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Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket REVIEW

Product performance review of the Cirrus Hooded Jacket, a lightweight synthetic insulated backpacking jacket.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-02-22 03:00:00-07

Overview

Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket - 1
The upgraded Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket has a lighter shell fabric, pit zips, more convenient hood adjustment, simple elastic cuffs, and an inside security pocket.

The Cirrus Hooded Jacket, upgraded for 2005, earns a thumbs up for cold weather warmth, storm resistance, and value. It provides quick insulation over existing clothing (dry or damp) for rapid warmth and chill avoidance. The hood is helmet-compatible, yet adjusts to fit over a winter hat or billed cap equally well. The new shell fabric is lighter and more abrasion and storm resistant than last year's model, although it eventually wets through with extended exposure. The nicest change is the addition of pit zips, which significantly improves ventilation and temperature regulation. Other changes are: the elimination of the adjustable neoprene/Velcro tabs on the cuffs (in favor of a simple elastic cuff), and moving the secure storage pocket to the inside. The handwarmer side pockets remain at hip level, where entry is restricted by a pack hipbelt. Overall, the Cirrus Hooded Jacket is an excellent value at its comparatively low price of $160.

In Brief

  • Attached, helmet-compatible hood with lots of adjustability
  • Single-layer loft is 1 inch of Thermolite Micro insulation
  • Pit zips for improved temperature regulation
  • Lighter shell fabric is wind and water resistant, and more snag resistant
  • Overall excellent value for its features, storm worthiness, and warmth
  • Needs more storage! Raise the outside pockets to make them accessible while carrying a pack (or add a chest height pocket), and make the inside mesh pockets larger

Specifications

• Garment Style

Full zip, high-loft, synthetic insulated, hooded jacket

• Fabric Description

Shell is 1.2 oz/yd2 (42 g/m2) 15d x 40d nylon ripstop with super DWR; lining is 2 oz/yd2 (68 g/m2) fiberproof polyester microfiber

• Insulation Description

6.4 oz/yd2 (200 g/m2) Thermolite Micro in the body, 4.8 oz/yd2 (150 g/m2) Thermolite Micro in the sleeves

• Other Features

Full-length two-way front zipper, zippered hand warmer pockets, pit zips, elastic cuffs, hem drawcord, attached helmet-compatible hood, inside zippered security pocket, two inside mesh pockets, stuff sack

• Weight

1 lb 12.4 oz (805 g) as measured men’s L; 1 lb 10 oz (735 g) manufacturer specification men’s M; stuff sack 0.5 oz (14 g)

• Loft

1 in (2.5 cm) single layer loft

• Model Year

2005

• MSRP

$160 Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

Warmth

The Cirrus Hooded Jacket has the thickest insulation (200 g/m2 in the body and 150 g/m2 in the sleeves) of the Moonstone Cirrus series and is suitable for cold weather applications. DuPont Thermolite Micro is a thin microfiber insulation claimed to provide maximum warmth at minimum thickness with more durability and compressibility than other thin insulations. Backpacking Light has not tested these claims.

I tested the jacket's warmth in a variety of conditions: stationary in rain at 40 °F, hiking 3 mph on flat terrain in a snowstorm at 32 °F, hiking 3 mph on flat terrain with the jacket over a wet base layer at 0 °F, stationary at 20 °F with a 25 mph wind, stationary at 13 °F, hiking 2 mph uphill carrying a 20 pound pack at 0 °F, and walking 3 mph in a steady rain at 34 °F. I had no problem staying warm in any of these conditions - quite the opposite. The jacket is very comfortable for flat land activities, but quickly reaches its breathability limit on uphill, high-exertion activities. When I wore the jacket unvented while hiking uphill with a pack, the heat built up steadily to the point where I could not maintain my pace. Opening the pit zips and dropping the hood provided some relief, but not enough.

To sum up: the Cirrus jacket is plenty warm and has adequate breathability for low or intermittent moderate exertion at cooler temperatures, but too much warmth and not enough breathability for sustained moderate or high exertion activities. This is too much jacket for uphill backpacking except for very cold and/or windy conditions.

When I wore the jacket over a breathable Epic windshirt and very damp base layer after some hard sweaty exertion (1,500 feet of elevation gain at 2 mph in 6-12 inches of snow), it prevented chilling during a quick lunch stop at 20 °F, then allowed my under layers to dry on my descent over the next hour. On another occasion I soaked a cotton T-shirt with water and put it on, then donned the jacket and went for a walk on a 0 °F morning, and had no problem staying warm.

Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket - 2
The attached hood is very warm and provides good storm protection. It has two drawcords and three adjustors. The adjustor on the back fits the hood to a helmet, winter hat, or billed hat. Here the hood is adjusted to a billed hat to allow good side visibility.

This jacket has a relaxed fit to allow layering under it. It easily fits over a fleece jacket, and even fits over a high-loft down jacket or vest with minimal compression. The back of the jacket is dropped 2 inches to give it sufficient length to cover the butt.

