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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Obermeyer Kestral Jacket > Test Report by Brian Hartman

OBERMEYER KESTRAL JACKET
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 26, 2013

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Courtesy of Obermeyer

Manufacturer: Sport Obermeyer
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.obermeyer.com/
MSRP: US $475.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)

Colors Available: Baja, Bling, Black, Juice, Quarry
Color Tested: Quarry
Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2XL
Size Tested: Small
Fabric / Coating: EcoGenesis - 100% polyester mechanical stretch with 20,000mm / 10,000g laminate
Insulation / Lining: Thinsulate; Cocona Baselayer - 52% Cocona polyester, 48% polyester
Waterproofing: 20,000mm / 10,000g
Fit: Alpine Cut

Features:
External storm flap with hook and loop closure
Internal windguard with fleece chin protector
Fully seam sealed
Zippered hand warmer pockets with key holder and d-ring
Zippered chest pockets with detachable goggle cloth
Wrist accessory pocket with water resistant zipper
Zip-off hood with 2-way adjustment
Adjustable internal hem drawcord
Brushed collar lining
Gusseted cuffs with adjustable closure
Stretch fleece inner cuffs
Helmet compatible hood
Internal zippered electronic pockets
RECCO rescue reflector
Underarm ventilation with mesh gussets
Powderskirt with gripper elastic

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION & INITIAL IMPRESSION

IMAGE 2
Storm flap
The Obermeyer Kestral jacket arrived at my doorstep in great condition with four hang tags attached. After giving it a brief once-over, my initial impression was that it was a great looking jacket (as seen in the photo above in Quarry gray color with black pinstripes) and it appeared to be very well made.

As reported by Obermeyer, the Kestral jacket (hereafter called Kestral or jacket) is a waterproof / breathable insulated jacket utilizing Obermeyer's green friendly EcoGenesis stretch fabric. EcoGenesis is made from 100% polyester, 53% of which is recycled from PET bottles. In fact, the entire jacket (shell, lining and insulation) is made of 100% polyester fibers. Waterproofing and breathability are accomplished by adding the manufacturer's proprietary 'Hydroblock' microporous coating and 'Duroguard' DWR finish to the jacket which help give it its 20,000mm / 10,000g rating. Hydroblock is a polyurethane coating that the manufacturer claims prevents water from penetrating the shell while still allowing body moisture to evaporate out. It does this by reducing the size of the fabric pores such that water droplets are too large to enter but water vapor can still pass through. For added protection, the Duroguard finish is applied as a hydrophobic coating to the exterior of the jacket to increase surface tension causing water to bead up. As noted on Obermeyer's website, Duroguard also makes the fabric more durable and helps prevent stains.

The significance of the waterproof / breathability rating system mentioned above is that manufacturers can use a standardized test to determine the waterproof / breathability rating of their clothing and then display their results for marketing purposes and to allow consumers to compare clothing based on their particular needs. Finally, the jacket is fully seam sealed which should help prevent any water permeation through the stitched areas where the fabric is sewn together.

The Kestral has a full-length front zipper with a 1.5 inches (4 cm) wide exterior storm flap that is secured by six hook and loop closures. The storm flap prevents water from seeping through the front zipper, which is not waterproof. The front of the jacket is also protected against air filtration by an internal zipper windguard that measures approximately 1.25 inches (3 cm) in width. Moving to the top of the jacket, the top 8 inches (20 cm) of the windguard is fleece-lined on the inside as a chin protector. As an added bonus, the entire inside of the jacket collar, which stands 4 inches (10 cm) tall, is fleece-lined. The hood is fully adjustable via two drawcords on its lower left and right hand sides that can be used to loosen or tighten it as necessary. The hood can also be adjusted vertically using a drawcord that is located on the back side of the hood. It is secured to the back of the jacket by a zipper and two hook and loop closures that hold it in place on the sides. The hood is also fully detachable and is large enough to be worn with a helmet for ice climbing or downhill skiing.

