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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Westcomb Mirage Jacket > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

Westcomb Mirage Jacket
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
June 9, 2008

PERSONAL DETAILS AND BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 61 years old
6' 4" (1.93 m) tall, 200 lb (91 kg)
Torso: 22.5 in (57 cm), chest: 46 in (117 cm), waist: 38 in (97 cm)
Sleeve length: 36.5 in (93 cm)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I'm in my fifth decade of backpacking, and travel regularly to the Rockies for outdoor activities. I do a week long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500-4000 m). My preference is base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.

PRODUCT DETAILS. The Mirage is a lightweight waterproof shell constructed entirely of eVENT fabric.

Manufacturer: Westcomb Outerwear inc., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Website: www.westcomb.com. This website lists online and retail distributors but has no means for direct purchase of any product. The website gives no weights or measurements for the Mirage.

Year Purchased: 2008
Year Manufactured: 2007 or 2008
Size: Men's X-Large. Men's available in Small to XX-Large; Women's in X-Small to X-Large.
Color: Dark blood/red, according to a hang tag that accompanied my jacket. Listed colors are vampire (red), black, blue night (navy), harvest (gold), "major brown," and swamp (bright green). See "A Special Edition" below.
Fabric: According to Westcomb's website "this shell utilizes only eVENT fabric technology."
Weight: 15.3 oz/434 g
Torso length, bottom of collar to hem: 30.5 in (77 cm)(measured in the center of the back)
Sleeve length, collar to cuff: 38.0 in (96 cm), measured on the wrist side of the cuff
Warranty: None listed
Listed Features (from the website): "Articulated elbows, One hand pull adjustable waist system, Velcro cuff tabs, Compact storm hood, Internal & External Chest pocket, Contoured obstruction-free front zipper, T4 WaterRepelling zipper."
Additional Features are discussed below.
Related product: Westcomb also sells an iMirage jacket, with a pocket and ports for an MP3-type player.

A SPECIAL EDITION

My jacket is actually a Mirage SE, a version of the listed jacket that Westcomb made specially for the online retailer from which I purchased it. This retailer's partner marketing representative, a friend of mine, told me that Westcomb regularly makes such customized products, which add, delete, or modify features to identify the product with the retailer as well as Westcomb. Westcomb's customer service confirmed this practice. My friend told me that the retailer had specified elimination of several of the Mirage's features to market a lighter weight version. When I bought mine in February this retailer offered both the standard and SE versions.

I mention this to alert a prospective buyer to check to see if a desired feature listed or pictured on Westcomb's website is part of the product under consideration. I didn't do this and was initially disappointed to find that the SE didn't have pit zips. (I had seen the standard version, which does have them, in a retail store.) The SE has all the Mirage's listed features but not some others that I'd seen on the one in the store: the pit zips, a sewn-in powder skirt, a transparent plastic patch on the left arm at the wrist (to read your watch; this is faintly visible in the picture on Westcomb's website), and maybe a pocket on one sleeve. My jacket also has a different name for red and appears much brighter than the "vampire" version pictured on Westcomb's site. As my retailer listed a color (a very feminine lavender) not shown on the website for the Women's SE, I do think the SE colors are different. SE and standard (except black) versions both have two color shades, with most of the front, the top of the sleeves, and the shoulder yoke in a rip stop fabric that is more subdued than the remainder.

One additional and very welcome detail is a napped fabric patch at the top inside of the collar. Though quite thin it has a much softer hand than the rather slick eVENT fabric.

While feature-customized for this particular retailer, the only advertising on the SE (all in a reflective grey) is a small "Westcomb" on the lower left of the front, small Westcomb logos on the middle of the back just above the hem and at the bicep point of the left sleeve, and a small "eVENT" with logo at the bicep point of the right sleeve.

