OBERMEYER FALCON JACKET
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
INITIAL REPORT - November 12, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 21, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - March 26, 2011
Steven M. Kidd
Franklin, Tennessee, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
220 lb (99.80 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 25 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have gained a renewed enthusiasm for the back country. I generally go on one or two night outings and now try to average a 30 lb (14 kg) pack.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Image Courtesy of Obermeyer|
Manufacturer: Sport Obermeyer
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.obermeyer.com
MSRP: US $425
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2 lb 9 oz (1162 g)
Colors Available: Black, Titanium, New Blue, White
Sizes Available: S, M, L, XL, 2X
Waterproofing: 20,000 mm/10,000g
Fabric/Coating: Genesis Stretch - 86% nylon, 14% spandex with HydroBlock
Insulation/Lining: Shiny Mesh - 100% polyester
Fit: Alpine Cut
Testing: XL New Blue
Features as noted from the company website:
•2-way ventilation zipper(s) •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 •Lycra •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)
|Attached Lens Cloth|
The Obermeyer Falcon Jacket (hereafter referred to as the Falcon or jacket) appears to be a very well made product. One retailer referred to it as a "bird of prey" and I would easily have to agree. I am testing an extra large New Blue version and the only variation I can tell between the website image and the item I received is the Napoleon pocket on the left chest. The jacket I'm testing has a black zipper, whereas the web image portrays a blaze orange zipper. I'm perfectly satisfied with black, as this blue Falcon is already bold! When I do unzip that 7 in (18 cm) zipper a blaze orange interior pocket does shine through. Also a 5 x 7 in (13 x 18 cm) lens cloth is secured to an elastic cord within the pocket. There is a convenient snap so the cloth may be removed for cleaning.
There is so much to state about this jacket that I will just continue describing some of the features like zippers, pockets, hood and more and then I will circle back to the technology later in the review.
The Falcon has four exterior pockets, and three appear to have waterproof zippers. The aforementioned Napoleon pocket, a non-sealed 6 in (15 cm) pocket on the left forearm (there is a protection flap over the zipper to keep interior contents dry) and two Tricot lined 11 in (28 cm) hand pockets that are on a bias. The left hand pocket has an attached D-ring intended for lift tickets, and the right one has a loop that snaps closed as a convenient way for me to secure keys or the like.
|Control Zone Ventilation|
The exterior has two other zippers. These are 10 in (25 cm) 2-way ventilation zippers. This type of ventilation has often been referred to as "pit vents" or a similar lexicon, but these mesh covered vents are actually not directly in the armpit or sleeve area of the coat, rather located on a diagonal several inches below the arms of the jacket. Obermeyer refers to their venting as "Control Zone Ventilation" and states the technology allows for core thermal regulation.
The inside of the Falcon is also loaded with storage points. There is one 7 in (18 cm) zippered vertical pocket on the inside of the left chest. On the same side is a 4 x 10 in (10 x 25 cm) mesh pocket with a double arced elastic entry that appears to be intended to keep items from falling out. On the interior of the right side is a massive 8 x 12 in (20 x 30 cm) mesh pocket that will easily store large items and is secured by a small hook and loop closure. Finally, there is a 3 x 6 in (8 x 15 cm) fleece pocket that is designed for mobile phone storage.
The jacket is equipped with a removable technical hood that has three cinch points for a snug and evenly fitting way to keep out the elements. The gusseted sleeves have plenty of room to push my arms through and adjustable hook and loop closure tabs for a customized fit. There is also a reflective material on the closure tabs that add a nice touch. Another interesting feature on the sleeves is a stretchy internal cuff that runs approximately 7 in (18 cm) up the inside of the sleeve. These cuffs have thumb holes and in my case have kept an under layer from getting bunched up. To add to the comfort, the interior of the main cuff has a 2 in (5 cm) fleece lining. There is also strategically placed fleece lining in other areas of the coat like the collar and chin area. One other key feature I find really nice on the Falcon is the removable powder skirt. Like many features of this jacket the skirt also has a stretch material, but it also may be zipped off.
