The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
The rest of the MS Team
Go Anywhere with Patagonia's Stretch Element Jacket
Posted on: July 22, 2006
We love this hardshell. This winter we wore the men's and women's Stretch Element in all conditions, from touring in Grand Teton National Park to competing in the Jackson Hole Freeskiing Open. It is one of the best all-around jackets out there, warm enough for cold days in the winter and light enough to wear during cool evenings in the spring and summer. Featuring stretchy panels in the elbows and across the shoulders, and utilizing Patagonia's new seamless construction, the Stretch Element provides full-on storm protection at what feels like half of the bulk.
Full-featured with pit-zips, a helmet-compatible hood and chest pockets for stashing an energy bar or headlamp, this jacket excelled in a far wider range of conditions than any other hardshell we've worn. Many times this winter when we might otherwise have chosen a softshell, the Stretch Element made the cut because of its lightweight and bomb-proof weather protection. The only complaint is that the waterproof zipper—a great feature that eliminates the unwieldy Velcro flap of older models—takes time to break in before running smoothly. But from huddling inside its generous hood on the Grand Teton to hiking for turns with all the zips pulled open, this jacket saw as wide a range of conditions as we did this year, and performed well in all of them.