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

HI-TEC CLOUD CHASER SHELL
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 28, 2012
FIELD REPORT - June 11, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - July 16, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Hi-Tec Sports, PLC
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.hi-tec.com
MSRP: US $109.95/ CN $100.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 14.5 oz (411 g)
Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large & Extra-Large
Center Back Length: 27" (69 cm) Medium
Size Tested: Medium
Colors Available: Italia, Black, Haze/November, Sprout/November & Dover
Color Tested: Sprout/November

Other details: (from the manufacturer

Shell: Featherweight 2.5 - layer, 100% polyester Ripstop

* Dri-Tec that is waterproof, breathable and fully seam-sealed
* Tuck-away, roll-up hood with volume adjustment
* Underarm ventilation
* Two Handwarmer pockets
* One chest and one sleeve pocket
* Packs into its own pocket
* Single-hand drawcord adjustable hem

Warranty: "All of our apparel shell products using this technology (Dri-Tec) are fully seam sealed and will be guaranteed for the life of the product to be so."
Hi-Tec Cloud Chaser
Picture Courtesy of Hi-Tec Sports

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I had drooled on the Hi-Tec website for several hours before I received the Cloud Chaser Shell, so I thought I knew exactly what was coming. However, upon opening the box with my much-anticipated prize in it, I was surprised to see the green portion of the shell was much lighter than I thought it would be. It's actually quite bright - almost neon - but I like it!

The front of the shell is green up to a yoke just above my chest where the gray takes over. Continuing to the back of the shell, the green color wraps up the back to form similar yoke and forms the undersides of the sleeves while the body of the back and the tops of the sleeves is gray.

A same colored, very discreet fabric embroidery Hi-Tec log is barely visible on the left front yoke. And a grey "Dri-Tec" which is Hi-Tec's "proprietary waterproof, breathable laminate or coating" logo is on the left sleeve.

I was also startled to see the hood is segmented with the sides being a gray color and down the center of the hood from front to back is the bright green - instantly brought to my mind "skunk-head". However, my husband thought it attractive, so what do I know. My initial impression is the hood will spend a lot of time rolled up! The hood does feature the ability to adjust the fit with side elastic cinches and a center hook-and-loop fastener for even a more "custom" fit. A hook-and-loop fastener allows the hood to be stored under the fold-down collar.

A storm flap covers the front of a one-way bottom to top zipper. Five hook and loop strips add versatility to the zipper opening, securing the shell together at the front even if the zipper is not engaged. To keep out the elements, the cuffs have an elastic hem with a hook and loop closure, which will keep the cuffs snug around the wrists. Additional wind/rain protection is afforded by a drawcord at the waist.

Pockets, pockets, pockets - the Cloud Chaser has a bunch! There are the usual front side zippered pockets at the waist of the shell, then two more very long, narrow open-top pockets inside the shell that actually overlap the outer pockets. These four pockets are constructed from mesh. A fifth waterproof Napoleon-fashion pocket on the left front is topped with a contrasting trim zipper.
Interior pocket Napolean pocket

And, while I'm on the subject of zippers - well, sort of - the dual pit zips are very different from any other rain or wind shell I own. First, there are two zipper pulls on each zipper, which will allow me to unzip from either the top or the bottom. Then, instead of unzipping the zips to find an accordion-style mesh fabric of sorts, there's nothing! I can reach right in and touch whatever I'm wearing underneath. It seems quite airy - at least, that' what I'm hoping!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Care instructions for the Cloud Chaser were hidden on the website under the "Technologies" section. It took a few moments of digging, but I found the following:

* The easiest and best way to care for a Dri-Tec garment is to wash it with a powdered detergent free of bleach.
* Rinse well to insure all soap is out of the garment and dry it on medium heat in a dryer.
* If using a commercial dryer, take care not to melt the jacket.
* Nylons are petroleum products and have a lower melting point.

Interesting! I would have never thought to put such a garment in a dryer. I usually hang my technical clothing up to air-dry. I'll have to try the dryer and see how it goes. Fingers crossed!