IMAGE 3
Interior pocket
IMAGE 4
Sleeve pocket
The Kestral has five exterior and two interior pockets. Starting with the exterior pockets, the two front hand pockets measure 7.5 inches (19 cm) deep by 11 inches (28 cm) tall. These pockets are fleece-lined and are covered by storm flaps. The right hand pocket houses a plastic D-clip for securing car keys or some other object. Moving upwards, the right chest pocket is protected by a waterproof zipper and measures 6 inches (15 cm) by 6 inches (15 cm) while the left chest pocket is secured by a regular zipper and storm flap and measures 5 inches (13 cm) deep by 8 inches (20 cm) tall. This pocket contains a detachable goggle cloth which I already know will come in handy when my glasses fog up or get dirty. The fifth and final exterior pocket is located on the left sleeve and is protected by a waterproof zipper. It measures 4 inches (10 cm) by 5 inches (13 cm). Both interior pockets are mesh. The right interior pocket has a hook and loop closure and measures 8 inches (20 cm) deep by 7 inches (18 cm) tall while the left interior pocket is zippered and is 5 inches (13 cm) deep by 9 inches (23 cm) tall.

For improved ventilation, the Kestral jacket has underarm zippers with mesh gussets. They provide a convenient way to release excess body heat and perspiration while doing strenuous hiking. When fully unzipped each opening measures 14 inches (35 cm). For decreased ventilation and / or to prevent cold air from entering the jacket, the Kestral has gusseted cuffs that are fully adjustable via hook and loop closures. The inner cuffs work very well in providing enough stretch to seal off any air flow coming up the sleeves. Another place where cold air tends to enter most jackets is at the waist line and so Obermeyer has incorporated a powder skirt into the Kestral. The powder skirt has an elastic waistband that helps prevent cold air flow (and snow) from entering the jacket around the waist. The jacket also has an adjustable drawcord located at its lower hem to help seal out cold air as well as snow.

For those hiking in avalanche prone areas, the Kestral is fitted with a RECCO rescue reflector. The reflector is a small device that is sewn into the right shoulder of the jacket. When used in conjunction with RECCO's radar detectors which are standard issue for most search and rescue teams, it helps locate an avalanche victim under several feet of snow. Last but not least, Obermeyer's name is printed on the left chest pocket of the jacket as well as on the lower back.
IMAGE 5
Cuffs
IMAGE 6
Underarm ventilation
IMAGE 7
Powder skirt








READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

As mentioned earlier, four hang tags were attached to the jacket zipper upon its arrival. The first was from 3M with details regarding Thinsulate; the second hang tag was from Obermeyer and it provided a brief background on the company as well as a sizing chart; the third hang tag was also from Obermeyer and it aptly described the advanced design and construction features of the Kestral; the final hang tag was from RECCO and it briefly described their avalanche rescue system.

Care Instructions for the Kestral are listed on the jacket's collar tag. Obermeyer also provides detailed instructions on their website regarding how to properly wash and care for the jacket. Of particular note is that the DWR finish can wear off or become masked by dirt over time. When this happens, washing can help restore the effectiveness of the finish and /or a new coating of DWR can be applied at home. My experience is that it is pretty easy to know when either of these procedures is necessary as water no longer beads up on the outside of the jacket.

Warranty: Obermeyer offers a lifetime warranty against defects in the materials or workmanship of all of their products. The warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, misuse, accidents, fading or the natural breakdown of materials over time.

As someone who does most of his shopping online, I must say that Obermeyer's website is very well laid out and easy to navigate, which is not an easy feat to pull off while still providing the wealth of information they do about their product line. They have done a great job of describing each article of clothing and I really like that they provide large, detailed product photos and allow those photos to be rotated 360 degrees to provide a full view of their clothing from all angles. While on the website I also spent some time reading about the history of the company and its founder, Klaus Obermeyer and found it quite interesting. In this age of large corporations, it was inspiring to read Klaus' story and how his dream evolved into the company it is today.