The Cirrus Jacket works well to extend the warmth of a light sleeping bag in a bivy sack. I wore the jacket over a heavy base layer in a 30 °F down sleeping bag inside a waterproof/breathable bivy, and slept warm as toast on a 24 °F night with heavy frost.

Storm Resistance

The upgraded 2005 jacket's shell fabric is 15 x 40 denier nylon ripstop with super DWR, much lighter than its predecessor which had 40 denier mini-ripstop fabric (1.2 oz/yd2 compared to 3.1 oz/yd2). The new shell is similar to shells on other lightweight insulated garments - a balance between weight, storm resistance, and durability. With reasonable care, it performs and holds up well, but I would not recommend serious bushwhacking with this jacket.

I tested the Cirrus Hooded Jacket in cold rain, wet snow, and wind over different dry or damp under layers. The jacket's water resistance is significantly improved with the new shell fabric. It shed rain and wet snow very well for about an hour, but eventually wetted-out, especially on the shoulders and upper back. After an extended walk in steady rain, I weighed the jacket and found that it had gained 12 ounces of moisture. Even when thoroughly wet, the jacket remained warm and dry inside, except for some leakage on the shoulder seam. The hood provided good face protection from cold and wind. The two-way front zipper has a storm flap behind it that kept water from coming through. The bottom hem drawcord helped to seal out drafts.

Usability

The sculpted hood easily adjusts to fit over a helmet, and adjusts just as easily to fit over an insulated or billed hat. With the hood drawcords properly adjusted, head-turning mobility is excellent with or without a helmet, but free head movement is slightly restricted when wearing a helmet and a pack. The sleeves are almost long enough to withdraw the hands. Sleeve and torso articulation with the arms lifted upward are both good, with no binding or exposure of the wrists or waist. When the Cirrus jacket is layered over a mid-weight fleece jacket, torso articulation at the shoulders is very good, and it does not bind when crossing the arms. The jacket's smooth microfiber lining makes it easy to layer over other clothing, including fleece.

Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket - 3

The 2005 Cirrus Hooded Jacket has pit zips, which help to provide additional ventilation when needed. Other ways to regulate the inside temperature include front zipper adjustment, hood adjustment, and hem drawcord adjustment. The jacket has a relaxed fit for layering, ample torso and sleeve length, and good articulation.

This jacket has simple elastic cuffs that replace the adjustable neoprene/Velcro tabs on the previous model which is an improvement, because the Velcro tabs were very abrasive to the jacket's shell. However, the elastic band in the new cuffs is a bit tight to stretch over the tops of gloves, and it tends to twist within its enclosure, which is annoying.

There are two 7-inch zippered pockets on the outside with a brushed tricot lining for hand warming. They are large enough to warm an 8-ounce fuel canister. With a pack on, the hipbelt fits squarely over the side pockets, restricting stowage and access. On the inside of the jacket there is one 6-inch zippered security pocket and two stretchy mesh pockets (5 inches wide by 7 inches deep) for carrying snacks and a water bottle (a flat water flask works best). It would be nice if the mesh pockets were much larger so they could stow more items (like winter gloves, balaclava, helmet liner, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.).

The hood has a flexible bill and two drawcords to adjust the fit over different headwear. A drawcord on the back of the hood is fully extended when the jacket is worn over a helmet, and tightened when the hood is worn without a helmet. The front drawcord snugs the hood to your face for better weather protection and visibility. There is no provision to stow the hood when it is not being used, but tightening its face drawcord helps somewhat to hold it down. The "single-hand adjustable drawcords" at the waist and hood (total of three drawcords with five adjustors) actually require two hands to tighten or loosen, but they work well to seal in the warmth or provide ventilation as needed. The jacket is quite compressible, and fits easily into the provided 7 inch by 10 inch matching stuff sack.

The Cirrus Hooded Jacket works well in concert with the Moonstone Nitro shell, which also has a helmet compatible hood. However, the Nitro Jacket is slightly shorter.

Value

With an MSRP of $160, the Cirrus Hooded Jacket is an excellent value for the features, warmth, and utility it provides. At 1 pound 12.4 ounces (men's large) this jacket is 4 to 7 ounces heavier than many comparable jackets, but it has more insulation and includes pit zips.

Recommendations for Improvement

With the upgrades made to the 2005 model, the Cirrus Hooded Jacket is now one of the nicest cold weather synthetic insulated jackets on the market. Following are a few additional improvements that would further improve it:

Use Pertex Quantum for the outer shell fabric.

For more accessible outside storage, move the hand warmer pockets above the hipbelt level, or add at least one large zippered pocket at the chest level.

Enlarge the inside mesh pockets to three times their present capacity to make room for gloves, hat, sunglasses, energy bars, water flask, camera, etc, etc.


Citation

"Moonstone Cirrus Hooded Jacket REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/moonstone_cirrus_hooded_jacket_review.html, 2005-02-22 03:00:00-07.

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