The stretchiness of the material appears to be a great place to move on to some of the technology of the jacket. The exterior is a proprietary material called Genesis. It's a four way stretch material that feels very smooth and comfortable. Obermeyer states it uses a microporous HydroBlockXL laminate giving the coat a 20,000mm/10,000g waterproof/breathable rating. After doing much more research on waterproof ratings than was necessary I'll briefly relay, that this means the jacket should be able to handle 20k mm of water pressure without leaking, and that water vapor can be released from at a rate of 10k per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period. Basically, the Falcon has an excellent waterproof to breathability rating, and I should be able to vigorously use the coat without creating my own internal weather system inside the coat!
|RECCO Avalanche Rescue System|
A final key technical feature I'll mention is that the Falcon is outfitted with the RECCO Avalanche Rescue System. This is a non powered reflective device that is engineered to never need batteries, a need to be turned on or to lose signal strength. It bounces a directional RADAR signal to allow rescuers to search and rescue in the event of burial. The RECCO detection system is used worldwide at hundreds of resorts in emergency situations. At the time of this writing I am not sure if the device is actually in this logo noted at right or possibly in the upper right sleeve of the jacket. While inspecting the coat I noticed a narrow spongy item sewn into the sleeve that is roughly 2 in (5 cm) long. The opposite sleeve doesn't have this feature, so I placed a call to the Obermeyer marketing representative to see if they could clarify this. If I learn a definitive answer on this I will report it in the field review in two months.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Although the jacket came with a hang tag containing five individual descriptor pieces, none mentioned care for the garment. I searched "care" on the company website to learn the following:
•DO NOT DRY CLEAN
•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 machine’s 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 garment’s 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 Warranty appears standard against manufacturer defects in materials or workmanship, however, at least three times in the policy it mentions contacting "Customer Service" if you have an issue or concern. It appears that complete satisfaction is very important to Obermeyer with their products.
TRYING IT OUT
Of course the Falcon arrived on my doorstep two days after I returned home from an outing that never climbed above 39 F (4 C) and was as low as 25 F (-4 C) for much of the trip. This was only to be followed by a week of 75 F (24 C) temperatures.
I often layer like an onion when I'm on the trail, several thin base layers to peel away in the event I feel I'm going to begin perspiring. The heavy duty nature of the Falcon leads me to believe I may do a little less of this in the upcoming months. However, in a quick test the fit works comfortably with my layering system. A lightweight down jacket also fit perfectly well under the Falcon.
The jacket is very comfortable and even appeared to breathe well while I was walking around the house in testing the fit and feel. I'm excited to get wet in the Falcon, and considered hopping in the shower wearing it until my wife scolded me. I'm also ready to hit the trail at a vigorous pace and put the breathability to the test. If anyone can put that part of the jacket to the test, it is this sweat monger that's been known to have to change his soaked shirt after hiking in on a day hovering around freezing.
The color of this coat is bright and I really like it, but I'm most excited to begin putting the technical aspects to the test. I foresee my typical winter setup hanging in the closet this year with a sole reliance on the Falcon.
The Obermeyer Falcon appears to be not only a well made jacket, but one that is well thought out. I believe it has many features that are designed to simply make life easier for the wearer. To mention a few; the storage pocket on the forearm, the lens cleaning cloth, and the many interior pockets. All the while it is designed to truly test the elements while hopefully keeping me warm and dry.
I'm ready to hit the plateaus of middle Tennessee and the mountainous regions on the eastern side of the state as soon as possible to put this excellent looking jacket to the test.
I'd like to thank Sport Obermeyer and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to review the Falcon, and please check back in two months for an update.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
26 - 29, November, 2010: Red River Gorge, East-Central Kentucky; This was a portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest with elevations averaging 1200 ft (366 m) and elevation changes around 400 ft (122 m). Temperatures started around 70 F (21 C) with wind gusts around 30 mph (48 kph) from the SW. Temperatures quickly dropped to around freezing, but fortunately the wind speed became minimal.