TRYING IT OUT

I have been wearing the Kestral jacket around town for the past few days and also went hiking at a local park this weekend. When I went on my hike, it was sunny and the temperature was just above freezing at 34 F (1 C). My initial thoughts after this brief examination of the Kestral are as follows:

I really like the materials that were used in the construction of this jacket. The shell is made with a very tightly woven polyester fabric that feels smooth to the touch and durable. It also has some stretch to it which I noticed after moving around for a few minutes. I think the stretch 'factor' gives it a better fit and will allow me a larger range of motion while backpacking. Based on these factors, I am not too concerned about how this jacket will hold up in the field. From my initial exam it appears to be very durable and so I am not too concerned about snagging it on a branch or wearing down the shoulders or waist fabric from my backpack straps. I also really like that the fabric drapes well and isn't overly noisy as I move my arms back and forth while hiking.

In regards to construction, the Kestral's stitching is impeccable and I wasn't able to find a single loose thread or blemish. The zippers are solid and slide readily back and forth. The hood is generously sized and appears to be securely fastened. While hiking it was very easy for me to adjust the hood and as a quick test I was easily able to remove it once back to my car. Although the Kestral does not have thumb inserts in the cuffs akin to some other winter jackets, it still has very nice inner cuffs that are stretchy enough to prevent cold air from getting up my sleeves.

As stated in my bio, I am a mid weight hiker and so I am not all that concerned about carrying a few extra ounces for the sake of comfort or convenience. In this regard, I must say that I really like the fleece-lined hand pockets. They are a joy to use and well positioned so as not to interfere with my pack straps. In addition, they are plenty large to carry whatever I need. I can see myself using the sleeve pocket for various small items I may need to access readily while on the trail. Based on my initial hike this morning in 34 F (1 C) weather, the Kestral was plenty warm with a long sleeve shirt underneath so much so that I found myself trying out the underarm vents. They were easy to open and did a great job of venting some of the heat I had built up during my hike.

SUMMARY

I first became familiar with Obermeyer products a few years ago when I tested one of their shell jackets. I was impressed with the design and the quality of their products back then and so I came into this test with high expectations for this jacket. So far the Kestral does not disappoint. It has a stylish design, a ton of great features, and, if it is as rugged as it appears, it will be a sure winner. One last note is that I had the opportunity to talk with Obermeyer's customer service department and they are outstanding. As a regular 'Joe' calling up asking questions about their products, they were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. This concludes my Initial Report for the Obermeyer Kestral jacket. Thank you to Sport Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this jacket. I am really excited for the thermometer to drop a few more degrees and the snow to start flying.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months, I wore the Obermeyer Kestral jacket on two multi-night backpacking trips and numerous day hikes. I also wore it daily around town, shoveling snow, and on walks with our dog. Because it is warm, functional and looks good, I pretty much wore it anytime I left the house. I estimate I have over one hundred forty hours of use on the Kestral so far.

So far this winter my trips have been to parks in Central and Southern Indiana as well as Northern Ohio, where I spent time hiking in the Cuyahoga National Park and North Chagrin Forest (photos below). Temperatures during my outings ranged from 12 F to 38 F (-11 C to 3 C) with weather conditions that included everything from sunshine to freezing rain and snow. In Cuyohoga National Park wind speeds of 35 mph (56 kph) made for bitter below zero F (-18 C) wind chills. The details of my two overnight trips are highlighted below: IMAGE 1

Trip One: (3 days, 2 nights) Hiking and camping in Brown County, Southern Indiana
Weather: Cold (12 to 35 F / -11 to 1 C) and breezy (22 mph / 35 kph) with freezing rain the 2nd day
Elevation: 932 ft (284 m)
Distance covered: 9 mi (12 km)
Backpack Weight: 32 lb (15 kg)
Use: This trip involved hiking on maintained trails over hilly terrain

