REI KULSHAN JACKET
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
March 31, 2012
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a week long. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and trekking poles.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc.
|Photo courtesy of REI|
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.rei.com
MSRP: $299 US
Listed Average Weight: 15.9 oz (451 g) does not mention for what size
Measured Weight: 15.6 oz (442 g)
Size Tested: Medium
Also available in XS, S, L and XL
Color Tested: Kiwi (green)
Other Colors Available: Gem Blue, Vermillion (red)
Back Length: 27 in (69 cm)
Made in China
The REI Kulshan jacket is a windproof, waterproof shell. The fabric is 100% nylon with a 3-layer eVent membrane as the waterproofing and has no insulation. The eVent lining is claimed to breathe so well that no pit zippers are needed. There was an eVent hangtag on the jacket that shows a beaker of water boiling with a segment of eVent fabric covering the top of the beaker. The steam is flowing right through the fabric. All of the seams are tape-sealed for complete waterproof protection.
|Photo courtesy of REI|
The front zipper is water-resistant and operates 2-ways to allow for venting from the top or bottom. There is a stormflap along the full length of the front zipper and a zipper garage at the top. On the backside of the stormflap at the very top there is a section of soft material to keep my face from touching the rough fabric when the jacket is fully zipped. REI claims that the jacket is windproof to 60 mph (97 kph).
The back of the jacket extends to the thigh to provide good coverage. The hem has a drawcord which is adjustable from either the right or left side at the inside hem. There is no powder skirt. The cuffs are wide enough to allow me to wear gloves underneath. The cuffs have hook-and-loop closures which can be cinched down to be tight on my bare wrists. The sleeves are slightly long and the top half of the cuff extends slightly longer than the bottom half for better hand coverage.
The hood is large enough to fit with a helmet. It has a drawcord around the face and one at the back which allows adjustment for a bare, hatted or helmeted head to provide good peripheral vision and fit. The ends of the drawcord are routed through a tube of fabric which keeps the end of the cord in a more stable location. The front of the hood has a short bill.
|Photo courtesy of REI|
There are 3 outer and 3 inner pockets. The outer pockets are 2 mesh-lined front slash pockets which are placed high to clear a hipbelt and a slash pocket on the left sleeve. All 3 pockets have a waterproof zipper. The left front pocket has an internal audio port at the top. The 2 front pockets have mesh lining so they double as vents if left open. The inner pockets are 2 mesh glove pockets on the backside of the front pockets. There is a small inner pocket inside the left front pocket. It has a hook-and-loop closure. There is a hang loop on the inside at the REI logo.
Lastly and hopefully a feature that I'll never need, there is an embedded RECCOŽ reflector in the right sleeve. There is a RECCO hangtag on the jacket which explains the use of the reflector a bit more. This reflector enhances radio signals used by search-and-rescue detectors to enable fast directional pinpointing of a victim's precise location in the event of an avalanche.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My first impression of the Kulshan is that it is a multi-featured well-constructed jacket without seeming very heavy. I also noticed that the Kiwi color is pretty bright although I still like it. I tried the jacket on and it fits a little bit on the large side which is perfect for layering insulating layers underneath. The sleeves are slightly long but this is a good feature to keep out snow and rain. The hood seems oversized but it must be because it is designed to accommodate a helmet. The hood is adjustable so I'll have to see how well I can use it with a helmet, a hat or bare-headed.
I wore the jacket on a couple of dayhikes after some heavy rainstorms overnight. However, on both hikes the rain held off and I didn't get to try out the waterproof feature. The days were cool at 40 to 45 F (4 to 7 C) so I had a short-sleeved shirt and a light fleece underneath the jacket. However, when we started climbing in elevation, I quickly got warm. After several hundred feet of climbing I took the jacket off but then quickly put it back on when we reached the top. On other shorter climbs I left the jacket on and was getting pretty warm but didn't really feel sweaty. I'll have to monitor this quite a bit more to get a sense of how well the jacket breathes.
I liked the location of the front pockets and was able to access the pockets easily while wearing a daypack. I put the hood up for a quick run out through the rain while at home. I didn't have far to go and so I didn't adjust the hood at all. It was way too large and I had trouble seeing where I was going so I had to remove the hood.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
WASH ME OFTEN
For optimal performance frequent washing and drying is recommended.
Machine wash warm with liquid detergent, rinse twice and tumble dry low.