1 - 3, January, 2011: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; The Fiery Gizzard Trail, covering a six mile stretch with a consistent 1700 ft (518 m) elevation. High temperatures were around 38 F (3 C) and lows were 17 F (-8 C) and wind speeds minimal.
Neither of these backcountry outings was fortunate enough to bring snow or even rain, but I've worn the jacket quite a bit on both casual urban outings and day hiking throughout the last two months. We've also had multiple snowstorms of several inches/centimeters or more this winter. This is not uncommon for places I often backpack on the Cumberland Plateau or in East Tennessee, but it is certainly not a typical winter for Nashville, Tennessee. Although I wasn't able to wear the Falcon in the backcountry during these atypical midweek adventures, I was able to spend a good deal of time out of doors with my children. I did plenty of sledding, snowman building and other snow-play activities one often does with two and three year olds.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I've been extremely pleased and satisfied with this quality Obermeyer product. The jacket arrived two days after I returned from a cool and damp outing, and I didn't have another trip scheduled until after the Thanksgiving Holiday in late November. Just after it arrived I did go on a business trip to east Tennessee that afforded me a quick hike in the Cherokee National Forest. The weather was a just above freezing and very damp. I felt it was a perfect chance to test the Falcon out on a short 2 mi (3.25 km) one evening. The hike wasn't planned, so my layering system consisted of nothing more than a polyester exercise t-shirt under a long sleeved cotton t-shirt. Cotton…what was I thinking? As a scout I learned to always "be prepared", so I'll slyly suggest that the synthetic shirt covered that motto. Honestly, I added the cotton layer because it felt a little cool when I started walking, but I can happily report I was fortunate enough to stay warm on this brisk walk and my core never heated to a sweat. I would hope to attribute that to the breathability of the jacket, as I am one who can perspire with the best of them. Most importantly, the Falcon would shed the moisture much like Rain-X does on a car windshield. It simply beaded up and rolled right off the Falcon.
In late November when backpacking the weather started out so mild that I was literally wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts, but a cold front moved through on the first evening and I awakened to temperatures near freezing with 30 mph (48 kph) wind gusts. While hiking with multiple synthetic base layers I was a little cool wearing the jacket without a down layer. I'd probably attribute this to the extreme swing in temperatures and my body not quickly acclimating as I'd previously worn the Falcon several times with similar layering and no discomfort.
I learned a few interesting things about the jacket on this minor expedition. When fully zipped the fleece lined chin protection was not only comfortable, but also did an excellent job of keeping the wind at bay. Once acclimated to the elements, using the ventilation zippers exceeded my expectations. Since that weekend I've typically left them in an open or unzipped fashion almost exclusively…even when wearing in snowy conditions. In my opinion the jacket allowed me to 'breath' quite well with the vents open and did a superb job of keeping snow out while unzipped. This certainly explains the purpose of the mesh lining in the jacket.
However, during this weekend I also found the hood to be a bit cumbersome for my personal taste. The hood is removable, a nice feature for town perhaps, but when using to shield one from the elements I would see it as a necessity. As mentioned in the initial review the hood has multiple cinch points for adjustment purposes. I set the hood as best I could to fit my head, and have left it as such, but still find it a little large. It flops about a bit even when wearing a watch cap underneath.
I love the lined wrist cuffs with the thumb holes as they allow me to don a down base layer without bunching up the sleeves and they also give some hand protection and warmth when I don't find it necessary to wear gloves. These cuffs along with the hook and loop closure tabs on the sleeves eliminated any snow or other elements from reaching my skin.
I entered this test with backcountry use in mind and a hope for snow, but when I first received the Falcon I didn't appreciate the minor nuances of the wrist cuffs, the mesh protected ventilation or the powder skirt, and certainly other yet to be appreciated attention to detail that protect me from snow. In my opinion Obermeyer has developed a jacket that is not only technical, but has comfort in mind. I'm not a skier, but after days of literally rolling around in the snow with my children, I can assure the reader I have no fear of entering the winter elements in this jacket.
