There are plenty of waterproof/breathable shells on the market these days but if they use a fabric such as Gore-Tex, eVent or Neoshell then expect to pay a bomb for them. Mountain Hardwear’s new Quasar Lite Jacket uses their proprietary Dry.Q Elite fabric which is every bit as waterproof and breathable as other name brand fabrics but without the hefty price tag. Coming in at just $250 Canadian the new Quasar Lite Jacket is not just light on your pocket book, it’s also light—period. While it’s true there are plenty of lighter jackets out there, they forgo some features and can feel paper thin. We’ve previously reviewed the Mountain Equipment Micron Jacket and the Marmot Essence Jacket which are two ultralight shells that while super waterproof can feel a little bare-bones. The Quasar Lite Jacket uses a 40D fabric so it can handle some scrapes and scuffs but it’s still plenty light and packable. In fact it’s Mountain Hardwear’s lightest alpine climbing shell.
Because the Quasar Lite Jacket is designed for climbers (and hikers) it utilizes a trimmer alpine fit. This means it’s slightly fitted on the sides with a drop down back and moves with you instead of against you. The longer torso also ensures that your mid section is covered even when your hands are up over your head such as in a scrambling or climbing situation. With Dry.Q Elite fabric, this 2.5-layer jacket has a built in air-permeable membrane which means that the jacket will start expelling heat the moment you put it on without the need to build up internal moisture or pressure.
Other features built into the Quasar Lite Jacket include hidden push buttons for hem and hood adjustments. The helmet compatible hood has three points of adjustment to keep wind and rain out with the help of an adjustable wire brim on the hood. In terms of pockets, there’s an internal zippered mesh pocket and an internal mesh stash pocket to keep items secure. On the outside there are two very large hand warmer pockets which also incorporate stretch mesh ventilation to further help you dump heat in the absence of pit zips.
- Superior mobility: bottom hem will not move even when arms are fully stretched
- Full, centre front PU zipper keeps moisture out and adjusts easily from top-down or bottom-up
- Dual-purpose, pack-compatible zippered pockets double as core vents
- Highly packable and lightweight
- Dry.Q Elite waterproof/breathable fabric
- Air-permeable membrane construction in a 2.5-layer shell
- 40D face fabric is light yet durable
- Hem adjustment
- Velcro adjustments
- Two hand warmer pockets
- Internal mesh pocket
- Internal mesh stuff pocket
- 3-way adjustable helmet compatible hood features a wire brim to hold its shape
I’ve been wearing the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite Jacket for the better part of two months now for everything from ski touring and hiking to just doing errands around town in the rain. The fit is undeniably one of the strengths of the Quasar Lite Jacket, since it’s designed for alpine climbing it won’t ride up even when your hands are over head. It’s also trim in the waist so it doesn’t hang off you but rather contours to you. It has repelled snow, drizzle and down pours alike while still having top notch breathable/windproof qualities. It’s important to keep in mind that any breathable fabric will eventually make you hot and clammy if you exert enough energy and the Quasar Lite Jacket is no exception to this rule. However, I did find the massive pack-friendly hand warmer pockets dumped heat well given their mesh lining—they actually worked a lot like pit zips, only you have to ensure you have nothing in your pockets prior to venting. The mesh lining in the pockets is also stretchy so it accommodates odd shaped items and is durable enough so you don’t have to worry about your keys snagging or making a hole.
Aside from the fit and materials used, the other big plus of the Quasar Lite Jacket is the wire brim and hood adjustability. Wire brims have long been a ‘must-have’ for this reviewer since their customization is key to keeping rain out and visibility maximized. Only a few manufacturers are currently using this feature but more are coming on board each season. Another standard feature of hood design is dual adjustability; however Mountain Hardwear has taken it a step further and added three levels of adjustability on the Quasar Lite. You’ll notice an additional adjustment on the lower back of the hood; this is for compressing the hood’s volume down when you are not wearing a helmet. This is a welcome feature as all that fabric has to go somewhere and if it’s not taken care of properly then it just impedes your vision and that’s not good.
Overall, the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite Jacket gets two thumbs up for attention to detail, fit and tough minimalist design. Well done!
Price: $250 CAN
Weight: 340g / 12oz
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colours: Hyper Blue, Ginko, Shark
Fabric: Dry.Q Elite 40D 2.5L
- Mouldable wire brim on the hood
- Hidden push button adjustments on hem and hood
- Stretch mesh venting hand warmer pockets
- Massive hand warmer pockets that are out of the way of pack hip belts and harnesses
- Double hood adjustment on back of hood for fine tuning fit with or without a helmet
- Interior zippered pocket is very small as is the stash pocket
- No pit zips
- Interior fabric can feel clammy against bare skin
- Main zipper was tough to start (this could just be the jacket I tested)
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.