The REI Kulshan jacket is a waterproof shell with nice features such as inner and outer pockets, an adjustable hood and cuff tabs.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Testing period I wore the Kulshan as my primary jacket and donned it nearly every day. I wore it on eleven day-hikes, ten morning runs, multiple lunch-time walks at work, one snowshoe hike and one camping/fishing trip. For hiking I always wore a day pack with the jacket.
Some examples of my usage:
Fairy Falls, Spenceville Wildlife Area, Northern California: 11.8 mi (19 km); elevation 400 to 1,000 ft (122 to 305 m); 47 to 50 F (8 to 10 C). Overcast with high fog conditions.
Western States Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 12.8 mi (20.6 km); 715 to 1,200 ft (218 to 366 m); 44 to 53 F (7 to 12 C). The trail is on the shady side of the canyon in winter so we hiked in and out of bright sunshine all day. I took the jacket off when temperatures warmed.
Rockville Hills Regional Park, Northern California: 5.5 mi (8.9 km); 150 to 550 ft (46 to 168 m); 55 F (13 C). The trails here are mostly exposed and I got too hot as we were climbing and had to remove the jacket.
Western States Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 14.0 mi (22.5 km); 500 to 1,200 ft (152 to 366 m); 29 to 53 F (-2 to 12 C). I took the jacket off when temperatures warmed.
Lake Camanche, Northern California: Elevation 235 ft (72 m); 37 to 53 F (4 to 12 C). I wore the jacket in camp and in the boat especially while motoring back to the dock.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.8 mi (9.3 km); 33 to 43 F (0 to 6 C); 6,327 to 6,700 ft (1,928 to 2,040 m) elevation.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I first wore the Kulshan on a pre-dawn run which was 45 degrees (7 C) and clear. I was wearing a long-sleeved synthetic shirt. After about ˝ mile (.8 km) I was getting hot and normally would have taken the jacket off. I left it on to see how clammy it would get but unzipped the front. At 1 mile I was sweating and noticed that the backs of my hands were sweating where the sleeves extended over my hands. When I got back I inspected the jacket and could see very small droplets of condensation on the inside near the shoulders, the upper arms and back.
The second time I wore it for a run it was 43 degrees (6 C) with dense fog. As soon as I started moving I could feel the mist on my face. It was really nice to have the jacket to block the dampness. Again I wore a long-sleeved synthetic shirt. I left the front pockets unzipped and didn't feel nearly as hot this time. I quickly unzipped the front zipper from the top and bottom to keep it connected in the middle. I loved this feature to keep the jacket from flopping open as I am running. Again I inspected the jacket post-run and could only see some tiny droplets this time. The outside of the jacket had some moisture especially at the soft material which protects my face from the zipper. It was really noticeable how this soft material collected the mist while the jacket exterior was practically dry.
I wore the jacket every week for an early morning run with temperatures ranging from 30 to 45 F (-1 to 7 C) with similar results. I found that opening the pockets worked well to provide ventilation and unzipping the front from top and bottom allowed for a lot of adjustment.
Overall the jacket was fairly good at moving the moisture away from my body without condensing inside the jacket. While I still got too hot on multiple occasions and had some moisture build-up, this jacket did the best job I've seen of any waterproof jacket that I own.
Pockets and Fabric:
I used the sleeve pocket for my iPod and found it fairly easy to operate the zipper with my right hand. At times I have to grasp the left cuff with my left hand to hold it taut while I pull the zipper with my right hand. But usually I don't find the need to hold the cuff maybe because the fabric is stiff. I also tried the audio port in the inner pocket which allows me to route the headphones inside the jacket. I expected the movement from running to cause the jacket to tug on the earbuds but it worked great.
I used the inner pockets for holding gloves, my phone, wallet and keys as well as my iPod.
While hiking I can hear the fabric as my arms swing over my torso but it is less distinct than most other waterproof jackets which seem to have a stiffer fabric. I can also hear the zipper pulls bouncing and have several times thought that a dog was running up to us since it sound like a collar. My husband can also hear it just from hiking near me.
Due to our unusually dry winter I didn't have the opportunity to test the jacket in any extended rain showers. I wore it a couple of times in light rain for short periods and found it to be totally waterproof. I'm hoping for 'better' weather in next couple of months to get more rain and snow exposure.
I wore the jacket several times in cold brisk winds and found it to block everything really well. At Lake Camanche, we were boating back to the dock just as the sun was setting which caused quite a wind chill in January. So I threw on the Kulshan with hood, faced the back of the boat and was perfectly comfortable for the entire time. I was so glad to have it with me!
I noticed that my hands felt cold in the pockets due to the wind but it wasn't getting through the fabric. Since there is no skirt and since the lining of the pockets is mesh, the wind blows up under the jacket and through the pocket. I started to keep a light pair of gloves in the pockets for this.