When I first received the Falcon in 'New Blue' I was a little shocked at the boldness of the color. I'm typically an earth-toned kind of guy. I quickly began to receive compliments on the jacket and my reservations easily subsided. When I was on my annual New Years' outing my buddy and I had made it in a few miles and he realized he had forgotten a required piece of gear at the trailhead. So I decided to purify some water down on a creek bed while he returned to his car to retrieve his mobile phone. When he returned a bit later he said he literally could see my coat at the creek bottom from an elevation that I know is well over 200 ft (61 m) above and at a distance of a 1/3 mi (0.5 km) away, at a minimum. The moral of that tale…although I never except to use the RICCO system here well east of the Rocky Mountains, I feel very comfortable if ever lost I would be noticed at a fair distance when wearing the Falcon.
I typically wear an extra large in most apparel due to my neck and shoulder size. The Falcon fits me very well in the shoulders and the armpits. I only mention this because I sometimes feel like I may have been able to have worn a large. The torso of the jacket, while not baggy by any means is somewhat loose in my opinion. My chest size is often on the verge of a large versus extra large, and when I've historically tried to wear the smaller of the two (it took me seven down coats to find the perfect fit). I've found it too snug in the shoulder and armpits, but perfectly comfortable in the torso. Again, I mention this because of the four-way stretch properties of the Falcon. The jacket does stretch quite a bit and I can only assume a smaller version may fit a little closer...but not too snug? This is by no means a critique of the jacket, but merely a question when it comes to sizing. As mentioned, in trying seven down coats to find the perfect fit, it is merely one of the minor inconveniences that someone like me who wants specialized gear must deal with when we can't find it down at the local gear shop.
Following up on a few other things from the initial review, I will mention the use of the multitude of pockets. The largest interior pocket was great for bulky, but light items like a watch cap and gloves. They tended to disappear in the coat. I regularly used the hand pockets, but rarely found use for either the interior or exterior Napoleon pocket, save an ear warming band. The long and narrow pocket on the left inside chest as mentioned in the initial review was great for items like a cell phone, a fire starter or other items that are long and narrow. No single item, not even a set of batteries in the sleeve pocket was ever subjected to moisture.
This jacket has been a pleasure to test so far. I have only one key concern with the Falcon when it comes to the backcountry, and it deals with the weight. The Falcon was awesome when wearing in town, on a day hike or playing in the snow. I'd say it performs admirably in fact. Yet, for rain/snow protection in the backcountry of middle Tennessee it is a little heavy in my opinion. A jacket that weighs well over a 1.5 lb (0.68 kg) less than the Falcon gives me similar protection. If I were in 2 ft (0.61 m) of snow in the Midwest it most certainly could be a different story for me, but in this region it may be a little overkill. I had hoped the Falcon would minimize some of my layering, and it certainly has, but I would suggest by an average of a 10 oz (283 g) shirt. When I add the extra weight of the Falcon it still comes in at well over a pound (0.5 kg) net when compared to other shells I have used. I'm so fond of the Falcon that I hesitated even to scribe this, but I wanted to clarify this because it may not be a completely appropriate piece of gear for the backpacking that I have encountered this winter.
The Obermeyer Falcon is an excellent piece of winter gear. I feel so fortunate to have had it during this wet and snowy winter. It keeps me warm, protects me from the wind and in a pinch I could probably store 'a small body' in its many compartments and pockets! I find it stylish, yet functional…bold in color with safety in mind. If only I were a skier, this jacket would lean on the verge of perfection for me. Though I'm not a skier, I walked into many a shop and compared the features of the Falcon to similar jackets. Most of these jackets lacked many of the subtle features of the Falcon.
