A while back we told you about DryQ, Mountain Hardwear’s foray (along with Columbia and Polartec) into making a waterproof and breathable material to compete with Gore-Tex.
How these brands plan to outfox the mighty Gore is to allow direct evaporation of sweat. Gore-Tex doesn’t let that happen. You have to sweat first, then heat up, and finally water vapor (not liquid water) can escape through Gore’s micro pores. All of the new competition to Gore-Tex say their product, to a greater or lesser extent, out-breathes Gore, and therefore that icky, clammy, rain-on-the-inside effect won’t happen anymore.
So last winter we started testing these Gore fighters, and now that they’re on the market and we’ve put in lots of testing time, we’re reporting on what we’ve experienced (the Columbia Peak 2 Peak came out sooner, and was reviewed a while back, here).
Most of my testing of the Drystein came this past winter, either while hiking or backcountry skiing. That’s appropriate since this jacket is focused on activities like mountaineering and gets M.H.’s most bomber membrane, DryQ Elite. It does not get pit zips, but dual chest pockets are vented at the back, and that’s a positive, because anyone who’s worn a pack knows that pit zips and pack straps don’t mix. Also, a face shot of pow is always unwelcome in one’s armpit. The downside of chest vents that double as pockets: That hat you stuffed into a chest pocket on the lift will surely go missing when you unzip later to cool down. (Yes, there’s a third external pocket, suitable for a phone and one inside zippered pocket, ideal for your wallet, but neither will swallow that prized I HEART CANADA tuque.)
If you’re grocking that you might get hot beneath the Drystein the reality is somewhat more subtle than that. I never once felt the dreaded steamroom effect, but as with any laminate piece you do have to layer properly. In the East, where dew points are higher and the cold is raw, a base layer as well as a sweater and vest were ideal for skiing temps in the teens. Out west, in the same temperatures, I could lose the vest and be fine. Either way, overheating wasn’t an issue as long as I dressed intelligently and unzipped a bit to cool off as needed. One bonus: The Drystein’s hood is huge, but also tucks away easily (secured by a hook-and-loop fastener). When deployed, the large-volume hood will easily cover a helmet, which was ideal for keeping wind off my neck on the lift.
The rest of the fit is somewhat more form fitting than a lot of the breed, which I like because it prevents a lot of the sail effect that a mountaineering parka can have. I would’ve wished for just a few more inches of length, however — this is a jacket, not a parka, and I’d like it in a longer cut.
The under-arm stretch zones and a soft-knit interior both should get shout-outs for adding subtle functionality, too. You get a lot less tired swinging ski- or hiking poles when you’re not also fighting your coat. And the interior fabric was far less apt to grab at base layers, the way so many laminates do.
Dings? Not really. I never once got wet from the outside and the interior never soaked me. DryQ Elite performs as advertised, keeping me comfy within reason (you can get hot, but duh, you can wearing anything else too if you refuse to shed under-layers), and the cut and fit are all superb. Now I just need to remember to stuff that hat in my pack next time.