OBERMEYER FALCON JACKET
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
INITIAL REPORT - November 09, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 24, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - March 26, 2011
5' 9" (1.75 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Sport Obermeyer
Year of Manufacture: 2010
|Photo Courtesy of Obermeyer|
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.obermeyer.com
MSRP: US $425.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2 lb 5 oz (1.048 kg)
Colors Available: Black, New Blue, Titanium, White
Tested Color: Black
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
Tested Size: Medium
Fabric/Coating: Genesis Stretch - 86% nylon, 14% spandex with HydroBlock
Insulation/Lining: Shiny Mesh - 100% polyester
Fit: Alpine Cut
Waterproofing: 20,000mm / 10,000g
- 2-way ventilation zipper
- Adjustable interior hem drawcord
- Articulated elbows
- Critical seams sealed
- CZV - Control Zone Ventilation
- External Stormflap with velcro / snap closure
- Fleece chest warmers
- Fleece chin protector
- Fleece inside collar
- Fleece-lined cuffs
- Full-motion sleeve construction
- Fused zipper(s)
- Gusseted sleeve cuffs with adjustable tabs
- Heavy duty zippers
- Inside Chamois Fleece cell phone pocket
- Inside mesh / Lycra
- Inside zip pocket(s)
- Interior Lycra
- Interior stretch mesh panel for comfort
- Internal zipper windguard
- Key holder
- RECCO System
- Reflective trim
- Removable technical hood
- Scratch-free, absorbent goggle cloth
- Ski pass D-ring
- Tricot-lined hand pocket(s)
- Waterproof zipper(s)
- Zip-off, adjustable powder skirt with stretch panel
- Zipper chest pocket(s)
- Zipper sleeve pocket(s)
The Obermeyer Falcon shell (hereafter called Falcon, Falcon shell, Falcon jacket or jacket) is a waterproof/breathable jacket that utilizes Sport Obermeyer's newly developed Genesis stretch fabric. Genesis incorporates 86% nylon and 14% spandex into a semi-elastic fabric that is used for the jacket's shell material. HydroBlockXL membrane is then laminated to the inside surface of the shell in order to give the Falcon its 20,000mm / 10,000g waterproof/breathable rating. The waterproof portion of this rating refers to the amount of water pressure in millimeters that the fabric can withstand in a 24-hour period before it leaks. The higher the number, the more waterproof the item will be. In this case, Genesis fabric can withstand 20,000mm (64 ft) of rainfall in a 24-hour period without letting moisture in. The breathability rating refers to the amount of water vapor in grams (in this case 10,000g) that can pass through a square meter of fabric during a 24-hour period. As these numbers are hard to quantify without having something to compare them to, I researched three other fabrics that are touted as being waterproof and breathable and found that 3 layer Gore-tex Pro has a rating of 28,000mm / 25,000g while PreCip has a rating of 15,000mm / 12,000g and Event has a rating of 30,000mm / 22,000g. Things like kneeling on wet ground or carrying a heavy pack can greatly increase the pressure on the fabric and affect its ability to stop moisture from the outside. So while a lesser fabric might work fine for walking around the block in a rain shower, that same fabric probably won't hold up as well when multi-day backpacking in continuously wet and cold weather. To further waterproof the jacket, the outside of the Falcon is coated with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment which causes moisture to bead up and roll off the jacket so the surface remains dry enough for perspiration and body heat to pass through from the inside. Finally, any critical seams where the fabric is sewn together are tape sealed to prevent moisture from penetrating through the pin holes.
