph (24 kph). Wearing only a cotton polo shirt underneath, I found the jacket (with insulator) to keep me remarkably warm on my walk to work. The next day it was warmer, 56 F (13 C), so I removed the insulator and wore the shell on several outside errands. During several of these errands, it was raining rather hard (a rate of approximately 1 in (25 mm) per hour) and the rain rolled right off the shell. Like many shells, however, the cold fabric against my shirt made it feel like moisture was entering the shoulder area, however my shirt was dry when I removed the jacket. When wearing the insulator under the shell, I do not have any sensation of cold or wet from the rain. There would seem to be a water-repellent coating on the fabric of the shell and I look forward to seeing how long it lasts, as most of these sorts of finishes fail quickly in our heavy rains.
|Vert in Rain|
Overall, the Merrell Vert jacket appears to be a stylish, well-constructed, well-designed jacket with a variety of features. I look forward to evaluating its performance in the field over the coming months.
I wish to thank Merrell and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Vert jacket. This concludes my initial report. My field report will be appended in approximately two months. Please check back at that time for additional information.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have had the opportunity to test the Merrell Vert jacket under a wide variety of atmospheric conditions. The jacket has withstood rain, snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain, freezing fog, and even a few days of sunshine during the test period. Temperatures ranged from 10 F (-12 C) to 60 F (16 C). Winds encountered ranged from calm to sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph) and gusts to 60 mph (97 kph).
All testing has occurred on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, including the coastal rainforest and the Olympic Mountains. While I have worn the jacket every day during the test period, actual field use has been approximately 16 days during the test period, mostly day hikes involving fishing or snowshoeing.
Rainfall rates have exceeded 1 in/hr (2.5 cm/hr) for several hours on two occasions.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
So far, the Merrell Vert jacket has exceeded my expectations in almost every way.
In terms of weather resistance, the Vert gets two thumbs up from me. I've had the jacket out in a variety of high-wind/heavy rain scenarios that were truly miserable, and stayed nice and dry through it all. The only exception to this occurred on an occasion where I was building an igloo during a very windy spell of freezing rain. As I bent over building the first two layers, I found myself getting very wet around the shoulders and chest. I was a little confused, as my back was to the wind when this occurred. I finally realized that what was happening; the rain was falling on the back of the jacket and being driven up my back by the wind (my torso was nearly horizontal during much of this time). As the hood comes down over the jacket collar and is open on either side of the short connecting zipper, the rain was driven over the collar, spilling down around my neck and soaking the liner. Despite being soaked, however, I never was cold, though this was partially due to exertion.
Other than that situation, though, the Vert has kept me nice and dry, and offers excellent coverage. Even facing into a driving rain, the water resistant zipper has proven waterproof so far.
This is perhaps the most impressive aspect of this jacket for me. I dragged the jacket through some nasty, brushy, off-trail hikes, and it still looks like new. I've fallen in mud, and an hour later the rain had cleaned the jacket completely. Not only have the fabric and materials held up well to some pretty severe use, they continue to look great. I still am wearing it to my office every day, and it looks as good as ever.
COMPONENTS/QUALITY OF MANUFACTURE:
All the zippers, snaps, elastic cords, and hook and loop closures still work great. If I could change one component, it would be the zipper pulls. While the soft rubber dots on the ends of the pulls work great with bare hands and are possible to operate with gloves, a loop of cord or webbing would be much easier to use with gloves or mitts.
This is a great looking jacket. The fit is good, and it has a generous cut through the chest and shoulders that allow excellent freedom of movement even when layered up for cold weather. The sleeves are the perfect length for me, neither too long nor too short, and it hangs low enough around the hips to ensure it doesn't creep up (exposing my back) when I bend over.
The handwarmer pockets on the shell are one of the best features of the jacket, in my opinion. Not only are they deep enough that small items stay put, but the pockets are very large, yet don't add much bulk to the shell. The liner is also super-comfy on bare hands.
I've found myself often wearing just the insulator without the shell during nicer weather. While not very wind resistant, it is remarkably warm for its weight. On a calm, dry day, it's my favorite thing to wear.
The shell, by itself, I'm less fond of. It is a good wind and rain shell, but without the insulator I tend to get chilly if I don't have a long sleeved shirt on. The inner material of the shell feels cold and almost clammy against bare skin.
During spring and summer, however, this might prove to be advantageous, and extend the usable seasons of the jacket considerably.
