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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Obermeyer Kestral Jacket > Test Report by Brett Haydin
Obermeyer Kestral Jacket
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - November 17, 2012
Field Report - January 29, 2013
Long Term Report - April 2, 2013
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
Product Information & Specifications
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: www.obermeyer.com
MSRP: US $475
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 3 lb 1.9 oz (1.4 kg)
Size Tested: XL (Also available in XS, Small, Medium, Large, , 2XL)
Colors Available: Baja, Bling, Black, Juice, Quarry
Color Tested: Juice
Fabric/Coating: EcoGenesis - 100% polyester mechanical stretch with 20,000mm / 10,000g laminate
Insulation/Lining: Thinsulate; Cocona Baselayer - 52% Cocona polyester, 48% polyester
Product DescriptionThe Obermeyer Kestral Insulated Jacket, hereafter referred to as the "Kestral" or "jacket," is an insulated, hooded winter jacket. The Kestral is a waterproof jacket, courtesy of the DWR finish, Duroguard. The jacket also uses a microporous coating called Hydroblock that helps prevent water from coming through the pores while allowing water vapor to escape. The shell is made from the EcoGenesis stretch fabric and is 100% polyester. EcoGenesis is a fabric made from recycled PET bottles, which I think is pretty cool! The jacket arrived with five hangtags affixed to the zipper of the left pocket. One is for pricing, another for Thinsulate, one for RECCO and the other two for various features of the jacket from Obermeyer.
The jacket features a full-length zipper down the front with a generous storm flap held tight by six hoop-and-loop closures. The zipper pull is sturdy and large enough to grasp with gloves and mittens. A nice touch is that the top of the zipper is lined with fleece so my chin shouldn't be rubbed raw in the cold! The manufacturer also points out that the collar provides wind protection and is fleece-lined all the way around. There is a removable hood that is oversized to fit a ski helmet underneath. The hood is held in place by a YKK zipper as well as several hook-and-loop closures. The hood is adjustable 2 ways; first to cinch around my face and second to pull the hood back. This latter feature is helpful when there isn't a helmet on my head. I've been told I have a big head, but not THAT big!
One other unique zippered pocket is on the left arm. It has a 6 in (15 cm) zippered opening and a pocket deep enough for my iPhone. I'm not quite sure what I will use that for yet. As for the cuffs of the Kestral, they are gusseted with adjustable, hook and loop closures. They also feature an inner cuff that is fleece-lined with a stretch fabric. This is a great touch, especially when I am snowboarding!
I should also point out that the Kestral utilizes RECCO avalanche recovery system. While this is not a typically viable rescue system in the backcountry in the unfortunate avalanche tragedy, it is comforting to know that should I use this jacket on the resort slopes here in Colorado. I have no plans to use this feature, so hopefully I will have nothing more to say on the matter!
The insulation is courtesy of Thinsulate. I can feel the insulation throughout the jacket and it does give the Kestral some heft. The inside of the jacket is partly fleece-lined with the remaining fabric a soft and smooth synthetic. This fabric has some patterns and the Obermeyer name printed on it. There is a nice 6 x 4 in (15 x 10 cm) yellow patch near the nape of my neck that has the same pattern and name on it as well, Below the patch are tags with the sizing and materials used. Further down, at the base of the jacket are several other tags; one for care instruction, one for Thinsulate and the last one for the government regulators ("this tag not to be removed...").
There are two interior mesh pockets as well. The first one is on the right side and is oversized to accommodate goggles. The other pocket is on the left side and is zippered with the same water resistant zipper as some of the outside pockets. Inside this pocket is another pocket made of fleece ideal for holding electronics, such as my phone or music player. This pocket has an elastic strip sewn into the opening to help keep items in one place. Just above the mesh pocket is a small fabric loop. This loop would be ideal to string my headphones through so the wire doesn't pull on my ears as I ride or hike.
There is a powder skirt also included with the Kestral. It has snaps that keep it tucked away in the back but then also to connect it around my waist when I am snowboarding. The powder skirt also has an elastic band that has a side that "grips" my clothing, helping it to stay put and the snow out. Beneath the powder skirt but easily accessible is another adjustable drawcord for the hem.