Moving on to the rest of the jacket, a storm flap covers the main front zipper and is secured by five Velcro sections and one snap which is located on the top of the jacket. A storm flap is provided as a draft stop and to prevent water from entering the zipper which is not waterproof. The top 4.5 inches (11 cm) of the zipper are backed by a fleece-lined interior flap. The interior flap should prevent the zipper from rubbing against my neck and face when the jacket is zipped up completely. In addition, fleece lines the entire inside collar of the jacket surrounding the neck.
|Fleece chin protector|
The Falcon has big pockets and lots of them! There are four exterior pockets on the jacket. The two front hand pockets measure 11 inches (28 cm) in length and 7.5 inches deep (19 cm). They are fleece-lined and have waterproof zip closures. A plastic D ring is inside the left hand pocket while the right hand pocket houses a key holder. The left chest pocket measures 6 inches (15 cm) in length by 5 inches (13 cm) deep and closes with a waterproof zipper. When I opened this pocket I found a soft cloth inside of it which Sport Obermeyer suggests can be used for wiping glasses or ski goggles. The fourth pocket, which is hidden from view by a storm flap, is located on the left jacket sleeve. This pocket is 6 inches (15 cm) by 4 inches (10 cm). It has a waterproof zipper for access. There are four more pockets inside the Falcon, including left and right side mesh pockets as well as a left side zippered pocket and right side cell phone pocket. The left inside mesh pocket measures 10 inches (25 cm) wide by 7 inches (18 cm) long while the right inside mesh pocket measures 5 inches (13 cm) wide and 9 inches (23 cm) deep. The zippered pocket is 7 inches (18 cm) long by 6 inches (15 cm) deep. Finally, the right side cell phone pocket is 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide by 6 inches (15 cm) deep. With all of these pockets I should never be at a loss for where to store items; my only challenge will be remembering which pocket I put things in for quick access to them later.
The Falcon jacket has ventilation zippers which are located on the body of the jacket, several inches below each armpit. They provide a quick way to release body heat when perspiring. I am curious to see how effective they are in practice as compared to pit zips. Unlike most of the pit zips I've seen, the opening created by the ventilation zippers is covered in mesh as opposed to being wide open. The zippers are 9 inches (23 cm) in length and have two waterproof zippers for adjustability. All of the zippers on the jacket have nylon pull cords for better grip when wearing gloves.
|2-way ventilation zipper|
The hood has a drawcord sewn into it which can be used to loosen or tighten the hood. The drawcord is adjusted by two grommets on the left and right front side of the hood. The hood is secured to the jacket via a zipper in the back and Velcro on the sides.
|Removable jacket hood|
The Falcon has gusseted sleeve cuffs. The cuffs have Velcro closures which should keep them snug around my wrists.
|Fleece lined cuffs|
This jacket has another neat feature called a powder skirt which consists of piece of nylon fabric 6 inches (15 cm) long with an elastic waist band that is sewn into the interior of the waist area. The powder skirt functions similarly to gaiters for one's feet in that it keeps wind, snow, rain etc from entering the jacket. The skirt is secured with four snaps and can be removed from the jacket if not needed. The bottom of the jacket also features a draw cord with two cord locks to adjust the fit around the waist.
At first glance the Falcon jacket is pretty impressive. It is flat black in color with a crescent-shaped red stripe extending down both sleeves from just below the shoulder area to several inches above the cuff. The left side chest pocket adds another splash of color via a red waterproof zipper. It offers a simple yet very stylish look and is identical to the photo on Sport Obermeyer's website.
The outside of the jacket is soft and flexible. It is not at all stiff and noisy like my 3-layer Gore-tex jacket. The addition of spandex to the fabric also makes it slightly stretchy which I imagine will be a good thing as I expect it will layer well over mid-layer clothing and adapt well to my movements on the trail.
