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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Hi-Tec Sports Cloud Chaser Shell > Test Report by Frances Penn

HI-TEC CLOUD CHASER SHELL
TEST SERIES BY FRANCES PENN
LONG-TERM REPORT
July 31, 2012

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Frances Penn
EMAIL: fpenn AT sbcglobal DOT net
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Costa Mesa, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I have been backpacking for five years mostly on long weekends in Southern California with one or two 5-day trips per year in the Sierras. My daypack weight is usually 15 lb (7 kg) and my backpack weight is usually 28-30 lb (13-14 kg). I am a tent camper and have experienced all night rain, heavy winds, camping in snow once, but mostly fair weather.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Hi-Tec Sports PLC
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.hi-tech.com
MSRP: US$109.95
Listed Weight: None listed on website or tags on jacket
Measured Weight: 13.7 oz (388 g)
Color Tested: Sprout/November (Green & Gray)
Other colors available: Dover (light gray), Haze/November (lavender and gray) and Black.
Size Tested: Women's Small (according to the website, a small fits sizes 6-8)
Other Sizes Available: Medium, Large and X-Large

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Hi-Tec Cloud Chaser Shell is constructed of 2.5 layer 100% polyester ripstop with Dri-Tec waterproofing. The company website claims the jacket is fully seam sealed and waterproof. The cuffs are elastic with hook-and-loop adjustments. The hood has one volume adjustment pull on each side. The jacket includes a full length front zipper, underarm ventilation with no mesh, two inside mesh pockets, two outside hand warmer pockets and one chest pocket. The hem has a single hand drawcord adjustment. The website indicates the average center back length is 27 in (69 cm). The jacket being tested has a 26 in (66 cm) center back length.
IMAGE 1
picture courtesy Hi-Tec website


The jacket packs into its own hand warmer pocket which contains a zipper for this purpose. The jacket when packed into its own pocket, measures 6 in (15 cm) wide, 8.5 in (21.5 cm) tall and 4 in (10 cm) thick. The jacket is equal in height and thickness to the Nalgene bottle, but twice as wide as the 3 in (7.6 cm) Nalgene bottle.





INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The jacket arrived on March 19, 2012 in good condition in the Sprout/November color which is bright green and gray. The jacket's appearance is as expected after viewing the website. The website and the tags included with the jacket indicate the hood is tuck-away and roll up. I am not able to locate anything behind or below the collar to tuck the hood into or roll it into. There is a hook-and-loop closure on the back of the hood and there is a hang loop above the tag on the inside of the jacket. All of the seams appear to be fully sealed. The back of the Hi-Tec logo sewn just above the chest pocket is seam sealed on the underside.
IMAGE 2
full front jacket


INITIAL FIT

I chose a size small because I wanted a tight fit to prevent water getting inside the jacket. I tried it on with a light thermal and a light fleece and I had room under the jacket. I then added an ultralight synthetic down type jacket and the fit did not feel tighter. I then removed the synthetic down jacket and put on a lightweight down jacket that is a little more bulky. I found the fit to be tight and a little restrictive but was surprised to see the down jacket was entirely covered by the jacket. With each of these options, I had no trouble zipping the jacket up to my chin. The zipper felt durable and was easy to get started without looking at it.

My arms measure 21.5 in [54 cm] from shoulder to wrist and the jacket sleeves come down 1.5 in (3.8 cm) below my wrist with my arms down and are snug at my wrist when I'm extending my arms out. The elastic and hook-and-loop cuff adjustments allow for adjustment depending on the layers under the jacket. The side adjustment pulls work well to snug the hood around my head. There are pulls inside to take up the slack from the hood adjustment pulls, so there are not loops on either side of the hood when cinched.

WASHING INSTRUCTIONS

The attached tags inside the jacket states the jacket should be machine washed in cold water on the gentle cycle and tumbled dry on a low setting. The tag also states not to iron, bleach, or dry clean the jacket.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS


One tag indicates the outer layer of the jacket material is treated with DWR [durable water repellent]. The other tag indicates the jacket is treated with Dri-Tec which is described as a unique membrane that provides waterproof protection that is breathable and allows water vapor to escape.

TRYING IT OUT

Since there was no rain available, I wore the jacket for a local evening hike to test its breathability in approximately 50 F (10 C) temperature. I wore it over a lightweight thermal long sleeve shirt and the fit was comfortable. The zippers feel sturdy. I had no trouble starting the zippers and then zipping them without looking for the zipper pulls. I noticed the left hand warmer pocket has a zipper pull on the inside and on the outside, which is used to close the pocket when the jacket is stuffed into the pocket.
IMAGE 3
next to Nalgene


I hiked with both of the underarm ventilation openings completely open and the jacket front closed using the hook-and-loop closures and not the zipper. After an hour and a half, I noticed the inside of the jacket was wet and my long sleeve lightweight thermal top had completely wet sleeves. The jacket blocked the wind which felt good on this hike about a mile from the cool slightly windy beach.

The hook-and-loop is durable and was snagging on the shirt I was wearing under it when the jacket was not zipped. I found closing the front of the jacket using the hook-and-loop allowed a little extra ventilation and kept the hook-and-loop from snagging. The pockets are well placed and comfortable to use.

I rolled up the hood and looped the hook-and-loop strap through the hang loop on the inside of the collar. I didn't notice it being uncomfortable while wearing the jacket.
IMAGE 4
hood rolled and looped


I plan to wear the Hi-Tec Cloud Chaser Shell to test its waterproofing, breathability, durability and comfort under a variety of conditions on my upcoming backpacking trips.

