Mountain Hardwear Whole Lotta Jacket Review

Mountain Hardwear Whole Lotta Jacket Review

Sometimes it’s hard for boarders to find quality gear that expresses their style without sacrificing performance.  Welp, I’m a skier, but I spent the last month in the Whole Lotta’s particular brand of waterproof, highly breathable aesthetic.  Has Mountain Hardwear captured the balance of skibum joie de vivre and performance for the discerning outdoorsman?  I think so.

Mountain Hardwear Whole Lotta Jacket Key Features:

  • Attached, adjustable, helmet compatible hood
  • Pit zips for additional ventilation
  • Attached, adjustable stretch powder skirt
  • Plenty of interior pockets for all your gear
  • 1/4 zip collar gusset and offset center front zip for increased mobility and comfort
  • One-handed hood and hem drawcords for quick adjustments
  • Zip handwarmer pockets
  • Micro-Chamois™-lined chin guard eliminates zipper chafe
  • MSRP: $400

Mountain Hardwear Whole Lotta Jacket Review

My Experience

We might as well start with the jacket’s biggest claim to fame, Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q Core fabric – this stuff is good.  It’s a backless laminate similar to GORE Active or eVent, and it’s just as good as these two high-performing competitors.  It’s 100% waterproof for all practical purposes and it breathes as well or better than Active and eVent.  These three fabrics are all vying for the best waterproof/breathable laminate and it’s basically a toss-up at this point.  I’ve tested Dry.Q and GORE Active and I’m familiar with eVent, and I can confidently say that any jacket with one of these fabrics is superior to the competition.

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Dry.Q on the left, Active Shell on the right – the two fabrics are virtually indistinguishable.

Mountain Hardwear went for a military, snowboarding vibe complete with eppaulettes and bellowed pockets with the Whole Lotta.  It’s a solid look for the slopes but the jacket is also comfortable around town – it’s definitely not svelte but you can pull off a casual night around town while retaining your ties to the mountain.

Fabric choice is geared for quality: the outer laminate is a burly textured melange that will resist snagging on branches when tree skiing gets gnarly.  The DWR is solid and it hasn’t showed a sign of slowing down in six weeks of testing.  The only downside to this fabric’s durability is a very noisy overall product – it’s definitely loud as far as hardshells go.

Dry.Q fending off moisture as layers of cloud and mist iced over everything in sight.

Dry.Q fending off moisture as layers of cloud and mist iced over everything in sight.

All the features of a great ski jacket are here – arm pocket for season passes (although a clear scanner window would be a nice touch), sealed pit zips, gusset for a customized collar, soft chin guard, helmet compatible hood and a snow skirt.  I really liked the extra-tall chin guard for burrowing into when the wind or powder picked up.  All of the hem and hood adjustments are the typical one-handed bungees, and the zipper pulls are easy to grab with one hand.  Mountain Hardwear committed something of a design sin by making the zipper pulls out of flimsy fabric with a decorative rivet – this foolish contraption broke the second time I used the Whole Lotta.  It looked cool for ten hours of product life and then it was gone – for a $400 jacket, I expect a lot more.

Fabric accessory on the zipper pull broke almost immediately

Fabric accessory on the zipper pull broke almost immediately

I liked the sealed zippers that Mountain Hardwear included – they started off difficult to start and pull but they’ve broken in well over time.  The zipper pulls in particular are easy to get going with one hand, which saves me a whole lot of frustration and unmitigated anguish.  It’s a rough life when pit zips aren’t pulling well.

A wet, cold day at Mt. Spokane testing the Whole Lotta.  Isn't this a fun job?

A wet, cold day at Mt. Spokane testing the Whole Lotta. Isn’t this a fun job?

The Good:

  • Dry.Q performs on-par with the best backless laminates on the market
  • Overall fabric choice is very robust
  • Styling for the snowboarder who knows fashion
  • Sealed zippers pull easily once broken in
  • 1/4 zip gusset is a great touch
  • All the necessary features are here

The Bad:

  • Fabric zipper pull broke almost immediately
  • No clear pass window for scanners
  • Very loud fabric laminate

The Bottom Line

Mountain Hardwear packed all the features of a great ski coat into the styling that snowboarders deserve.  Maybe I’m being unfair by calling it just a snowboarding jacket, but it’s definitely not what I’d call a traditional ski coat.  Dry.Q is much appreciated when you hit that line that makes you break out into a cold sweat.  It’s is absolutely top-notch fabric and it really puts the jacket into a higher tier of performance.

Buy now:  Available at 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.