TRYING IT OUT

I was a bit nervous when the shell arrived as I had never ordered clothing (I have purchased their boots) from Hi-Tec and I'm always nervous about sizing. I had found a size chart on the website, but wasn't quite sure how accurate the chart was for outerwear. It's often confusing - do I order from my actual chest measurement? Do I order a size up to account for base layers? I finally went with a "medium" based on the chart which didn't have "medium" listed but instead had numerical sizes, i.e., 4-6, 8-10, etc. I guessed that 8-10 was "medium". It would be nice if Hi-Tec re-did their size charts to include general size designations (S, M, L, and XL) as well as the numbers.

In any case, with the shell finally in hand, I found I was dead on with my guess! Yay!

With a base layer and a light down vest, it's super comfy and still roomy enough. I won't be wearing anything more than that for the next several months while backpacking. And while the Cloud Chaser is not tight, it's not so big as to look like I'm wearing my husband's shell. It's trim and neat-looking.

The interior of the shell glides right over my tops without catching on them, so no tugging my sleeves down was necessary.

I tried all the zippers and found them to function smoothly both up and down. I particularly like the idea of the two-way pit zips. The construction of the shell appears to be well thought out and the quality shines through in the straight seams and even, tight stitches.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

On the first of the past two months' overnights (March 30-31) when I was able to get out and use the Hi-Tec Cloud Chaser Shell, my hiking took place in my local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) playground of the Cooper Mountain range which abuts the north boundary of our property in Canon City, Colorado. This is a wilderness area with no developed trails just a lot of juniper, pinon pine-covered hills which alternate with granite slabs and rocky shale gullies. Elevation is roughly between 5300 ft (1600 m) and 9100 ft (2770 m).

Our temperatures here in Colorado have continued to be mostly unseasonably warm and the 2-night trek the weekend of March 30-31 saw a high of 67 F (19 C) with a low of 55 F (13 C). There was no rain either day/night with average humidity of 13%, dew point of 14 F (10 C) and average wind speed - 5 mph (8 kph).

Over Mothers' day weekend in May, I wore the Cloud Chaser for a time on three separate day hikes in the Twin Lakes, Colorado area, one being a hike on part of the Colorado Trail to the Dexter House at the ghost resort of Interlaken, elevation just about 9200 ft (230 m). That day started at 44 F (7 C) and ended up with a high of 69 F (21 C). We had a brief shower on the trek back.

The second hike was at Independence Pass, Colorado and onto the town of Independence, a ghost mining town.

Lastly, that weekend, we hiked trails in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness past Maroon Lake and onto the Crater Lake Trail.

Temperatures ranges on the latter two hikes were from 40 to 44 F (4 to 7 C) with it being a dry, though cloudy day. We did see quite a bit of snow at the Pass. I used the Cloud Chaser on the Pass - 12095 ft (3687 m) - for wind protection.

We spent the last week of May in Breckenridge, exploring the Ten-Mile Range. Three day hikes included the White Falls Trail, the Quandary Peak Trail from 10979 to 13424 ft (3346 to 4092 m), and the 11481 ft (3499 m) Boreas Pass trail which climbs to a saddle 12159 ft (3706 m) and separates Bald and Boreas Mountains from Hoosier Ridge. Despite the higher start elevations (all over 10000 ft/3000 m), the temperatures were mild from 40 to 69 F (4 to 21 C). It was very windy though on Quandary Peak - so windy we turned back before summiting. Otherwise, the weather was partly cloudy, no rain.
Twin Lakes Trail
On the Colorado Trail
Boreas Pass
Starting to Rain on the Boreas Pass Trail

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

For the most part, the Cloud Chaser has just been too warm to wear over any of my normal base layer system for the weather we have been experiencing. On all of the above listed treks, I always started out with a wool short-sleeved base layer top and a light-weight, long-sleeved synthetic full-zip hooded top. As soon as I started to hike hard, I would inevitably end up, first unzipping the long-sleeve top and eventually removing it to hike wearing just the tee-shirt.

On the occasions I did wear the Cloud Chaser - in a couple of drizzles and for wind protection, it was worn initially over the two stated tops and sometimes just over the tee-shirt.

In the drizzle I encountered in Twin Lakes, I had the Cloud Chaser over just the tee-shirt and quickly, almost immediately had to unzip the pit zips - I was sweating unbearably.

