The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Cloudveil Enclosure Hooded Jacket: Little Guy in a Fat Coat
Posted on: September 10, 2008
Weight: 1 pound, 5 ounces
I treat my outerwear harshly. I have a tendency to coat my jackets in quesadilla cheese and crush them into my pack with my muddy boot. It's why I prefer synthetic-insulated jackets to higher-maintenance down. They're tougher. They don't break down easily, and even a sudden rainstorm can't infiltrate the warmth of their synthetic fill.
This past March, I traded in my ancient, synthetic parka for Cloudveil's new, handsome Enclosure Hooded Jacket and wore it heli-skiing in the Chugach Mountains, mountaineering in the Alaska Range, climbing at one of my favorite crags and salmon fishing on the Copper River.
Initially I was skeptical that the Enclosure, weighing in at a mere 1 pound, 5 ounces, would keep me warm heli-skiing in the Chugach—where temperatures were hitting -17 C and below—so I packed two extra layers as insurance.
But I never had to use those insurance layers—even on one brutally cold day when I spent an inordinate amount of time standing still, belaying and short-roping a client into a steep couloir from my shaded perch. The yellow parka's 100 percent recycled Polyester fabric crinkled in the chilly air and conserved my body heat. It saved my butt that day—and my client's, as I was able to take my time lowering him down to safety.
The wind- and water-resistant Enclosure also packs down tightly in comparison to my older, heavier parka. I squeezed it into my ski-guide pack along with my glacier rescue gear, first-aid kit, rescue blanket, extra goggles and gloves, snow-study kit, probe, shovel, saw, skins, food and water.
But it wasn't perfect. The jacket's non-adjustable wrists are too tapered and I had a hard time wearing gloves with it. I'd rather be able to cinch down the wrists, or loosen them, depending on my glove system and the weather. Whenever I tried to slip into the Enclosure, my already-gloved hands would get stuck in the end of the sleeves. I had to force my gloves through the openings. It was as frustrating as trying to close the vegetable crisper drawer with an award-winning, Alaskan-size cabbage in it. It just didn't work.
Additionally, the jacket's warm 200g PrimaLoft insulation got in my way while I was climbing and traveling across glaciers in the Alaska Range. I couldn't see my boots, buckle my harness, or find the right cam on my rack. I was constantly pushing rolls of fluff out of the way. I clipped the jacket into a snap-link more than once—and sometimes, well sometimes, I just felt like a big, yellow balloon (or one of those guys who think Krispy Kremes are a food group).
I know this can be a problem with any super-warm parka but the Enclosure's exterior fabric isn't sewn down to the interior in panels or baffles. The loose material is left unchecked.
The hood is helmet-compatible—but just barely. It fit so tightly that it was difficult to look left, right or up so I was stuck looking straight ahead or removing it to glance up at the next pitch.
But the Enclosure is tough. I've broken more than one jacket's zipper on a trip before and it's always transformed my insulated parka into a suddenly useless, overweight piece of gear. This number's beefy, two-way zippers, however, withstood my tests. I stored my water bottle and gloves in the interior pockets and warmed my hands inside the fuzzy, exterior pockets.
The Enclosure survived two months in the Chugach, two weeks in the Alaska Range, and a week rock climbing at the local crag with only slight abrasion marks, one pinhole, and a lovely stain pattern. I made one last ditch effort to beat the thing up. I sprayed it with fish guts and clubbed it with my dip net on the Copper River in a 24-hour frenzied salmon run. Thirty salmon in the freezer and 25 pounds of smoked strips later, the parka remained in fine condition, albeit a bit more discolored.
Pros: Very warm; tough; beefy zippers; compresses well.
Cons: Tight wrists; tight hood space; too much untamed material.