Recently I went into the New Zealand Alpine for two weeks of mountaineering. But before I did there was a few pieces of technical gear which I needed to purchase before I went in.
One of those pieces was a hardshell jacket. Considered the “body armour” for the mountaineer, the Hardshell is designed to keep you removed from the worst weather you will feel in the mountains, and offers better value, and a broader range of environments than modern soft shells.
After doing considerable research I was drawn to 2 main contenders, the Arc’teryx Alpha SV or the Mountain Designs Nimbus. Both were pitched as high end Alpine Hardshells. The Alpha utilises 80D Gore, as opposed to the Nimbus which uses 70D & 40D – but the Nimbus worked out to be several hundred dollars cheaper.
The Nimbus currently comes in 2 colours for men, 2 tone red or sky blue, which is the old model still hanging around in a few stores. The Nimbus is a Gore Tex Pro shell featuring 70D in the high abrasion zones and 40D in the crumple zones. 70D is high quality Gore which should handle all that you can throw at it. There are chest pockets on each side which are quite deep. Its good for chucking heaps of energy bars etc in there. I put my camera in there and for my liking it sunk down too far. I’d have preferred a little less depth in the chest pockets, but thats being very picky!
The main zipper is a good size and of good quality. I only had a problem getting the zipper to function once, and that was with big bulky gloves on. The jacket has a velcro zip cover which adds further protection to the front and reduces the chance of moisture and wind penetration. The sleeves have velcro wrist closures and there are hood drawstrings to pull the storm hood close. Pit zips complete the feature set which leaves you yearning for nothing really!
The Nimbus went through some of the worst conditions I’d encountered in the Alpine. I practiced self arrest in it, which means that the entire front of the jacket slides down quite abrasive snow, and this was done several times. In fact I did 2 self arrests without my gore tex gloves and cut my knuckles on the snow almost to the bone. There was blood everywhere in the snow and this is just due to the highly abrasive nature of the fresh snow. After the self arrest practice, the Nimbus was completely unscathed.
I encountered a white out at one point and with howling winds where I could barely hear anything. The temperature we estimated to be at least -10 degrees. This is where I really needed the jacket to come through and it did with flying colours. I didn’t feel a breath of wind and my soft-shell and fleece under layers were completely dry when I got back to the hut. The storm hood didn’t move at all.
Whilst on the glacier it was breathable enough that I could wear it until an appropriate moment where I could stop and strip off some gear. A stinking hot glacier is no place for a hardshell in sunny conditions!
The only negative I really have is that for me the jacket is an inch or so short. On a couple of occasions when I lifted my hands above my head, the jacked lifted higher than I would have liked. I would love it if MD would listen to this feedback which I’ve read a few times, and lengthen the jacket to more of an expedition length. This is where the Alpha SV by Arc’teryx has it covered.
All in all the Mountain Designs Nimbus pro shell was probably my favourite piece of kit – and I spent thousands of Aussies on my gear so thats no small statement. It held up when it mattered and performed as advertised. When I got back home it was in perfect condition and looked exactly like it did when I pulled it off the shelf. I love my Nimbus jacket and it looks great too. I had heaps of comments on how good it looked – perfect feedback for stylish men in the Alpine.
Its a high end piece of Alpine gear which will serve you well for years if follow the care instructions. It will take a beating when it needs to and will be your armour in the worst of conditions. Although pricey – high quality gore tex is not cheap so don’t skimp on the bucks, the hardshell is not where you want to cheap out.
Pros: Attractive Hardshell, quality construction, can often be bought for 25% off, strong 70D Pro Gore construction, 40D in non abrasion zones, helmet compatible hood, easily accessible chest pockets.
Cons: A tad short which could potentially annoy some people if your hardshell pants happen to slip down. chest pockets may be too deep for some people. At 620gm some may find this jacket to be a bit heavy duty, but quality comes at a cost.