Having had this jacket since launch, I’ve had plenty of time to use and abuse it. This review is really on New gen gore-pro but will focus on some of the features of the Tupilak.
This part should be pretty obvious, keep you dry, breath and be tough. Does it do this, in a word yes; in more than a few words yes but there is a incy whincy but. New Gen Gore Pro promised to be more breathable, well read on to find out if gore delivered.
The Tupilak is an awesome jacket. It features everything you’d expect from a high end alpine climbing shell, two napoleon pockets which are harness friendly, pit zips and a huge helmet hood; so it seems less is more and in this case it does cost more as it isn’t a cheap bit of kit. I’m normally quite cautious about manufacturer claims but ME deserve the best hood title they claim, and by a long way. The Super Alpine helmet compatible hood is truly a work of genius; the sticky stuff on the inner of the hood, no idea what its called I’ve lost my Bunsen burner, is a stoke of pure wisdom; it really does work so when your head turns the hood goes with it rather than (what I get a lot cause of my small head) my head turns but i get a face full of hood.
I’m not normally a pit zip fan; but the laser cut and bonded low profile pit zips used on the Tupilak have changed my view. This said learn from experience; do up pit zips before ultra deep snowy approach to the base of climb to avoid large quantities of the white stuff inside you precious £300 odd Gore-Tex jacket. The pit zips are a little faffy and if you aren’t particularity flexible or are a mitt lover; i’d replace the standard pit zip pulls with something a bit bigger. Having said that they work as they are designed to, increase ventilation to the jacket to keep the temp inside down.
On that note – Breathablity was a big thing for New-gen gore pro and well it’s better but by how much? Well it has improved I’ll give them that but it’s only now on-par with eVent, although it is more durable (more about that in a bit). It isn’t however anywhere near the likes of the polartec neoshells such as Jottnar Bergelmir. It isn’t as good as Gore had promised so if your looking for a shell to leave on for the approach as well as the climb in reasonable conditions (even with MEs good pit-zips) this isn’t the shell for you. This said it was reasonably breathable and when it was cooler (i.e. when I was in the Swiss alps) the breathablity was better than my old pro shell. Ranting over I don’t think this breathablitty issue is necessarily MEs fault and is more (totally) down to Gore-tex who make the fabric and control what it is paired very closely (you would if you had a guarantee claim as large as theirs.) I’ve tried a couple of other New Gen gore pros on and they all suffer from this underwhelming advance in breathablity.
On a more positive note this new gore pro and the Tupilak does deliver on the other promise – unyielding protection from the crappy watery stuff that falls out the sky and the evil winds you find in Scottish winter conditions and on big Alpine peaks. I have no complaints about how well it deals with rain, wind, snow and what seemed to me to be the most spindrift that has ever fallen on someone in on gully route ever. It is also supremely tough as will be discussed later so keep reading.
The two chest (Napoleon) pockets are very good indeed; as a very very short bloke(as Ali likes to point out) the chest pockets on many jackets, even though the manufacturers say are harness compatible, aren’t for me because i so small they sit too low (the N.American brands are worst for this). The Pockets on this (and many other ME stuff) work well for me even though the Tupilak is long on me, they do work for me with a harness on.
I wore a merino base layer, Mountain Equipment Eclipse hooded tee(watch out for a review soon) and then a polartec alpha vest (the Rab Strata to be exact – that’ll get a review soon too.) I found this worked well in the cooler approaches and is easy to take layers on/off. Although warmer days I did have my soft-shell for protection against the wind as the Tupilak isn’t the lightest option in the world.
The stormflap on the revers of the jacket’s YKK AquaGuard zip works very well at keeping the jacket nicely sealed in the worst of weathers and the innovative zip drain at the bottom of the pocket helps to keep water out the pockets.
One complaint form some customers in the shop is why jackets these days don’t have water proof zips. There are some very good reasons for this. One they are heavy and expensive, two the zips get stuck, 3 the don’t really work and 4 why are you putting expensive valuables in pockets where only hands and gloves should go!! Because that’s what a high end alpine climbing shells pockets are for not your brand new iPhone.
This jacket and the fabric in general is supremely tough. This is where the main advantages of the Tupilak come in. It’s far tougher than neoshell and a far bit tougher than eVent. The other advantage over the now equally breathable eVent is that it doesn’t need washing almost every time it’s used as it doesn’t ‘clog’ up as quickly and i reckon over a long time period the Tupilak will last longer than any eVent shell on the market at the moment.
I’ve had the jacket out scrambling and rock climbing and it shows no real signs of wear. Its been chucked in a pack and bustled around and come into contact with a few axes and crampons. I’ve abused it a reasonable amount and credit to Mountain Equipment it is meeting all my expectations.
This jacket has the Alpine fit which for me works really well. The jacket has enough room for leayering underneath but it isn’t baggy or excessive. he only down side for me is the length, as discussed ealier always a problem for me but with this jacket I can just cinch the bottom with the good draw cords; which aren’t looped so won’t catch in stuff (like axe picks or crampon points).
The sleeve length is often a problem (namely Rab – if you have ridiculously long arms Rab is a good make for you.) There seems to be a consensuses that every one has massively long arms. Also when you put your arms up the sleeves don’t move that much; especially if you have used the cuffs properly so why many manufactures make sleeves with so much extra length for this apparent ( but not there) problem I don’t know. However ME have got it right on this jacket. The sleeves aren’t too long even for me but equally fit my mate who is very lanky well( in his size not my size small I might add).
Best Hood out there
More breathable than older versions
Not for the budget conscious
Pit zip pulls too small
Not as breathable as other jackets aimed at a similar end use. (Neoshells.)
Overall an awesome hard-shell which is ideal for someone who wants a tough minimalist shell for alpine climbs and big routes. Not really summer weight and I would certainly have a light summer option. The new Drilite range form ME would work well. The main downside is the breathablity if you want a ultra breathable climbing shell then MEs new Neoshells or the Jottnar Bergelmir would work better. However if you want long term durability without a ludicrous weight then this is it. It might seem expensive but trust me it is worth it; the clever design features and the performance of the jacket more than outweigh the less is more price tag.
For more info on membranes see: Gore-Tex Under Siege