Another Sleepmonsters Review. Ok lightweight jacket, shame about the hood…
The Essence Jacket is a super lightweight waterproof shell designed for weight critical activities like short adventure races, biking, endurance races and speed climbing. It’s made from Marmot’s new PreCip Plus, their “most advanced” fabric yet, designed for high aerobic sports and situations where breathability is critical.
The theory behind the fabric’s breathability is its “unique” microporous polyurethane barrier that is impregnated with silicon dioxide (sand) particles to create many small consistent holes that allow small water vapour molecules to pass through but not larger liquid ones. This sounds to me like the successful Triple Point Ceramic fabric that Lowe Alpine have used for years, but Marmot have aimed for super low weight and compressibility rather than durability. It certainly ticks the low weight and compressible boxes stuffing easily into a water bottle or cycle jersey pocket and weighing only 280 grams.
The jacket is designed to fit over fleece or soft shell underlayers so is sized slightly larger than normal, but still retains an athletic fit. The shoulders feature an ‘Angel Wing’ design, allowing a full range of motion without the jacket riding up when reaching for climbing holds or stretched out on the road bike. With an adjustable elastic drawcord on the hem it really doesn’t budge when you need to use a bit of body language. Cuffs are non-adjustable but are elasticated with enough stretch to pull up over your elbows if required. A pair of large internal mesh pockets are supposed to be pack friendly but because the mesh is so deep a pack waist belt stops you getting your hand down to any contents at the bottom, though opening up the pockets does add a ventilation option.
The fabric has so far impressed with its waterproofness and the water repellent coating is still working well. However, despite claims and some figures provided to ‘prove’ breathability, real world testing says it gets out of its depth pretty quickly when working a sweat up. Let’s be honest, there are very few waterproof jackets that can cope with the amount of moisture generated when working hard, but the Essence does seem to get rather clammy rather quickly, even when just sauntering along with my dogs. Bear in mind that all jackets of this type, with a polyurethane coating on the inside, will feel damp as moisture vapour condenses on the surface before being passed through the barrier along molecular chains or through pores, only a mesh hanging liner or other inner layer will stop this damp feeling, but will add weight and reduce packability. Swings and roundabout as always.
The weight, fit, and waterproofness (so far) of this jacket are definite positives, unfortunately, the hood is a real let down. The volume adjustment iswoeful and the small tab of velcro on the back of the hood that should allow you to tighten it snug against the head, is pitiful. It doesn’t hold under any force, such as moving your hard in any direction, and the tab is so small anyway that there is minimal adjustment there anyway. Tighten down the drawcords at the front to pull the hood around your face and the back velcro will rip open. Use it in the wind and you are asking for a soaking as it billows up big time. The slightly stiffened peak would be alright if the volume adjustment on the back was better but as it is the peak flops down over your face. With some improvement this could be a good value, featherweight waterproof, but at the moment I wouldn’t want to use it for anything other than emergency use or as a backpacking/travelling jacket.