Being one of the sweatiest people on the planet, I’ve never been a fan of wearing a hard shell in the hills in Scotland. Over the years I’ve tried a whole host of alternatives, from various membranes, and non membrane soft shells, to paramo and even natural fibres like wool. Each have their pros and cons, with water and windproof-ness being balanced against breathability.
A few weeks ago I was caught out however on a very wet multi day trip up to the head of Glen Affric. There was no way of drying out clothes overnight, and despite putting on dry under layers, each morning was a rather chilly and uncomfortable affair... maybe I should join the crowds and invested in a classic hard shell?
Looking at the options, with prices for a premium gore-tex jackets at an eye watering £400+, I was given a top tip by the guys at Gear Pest to try the Mammut Masao. The Masao uses Mammuts own DRYtech fabric, which boasts a 20000mm hydrostatic head, and supposed great breathability. A nice minimalist and well thought out design, and coming in at only £270, I was happy to give it a go.
The walk in to the bothy is about an hour and a half of gently ascending land rover track. The stars were out luckily, since my learned friend had forgotten his head torch (oops), and sub zero temperatures with a few centimetres of snow underfoot made for a very pleasant approach. I walked in in a thin long-sleeved synthetic base layer, a hooded micro fleece and my new Masao jacket, pit zips fully open anticipating a rather sweaty arrival…
On arrival at the bothy I was delighted to find my under-layers nice and dry, so far so good. Cue whiskey and banter with good friends, and an excited buzz about the next day’s adventure…
The next morning was a cold one, fresh snow had fallen overnight, and you could see spindrift blowing around on the tops. We set off pretty much directly up the flanks of Stob Choire Claurigh from the bothy, and arrived onto the curving ridge line to some wonderful winter light, as the sun fought to penetrate the cloud cover. I hadn’t changed my clothing system since the walk in, although this time I had the pit zips of my Masao jacket fully closed. The ridge was spectacular, at times gusts of spindrift would force care to be taken, but mercifully the gusts were followed by pockets of calm, keeping the motivation levels high. Despite the conditions I felt very comfortable, only needing to put on a puffy overcoat when we stopped.
Continuing over the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh and on to the steep (but thankfully short) pull up the side on Stob Bán the scenery was incredible. What a privilege it is to be out in the mountains of Scotland in winter, and be comfortable!
The descent to the bothy was fine with soft snow on frozen ground underfoot, and with heavy snowfall starting as soon as we arrived back, the timing was perfect!
To summarise, I was extremely impressed by the performance of the Mammut Masao jacket. From the exponents of the very famous Schoeller fabric, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at the breathability of the DRYtech fabric. I didn’t have to change out my base layers at all, the whole trip, which is unheard of with any other system I’ve used before. Massively impressive. The pockets are nicely thought out, with the side pockets being deep enough not to interfere with a rucksack waist strap, and a very handy multimedia pocket, which sits just in front of your left armpit. No freezing batteries on this trip! The hood was comfortable and secure, despite the strong gusts of spindrift, and although I didn’t try it with a helmet, I’m certain it would fit just fine. I reckon you’d struggle to find these features and performance on any other jacket at this price point.
Massive thank you Gear Pests! You’ve got me converted back to hard shells!