SUMMARY

So far I am not impressed by the claimed breathability of the jacket. It is a comfortable jacket to wear and I like the bright green color. With the hook-and-loop and elastic cuffs not fastened, they do not let in much air, which may contribute to the dampness inside the sleeves after my short hike. This may turn out to be a good feature by not allowing rain to get down the sleeves when using trekking poles or raising my arms while hiking.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I used the Hi-Tech Cloud Chaser Shell a total of 21 days and 13 nights in the field with conditions that were mostly mild days and cool nights. I had three occasions to test the jacket in rain along with a test in my shower. The following field test information contains the actual conditions and temperatures when the jacket was worn.

Trip #1
Location: Big Bear, California USA
Elevation: 6920 ft (2,109 m)
Trip duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: Wind and rain
Temperatures: 30 F (-1 C) to 40 F (4 C)

Trip # 2
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California USA
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: cool mornings and nights and warm days
Temperatures: 40 F (4 C) to 70 F (21 C)

Trip #3
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California USA
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: cool nights, hot days
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

Trip #4
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California USA
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: cool nights, hot days
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

Trip #5
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California USA
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: cool nights, hot days
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

Trip #6
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California USA
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: cool nights, hot days
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

Trip #7
Location: Moquith Mountain, Utah trail maintenance trip
Elevation: 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Trip Duration: 7 days, 6 nights
Conditions: 2 warm days, 5 windy days and 6 cool nights
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

Trip #8
Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, California USA
Elevation: 8,000 ft (2438 m)
Trip Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Conditions: Sunny days and cool nights
Temperatures: 50 F (10 C) to 80 (26 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This jacket is completely waterproof. The fully sealed seams kept me dry and blocked the wind. This jacket is comfortable to wear in rain and wind and as an outer layer during the cool evening hours. The jacket fit comfortably over a base layer and a light insulating layer. Rain did not get down my sleeves when using trekking poles.

When fully cinched, the hood tightening strings inside the top of the hood make it bunch over my head so rain drips down close to my face. When I wore a ball cap under the hood, the bill kept the rain from dripping so close to my face. In light rain, the hood stayed on my head when not cinched. In windy conditions, the hood will not stay on my head unless fully cinched. The hood blocks the wind and rain and keeps my head warm.
IMAGE 1
hood cinched with loops


The hood cinch straps have pulls inside the jacket. When the hood is cinched and the pulls inside the jacket are not pulled tight, the cinch straps form loops on either side of the hood by the collar. The only way to eliminate these loops is to unzip the top of the jacket and tighten the inside pulls. The pulls are a good feature but require the jacket to be partially unzipped to elimate the loops, letting in water during heavy rain.

The two-way zippers underneath the arms allow for ventilation options. The inside of the jacket was damp after wearing it while hiking during rain and wind, but was not damp after wearing it as an outer layer during the evening hours in camp.

FIELD TEST LIKES
Completely waterproof
Comfortable to wear
Blocks the wind and rain

FIELD TEST DISLIKES
Prefer not to have the loops from the hood cinch straps
Condensation forms inside the jacket while hiking
Hood bunches when fully cinched

FIELD TEST SUMMARY

This jacket is comfortable to wear as a rain jacket and an outer layer shell to block wind. The versatility allows this jacket to serve more than one purpose which may eliminate a piece of clothing.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long-Term Report should be completed by July 31, 2012. Please check back then for further information.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Trip #9
Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, California USA
Elevation: 6,000 ft to 11,500 ft (1829 m. to 3505 m)
Trip duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Conditions: comfortable days and cool evenings
Temperatures: 40 to 70 F (4 C to 21 C)

Trip #10
Location: Big Pine Lakes area of the Sierras, California USA
Elevation: 9,500 ft to 11,000 ft (2,900 m. to 3350 m)
Trip duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Condition: comfortable days and cool evenings
Temperatures: 40 to 70 F (4 C to 21 C)

Trip #11
Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, California USA
Elevation: 6,000 ft to 11,500 ft (1829 m. to 3505 m)
Trip duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Conditions: comfortable days and cool evenings
Temperatures: 40 to 70 F (4 C to 21 C)


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This jacket is comfortable to wear as an outer layer shell for extra warmth while in camp. If I wore the jacket while hiking, the inside of the jacket would become damp with condensation within the first hour, even with the underarm zippers completely open.

This jacket is a little heavier and packs down a little larger than the rain jacket I was previously wearing. I have worn it on all of my backpacking trips as an outer layer on cool mornings and evenings. There was no rain during this testing period, but some cool, windy cloudy days when I was sure rain was just moments away.

I continued to find it difficult to stuff the jacket into its own stuff pocket. I found that folding it as small as possible and then stuffing it into a gallon size Ziploc bag and compressing out the air worked well for packing purposes.

SUMMARY

This jacket is completely waterproof but I am disappointed in its lack of breathability. The jacket blocked the wind but resulted in dampness due to perspiration each time I wore it while hiking. The jacket shows no wear at any of the pack contact areas or in any other area. The hook-and-loop closures and zippers work just like new.

Since this jacket is heavier and more bulky than the rain jacket I was previously using, it will not be my first choice for a rain jacket on backpacking trips. I plan to use it in snow sports activities where weight is not an issue and the bright green sections will help me to be visible to others. It is a very comfortable jacket to wear and I look forward to many more years of use.

This concludes my test series. I want to thank Hi-Tec Sports PLC and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Cloud Chaser jacket.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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