According to the manufacturer, the jacket comes fully seam sealed. According to the website, the manufacturer has a lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects. The language is very inviting, which is pretty neat to see.
My first hike with the Kestral was just a short hike with my dogs in the neighborhood. It was just above freezing, so an ideal opportunity for a brisk walk! The hood is really big and it kept flopping into my face until I could find the "sweet spot" by adjusting the drawcords. The brim is not especially stiff but holds a shape pretty well. I should also say that the insulation is excellent! I could not feel any drafts, stayed warm and didn't feel sweaty inside.
I usually size up for shells so that I have space for additional layers. Because this is an insulated jacket I wasn't sure if I would need that, but I decided to go with a larger size anyway. I don't think it will be an issue since the fit is pretty good. I definitely have space for another layer or two and the jacket hangs nice on me. I can imagine that it could easily get warm under a backpack so I am anxious to get out in the field and start testing it!
Field ConditionsSince receiving the Kestral jacket, I have been on three backpacking trips, all of them in Colorado. I have also used the jacket while snowboarding on four different occasions; one of which involved backcountry snowboarding. The jacket has accompanied me on three day hikes, as well as frequently in town.
My first trip was an overnight to Jasper Lake with a small group of friends in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado. This hike was a round trip of 8.9 mi (14.3 km) to a lake at 10,814 ft (3,296 m). The temperature was near 45 F (7 C) during the day and down to 20 F (-7 C) overnight. I had pretty clear skies the whole time, but there was a little snow along the trail at times; it has been a dry winter so far. I wore the jacket on and off during the hike up, with a base layer and fleece vest underneath.
My second trip was an overnight hike to summit Shawnee Peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado. This 13 mi (21 km) hike, round trip, took me to the top of the 11,917 ft (3,632 m) peak where I camped at 10,660 ft (3,250 m). Elevation gain was a little over 3,000 ft (900 m). I experienced strong winds, some good snowfall of 6 in (15 cm) and temperatures between 10 and 40 F (-12 and 4 C). I wore the jacket over a base layer, another shirt and occasionally a fleece jacket. I also used a neck gaiter and a fleece cap.
Along with the backpacking, I wore the Kestral while snowboarding at Winter Park resort in Colorado on three trips so far this year. I also went backcountry snowboarding at Berthoud Pass (near Winter Park). There was a bit of light snow falling on and off throughout the day, with a temperature of around 30 F (-1 C). I wore a base layer and a heavy shirt under the jacket and was plenty warm. I have also been on four other day hikes, three in Colorado under similar conditions to my backpacking trips, but also one in Wisconsin while visiting during the holidays. On this hike, we ran into a little rain, although the temperature was about 45 F (7 C).
ObservationsI am not at all surprised by the exceptional quality of this jacket so far. Our weather in Colorado has been quite mild, with the exception of a couple of nasty cold spells, -5 F (-21 C). There has been far too little precipitation, although I have done well timing a few of my trips to get the most exposure. While hiking, I find that a midweight or expedition-weight base layer and a fleece vest are just about the perfect combination with this jacket. When hiking in anything over 35 F (2 C), the jacket came off in decent, precipitation-free weather. I did use some heavier layers in some of the coldest weather, but that was actually when I was in town. Opening up the chest and the pit zips really makes a difference in regulating my body heat.
There are a couple of added features that I wasn't sure would translate well for backpacking, but frankly have been handy. The soft cloth in the zippered chest pocket has been handy for wiping off my sunglasses when I get too warm. I suppose it could double as a handkerchief in a pinch for runny noses, but I didn't need to turn to that! Similarly, the lined pocket for electronics did a great job of keeping my iPhone dry, even when sweating while hiking some steep terrain. I do like to store snacks in the internal pockets in the winter to keep them from freezing. So far, the jacket has kept them warm enough to not break any teeth <grin>!
Under a heavy pack, this jacket is as comfortable as any other than I have worn. The fabric is soft and smooth and there are no odd seams to cause any chafing under the straps. I have full range of motion while moving; hiking and snowboarding.
