Arguably, soft shells work best in winter and alpine conditions, which is exactly what the Mountain Equipment Shield is designed for. Unlike most soft shells it makes use of a Gore Windstopper fabric as well as a Polartec Powershield fabric in combination to provide optimum performance in one jacket.
The body of the Mountain Equipment Shield is made from the Gore Windstopper fabric, which is extremely wind-resistant and therefore also more water-resistant than some other fabrics. This fabric extends over the hood as well, making this ideal for quite moist conditions. But the underarms and sides are made from less wind-resistant fabric, which improves breathability in these areas. This does highlight the drawbacks of some soft shell fabrics, but equally this hybrid construction does provide a route to overcoming those drawbacks. The features include two Napoleon chest pockets plus two lower pockets. The hood is particularly impressive as it has a wired peak, face drawcords and a volume adjuster, and it can be rolled down when not in use. It is designed to fit over a helmet if needed.
On the hill
Compared to some other jackets there is less stretch in the Mountain Equipment Shield’s fabrics, so when this is combined with a slightly closer fit it feels a little more restrictive than some others. The sleeve movement is ideal though, thanks to careful profiling. There is no adjustment on the cuffs and I’d prefer a Velcro adjuster here as the arms can feel a bit hot. The lower pockets are a little lower than would be ideal, but they can just about be used with a rucksack or harness. The hood fits over a helmet, and this is ideal for alpine mountaineering situations where helmets are worn for much of the day and rain is not usually experienced.
In the lab
In terms of insulation the Mountain Equipment Shield had similar values to others, at 0.70 TOG. However in terms of air permeability it is the most windproof. The body provided just 0.12 cm3/s/cm2 of airflow, but the sides were more breathable at 2.79 cm3/s/cm2. This makes this jacket ideal for wearing on its own, but the least practical under a waterproof hard shell as it lacks breathability in the body areas. So while this will perform well in Alpine conditions it would be less suited to rainy UK days when used in conjunction with a hardshell waterproof top.
Fabric Gore Windstopper and Polartec Powershield
Weight 586g (size L)
Made in Hungary
Stores in the UK 80
Stockist details – tel. (0161) 366 5020; www.mountain-equipment.co.uk
The Mountain Equipment Shield has extremely wind-resistant fabric; excellent sleeve movement; average warmth; good pockets; excellent hood; more breathable sides.
However the windproofness makes this less breathable and not ideal for use under a waterproof; no Velcro adjustment on cuffs; pocket access not ideal for use with a harness. The jacket would perform well in an alpine situation, but others are better for less predictable conditions.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2010