The first thing that caught my attention upon lifting up the Falcon jacket was how substantial it felt. After putting it on a scale, I found it was similar in weight to a winter jacket I own that incorporates both a shell and interior insulation. Wanting to compare it to another shell, I pulled out my Gore-tex XCR jacket and put it on the scale. To my surprise, the Falcon was heavier by nearly 14 ounces (397 g). Based on its substantial weight I suspect it will stack up well against the elements.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The inside jacket tag had the following Care Instructions:
- Machine Wash Cold
- Use Mild Detergent
- Gentle Cycle
- Use Only Non Chlorine Bleach When Needed
- Line Dry Only
- Do Not Iron
- Do Not Dry Clean
In addition, Obermeyer provides detailed instructions in the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section of their website under the heading 'How to properly wash and care for your Obermeyer garment to restore its appearance and functionality'. Regarding when to wash the jacket, Obermeyer recommends doing so whenever it looks dirty or if the water soaks through the shell. They go on to say "If you splash some water on the outside of your garment, the water should bead up and roll right off; if it doesnít, then try careful washing to restore the DWR finish. If careful cleaning does not restore the effectiveness of the DWR finish, you can reapply a DWR finish yourself." The website instructions for cleaning are as follows:
- Unzip all of the zippers and turn your jacket inside-out.
- Wash in COLD water separately.
- DO NOT use fabric softeners or bleach.
- Use a non-detergent cleanser, or a very mild powder detergent - see our recommendations below.
- Minimize soap usage - better few bubbles than too many.
- If you are using a wash-in type of DWR restorer, add it to the wash cycle.
- Use your washing machineís GENTLE cycle, or hand-wash.
- Rinse very thoroughly; better yet, rinse it twice.
- Gently squeeze most of the water from your garment - DO NOT WRING. Wringing the water from your garment can cause the waterproof/breathable coating to separate from the inside of the shell fabric.
- LINE-DRY your garment until it is completely dry. DO NOT hang your garment over a heat source to speed drying - this can damage your garmentís fabric and the waterproof/breathable coating.
- If you want to restore the DWR and did not use a wash-in type, you may apply a spray-on DWR restorer after washing.
- Liquid detergents can clog the pores in the waterproof-breathable coating. Use a powdered non-detergent cleanser; if one is not available, use a very mild powdered detergent, and use it sparingly - powdered detergents rinse more thoroughly than liquid detergents. Gently rinse your garment thoroughly, preferably twice. We recommend:
- If you cannot get a non-detergent cleanser by wash time, we recommend using a mild powder detergent sparingly, such as Dreft White or King.
- The DWR restorer can be the wash-in type, but most are spray-on types. Your Obermeyer dealer or your favorite outdoor shop may have recommendations for products that they have used. We recommend Nikwax products:
- Nikwax TX-Direct Wash-In, added to your wash cycle; for most of our outerwear.
- Nikwax TX-Direct Spray-On, used for garments which have our Hydrophobic Mesh lining.
- Nikwax Tech Wash, a non-detergent cleanser for most outerwear.
- Nikwax Down wash, a non-detergent cleanser for outerwear insulated with down.
Regarding warranty, Obermeyer offers a lifetime warranty on all of their products. The warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, misuse, accidents, fading or the natural breakdown of materials over time.
Overall, I was very impressed with the detail of information provided by Obermeyer for the Falcon jacket both on their website and on hang tags that came with the jacket. Clearly Obermeyer is very knowledgeable about their products and understand the importance of providing this information to consumers so they can get the best performance out of their clothing.
TRYING IT OUT
The cool, rainy weather this evening provided the perfect backdrop to try out the Falcon shell. Temperatures hovered around 49 F (9 C) while light rain came down steadily.
SIZING: After checking the sizing chart on Obermeyer's website and talking with someone at the company, I selected a medium size jacket. Unfortunately the jacket is one size too big for me in the chest and waist. The sleeves are also slightly longer than I would have liked. Going back to the sizing chart and looking at the difference in measurements between the medium and small sizes, I expect that a size small would fit me perfectly.
