We test Mountain Hardwear's lightweight waterproof alpine shell.
In the arms race of fast-and-light, Mountain Hardwear throws down with the Quasar Lite Jacket. This purpose-built shell was designed to shed heat and moisture while keeping the elements out. We test it in the field and share if it lives up to the sales pitch.
Thanks to Live Out There, a men’s large Quasar Lite arrived at our door and within a couple hours I was puffing up the nearest hills to see how resistant it was to sweating out. The temperature was at that awkward sorta-cold range where you aren’t really sure what to wear. “Dress light and hope to be warm enough, or add an extra layer and hope you don’t end up a sodden mess?”. Since this was a test mission, I opted for the warmer option as that would make for a better test of the Quasar Lite’s breathing capabilities.
Initially I was glad for the extra warmth, but as I got warmed up I started to get that oh-dear-I’ve-over-dressed feeling. Rather than shed a layer, I just opened up the large vent pockets and continued at my pace. Despite my expectations, the jacket shed an enormous amount of heat and I never reached that dreaded soggy feeling.
About the jacket
This is Mountain Hardwear’s lightest alpine climbing shell with Dry.Q™ Elite technology. The Quasar Lite is a forward-thinking, 2.5-layer jacket that’s built for speed. The Dry.Q™ Elite technology incorporates an air-permeable membrane which is designed to instantly expel excess heat and moisture. As opposed to traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics, Dry.Q™ Elite doesn’t need to build up internal moisture pressure, so it starts to breath the moment you start to move. This keeps you dry and comfortable even on the most rapid and difficult ascents.
A quick note on the vents/pockets. They are slightly forward of the traditional pit zip but further outboard than traditional chest pockets. The result is great venting and zippers that are easy to use. I have some shoulder mobility issues and reaching across to the pit zip in my normal shell is awkward enough that I often don’t bother. With the Quasar Lite I had no hesitation in adjusting the vents at any point. The trade-off is that these venting pockets are less effective in a rainstorm than the traditional pit-zips.
After my initial test I took the time to examine the jacket a little closer. For starters the fit and finish are excellent. This was my first experience with the Dry.Q™ Elite fabric and I was surprised at how soft and quiet the face fabric was compared to other shells I’ve used and tested.
The adjustments on the hood are excellent and more than we’d usually expect from a jacket this light. Nice touches like the soft lining on the side of the upper zipper flap and lower hood where they can rub on your face are much appreciated.
In my initial test I felt the jacket lived up to it’s billing, but 45 minutes of hills is not the same as an alpine ascent and I had full intentions of putting the Quasar through the alpine wringer, but life had other plans.
Day 1 of a 4 day weekend my partner was sick and we had to bail a few pitches up a classic WI4 ice route in the Ghost Valley. The flu struck me the next day and that was it for any alpine testing.
Fortunately our gear editor Maarten was able to pick up the torch and give the jacket the test it deserved with an ascent of Murchison Falls, a classic 180 meter WI4+ route ice route, followed by a summit attempt on Mt Murchison. Given the warm spring weather we thought this would be an ideal proving ground. It turned out to be a great testing day. The approach to Murchison Falls is around an hour and a half and gains 500 meters. Above, they attempted to get to the summit of Mt. Murchison by scrambling up another 600m of elevation. Unfortunately, avalanche conditions turned them around for a second time.
Over the course of the day the jacket saw the full range of conditions: from being under a running waterfall to slogging uphill under the sun with a backpack on! Maarten’s experience matched mine and he felt it was very breathable. Having tested multiple Dry.Q™ Elite and eVent jackets, he felt it was more breathable than any waterproof Gore product he has tried.
Maarten and I are about as far apart in body types as possible. He’s tall and lean. I’m neither. Despite this, we both felt the jacket was a good fit due to the excellent length and adjustability in the waist and sleeves.
Dual hood adjustment is luxury on a jacket this light, it allowed us to cinch down the neck area for additional coverage (especially without a helmet). The hood fits well overall. The single hem adjustment is light and works great, every jacket should use this design. The two high hand pockets vs. Napoleon pockets makes the jacket more versatile and seem to vent nearly as well as simple pit zips. Added bonus - the pockets are accessible even with a climbing harness on. There is a small internal pocket on the right side that uses part of the vent to hold a gel, phone or a sheet of beta.
I felt the jacket lived up to it's billing as a climber's jacket. The sleeves are long and overhead mobility is excellent. Also, the body is long and stays down under your harness.
On the inside of the jacket, an integrated mesh stuff sack is a nice addition. Instead of stuffing the jacket in the hood (like most other shells), the Quasar Lite stuffs into this small pocket, protecting the membrane fabric well. It also can serve double duty as a pocket if you need a quick place to stash a neck warmer or thin gloves.
The Quasar Lite in it's built-in stuff sack, next to my ratty old helmet
Centre back length: 76cm
Size tested: Large
Fabrics: Dry.Q™ Elite 2.5L 40D fabric
Intended Use: Alpine Climbing
MSRP: $299 CAD $240 USD
Purchase online: Altitude Sports
- Dry Q™ Elite’s waterproof, breathable, air-permeable technology keeps you dry inside and out
- Revolutionary air-permeable membrane construction in a 2.5-layer shell
- 40D face fabric is light and durable
- 3-way adjustable helmet compatible hood features a wire brim to hold its shape
- Superior mobility: Bottom hem will not move even when arms are fully stretched
- Two PU-zippered chest pockets are harness- and pack-compatible, and double as core vents
- Full, center-front PU zipper keeps moisture out and adjusts easily from top-down or bottom-up
- Dual-purpose, pack-compatible zippered pockets double as core vents
- Highly packable and lightweight
- Light construction with reasonably durable 40D face fabric
- Breathable Dry.Q™ Elite membrane
- Wind and waterproof
- Adjustable hem and hood
- Quieter and softer than any hardshell tested
- Dry.Q™ Elite membrane requires more frequent washing than Goretex, so not ideal for extremely heavy use
We were impressed with the jacket. I sense there may be some argument over how who get's to do the long term testing. I know already that I want to bring it for my Bugaboos trip this summer.
The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite jacket was provided to Mountain Moxie by Live Out There Calgary. This has not influenced our opinion on the jacket. Mountain Moxie aims to use multiple testers for each review, to get you reviews on the most thoroughly tested gear.