While it kept me dry from the hour drizzle, the left pit zip zipper rubbed my skin irritatingly at the inside elbow. So much so, that I ended up with wearing the Cloud Chaser hood over my head and backpack with just the hook-and-loop closures attached at my neck - not the most attractive look, but then again, who cares what it looks like as long as it works! I'll have to put a piece of tape or something over that one bit of stiff material at the end of the zipper in the future.

However, even with the pit zips unzipped and the shell barely fastened, I think my tee-shirt got just as wet from my sweating as it would have if I had just hiked in the rain. My pack was nice and dry though!

On the Quandary Peak Trail, I was happy to have the Cloud Chaser along in my pack. I had tucked it in thinking of the possible afternoon thunderstorms which often strike in the afternoons in the mountains. What I ended up needing it for was not rain, but horrible winds above tree line. Before I finally relented and stopped on the trail long enough to pull the shell on, my top layer felt like it was Swiss cheese and the blowing gusts manage to find every "hole". Once the Cloud Chaser was zipped, Mr. Wind was thoroughly thwarted.

I do like how small a size the Cloud Chaser can be squished down for stashing in my pack, "just in case". This makes it more likely for me to take it along.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

On the last of the past two months' overnights (June 15-17) where I was able to get out with the Hi-Tec Cloud Chaser Shell, my hiking took place in my local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) playground of the Cooper Mountain range that abuts the north boundary of our property in Canon City, Colorado. This is a wilderness area with no developed trails just a lot of juniper, pinon pine-covered hills which alternate with granite slabs and rocky shale gullies. Elevation is roughly between 5300 ft (1600 m) and 9100 ft (2770 m). Temperatures during the daytime saw a very steaming high of 90 F (32 C) and a low at night of only 67 F (19 C).

There was no rain on that trip nor was there any rain on any of the day-hikes I trekked on either. Colorado has been experiencing one of the worst drought seasons in many years.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As mentioned above, I've not been able to wear the Hi-Tec shell under its intended conditions in the past two months. We've planned numerous outings - day hikes - around "possible" thunderstorms (something I usually try to avoid) just so I could wear the shell and the "20-40% chance of rain" has turned out to be just that - a "chance". Maybe the fact that I've been prepared for rain is what has kept me out of the rain ;)

Anyway, I did carry the shell on all of my outings, so I can assert to its pack-ability. I've gotten very good at rolling it down to a very compact size which I prefer (rolling) to using the built-in stuff pocket. I've found that rolling the shell makes for a much less wrinkled jacket - not that I am all that fashion/neat conscious when backpacking, but still, it doesn't hurt me to try a bit. By rolling the shell, I'm able to stash it into one of the side drink bottle pouches on any one of my backpacks where it would be handy for me to quickly grab should it ever rain though, alas, it never did.

Also regretfully, it was never cool enough for me to ever pull on for wind or (cold) temperature protection. It's been very hot and even at night; I've not had any need to wear a cover-up.

There really hasn't been a need for me to wash the Cloud Chaser. So far, it has resisted food stains, dirt, and sticky sap from pine trees. I initially was worried the bright green would fade or show dust streaks when wet, but that hasn't been a problem. I did wash the shell though just last week to see how it would handle a dunking of the mechanical sort. I followed my usual laundry routine of ensuring all zippers were zipped, hook-and-loop strips fastened, pockets emptied and the shell turned inside-out. In a cold wash/rinse cycle with other outdoor clothing, I used a powdered detergent with no bleach as the manufacturer suggests. When the wash was finished, I took the shell out and even though the manufacturer says the shell can be machine dried, I shook it out and hung it on a wooden hanger overnight outside. The next morning, the Cloud Chaser was dry, looked great and was ready to use.

Now if it would only rain!

SUMMARY

I'm so disappointed I didn't get to really test out this great shell! Mother Nature just didn't cooperate these past 4 months. From my perspective, the shell looks great, has held up well and has great potential as a staple in my gear closet. I'm hoping I'll get more use in the fall and winter when the weather is more changeable and wind and rain/snow showers are more likely.

I am planning on posting an addendum to this report in early November to add to my experiences. I don't think I've really put this shell though the vigorous trials it can bear. So, to see more, bookmark this page and return then, ok?

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and Hi-Tec Sports for the opportunity to stay dry in style!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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