A note about my gear reviews. I buy all the items I review. I don’t get given them or get them pro deal in return for a review or a mention on my blog. Now we’ve got that out the way read on…
So I’ve been using the Mixmaster for a couple of seasons now; both in the Cascades in winter and on larger peaks elsewhere. I bought it to replace my aging Buffalo Mountain Shirt after the jacket got a mention in one of Andy Kirkpatrick’s gear reviews. The Buffalo shirt and bibs have been a mainstay of mine for years, they’ve accompanied me on many fine adventures. They’re the original softshell and still take a lot of beating in my opinion. However you can’t buy them in the US and a replacement was needed. If the Buffalo has a fault it’s that the Pertex outer is not very abrasion resistant.
What I was after was an insulated softshell with a hood big enough to fit over a helmet and pockets designed to work with a harness. You’d have thought that I’d be spoilt for choice but in fact the field is pretty narrow. Most soft shells aren’t insulated and don’t have hoods. The Mixmaster has both and for cold weather climbing completely fits the bill. The drawcord and velcro closures around the hood allow you to lock things down tight when the weather really sucks. I’d actually prefer the zip to come a bit higher as there’s a cold spot in between the zipper and velcro tabs but that’s a very minor gripe.
Like most softshells it’s pretty abrasion resistant and has survived its fair share of grovelly rock pitches already. The jacket has clean lines without much to snag on anything and the cuffs have velcro closures on them that keep any spare material out of the way. In general the cut of the jacket is great for actually climbing, as opposed to walking around the mall.
- A hood. If it doesn’t have a hood then it’s not going to cut it in cold alpine conditions. Hoods are an efficient way to keep the warmth in and the fear out. A hood also keeps spindrift from getting down your neck.
- Long back. The Mixmaster is cut long in the back, a bit like a snowboard jacket. This means that it doesn’t ride up and expose the small of your back when climbing.
- Napoleon pocket on the outside for keeping small items handy.
- Patagonia’s sizing is a bit off for me. A medium is too short in the arm but large is too big around the waist. I’m not the only person who’s found this.
- The crotch clip seems somewhat superfluous. The Buffalo had the same feature and I never used that either. Typically if you are wearing a climbing harness this prevents the jacket from riding up.
- Small mesh inner pocket isn’t really much use if you ask me. I’d rather have a loose mesh pocket on the bottom for stashing gloves like the Micro Puff jacket and DAS parker.
I typically take three to four layers with me. A Smartwool Shadow Hoody as a base layer, Mixmaster jacket, Patagonia Micro Puff jacket and a super lightweight hardshell. If it’s really cold I also wear a Marmot Power Stretch farmer john* over the base layer. I climb in the Mixmaster and use the Micro Puff as a belay layer. I don’t really have anything bad to say about this system – it rocks.
Just add sub zero temps, long runouts and a few mediocre bivvi spots and you’re ready for more alpine fun and games.
* It looks like Marmot no longer makes this but Mountain Hardware sell something similar.