Sherpa Makalu Jacket Review
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Rik Henderson brings us his review of the Makalu Jacket from Sherpa, the flagship hardshell of a small brand committed to making a BIG impact
You would be forgiven for not knowing much about Sherpa Adventure Gear. This small brand, originally founded in 2003 by Tashi Sherpa and his family to help the people and communities of Nepal, is committed to making a BIG impact. With every item sold a day of school is provided for a child in Nepal with a goal of providing 1 million school days by 2030. Over 136k days provided so far (at the time of writing Nov 2020).
This brand offers a wide range of men’s and women’s premium clothing and apparel, so naturally Mud & Routes were delighted to receive their flagship hard-shell, the Sherpa Makalu Jacket for testing. This long bodied jacket has all the features of a good outdoor shell, two very generous “handwarmer” pockets big enough to fit an OS/Harvey Map, a sizeable chest pocket that will fit even the largest of mobile phones, pit zips for additional venting, a spacious but well designed fully adjustable helmet compatible hood as well as some lovely details that give a nod to the brands heritage.
Written on the inside of the jacket;
CREATED IN HONOUR OF THE RICH HISTORY OF HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING. THIS JACKET WAS NAMED AFTER MAKALU. THE FITH HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD. DESIGNED WITH AN AUSPICIOUS BLEND OF THE LATEST TECHNICAL MATIRIALS AND TIME-HONOURED CRAFTSMENSHIP. THE MAKALU JACKET WILL KEEP YOU WARM, DRY AND READY TO TAKE ON YOUR GREATEST ADVENTURE.
Whilst the pandemic has limited travel into my usual stomping ground of North Wales, bagging three Shropshire hills over a weekend with mixed weather and terrain would prove the ideal testing ground for putting this jacket through its paces. The small town of Clun sits in the South West corner of Shropshire’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that morning though it was overcast and damp with a forecast threatening heavy showers and strong wind later that morning … not a day then for photos!
As has been mentioned in previous reviews I am someone who runs hot, so donning a jacket is usually left till it’s absolutely needed, however with the current conditions only set to get worse I decided to start with the shell on over a thin synthetic base layer. What is immediately apparent with the Makalu jacket is just how soft the facia fabric is, for a hard-shell it fits and feels much more like a soft-shell, with just the right amount of stretch to insure great fit and protection. It also has a longer than usual tail which in these sort of conditions is super useful – if you can protect your backside and upper thighs from the wet for extended periods without needing to stop and wrestle with waterproof trousers, then you are always onto a winner!
My goal that morning was to tackle Llanfair Hill and Sowdley Wood, two relatively small tops sitting just outside Clun, with wooded areas, farmland and barren landscape, this 20km route takes in part of the Jack Mytton way. I started off at a brisk pace in a bid to beat the incoming bad weather and took a track that rose out of the town and into the surrounding countryside. The Makalu jacket is made up of Sherpa’s Himaltec laminated 3-layer stretch waterproof / breathable fabric. It claims to offer 20,000mm hydrostatic head waterproof protection (and 20,000g/m2 breathability) which sits about mid table when comparing it with other waterproof systems, with the latest GTX sitting at around 28-30,000mm HH and some own brand technologies sitting at just 10,000mm.
What do all these ratings mean and why are they important? There are many systems available on the market with different degrees of performance, getting wet through or suffering from wind chill can be super dangerous if not mildly uncomfortable when spending time in the outdoors. These ratings should only be used as a guide though when trying different garments, as there are a lot of other contributing factors such as body type, activity, fit, venting etc.
The Sherpa Makalu jacket performed brilliantly that morning, as drizzle turned to rain and with the zip fully up and hood in play, the outer did a superb job of shedding the droplets and I remained dry and regulated inside. The pit zips were used on and off throughout the day to allow in cool air when the gradient changed and these were easy to use and adjust with one hand. The hood on this jacket is particularly good, these days its hard to find an outer shell without a helmet compatible hood. Whilst such a hood makes for a much more versatile garment, it can often lead to a lot of excess fabric around the neck and face when using it without a lid. The Makalu’s soft fabric comes into play here with any excess fabric feeling soft and non-bulky. The easy adjustment toggles with beautiful Sherpa detail and bonded brim really finish of this system brilliantly!
Having navigated onto my first top the weather started to deteriorate quickly as I took a baring for my second hill of the day, for the next hour I tabbed across open and exposed land in high winds and heavy sideward rain, the Makalu continuing to bead water and performing well. I did find that on the high wear areas such as a small area on the cuffs and around the waist, there was a small amount of absorption on the facia fabric, but no penetration through to the inside. I have found this to be the case with other similarly soft touch systems and is more an issue with the DWR (Durable Water Repellence) coating as appose to the laminate itself, this can usually be topped up with sprays or wash in products no problem. These softer jackets do tend to dry out much quicker though, so at the end of the walk the entirety of the jacket was bone dry!
I did find the main pockets to be slightly low as well and from time to time were slightly difficult to access when wearing a pack with a fastened hip/waist belt, saying that the pockets are at a much more natural height for general use.
Sherpa Makalu Jacket Verdict
The Makalu is a particularly good looking jacket, we tested the Kongde Blue version but it comes in several colour options including a Black option, a colour that works ever so well with the high quality looking zips and Sherpa detail. My brother in law has certain prerequisites when choosing outdoor gear: is it functional? Does it fit and can it be worn to a pub? I think this jacket deserves three big ticks in all those categories.
After several hours in foul weather that day and a further couple of hours in much fairer weather to bag another small Shropshire hill (The Ercall), I concluded that the Makalu is a superb outer that performs well in bad conditions and has lots of neat and useful features.
Considering a good outer shell these days is going to cost between £200-400+, at £280 (at time of publishing) the Sherpa Makalu jacket won’t break the bank and you are safe in the knowledge that you are helping Sherpa Adventure Gear provide learning and development to Children in Nepal, a brilliant cause that we should all champion!
They also have a great selection of insulation, summer wear, knit wear, hats & gloves and much more, so head over to their site to see what they have to offer – www.sherpaadventuregear.co.uk
Sherpa Makalu Jacket features and specifications:
- Nepal inspired trims
- Shell Fabric – Seam sealed 3-layer shell fabric has a 20,000mm / 20,000g/m2 / 24h waterproof/ breathable rating
- Seams are set forward from shoulder tops and away from hips to avoid chafing under pack straps and belt
- YKK® AquaGuard® Zipper – center front zipper is water-resistant
- Helmet compatible hood has a bonded brim to help protect your face from the weather.
- Hood fit can be refined via a multi-cinch system at center back bottom and on either side of the hood opening
- Venting pit zips have welted, two-way zipper with DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
- Adjustable Velcro cuff
- Napoleon chest pocket and two zippered hand pockets provide instant access to essentials
- Adjustable hem can be cinched in via side adjusters
- Centre back length: 30″
- Weight: 565g
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siBased out of Shrewsbury Shropshire, I spend most of my free time across the border into Wales, primarily in Snowdonia. A keen walker and explorer who has completed the Top 100 mountains in Wales and Shropshire's 50 hills. Taking on such challenges enables me to travel to remote, quiet areas and away from the crowds, those are my favourite mountain days. I very much look forward to contributing to the forum that is Mud & Routes, with route guides and gear reviews. Instagram: @rikthehiker Twitter: @RikTheHiker