The features I truly admire about the Falcon are many: the boldness, the minor nuances, the wind protection, the snow and rain protection, the storage, and more…
The minor items I don't love about the jacket are the hood construction and the weight of Falcon when used for backpacking in moderate conditions.
As I sit here peering at this excellent jacket and the snow begins to fall I type these words in anticipation about the final two test months, so please check back in late March for a final update.
Thanks so much to Sport Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest for allowing the opportunity of testing this item.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
19 - 20, February 2011: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; Grundy Falls Area, a solo trip covering a several mile stretch averaging 1585 ft (483 m) elevation. High temperatures were around 59 F (15 C) and lows were 48 F (9 C).
18 - 19, March 2011: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; Fiery Gizzard Trail, a one night trip with my usual backpacking buddy. Elevations averaged 1700 ft (518 m) with high temperatures over 65 F (18 C) and lows near 48 (9 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During the Field Reporting phase of the Falcon, Middle Tennessee was fortunate enough to have what we here would call a 'severe' winter. There weren't many snowfalls with extreme accumulation, but we had many (nearly a dozen) snows that did allow for several inches to fall and stay on the ground for a few days after each occurrence. Unfortunately for my test reporting this abruptly came to an end shortly after the beginning of the Long Term Phase of the test. The weather here warmed to temperatures that rarely allowed me to wear the jacket.
During the field phase I not only wore the Falcon in the backcountry, but often donned it for use around town. During the final phase I did carry it into the backcountry twice, but on one occasion I never even pulled it out of my pack and on the other I removed it when the temperatures were in the high 40's F (near 10 C). It was simply more coat than I needed for the occasion. So far as urban use, as stated it was my Go-To jacket in mid-winter, but I probably wore it less than a half dozen times in February and March. I do recall one occasion when the temperatures were around 55 F (13 C) and it was a driving rainstorm I decided to use it. After wearing it for around a half hour in this weather I found myself perspiring and wishing I was only wearing a typical rain shell.
I want to assure the reader these statements in no way diminish my thoughts and experiences concerning the Obermeyer Falcon. As mentioned in the Field Report I believed it may have been 'a little more jacket' than necessary for these climates. It was a pleasure to wear during the snowy winter and I'd guess my true comfort level would be around 40 F (4 C) or lower. I comfortably wore it in a little warmer temperature if the conditions were windy.
In fact, this very day as I was penning this final report we were experiencing severe thunderstorms in the area. Temperatures were 47 F (8 C) with 11 mph (18 km/h) winds and sideways driving rains. The wind-chill made it feel 42 F (5.5 C). I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to test the Falcon one final time! I've procrastinated in opening my crawl space vents and other outdoor chores since the weather has warmed. Save the lightening I thought this would be a perfect test for fringe weather testing. I spent about twenty five minutes in the wind and rain and never grew hot. Activity was moderate, to include opening the vents, crawling under the deck and raking some stray leaves that had yet to blow away. I was comfortable in the jacket the entire time.
|Water Beading on the Falcon|
The Falcon is well constructed, has held up to tough backcountry use. The bright blue color did become soiled when gathering firewood or doing other camp chores, but I've laundered it as the manufacturer suggests and it looks nearly new with no lasting stains.
The Obermeyer Falcon is an excellent jacket. It is well built and I expect it will last me many years. If I did a great deal of winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing or snowboarding I'm sure it would get even more use. That being said, I will probably only carry it on backcountry trips when I foresee the weather being around freezing or lower. This is primarily due to the weight of the Falcon. I can generally take a rain shell and down layer giving me more versatility and still weighing in less than the Falcon. That being said, it is still an excellent addition to my gear closet and I do see it getting extended use in the right conditions.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
Save the weight of the jacket the only other suggestion I have concerns the hood construction. I find it bulky and a little large. It has multiple cinch points, and I set them to best fit my head, and I believe I've only adjusted them once since. I still find it a little loose.
I want to thank BackpackGearTest and Sport Obermeyer for allowing me the opportunity to test this quality product.
Read more gear reviews by Steven M Kidd