FIELD CONDITIONS

Since buying the Mirage in February I've worn or carried it as my rain shell on every day hike and camping trip I have taken. Camping trips, on which I've worn the Mirage over a merino tee, include:

         A two-day, three-night car camping trip in Wasatch State Park near Heber City, Utah, in mid-April. Elevation about 6000 feet (1800 m), with temperatures ranging from daytime highs of 65 F/19 C to nighttime low of 25 F/-4 C. Wind was the noteworthy meteorological condition, with many gusty periods on both days. Weather reports indicated that the winds in the region exceeded 40 mph (65 km/h) at times. No precipitation. The next day I wore the Mirage as a shell at Alta Ski Area, Utah, with temperatures about 25 F/-4 C, more strong winds, and frequent snow flurries.

         Two overnight backpack trips near Dallas in April and May. Elevation about 300 feet (90 m). On the first trip temperatures ranged from 72 F (22 C) during the day to about 50 F (10 C) at night. Heavy rain Saturday night, but only a light drizzle on the hike out Sunday morning. On the second it was warmer, 90 F (32 C) and humid on the hike in, with a thundershower just before we reached our campsite. After the storm a cold front cleaned things up nicely, with the overnight low at 52 F (11 C) and North Texas's normal low humidity.

Day hikes in the Southwest were in and around Dallas, and on one occasion in Kerrville, Texas, in February through May. Temperatures ranged from 50-85 F (10-29 C), with one brief rain shower but no sustained precipitation. The Mirage was worn when necessary for rain or desirable for wind over a merino or cotton tee.

On a four-day trip to Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming and Montana) in June, mostly for business, I managed three afternoons of fishing and day hiking. Spring has been late in coming to the Park temperatures never exceeded 40 F (4 C) amid frequent snow squalls and gusty winds. I wore a base layer and mid-weight sweater under the Mirage each day.

The Mirage has served as an everyday casual rain jacket and, as described in the last paragraph under "Protection and Comfort" below, has been subjected to some staged evaluation.

EVALUATION

Fit. Westcomb's description, "trim athletic fit," is right on the mark. The cut of this jacket is a welcome departure from the tent-like pattern that I have found all too often in larger sizes of outdoor clothing. The Mirage fits like it was custom-tailored for me: sleeve length comes just past my wrists, proper tapering at the waist, and a chest size that gives a comfortable yet not constraining fit over a mid-weight sweater. The Mirage (or at least the SE) has a shirttail, about two inches (5 cm) longer in the back than the front. In the front it's slightly shorter than what I'm used to for a rain jacket, but at several inches/centimeters below my waistline is still adequate. The hood fits loosely over a baseball cap, with the collar giving something of a cadet look when the jacket is fully zipped up. The hood also fits over my ski helmet. This is a relatively tight fit, but I haven't had an issue with the hood's not turning when I turn my head or any tugging or blocking vision in a fall.

Features. All seams are taped and have been sewn flat. The hand warmer pockets are a bit smaller than on other jackets I own, they sit slightly further to the side, and the zippered entry is vertical rather than slanted. As this combination equates to just right for me for ready access when I'm wearing a pack I believe that Westcomb did this intentionally another very useful detail. The hand warmer pockets are large enough for, well, warming my hands, with a small bit of space left over for thin woolen gloves and an energy bar or other small snack. . The external chest pocket will hold my passport, small pocket camera, and wallet. The inside pocket is much smaller (3 x 5.7 in/76 x 145 mm), large enough for car keys or cell phone but not both.

Author wearing Mirage in the snowThe Mirage's eye-catching front zipper has a curve or, to use Westcomb's word, a "contour." Pulling this closed took some adaptation on my part, as I tend to be a zipper bully who regularly uses a single unsubtle tug from waist to neck. The curve calls for more finesse. After some practice (not all of it at home) I found that I can pull it from top to bottom with continuous gentle pressure, with careful attention to the contour. It has been easier to do this when holding the metal pull on the zipper rather than the attached ribbon loop. Occasionally I must depress the storm flap under the zipper to get the zipper up the top curve. Some of this sticky wicket may be attributable to the zippers being waterproof; in my experience these tend to be a bit more finicky than a regular zipper.

