Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gear Closet: Mountain Hardwear Dragon Hooded Jacket

True fall weather has arrived at long last where I live, which is giving me a chance to finally get caught up on some of the backlog of amazing gear I have waiting to be tested in cooler conditions. That list of products includes several jackets, mid- and baselayers, as well as a few other items that I've been waiting patiently to put to the test. One of those items is the new Dragon Hooded Jacket from Mountain Hardwear, a soft-shell that continues the company's legacy of creating tough, dependable products that you'll want to take with you on your outdoor adventures.

The Dragon is a lightweight, high performance jacket designed for hiking, backpacking, and intense alpine pursuits. It is made from stretchy materials that are designed to hug the body, providing warmth and comfort with a high degree of breathability too. The jacket also incorporates AirSheild fabrics that provide a measure of wind and weather proofing, and while the Dragon isn't waterproof by any means, it does offer some protection from light rain and snow.

Knowing their customers' needs quite well, Mountain Hardwear also included a fair number of pockets on the Dragon jacket as well. In addition to the usual two zippered hand pockets, there is also a zippered pocket on the chest, and another zipped pocket on the interior as well. You'll also find two more spacious pockets located on the interior, which are perfect for keeping important items close at hand, as well as providing warmth to fragile tech devices – such as a smartphone or camera – which can suffer poor battery life in colder weather.

In another nod toward meeting customer's needs, the jacket has reinforced fabrics in certain sections where it could be more prone to wear and tear. Those parts of the Dragon include the shoulders, which could see issues with abrasions generated from wearing a backpack. Fortunately, these areas can handle the added tension that is placed on them and come away without any harm. In fact, after wearing the jacket it regularly both around town and on some outdoor excursions, it still manages to look as good as new. Beyond that however, I get the sense that this will be the case after many future adventures too.


Other nice touches that I appreciate are broad sleeves with velcro cuffs that you can adjust to fit your personal taste, as well as a main zipper that can be opened or closed from either the top or the bottom. This provides a nice way to vent excess heat when you start to get too warm, and lends the jacket a level of versatility that you don't always find in a soft shell of this kind. The Dragon's built-in hood is also nice and spacious, allowing it to easily be worn with a helmet if needed, or cinched down for added warmth in a pinch. These are all small touches for sure, but important ones for those who are looking for solid performance out of their various layers.

One of my favorite design elements of the Dragon Hooded Jacket is its snug – but not restrictive – fit. Mountain Hardwear's designers clearly went with a more athletic cut when designing this garment, and for someone who likes to be able to move quickly and easily without my jacket getting in the way, this was a choice that I appreciated greatly. For me personally, there is nothing worse than having ill-fitting close when I'm being particularly active, but that wasn't something I had to worry about here. Despite its body-hugging design however, it is still easy to wear baselayers underneath the Dragon without worrying about that layer bunching up or creating any kind of discomfort.

Indeed, on the contrary. This jacket is actually quite comfortable to wear. So much so that it has quickly become one of my "go-to" jackets whether I'm heading out to run errands, going to the dog park, or hitting the trail. The fact that it is lightweight, soft, versatile, and warm makes is an amazing piece of gear to have at your disposal. The fact that I happen to think that it looks great too doesn't hurt it's cause either.

In reading other online reviews for the Dragon Hooded Jacket I learned that others felt that the length of the sleeves was a bit too long. As someone who has longer arms, I didn't notice this at all, but it could be a concern for some readers. If you have a shorter arm length, you may want to try this jacket on before ordering one. For me it is perfect, but apparently I could be in the minority with that opinion.

I have to admit, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Mountain Hardwear gear. When I started acquiring truly good outdoor clothing, it was one of the brands that I found performed well in adverse conditions. Over the years the company has had its ups and downs, but for the most part the tradition of providing products that can be depended upon while traveling or on an adventure has remained at the core of what the company does. The Dragon Hooded Jacket reaffirms that commitment to me, as it easily meets my already lofty expectations from any piece of gear that bears the MH logo on it. I think you'll find that it does the same for you, delivering excellent protection from the wind and cold in an article of clothing that is lightweight, highly packable, and simply a joy to wear.

Priced at $220, this isn't a jacket for just anyone. Don't get me wrong, I find that to be a competitive price for the level of performance that it offers. But if you're looking for a soft shell to keep you warm while running around town, the Dragon is probably overkill and you can find something just as well suited to your needs for less money. On the other hand, if you need a high performance jacket for use in active outdoor pursuits, you're going to love what Mountain Hardwear has to offer here. I have a closet full of amazing jackets at my disposal, but this is one I full anticipated grabbing for regularly for many years to come.

Find out more at MountainHardwear.com. But the Dragon Hooded Jacket online at REI or Campsaver,

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