I managed to adjust the hood to fit fairly well but mostly found it to be too limiting unless it was really raining hard.
Care and Durability:
I machine-washed the jacket one time during the test period according to the tag instructions. The durability has been outstanding. There is no sign of any wear whatsoever and the jacket looks as good as new.
The REI Kulshan jacket is a waterproof shell with some nice features. It is really well-made and is holding up quite well.
Audio port in pocket
Fit of hood
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the long-term test period I continued to wear the jacket as my primary jacket. Winter finally hit so I got to see a lot more rain and snow. I wore the jacket on five hikes, six runs and seven days of snowshoeing including one overnight and one two-night trip. I also wore it multiple days for my lunchtime walk at work.
Van Vleck Bunkhouse, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 nights; 16.7 mi (27 km); elevation 6,327 to 6,947 ft (1,928 to 2,117 m); 29 to 45 F (-2 to 7 C); cloudy with some strong breezes.
Union Valley Reservoir, Sierra Nevada, California: 1 night: 6 mi (10 km); elevation 4,832 to 5,154 ft (1,473 to 1,571 m); 28 to 50 F (2 to 10 C); conditions ranged from cloudy and windy to snowing and calm.
All hikes were in the Sierra Nevada foothills, California; 3 to 6 mi (5 to 10 km); 500 to 1,262 ft (150 to 385 m) elevation; 35 to 55 F (2 to 13 C); conditions ranged from clear to heavy rain.
Snowshoe Day Hikes:
University Falls, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.6 mi (9 km); 3,450 to 4,100 ft (1,052 to 1,250 m); 45 to 55 F (7 to 13 C); sunny.
Wentworth Springs, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.5 mi (5.6 km); 5,200 to 5,700 ft (1,585 to 1,737 m); 35 F (2 C); cloudy with some breezes.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Kulshan performed flawlessly in heavy rain conditions. I wore the jacket for extended periods in rain with no sign of any moisture getting through. In fact on one morning run I had to retreat back inside after a while since my feet were uncomfortably wet and cold but my torso and head were totally dry. The jacket also saw quite a bit of snow. The photo shows how well the moisture beads forming perfectly round droplets.
While I did get warm while running, the most moisture that I saw build up inside the jacket was some very light beads which I had to examine under good light to see. Otherwise for snowshoeing and hiking I didn't have any issue with moisture building up although I did remove the jacket at times on ascents and on warmer days.
There were many days of windy conditions and I very often was grateful to have the Kulshan with me. On several runs, walks and snowshoe hikes the conditions were quite windy and cold but the jacket blocked every bit of wind from coming through.
I washed the jacket two more times during this test period for a total of three washings. It really has never looked at all in need of washing so it has been difficult to remember to 'wash me often' as the tag invites. The durability has been remarkable with no sign of any deterioration or wear of any kind.
In my field report I mentioned that I had trouble adjusting the hood for a good fit. However, during this testing phase I had much more rain opportunities and was able to get the hood adjusted very well. It worked superbly to not be blown off of my head while also not blocking my peripheral vision. I usually have to wear a hat with a brim under a hood in order to keep the hood away from my face but tight enough. With the Kulshan I was able to adjust the hood well whether I had a hat on underneath or not.
I really appreciate the audio port in the left pocket and now use it for running every time. It is easy to route my earbuds jack through the port. I had no problems with the earbuds being tugged upon.
I love the two-way front zipper and often unzipped from top and bottom. This allowed for ventilation while keeping the jacket halves pulled together in front. For running this was especially useful to keep the jacket from flapping open.
The handwarmer pockets are place in such a way that when I am wearing a pack the hipbelt bisects the pocket zipper. I am still able to jam some small gloves or a headband in the remaining upper portion of the pocket. But I do not have access to the entire pocket.
Fortunately I didn't have any need for the avalanche reflector but it is nice to know that it is there. I don't usually hike across an avalanche-prone slope but it can be a possibility and gives some peace of mind.
The fit was good but I was still able to layer a lot of clothing beneath. In the final photo I am wearing a base layer, a light fleece, a light down jacket and a light down vest. It was a little bit bulky but worked in camp.
The REI Kulshan jacket is a waterproof shell with extra features. It is the most breathable waterproof jacket that I own including ones using Gore-tex and Pertex.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
Very good breathability
Hand warmer pockets blocked by backpack hipbelt
This concludes my Long Term Test Report and this test series. Thanks to REI and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of REI gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith