Mountain Hardwear Alakazam Jacket Review

Mountain Hardwear Alakazam Jacket Review

Mountain Hardwear has made quite the leap in the past year. They dropped all things Gore in favor of their own fabrics and materials. The new Alakazam Jacket is built using Mountain Hardwear’s new Dry.Q Elite fabric and packed full of ski-specific features. Luckily, I’ve had this jacket for a year now, so I’ve had plenty of review time at this point.

Mountain Hardwear Alakazam Jacket Features:

  • Totally waterproof, breathable softshell loaded with ski features
  • Removable, adjustable, stretch powder skirt
  • Pit zips for additional ventilation
  • One-handed hood and hem drawcords for quick adjustments
  • Zip handwarmer pockets
  • Plenty of interior pockets for all your gear
  • Soft, “Butter Jersey” cuffs
  • Micro-Chamois™-lined chin guard eliminates zipper chafe
  • Colors: Blue/Grill, Black/Grill, Red/Grill (tested)
  • MSRP: $375

Mountain Hardwear Alakazam Jacket Review

At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011, I was introduced to Mountain Hardwear’s new fabric technology, Dry.Q. It represented a line in the sand between Mountain Hardwear and long-time partner W.L. Gore. Mountain Hardwear was so confident in their new fabrics that they were cutting the cord and moving on without the most recognizable waterproof/breathable membrane on the market. It didn’t take much convincing to sell me on the finer points of Dry.Q as I tested the Effusion Power Jacket and now the Alakazam Jacket.

The Alakazam is packed full of ski-specific features, like the detachable powder skirt and “Butter Jersey” cuffs. It features an efficient fit without a with just enough room for a typical light to midweight underlayer. Overall construction is superb and on par with what I’ve come to expect from Mountain Hardwear.

Wearing the jacket around, one of the first features I appreciate is the semi-detached collar design. In fact, I like this feature so much that I’d call it the Alakazam’s most impressive feature. Typical hooded jackets feature a rollover collar that flows into the hood. The result is typically a poor seal between the back of the neck and the jacket. The Alakazam remedies that by its semi-detached, fleece-lined collar. You can stand the collar up and keep all the heat in with or without using the hood. It allows you to enjoy the jacket with or without using the hood.

For simplicity, all the zippers on this jacket are of the waterproof variety and all have worked well, except for the upper-chest pocket. The problem is not necessarily related to the zipper, but to the design of the outer zipper flap. The way it’s designed, water and snow gathers inside the lower part of the zipper flap and gets frozen there. In my world, I’d get rid of the outer flap and just go with the zipper.

While the Alakazam does feature a zip-off powder skirt, this jacket still doesn’t pack down all that small. There are better lightweight jackets that pack up super-small, so keep that in mind. No, it’s not huge and bulky, but it does take up more room than my typical lightweight shells in my backcountry pack. Yes, you can lighten it up by zipping off the powder skirt, but it’s still a tad bulkier than I’d like for dedicated backside use.

Back to a few more great features, it’s impossible to overlook the quality and design of the hood. It goes on easy and adjusts to fit a helmet or bare noggin with ease. A single pull on the rear pulltab and it cinches down in just the right places. Another great feature is the Monkey Man-like  shag insulation that lines the upper-back, shoulders and upper-arms. That fleece greatly adds to the warmth and comfort of this jacket.

Breathability of the Dry.Q Elite fabric was as expected — superb. On a particularly snowy day at Deer Valley, the temperatures were cold on the ridgelines, but in the protection of the trees where the snow was piled high and deep, I found myself in a close-encounter with a scrubby pine tree that snagged my arm and sent me tumbling. With one ski missing, I began hiking uphill in waist-deep powder. After a few minutes, I began sweating and the Dry.Q Elite fabric breathed like a champ. In fact, I never needed the pit zips.

Good Alakazam Jacket

  • Dry.Q Elite fabric breathes better than other waterproof/breathable fabrics on the market
  • Exterior fabric is bomber and has withstood serious abuse
  • Butter Jersey cuffs are comfortable and keep the snow out
  • Semi-detached, fleece-lined collar gives you the best of both hooded and non-hooded worlds
  • Strategically-placed insulation on shoulders and upper-arms extends warmth
  • Awesome hood works well with or without a helmet

Bad Alakazam Jacket

  • A little heavy and bulky with all the pockets, powder skirt, etc.
  • Sleeves could be an inch longer
  • Ditch the pit zips… unnecessary fluff to appease old-school nay-sayers
  • Chest pocket flap captures snow

Bottom Line: Mountain Hardwear Alakazam Jacket

Knowing the origins of Mountain Hardwear’s new Dry.Q Elite fabrics, it’s no wonder it works so well. I’m sold on its superior breathability and continued weatherproofness. The Alakazam Jacket is a great ski-specific jacket with all the bells-and-whistles you could ever want when bombing the deep on the frontside of the mountain. And, should you need to push its limits in high-output situations, it will not leave you cold and clammy.

Buy Now: Visit MooseJaw.com

Written By

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground. Follow Jason Mitchell on Google+.