The cuffs have a stylish contour as well, and are about half an inch (13 mm) longer on the wrist than the palm side. As can be seen from the photograph Pencil thin Velcrothe Velcro strips at the cuffs are almost pencil-thin, though they have kept the sleeves cinched up whenever I've used them. My SE version has no elastic at the cuffs.

Westcomb's "adjustable waist system" consists of cord loops extending just below either side of the inside the jacket, nicely placed for a quick tug with my thumbs to tighten the waist. This can easily be done when wearing mittens, though to hold the tension for more than a single downhill ski run I must adjust the toggles, which sometimes requires more than one hand.

The drawstring for the hood is different too, and this one is easily adjustable. The drawstring emerges at both sides of the collar and then extends down (vertically) through two small holes, with a toggle at the top. All I need do is press the Vertical hood drawstringtoggle against the top hole and pull the end. When pulled tight the lower two holes keep the extended portion of the drawstring from flapping around. Once I've set a new position it has stayed set. All toggles (at the waist and hood) are only half an inch (13 mm) long.

Protection and comfort. So far the Mirage has been completely waterproof. Not a drop of rain or melted snow has penetrated this shell. I postponed filing this Review until the Mirage had met with sustained rainfall, so I can praise this jacket based on field experience and not just staged testing.

When zipped up, cuffs closed, and hood and waist snugged up the eVENT fabric blocks the wind very effectively. I was especially impressed by its performance in Utah. My camping trip there included a wilderness first aid course that had frequent outdoor scenarios. I wore the Mirage over a single merino tee shirt and wasn't cold even when buffeted for half an hour while playing dead or injured. Skiing the next day in a mini-blizzard I was similarly protected by the Mirage worn over a base and mid-layer.

eVENT was the reason I purchased the Mirage. From my first experience with it, described in my review of my Wild Things Alpinist Bibs, I believe that eVENT is today the best fabric there is for rainwear because of its ability to breathe. The Mirage has resoundingly reinforced this opinion. I mentioned that I was not amused to find no pit zips when my jacket arrived. After considering a return or some corrective surgery from Rainy Pass, at a friend's suggestion (not the friend who works for the online retailer) I decided to see if eVENT (or at least the eVENT in the Mirage) is breathable enough to dispense with pit zips.

Through the spring it has been, a first for me. The warmest temperature at which I've worn the Mirage with a pack is 85 F (29 C). I've been experimenting with different packs and pack loads on walks along my home street, a mile-long country lane with a nature area at the end, and on the warmest of these I intentionally wore the Mirage, even though it wasn't raining, to test breathability. There was some dampness across my back (always true when I'm wearing a pack), but even with the jacket zipped all the way up I didn't get the sauna effect all over my upper body. Since it rarely rains at temperatures above this in the Northern Rockies, even in summer, I now have no plans to add pit zips. Here in the Southwest I'll take a rare sweat bath, if need be, to save the weight.

Durability. No complaints on this score; my Mirage looks and performs like new. I haven't had the need to wash the jacket yet and so cannot report on whether a bath affects the waterproofing. By the way, this unlined shell packs down very small, and fits neatly into the kangaroo pockets on my favorite backpacks and day pack. It's small enough to stow in the storage pocket on the back of my fishing vest.

Appearance. It looks great stylish and athletic at the same time. The two-tone pattern, snaky zipper, and bright red colors make even a nondescript (some say dull) guy stick out in a crowd.

WHAT I LIKE

Simple and functional.

The most effective combination of wind and water protection I've found in any shell.

Just the right amount of pocket space/

Breathability. I love eVENT! Imagine not needing pit zips.

Comfortable yet athletic fit.

WHAT I DON'T

Not a thing related to performance. This is the best rain shell I've ever owned. As has been true of every eVENT garment I've scouted, the Mirage carries a high price tag everywhere I've seen it offered for sale.

POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENT

I'd add an inch/centimeter or two in length, maybe because of my extra-long torso or maybe because that's what I'm used to. The Mirage leaves about this much of my favorite down vest exposed below its hem in front.



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