Moonstone is well known in the industry for their sleeping bags, but their other products have been overlooked for some time. In my opinion, the time to think of Moonstone for more than just stellar sleeping bags is now. Re-organized under the Pacific Trail umbrella, Moonstone has more energy and is dedicated to providing highly-technical outerwear, sleeping bags and other gear at affordable prices. In a world where jackets can cost $600 or more, sub-$300 price points for every jacket in the line except one (Exposure Jacket is $350) is a breath of fresh air.
The Nordwand is the top-of-the-line Moonstone softshell built with proprietary fabrics. From experience, the majority of the house brand fabrics (in this case Gemini Mechanical Stretch Woven), provide as good or better waterproofing and breathability to their expensive counterparts from Gore. In this case, the Gemini fabric is both waterproof and breathes at least as well as Gore-Tex.
Moonstone Nordwand Details
The Nordwand is built using Gemini Mechanical Stretch Woven softshell fabric. This fabric is built to take a lot of abuse from climbing and backcountry skiing, where carrying a pack and rubbing against rocks, equipment and trees is commonplace. The fit is what Moonstone calls “Trim Fit.” This type of athletic fit is great for activities where mobility is key. The last thing you want to have happen is to have your bulky sleeves get caught while ascending a steep face, or while skiing down tight trees.
Though I prefer trim fit jackets for most activities, I do have a couple of comments about the Nordwand. First, the sleeves could be a teeny bit looser. That said, if you’ve got Popeye arms, you won’t like the fit of this jacket much. I’m no spinach-eater, and I thought it could be a little looser to accommodate a medium-thickness fleece layer. As it is, I could only reasonably wear a lightweight thermal top with a lightweight poly jacket underneath the Nordwand. I was plenty warm during a snowy tour in the Utah backcountry, but having a little more leeway for a thicker insulating layer would be optimal. Secondly, I did find that the lower hem of the jacket did tend to ride up while skinning to the top. Placement of sticky rubber or extending the length by one inch all the way around might help with this jacket creep. And lastly, the micro stretch hood is a nice idea, but it does make for a thick collar when zipped up. I felt like a linebacker with a neck brace on. Either go with an attached hood, or ditch the hood altogether.
Other key design features of the Moonstone Nordwand are: Adjustable hem draw cords, hidden micro stretch fleece hood and wrap-around chin guard.
Moonstone Nordwand Performance
The Gemini Fabric used on the Nordwand Jacket is built with a cozy-thin fleece liner inside. This layer accomplishes a couple of key things: First, it provides added warmth, and secondly, it helps wick the moisture away from your body and distributes it to speed evaporation. I used the Nordwand during a warmer, but snowy day in the Utah backcountry. There was about 8 inches of new snow on the ground and it snowed off and on all day. Temperatures were in the upper 20’s and the water content of the snow was a bit more than average, but not heavy by any means.
Ridgeline winds were steady at 10-15 mph, and the blowing snow, wind and perspiration didn’t hamper the warmth of the jacket. I stayed nice and toasty throughout.
While skinning, the Nordwand breathed very well. It’s on par with other fabrics of this caliber and on an even keel with Gore-Tex in my mind. What helps out the most is the attached fleece lining, which distributed the sweat for quicker evaporation. I did find that I was sweating more than the jacket could dissipate, but with the fleece liner, I didn’t ever have the dreaded sleeve drip (when the sweat drips down your sleeves to your hands). Pit zips would’ve been nice, but I unzipped the front enough to let the heat dissipate and it seemed to ventilate just fine.
I was pleased with the overall fit of the jacket. With a pack on and skinning through trees, etc. nothing is worse than having bulky sleeves to get in your way or snag on tree limbs. The burly fabric and snug-fitting sleeves never got snagged on branches or gear and worked well at bashing tree limbs while skiing untracked tree lines..
I also tried the Nordwand for a quick cold-weather run. I did notice that for highly-aerobic activites, like cold-weather running, the Nordwand may have troubles dissipating the sweat, but it never feels sopping wet by any means. Again, pit zips may be in order to extend the versatility of this jacket.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Moonstone Nordwand Jacket is a fine softshell piece for everthing but frigid-cold days. I liked the fit overall (with minor suggestions above), and the performance of the fabric for my applications was acceptable. Build quality and durability is excellent. The bottom line is that for $250, you’d be hard-pressed to find a superior athletic softshell jacket for climbing and backcountry skiing activities.
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