FABRIC: The exterior of the jacket is made from a combination of nylon and spandex with a waterproof laminate. The fabric is noticeably soft and stretchy, obviously due to the inclusion of spandex. After trying on the jacket and moving around in it for a few minutes, I noticed how well it hangs as compared to 3-layer Gore-tex XCR which seems stiffer and noisier when moving. Never one to miss out on a good opportunity, I quickly put on my shoes and headed outside into the cold and wet darkness. Water beaded up nicely on the jacket as I walked around my neighborhood. Absolutely no water soaked into the jacket and the sweatshirt I was wearing underneath remained completely dry. Over the next few months I will do much more rigorous and extensive testing to see just how waterproof and breathable this jacket is in extreme conditions.
CONSTRUCTION: The Falcon jacket appears to be very well made and has no loose threads or stitches. As noted earlier, it is substantial in weight; I hope the added weight will translate into it being a bombproof shell but that is yet to be verified. All of the critical seams are sealed with waterproof tape.
ZIPPERS: The main front zipper on this jacket is easy to get started and slides readily up and down. The waterproof zippers are a little stiff which is to be expected. I will see if the stiffness eases up after continued use. One thing I noticed while getting dressed to go outside, was that the snap closures on the powder skirt were very small and somewhat difficult to snap closed. It could have been my haste to get going but I will follow-up on this observation and report back on it in my Field Report.
POCKETS: The four exterior pockets are great. These pockets are so large that there is plenty of room for a hat, wallet and plenty of other items. From my initial observations, it appears that the hand pockets are located high enough to still be able to access them while wearing a backpack and waist belt. I will report later on how well they function while wearing a pack. The fleece lining in the hand pockets is a very nice feature.
HOOD: As I walked around my neighborhood in the rain, I had ample time to fuss with the hood. I found it tedious to locate, squeeze and then adjust the small cord locks in order to get a good seal around my head. It is definitely a two hand job and one that cannot be done while wearing gloves. Several companies make pulls that can be adjusted very easily with one hand, where a quick pull on the elastic cord brings the sides of the hood down around the face. I would suggest this to Obermeyer as an improvement over the system that is currently employed on this jacket.
VENTILATION: The jacket has good sized 9 in (23 cm) ventilation zippers to allow for air circulation and heat removal. I intend to see how well these vents work as compared to pit zips during further testing.
CUFFS: The cuffs have velcro closures for adjustment. They offer plenty of room when open and they close up nicely when needed.
This seems to be a well-thought-out jacket with a lot of convenient features. The front zipper is protected with a storm flap and a fleece covering prevents the top of the zipper from rubbing against my neck and face. The hand pockets are lined with fleece fabric that will help keep my hands warm in cold weather. The hood is a good size for my head and provides adequate room for a hat. Although I am not nuts about the draw cords on the sides and back of the hood, I anticipate only having to set them once and then hopefully forget about them. In addition to the hood adjustments, there are a number of other areas that can be tightened up for a closer fit and to keep wind and water out. The interior powder skirt should cut down on any drafts in cold windy weather. The bottom of the jacket has a draw cord with cord locks that can be adjusted for a closer fit. And finally, the cuffs have Velcro closures to keep them snug.
Regarding workmanship, I couldn't find any flaws or loose threads on this jacket. From my initial observations, the Falcon appears to be a well-constructed jacket with good attention to detail.
This concludes my Initial Report for the Obermeyer Falcon shell. I will post a field report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Sport Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this jacket.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Weather in the Midwest during the past 2 months has been COLD and SNOWY. Temperatures in Indiana typically range from a high of 33 F (0.5 C) to lows near 18 F (-7 C). However, temperatures this year have been at least 10 degrees below normal with wind chills on some days below zero. As I write this report, the current temperature is 10 F (-12 C) with a wind chill factor of -1 F (-18 C). In addition, we've had 27 inches (68 cm) of snow so far this winter, which equals our normal snowfall for the entire season. In summary, these are perfect conditions for testing cold weather gear.
