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La Sportiva - Merak Jacket

posted Jan 3, 2014, 2:47 AM by GoOut Project   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 4:09 AM ]



Hybrid garments combine different fabrics or materials placed on different parts of the body and each with a specific function. The idea is to exploit each material at its best, therefore maximizing performances and functionality. Of course, Go Out Project loves hybrids! In constant search for hybrids, we came across the Merak jacket by La Sportiva, we liked it, and we decided to test it out there. Here, we report on the results of our tests.

Technical Description

The Merak jacket is a light, windproof jacket, designed for high-intensity outdoor sports, in particular for all those activities in which protection from wind is important. For high wind protection, a laminated 3-layer GORE® Windstopper® Soft Shell is used on the chest, while a lighter 2-layer Soft Shell covers shoulders, arms, and back.

The Merak Jacket features:
  • Two chest pockets
  • Integrated thumb holes
  • Reflective details
Fabrics 
Front Body: GORE® Windstopper® S/Shell 3L | Shell - 100% Polyester | Laminate - 94% Polyester • 6% ePTFE | Backing - 100% Polyester 
Shoulders, Arms & Back: S/Shell 2L | Shell - 100% Polyester | Backing - 84% Polyester • 16% Spandex 
Side & Arm Inserts: 85% Polyester • 15% Spandex

Weight: 325 g (size M)

Our Test

We have tested the Merak jacket for more than 6 months, mainly for high-speed and high-frequency sports, such as trail running and mountain biking, but we've also used it for some hiking and climbing. To test its true breathability, we mostly worn it directly on top of a mid/lightweight baselayer (e.g. Patagonia Capilene 2 or Rewoolution Merino 140 g), but we also tried to use it in combination with a lightweight fleece or with a thin Primaloft insulator.

First comments from our testers:
  • "Soft and always pleasant to wear in all situations."
  • "The reflective parts are very helpful to avoid risking my life when I'm late in my evening training. The look is a bit like UFO Robot Grendizer... but I like it!"
  • "Soft! That's the first word that came to my mind when I picked up the Merak, ... while usually, when we test Windstopper garments, the first comment is: cardboard!"
  • "Stretchable, smooth, light, and with so many little details that make you think at first glance that this is a great technical jacket."
  • "During the days of hiking or during workouts in the city, the Merak is always really pleasant to wear: stretchable, wrapping, and soft on the skin."
In action - "On a trail at 2000 m on the Dolomites with a temperature of 9°C and a slight cool breeze... so I start the test of the Merak... As I run, my body temperature begins to rise, water vapor begins to form, but I still feel dry. The jacket breathes well. Certainly better than many other full-Windstopper jackets I tried. The collar wraps around my neck perfectly and it doesn't let annoying, cold drafts in. I put my thumbs in the thumb-holes to help my hands to get warmer. After a few km, I stop. The temperature is still high for a few moments and then it drops. I notice some sweat only on the most critical spots and, now that I stopped on a more exposed place, the wind doesn't bother me. It works! ... I like it! "

Lightness & Packability
Only 325 g for a partially laminated jacket with a membrane can be
considered quite a small burden! Its limited weight allows you to
focus 100% on your performance.
If you crumple it up, it can be shrunk in a very small volume, which allows you to easily carry it with you, even in a small backpack, as an emergency protective shell.

Cut & Fit
It doesn't have a slim cut, as one would have expected on this kind of garment, but instead it's a bit loose on the trunk. At high speed it tends to flutter on the sides and when climbing it tends to form wrinkles that may obstruct visibility towards the feet. However, we found that having some "extra room" can also be useful when it's cold, cause one can comfortably add an insulating layer underneath this shell. All the testers would have reduced the body length by a couple of cm, but overall the cut can be considered quite good.

Comfort
The soft shell fabric itself is stretchable, but the side and arms inserts are super-elastic! The high stretchability allows perfect
freedom of movement. The elasticity and softness of the fabric makes the Merak very comfortable, maybe even more comfortable than your pajama!

Breathability
We already tested the Gore Windstopper Soft Shell fabric on other garments and our experience has proven that it provides only moderate breathability. The Merak's hybrid construction, however, with a wind-protecting membrane only on the chest and truly breathable material on most of the shoulders, arms, and back, greatly improves the overall breathability of the garment, creating a perfect balance between wind protection and breathability. Excellent!

Weather Protection
In the short term, it protects fairly well from wind, rain, and snow. The stretchable back and underarm inserts obviously offer less protection, but this jacket is not a hard shell and the stretchable inserts are so functional that it would be a real shame not to have
them! The collar and the cuffs with thumb holes are well designed and effectively help to keep neck and hands warm.

Durability

Although we spared the Merak the most terrible mistreatments, we haven't noticed any sign of wear by the end of our test. The polyester shell combined with the elasticity of the fabric reduces the risk of damage in case of rub on rough surfaces and impacts on dangerous objects on the trails: rocks, branches, bushes,... or even the most dangerous ones... other runners and bikers!

Versatility
The Merak is a lightweight jacket well suited for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions and for various active outdoor sports. Sufficiently protective and highly breathable, this hybrid jacket is much more versatile than a simple Windstopper jacket. Its smooth face fabric is fairly slippery, which is useful in case you want to wear it as a lightweight intermediate layer under some additional outer layer.

Our Verdict

If you like to sweat out there and if you are looking for a jacket that offers a good compromise between protection and breathability, with the Merak you hit the jackpot! It is a great 
jacket for running, backcountry skiing, skinning, hiking, or mountain biking. We still haven't tested it for fly fishing or for truffle hunting... anybody volunteering?


PROS
+ High breathability
+ Good wind protection
+ Good comfort

CONS
- Limited waterproofness
- Cut can be improved

 Lightness & Packability  8/10
 Cut & Fit  7/10
 Comfort  9/10
 Weather Protection  7/10
 Breathability  9/10
 Versatility  8/10
 Durability  8/10
 Total Score 8.0/10


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