I love that the hood is removable for a couple of reasons. On some of my day hikes, I knew that the weather would be mild, so leaving the hood at home saved some weight that I just didn't need to carry. I also like the flexibility while wearing the jacket in town. After hitting the slopes in Winter Park, I could remove the hood, wear a beanie and hit the apres ski in style! Taking the hood on and off is really easy. However, on a couple of occasions, the hook and loop tabs have come disconnected. It did not impact the performance at all. I really like how easy to operate the zippers are. I have struggled with zippers on other jackets from time to time, but these are superb.
I was a bit nervous that I may have gotten a jacket that was a little too big for me; my size is right on the edge between a L and an XL. While I am not swimming in the jacket, I do wonder if I could have gone down a size since I haven't needed to add multiple, bulky layers. I have a nice, down jacket that I have been taking along that seems to be getting neglected!
The jacket has been quite durable. Hiking winter trails in Colorado can be tricky. Because the summer trail disappears and reappears, it is easy to get off track and have to bushwhack through all sorts of shrubs. Despite this, the jacket has no tears or other obvious signs of wear. The cuffs are starting to look a little dirty now, so I will likely test out the manufacture's recommended instructions for washing the jacket. Despite the lack of laundering so far, the jacket does not seem to be retaining any odors either.
My first trip was a two-night hut trip near Leadville, Colorado. We skinned/snowshoed 6 mi (10 km) to Uncle Bud’s Hut and spent the second day backcountry snowboarding, leaving by the same route on the third day. Temperatures were anywhere from 5 to 30 F (-15 to -1 C) and we had a mix of sunshine and snow with some moderate to heavy winds. While snowshoeing, I was able to enjoy wearing just a base layer underneath the jacket, with the jacket open as well as the pit zips. When I was snowboarding, I wore a fleece vest as well as a base layer and I was comfortable.
My final trip was a short overnight up towards Pikes Peak via the standard Barr Trail. I enjoyed staying at the Barr Camp the last trip I took, but this time I slept indoors at their backcountry lodge rather than outside in a tent. I saved weight and got fresh pancakes in the morning as well! The weather was snowy, and temperatures hovered around 20 F (-4 C). Barr Camp is approximately 6.5 mi (10.5 km) from the trail head in Manitou Springs. Elevation gain is 3,800 ft (1,160 m), and the camp elevation is 10,200 feet (3,109 meters).
ObservationsI am a big fan of this jacket after four months of use. The jacket has performed just as well as it did during the first half of the test. I love that the stretch fabric allows me to twist and turn while snowboarding in the backcountry. As a frequent traveler in the mountains in the winter, I appreciate that this jacket can handle a multitude of duties. This is a great jacket on the slopes, but equally great while mountaineering and hiking in the backcountry. While warm, the Kestral does an incredible job of allowing moisture to escape. I could tell that I was really sweating at times, but even when I stopped to hydrate, eat or catch my breath, the insulation kept me from getting the chills.
I did manage to wash my jacket per the manufacturer's directions. Waterproofing wasn't an issue so I used Dreft as suggested since I had some handy in the house. I will say that line drying the jacket did take some time. I washed it in the morning and when I went to bed the jacket was still damp in places. I decided to turn the jacket inside out and by the morning the jacket was dry. In the end, the jacket looked good as new and all the zippers worked just fine.
I could only find one minor issue with the jacket in all of my time using it. The armpit zippers have a tendency to get caught on the mesh fabric when I am zipping them back up. This doesn't happen each time, rather it happens only once every five-or-so times. It is a drag since when I am trying to zip them up it is because I am a little chilly. The only way to get the zipper unstuck is to stop and take the jacket off, or ask my hiking buddies to help me.
SummaryThis is by far the best winter jacket I have used, ever. It is durable, warm, and yet can be used in a good range of winter weather activities. I plan to keep this jacket as my go-to jacket in the winters from here on out. While springtime has started, a number of my upcoming trips are likely to still see snow or subfreezing temperatures. I intend to keep this one handy for a few more months just in case.
Pros: Excellent construction, warm, and superior protection from the elements. The Kestral has well-placed pockets, useful features and the stretch fabric is excellent for active uses.
Cons: Pit zips occasionally stick to the mesh.
This concludes my report. I would like to thank Obermeyer for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.
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