Trip Two: (2 days, 2 nights) Backpacking in the Charles Deam Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest, Indiana
Weather: Cold (24 F / -4 C) and snowy.
Elevation: 920 ft (280 m)
Distance covered: 7.4 miles (12 km)
Backpack Weight: 26 lb (12 kg)
Use: This trip involved off-trail hiking and bushwhacking to my final campsite.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the past two months of Field Testing, the Kestral performed flawlessly. It exceeded my expectations for warmth, weather resistance, comfort and durability and inspired confidence that it could handle whatever was next. For these reasons I gladly give it two thumbs up. In my opinion, Obermeyer has proven itself to be a top quality manufacturer of high end clothing and the proof is in their products which time and time again simply 'perform'. During testing, I typically paired the jacket with a midweight synthetic top and a lightweight vest and this combination kept me warm in temperatures down to 25 F (-4 C). When temperatures dropped well below freezing or when I was resting at camp, I switched out the vest for an insulated mid-layer jacket and was warm once again. When temperatures were in the upper 30's F (3 C) and I was hiking aggressively, the pit zips came in handy to release my body heat so I didn't sweat. In general I found it very easy to regulate my body temperature using the pit zips and front zipper and had no problems with breathability as the Kestral did a good job of allowing moisture vapor to escape.

IMAGE 2 While hiking in Cuyahoga National Park, the Kestral's shell did an excellent job of blocking the wind and the sleeve gussets and powder skirt prevented cold air from coming up my arm sleeves and torso. Although I usually don't wear hoods, this was one trip where I was very glad I had stuffed the Kestral hood in my backpack. Reattaching it to the jacket was straightforward and only took a minute, although I had to take my gloves off to get the ends of the hood secured. It might have been possible to get the ends secured using different gloves, but not the ones I was wearing. They were knit wool and they kept sticking to the hook and loop closures. With my hood up, sleeve gussets fastened tight and powder skirt snapped shut, I was adequately warm in 20 F (-6 C) weather with constant 35 mph (56 kph) winds. During this outing it was also nice to have added wind protection provided by the high front collar as well as the fleece lining for my chin.

In addition to wind protection, the Kestral did a great job of shedding rain and snow while I was hiking in Brown County. On this trip it demonstrated its waterproof claims. At no time did water soak through the shell or reduce the jacket's ability to insulate. At one point, where the trail came out of the woods, I hiked several hundred yards (approximately three hundred meters) through heavy cold rain while water beaded up and rolled off of the jacket. Thank goodness for sealed seams (and once again the zip-off hood)!

Throughout my testing, the Kestral was soft, comfortable to wear and easily slipped on over my mid layers. While backpacking with trekking poles, I had plenty of room to move in the jacket and was able to extend my arms with no binding or difficulty. The chest and waist area fit comfortably, and the arm length has been almost perfect. In my Initial Report, I mentioned that the jacket fabric had some stretch which I felt gave it a better fit and allowed me a larger range of motion. After two months of testing, I agree even more so with my previous statement and would add that the 'stretch factor' has probably helped prevent several tears or rips that would have occurred if the fabric didn't have some give to it. Despite hiking off-trail through thorny, bristly brush and plowing through low tree limbs and branches, the Kestral looks great and has only a few small scratches that are hardly noticeable from more than a few feet away (a meter). In spite of trekking many days with a heavy backpack, the shoulder straps have caused no noticeable wear on the jacket. I am sold on the comfort, fit and ruggedness of the EcoGenesis stretch fabric. I plan to order a pair of EcoGenesis pants when my current mountaineering pants wear out (hopefully soon).