MY ONE SIGNIFICANT COMPLAINT:
Ventilation is a significant problem for me with the Vert. A typical day might include me walking along a fairly level stretch of trail wearing the Vert with insulator and pit zips closed and feeling quite comfortable. When I encounter an uphill stretch where I'll be working harder, I can open the face around the hood, open the wrist openings wider, release the elastic at the waist, and unzip the pit zips for ventilation. Even modest changes in exertion, however, have quickly overcome the ability of the Vert to vent. I find myself faced with either unzipping the front zipper and getting wet, or removing the insulator from the jacket. Even removing the insulator, a modest increase in activity can easily overpower the jacket's venting ability, making me feel clammy. I've found that to remain comfortable, I have to change my layers far more often that I have with other jackets.
All in all, however, in the trade off of ventilation and water resistance, I'll take the water resistance, which is absolutely top-notch in this jacket. I would like to see the mesh panel in the pit zip opening about twice as wide as it currently is, and perhaps a few inches longer. I think this would help resolve this issue to some degree. Obviously, heavy exertion would still be able to overpower the venting ability of the jacket, but I believe this simple change could provide a much broader comfort range for the jacket, especially when using the insulator.
Relating to the ventilation issue, I now usually find myself wearing the insulator as a separate garment under the shell when hiking. While removing and replacing the insulator in the shell isn't that difficult or time consuming, it does speed things up to simply wear it separately when needing to change layers frequently.
I have found the Merrell Vert jacket to be exceptionally waterproof and durable, and great-looking as well. It's comfortable under most conditions, and the insulator makes a great outer layer on cold, still days. The one shortcoming I've experienced is that I find it very easy to overpower the ventilation capacity of this jacket with even modest changes in exertion, requiring more stops to adjust layers during chilly weather. The zipper pulls can also be difficult to operate with gloves on.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have worn the Merrell Vert jacket virtually every day during long-term testing. Field use consisted of approximately 12 days on and off trail in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Trips included overnight snow camping trips and dayhikes.
Weather conditions varied tremendously. I have encountered sun, torrential rain, winds to 60 mph (97 kph), and heavy snow, sleet, and hail. Dayhike temperatures ranged from lows around 20 F (-7 C) to highs around 65 F (18 C). On snow camping trips temperatures have ranged from overnight lows of 7 F (-14 C) to daytime highs of 26 F (-3 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have continued to be impressed with the Vert's performance in terms of water repellency. I have yet to encounter any leakage. The materials have held up exceptionally well, and despite daily use the jacket looks virtually as it did the day it arrived. I have also found it very easy to keep clean, having simply wiped soiled areas with a damp cloth. The water-resistant finish of the jacket appears to finally be diminished somewhat, as in heavy rains the outer fabric becomes visibly saturated, however the jacket has not leaked, and the amount of water weight absorbed into the jacket has not been noticeable.
|Wearing Insulator Alone while Building an Igloo|
During long-term testing I began to experiment more with the internal pocket of the shell. I've found the small internal pouch perfect for my Blackberry Pearl or my wife's mp3 player. These are not items I normally carry with me while backpacking, but know many others that do. The pass-through headphone port worked very well with both, and the pocket seemed to protect my devices from the elements quite well.
Another thing I experimented with more during long-term reporting was the use of the liner by itself. While offering virtually no wind resistance, I found the liner to be very comfortable by itself in temperatures near freezing with just a long-sleeved polypropylene baselayer. I also found it to be a great sleeping layer while spending the night in an igloo. One night in the igloo, the liner became quite damp, yet still insulated very well. While it offers virtually no wind protection, it is remarkably warm for its weight, and is very compressible.
The only design element I would like to see changed, as I've mentioned before, is ventilation. While I do tend to overheat rather easily, my ability to quickly overtake the jacket's venting capacity has been annoying. On a recent snowshoeing trip (during which I was pulling a pulk) I found myself having to unzip the jacket all the way just to keep from sweating with the shell and liner on together. Snow quickly melted against my baselayer, cooling me off a little too much. The physical effort I was making was modest, and the air temperature was well below freezing with a stiff breeze. I suspect a larger pit-zip opening (both longer and wider) would help with this tremendously.
The Merrell Vert jacket is a generally well designed, attractive, versatile, and quite durable combination of insulated liner and shell. With the sole exception of limited ventilation, all features performed admirably under a wide variety of field conditions. I have found it to be quite versatile, and found the liner to be particularly comfortable even though it offers limited wind protection by itself. The shell alone is a good wind barrier in light winds (to about 20 mph/32 kph), and combined with the liner provides adequate wind protection even at 60 mph (97 kph).
|Vert Open to Waistbelt for Added Ventilation|
I will likely continue to use the Vert jacket on some of my trips. The liner in particular is likely to go along with me on many trips as a lightweight, compressible insulator that is very comfortable both while sitting around camp and while sleeping. The shell and liner together will likely join me on cold-weather trips where I expect to encounter mixed precipitation.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank Merrell and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Vert jacket. This concludes my report.
Read more gear reviews by Mike Curry