Portland, Oregon-based Nau Clothing is committed to building environmentally-sustainable clothing and outerwear. This commitment is one that isn’t especially easy when it comes to outerwear technology, which is dominated by many petroleum-based laminate materials. In spite of that challenge, Nau is leading the charge in sustainable materials and manufacturing while others are merely dabbling in it.
Nau’s full line of technical outerwear is subtly-styled, but filled with enough technical goodies to keep even the biggest gear junkie satisfied. With retail outlets in Portland, Seattle, Denver and Chicago and a solid online retail presence, Nau services outdoor enthusiasts worldwide.
Built on the philosophy that companies don’t merely exist for profit alone, Nau is committed to philanthropy, corporate responsibility, employee and customer satisfaction, open customer feedback and honest dialog about products and design. I’m very impressed by their core principles and encourage you to question Nau on the same level that you would question any other product manufacturer. I’d guess that Nau would have them beat on a “feel good” level every time. You can read more Nau in the Portland Business Journal.
The all-new Nau Shelter Jacket is brand new for Spring 2008. This lightweight shell is built as an all-purpose shell that’s durable enough for winter backcountry travel and packable enough for summertime backpacking. Weighing in at 16 oz., the Shelter Jacket is definitely lightweight, but still fully loaded with features.
Eco Circle™ 3-layer recycled fabric is used to provide the hard protection needed against the elements. This durable, waterproof fabric has a natural 2-way stretch for additional comfort with taped seams, a ripstop texture and almost 100% welded construction to reduce bulk. Here are a few other nice features of this jacket:
- Multiple pockets (inside and out) with the two front pockets being large enough to carry climbing skins
- Adjustable hood that’s suitable for use with a helmet
- Tricot mesh lining in front to improve moisture management
- Two-way pit zips for ventilation
- Asymmetrical cuffs for a more anatomical fit
- Custom sleeve and port for securing an iPod or mobile phone
- MSRP: $325
Making turns in the Nau Shelter Jacket
I’ve had the opportunity to flog the Nau Shelter jacket in the backcountry, at the resort and around town. From the get-go, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how technical this jacket is while utilizing sustainable fabrics and manufacturing processes. Naturally, one might think that corners might be cut in an effort to be more sustainable, etc. But, the Shelter Jacket successfully proves that green products can be both economical and functional at the same time.
The fit of the jacket is definitely athletic. It’s not quite form-fitting by any means, but I’d say it’s the perfect cut for efficient backcountry travel. It’s clean looking and smart fitting so as not to get snagged on every branch as you’re bushwhacking your way through tight backcountry exits. The two-way stretch gives it that little extra stretch that adds to the all-around comfort of this jacket.
The pit zips are easy to open and close while wearing a backpack and both from pockets are easily accessed as well. The entire jacket has been built well for backcountry travel, but it’s not so backcountry-specific so as to feel out of place inbounds or even around town. The muted styling of this jacket is welcome in an outerwear market that all-too-typically screams “look at me, I climb, hike, ski and stuff.”
My number one concern with this jacket was breathability. I’ve been a staunch supporter of eVent Fabrics over the years and hold all fabrics up to their standards of breathability and waterproofness. Surprisingly, the Shelter Jacket breathed nearly as well as eVent and surpassed every Gore-tex fabric I’ve ever tested. I wore this jacket during several backcountry trips in varying temperatures. Every time, the jacket breathed extremely well with only a small amount of trapped perspiration where my pack was. Very nice!
The jacket feels minimal, but has proven to be quite durable during several scrub oak carwash exits (a.k.a. bushwhacking). A couple of times I felt that I may have scratched the fabric, but upon inspection, I couldn’t find any damage. This jacket is solid.
The only gripe I’ve got is with the length of the jacket and the lack of a full drawstring at the hem. Bending over, I felt like a plumber as my lower back was exposed to the elements (maybe I should wear bibs underneath). I also felt like I had to constantly pull the jacket down to make sure I was properly keeping the powder on the outside of the shell. Maybe the addition of some grippy rubber along the hem, or simply continuing the drawstring all the way around might solve this, but I still think it could use just a smidge more length.
NOTE: I’m 5-feet 11-inches and 180 lbs. I typically wear a size Large and the Shelter Jacket fits perfectly in the sleeves and torso–just how I’d expect a Large to fit me.
The Bottom Line: Nau Shelter Jacket
This 3-layer shell is not only eco-friendly, it’s also an amazingly technical, highly-functional and durable shell. I have loved wearing this jacket while backcountry touring for it’s breathability and minimalistic, yet smart design. At 16 oz., this lightweight shell is packable and wears extremely well. Large front pockets are a huge hit for storing climbing skins or even water bottles–something that many jackets just can’t do these days. The fit is perfect for layering over a fleece/vest combo and feels perfect for an athletic guy like myself. The Shelter Jacket is the one to grab when you want a versatile, do-it-all shell.