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.
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Marmot Kingpin Jacket: Versatile in Winter
Posted on: September 16, 2008
Weight: 1 pound, 8 ounces
It was a cold and (thankfully) dry season in the Swiss Alps—and while it was summer down in the valleys, it still felt very much like winter in the high mountains, where two guides and I led six climbers up the 13,425-foot Pollux, one of the fabled twins of the Alps near Zermatt, Switzerland.
Marmot's Kingpin Jacket was one of my staple pieces on the trip. The Kingpin's Polartec Wind Bloc membrane kept me warm and dry on summit days, and it easily dealt with the varying weather conditions found high up in the Alps.
On the morning of the Pollux climb, I left the warmth of my hut to the chilly predawn silence of a long, uphill, lightly snow-covered climb. I kept the jacket on as I moved on to the stop and go, cold and warmth, of several pitches. The Kingpin even kept me warm on the final stretch of Pollux's exposed and windy summit. It wasn't until I was halfway back to the tram that I finally slipped out of the softshell and embraced the sunny, T-shirt weather.
Although the stretchy, breathable Kingpin adjusted to a wide variety of temperatures in Europe, I decided early on it looked and felt too warm for summer alpine climbing in Washington's lower-elevated North Cascades mountain range. The Kingpin's DWR-coated, Polartec Windbloc fabric easily blocked wind and shed precipitation, eliminating the need to bring an additional shell or layer—a good thing, as it took up a surprising amount of room in my pack.
The Kingpin's other great features include a comfy, microfleece-brushed interior, helmet-compatible hood and sizable pit zips, which allowed me to dump heat without removing any layers. It also comes with a slew of little touches, like easily accessible pockets (even with a harness on) and a snug-fitting collar.
The cuffs are cut a bit too tight, however, and even with the Velcro undone, it's difficult to pull the sleeves over your gloves or even check your watch.
Overall this jacket is ideal for colder, higher-altitude alpine climbs like those found in the Canadian Rockies, Alps and Andes, making it an amazingly versatile jacket for cold-weather use.
Pros: Wide temperature range; good cut and fit; stylish look; Polartec Windbloc fabric easily blocks wind and sheds precipitation, eliminating the need to bring an additional shell or layer.
Cons: Bulky; cuffs too tight.