During this test period, I wore the Falcon jacket on 3 day hikes and two 3-day camping trips. My day hikes were to Ft Harrison State Park in Central Indiana, Brown County State Park in Southern Indiana and Devil's River State Trail in Francis Creek, Wisconsin. My camping trips were to Monroe State Park and Oldenburg in Southern Indiana. I averaged 8-10 mi (12-15 km) on each of these trips. Devil's River State Trail was mostly flat terrain while the other locations were fairly hilly with elevations ranging from 620 ft - 850 ft (190 - 260 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have been very pleased with the performance of the Obermeyer Falcon jacket and have enjoyed wearing it throughout the early stages of winter. Although I haven't had the opportunity to test it in heavy rain, it has seen more than its share of snow and cold weather and it has performed well in these conditions.
During my trips, I wore the Falcon shell along with a mid layer fleece and a mid weight synthetic top. With this 3-layer clothing system I stayed comfortable while hiking. When climbing steep trails or hiking more aggressively, I opened the jacket's ventilation zippers to release some heat and keep myself from sweating. When I was stopped for extended periods, I cooled down considerably and so I put on an insulated vest for added warmth on these occasions.
Warmth: The Falcon shell was comfortable while hiking in temperatures between 15 F and 36 F (-9 to 2 C). During periods of inactivity, the jacket was comfortable down to about 28 F (-2 C). Below these temperatures I had to add additional insulation for warmth. During my field testing, the jacket had no cold spots, and I was easily able to regulate body heat by using the front zipper and ventilation zippers. The insulated pockets helped keep my hands warm during the times when I needed to take off my gloves. The chest pockets did a good job of keeping batteries and my cell phone warm. All in all the Falcon is a great cold weather shell, but it is heavy. When compared to my insulated jacket, the Falcon has a definite disadvantage in terms of weight versus warmth. My insulated jacket, which is also waterproof, weighs 2.3 lbs, which is almost the exact same weight as the Falcon shell by itself.
Weather Resistance: The Falcon shell does a great job of blocking wind and shedding snow. While hiking in sub freezing temperatures, the high collar kept my chin warm while the hood protected my head and neck from wet snow and high winds. One nice feature of the Falcon shell is the inside wrist cuffs that extend to the palms of the hands. Thumb holes prevent the cuffs from slipping back into the jacket and because the cuffs are stitched to the inside of the jacket arms, they prevent snow from coming into the jacket.
Ventilation/Breathability: The ventilation zippers worked well to release body heat and moisture when I was climbing up steep grades and pushing hard to make camp before dark. While hiking, I never felt any condensation build up despite quick climbing and strenuous activities. The jacket seemed to breathe well and never wetted through.
Durability: While backpacking off trail there were plenty of opportunities for the Falcon to get torn on briars, tree branches or rocks. Luckily I have yet to snag the fabric or tear a seam. The jacket also shows no sign of wear from my pack straps. The Velcro straps, toggles, and zippers still operate as they did when the jacket was new. The stitching is still tight and the material edges have not frayed. In addition, this jacket has shown no signs of fading or other color changes. It has cleaned well, dried quickly after laundering and does not appear to shrink.
Comfort & Fit: With its smooth interior, the Falcon jacket slipped easily over my mid layer clothing. The collar area was comfortable whether zipped or unzipped, and I did not have any trouble with the zipper poking me in the chin. I also did not notice any rubbing or chafing of the seams against my hands or face. Unfortunately, the jacket is a full size too big for me and so the powder skirt was loose around my waist, allowing cold air into the jacket. I called Obermeyer a few days after receiving the Falcon to see if I could exchange it for a smaller size but despite leaving two separate messages over a 3 day period I never received a call back. I am not sure if this was a fluke or a sign of potential customer service issues, but in either case it should not detract from the capabilities of this jacket. In my situation, the reason I cooled down so quickly whenever I stopped hiking was the loose fit of the jacket allowed cold air to circulate around my torso. If the Falcon fit me correctly, the issues I experienced would simply go away.
