Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Rain Jacket Review

Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Rain Jacket Review

Tis the season of new product technologies and Mountain Hardwear has unveiled their new Dry.Q Evap fabric.  Their new Plasmic rain jacket, new for Spring ’13, is loaded up with this technology and it promises to wick and breathe better than other fabrics in the price point.  I’ve been jumping in puddles throughout Spring in Washington and now it’s time to give the lowdown on this new fabric.

Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Jacket Features:

  • Technologies: Dry.Q EVAP
  • Average Weight: 10.2 oz.; 289 g.
  • Material: 40D 2.5L Ripstop
  • Colors: Cordovan, Acid Green, Backcountry Green, Black (tested), Blue Ridge, Canteen, Collegiate Navy, Mountain Red, Shark
  • Exposed water resistant Vislon Aquaguard center front zipper
  • Fully adjustable hood with single pull adjustment system
  • Fit: Standard
  • Center Back Length:  28 ” / 71 cm
  • MSRP: $140.00

Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Jacket Review - Backcountry Green

My Experience

First off, let’s begin with some preaching to the choir: rainshells mostly come in two varieties, laminates and coatings.  Laminates are the Gore-Tex’s of the world, like the 3 layer Active Shell in the OR Axiom, or the 2.5 layer Polartec Neoshell in the Rab Myriad.  Coated rainshells are the ones that feel slightly rubbery, like The North Face’s Hyvent.  Generally speaking, laminates are more expensive and have superior breathability.  Coated rainshells are more affordable, often require additional ventilation like pit zips but are just as waterproof.

Mountain Hardwear chose a robust 40D nylon and treated the inside with their special Dry.Q Evap coating, which is designed to wick moisture to the outer fabric layer.  The fabric has a bunch of tiny channels inside to increase surface area, which also aids evaporation.  Working together, these technologies try to eliminate that clammy feeling that plagues this sort of rain shell.  Mountain Hardwear does a pretty good job of describing how the technology works in this video.  Basically, the Plasmic is made up of a 40D nylon outer, attached to a ‘porous’ (for lack of a better word) inner layer that dispersers sweat, which is then treated with a chemical to wick moisture from your skin into the fabric.

The unsealed pocket zips are covered with a baffle rather.

The unsealed pocket zips are covered with a baffle.

The Plasmic is a pretty straightforward rain shell with a mind toward shedding weight.  There’s a two-way adjustable hood, single hem adjustment (a weight-saving trick held over from the Ghost Whisperer), two sealed pockets and fully taped seams all around.  I like MH’s hood adjustments, which are pulled by two loops outside of the jacket and eliminate the chance of snapping yourself in the face with the shock cord.  The main zip is a water resistant Vislon Aquagard that looks very nice with the Plasmic’s contrasting colors.  The pockets are taped, but the baffled pocket zippers are not sealed.

Overall the jacket wears very nicely.  The Plasmic is cut on the loose side to permit extra air circulation within the jacket.  The jacket definitely feels less clammy than Hyvent products, so chalk one down for Mountain Hardwear.  There’s a minimalist fleecy chinguard for comfort, as well as a somewhat flimsy little zipper garage.  I wish they’d put a little patch of fleece on the back of the neck, since that area tends to feel swampy in the rain.

Definitely a mesmerizing fabric pattern.

Definitely a mesmerizing fabric pattern.

I love how light and packable the Plasmic is: at 10.5oz, it’s hard to find an excuse not to toss this jacket into a pack or the car.  While the jacket doesn’t stow into its own pocket, which would be nice, it still rolls into a very compact bundle.  That’s a big category that we’re looking for in rain jackets this Spring, so the Plasmic gets decent marks there.

If you take this jacket without the company’s big advertising claims, it’s a pretty good jacket at a very reasonable price.  The Dry.Q Evap technology definitely gives the Plasmic an edge over comparably-priced products, but there’s no doubt that it has its limits. I am a heavy sweater, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I overpowered this jacket’s wicking powers in just 25 minutes of jogging in the rain, and soon condensation was literally dripping down the sleeves.  What does that mean?  Quite simply, this jacket isn’t designed for that sort of aerobic activity.  If you’re looking at buying this for light hiking, perhaps bike commuting or general use, go ahead.

Exposed Aquaguard zips does a good job of keeping moisture out.

Exposed Aquaguard zips does a good job of keeping moisture out.

The Good:

  • Dry.Q Evap is superior to similar-feeling fabrics, like The North Face’s Hyvent
  • Comfortable cut, allows for air circulation
  • Aquaguard main zip pulls well, keeps out water and looks sharp
  • Light and packable for unpredictable weather
  • Competitively priced

The Bad:

  • Dry.Q Evap is good, but don’t expect $300 performance from a $100 jacket
  • Pocket zips are baffled, but not sealed
  • Nasty swamp feeling on the neck would be solved by some brushed fleece

The Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, it’s awfully hard to argue with the price point.  For a rain shell that’s lightweight (just 10.5oz) and thoroughly waterproof, the Plasmic is a safe bet.  For adventurers that sweat heavily or are pursuing more aerobic activities, Dry.Q Evap just doesn’t make the cut.  That being said, it’s a stylish piece for around the town or times when sheer performance isn’t your single focus.

Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com

Written By

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.