In addition to the other features mentioned above, the jacket has lots of well-placed pockets that are easy to access and substantial in size. I love the fact that they are fleece lined as my hands usually get cold while sitting around camp. The pockets also came in handy for carrying my car keys, GPS, maps, and various other items like snacks that I didn't want to freeze. I had no problems with any of the zippers snagging on the jacket and most of them were simple to open with one hand.

SUMMARY

I am very happy with Obermeyer's Kestral jacket. It is well designed, comfortable to wear, exceptionally waterproof and, so far, quite durable. Despite daily use the jacket is still in great shape and is a breeze to keep clean with a simple toss in washer.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 Two day / two night camping trip to Franklin County, Indiana. I hiked 5.5 mi (9 km) in snowy, windy weather with temperatures ranging from 8 - 14 F ( -13 to -10 C). The 1st day was breezy with winds gusting to 20 mph (35 kph).

Day hike at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis, IN. During this outing I hiked along snow covered trails for approximately 9 mi (14 km) and had some great views of Eagle Creek Reservoir. The temperature was 18 F (-8 C) with sunny skies and almost no wind.

Two day / two night backpacking trip to the Charles Deam Wilderness, Bloomington, IN. While in Bloomington I hiked 12 mi (19 km) on hard packed trails. The temperature started at 24 F (-4 C) on the first day but dropped to 15 F (-9 C) the following morning as a cold front moved in.

Ski trip to Perfect North Ski Resort in Lawrenceburg, IN. The temperature stayed around 20 F (-7 C) throughout the day and only dipped slightly at night. Skies were mostly cloudy.

Day hike to Fort Benjamin Harrison Park - Indianapolis, IN. I hiked approximately 6 mi (10 km) at this park along hard, frozen trails and gently rolling terrain. The temperature stayed just below freezing at 31 F (-0.5 C) while skies were sunny.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Thanks to colder than normal temperatures this winter season, I wore the Kestral jacket almost every day for the past two months, whether backpacking, day hiking, walking my dog or shoveling snow. I also wore it to work as well as around town on errands and on an overnight ski trip. Although my front closet contains at least two of every item (gloves, hats, shoes etc), the Kestral is so versatile that it is the only winter jacket I have hanging there. It fit great, shed snow with ease, kept me plenty warm in cold weather and brisk winds, and I was able to wear it just as easily with dress clothes as in the backcountry. IMAGE 2

The jacket has held up really well despite constant wear. Durability has been great. I've had no problems with the zippers or hook-and-loop closures and there are no wear spots on the shoulders or waist from my pack straps. During the past two months the Kestral survived many encounters with tree branches and briars with no ill effects. The jacket continues to repel water. Despite hiking for several hours in heavy snowfall on my trip to Franklin County the Kestral kept me completely dry and managed to dry itself out as well by the following morning.

My final opportunity to test the Kestral this test period came during a ski trip to Perfect North Slopes. Although I skied a lot in high school and college, I've only skied once in the past dozen years and so I was very rusty. Despite the fact that I was sorely out of practice, the Kestral performed wonderfully. The stretch fabric allowed me a full range of motion and I never felt cold, despite several wipe outs on the moguls that resulted in long slides down the slopes on my back. I really liked having the wrist pocket to store my handkerchief and the goggle cloth came in handy to clean my glasses after one memorable face plant. Thank goodness there were no photos to memorialize my escapades. Regrettably I had some minor trouble keeping the hood in place while skiing. Although I adjusted it using the drawcords I still found it to be loose which sometimes hindered my forward and side vision (no excuse for my skiing).

Negating the small problem I had with the hood while skiing, the Kestral has been a joy to test during the past four months. It has proven itself to be a very capable winter jacket and the first one I reach for when the temperature drops.

SUMMARY

The Obermeyer Kestral performed flawlessly this winter. It easily handled single digit temperatures, wet snow and high winds while keeping me warm and dry. In fact, it has been a joy to wear throughout this test period and I look forward to wearing it for many more years.

This concludes this test series. Thanks to Sport Obermeyer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this jacket.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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