The Obermeyer Falcon is a sturdy, well designed jacket for backpacking in winter conditions. It provides good protection from wind and snow while remaining adequately comfortable. It breathes well and dries quickly. The fabric is durable and after several months of use it still looks new. As an added bonus, it has a simple clean design that looks as good around town as it does in the backwoods.
This concludes my Field Report for the Obermeyer Falcon shell. I will post my long term report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. Thanks to Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this jacket.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During this test period, I wore the Falcon jacket on two three day backpacking trips to Brown County and three day hikes in Central Indiana. I averaged 6-10 mi (10-16 km) during these trips and spent most of my time off trail. Temperatures during my outings were cool, with daytime highs ranging from 24 F to 46 F (-4 C to 7 C). I experienced heavy rain during one of my day hikes but my other trips were uneventful with mostly cloudy skies. Elevations ranged from 600 ft - 810 ft (182 - 246 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Falcon shell continues to perform well and I have not had any major problems with it since my last report.
After months of testing, I can definitively say that this jacket is well designed with a lot of thought given to details. I especially like the placement of the pockets and I use them to carry snacks, maps, my cell phone and other items while backpacking. The chest pockets are located high enough that I can access them while wearing my backpack and their fleece lining is a thoughtful touch for cold hands. The high collar does a good job of keeping wind and rain out. The powder skirt is also a great feature but, as mentioned earlier in my reporting, the buttons are small and they are tedious to snap closed. The ventilation zippers have come in handy many times. They allow me to exhaust excess heat and help prevent sweat during high exertion activities.
During the past two months I have continued to test the Falcon's Genesis fabric and DWR finish. My experience with some rain jackets is that the laminate breaks down and deteriorates over time and/or the waterproof coating wears off. Either of these conditions can result in a jacket that is no longer waterproof. I am happy to report that despite several tests in heavy rains, the Falcon jacket has yet to leak. Rain beads up and rolls off the fabric and the outer shell shows no signs of wetting out. Once the rain stops, the jacket dries very quickly. During the last two months, I had additional opportunities to put the jacket through some rough weather and I am glad to report it did fine. While day hiking at Eagle Creek Park, the skies opened up and I encountered heavy rains for almost an hour. The jacket shed the rain easily and never wetted through which was more than could be said for my hiking pants.
In regards to durability, the Falcon jacket has held up well and looks almost as it did when it arrived at my doorstep five months ago. It does have a few scuffs and scratches that I acquired while venturing off trail through briars and low hanging tree branches. Despite these marks, I am happy to report that the jacket has no snags, rips or tears and I have not had any problems with the seams coming loose or fabric fraying.
Because the Falcon jacket is oversized for my frame, it slides easily over my mid layers and doesn't restrict my movement in any way. However, it bunches up in front and I cannot close the powder skirt tight enough around my waist to prevent cold air from coming up into the jacket. Despite this problem, the jacket does a good job of keeping me comfortable and dry in moderately cold temperatures. With a base layer, it is warm enough for active use in cool weather and during cold weather it works well as the outer layer in a multi-layer system. I hiked locally at Cool Creek Park on a day when the temperature hovered near 30 F (-1 C) with some very stiff breezes. The Falcon jacket did a good job of blocking the wind. In this regard it works very well as a wind jacket, albeit a very heavy one.
I really like this jacket. It has performed exceptionally well through all of the tests I have put it through. It is durable, waterproof and moisture wicking. It is also loaded with features such as 2-way ventilation zippers, sleeve cuffs, powder skirt, numerous storage pockets, fleece lined collar, removeable hood and the RECCO avalanche rescue system. The only downside of this jacket is that it weighs a lot, almost 40% more than my Gore-Tex rain jacket. In regards to continued use, I plan to incorporate this jacket into my cold weather wardrobe. I will also use it for base camping but it will not be my primary jacket for moderate weather backpacking because of its weight.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
This concludes my testing of the Falcon Jacket. I would like to thank Sport Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this jacket.
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman