SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

The Marmot Variant Jacket Fuses Insulation and Performance

A must-have jacket for the spring is the Variant by Marmot.  This crossbreeding of thermal insulation and Polartec PowerStretch fabric sets the Variant apart from its competition in the same hybrid category.  

While visiting the 2011 SIA Snow Show in Denver, it seemed as though all the large garment companies had a Variant-like jacket front-and-center.  So what’s the big deal?  Just another jacket, right?  Not entirely.

The difference with Marmot’s design is that the thermal insulation panels only appear on the front and not on the back.  If you wearing a backpack, this is an excellent feature – considering it would be easy for the panels to tear and suffer from over-abrasion. 

And the same applies to the side panels, where consistent arm movements could cause an extreme amount of wear-and-tear on the precious insulation. 

Marmot has stuffed its proprietary Thermal R Eco material in the insulation panels.  If you’re a fan of Marmot products, you may notice that the Thermal R Eco polyester insulation is engineered to meet various needs from sleeping bags, to garments, to gloves.  For the Variant, it’s an excellent mid-loft material that’s resilient and durable.

I love the Variant jacket because it’s form-fitting and exceedingly warm.  Of course, it boasts the usual Marmot brand qualities: Killer color combinations and the eccentric small, but detailed enhancements.  Behind its hybrid design, the Variant is a snowshoe excursionist’s answer to a non-bulky mid-layer and shield-like top-layer that keeps the cold air at bay.  Not a lot can permeate the Variant.

The Variant also stuffs into a pack without taking up too much space.  No doubt, it weighs practically nothing: one pound, 3.8 ounces.  Most of the weight can be found in the Polartec Power Stretch material that lines the side panels, back and sleeves.  In addition, the sleeves boast very helpful thumbholes and lightweight stretch binding at the cuffs (also located at the bottom hem).  

Incorporated within this full-zip jacket are front hand zip pockets and reflective logos.  All these features came in handy during a “once in a lifetime” full moon progressive dinner on snowshoes at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Colorado.  

As the temperatures dropped into the single digits – and the snow glowed in the moonlight – I coupled the Variant with an Icebreaker base layer.  While snowshoeing and exerting myself at a steady pace, the Variant offered the performance I expected. 

The Polartec kept my skin dry via three mechanisms on the Variant:

1. Breathable and non-restrictive so moisture vapor can move from the inside out

2. “Touch Points” on the fabric’s inner surface draws-off the sweat – wicking-away moisture that later evaporates from the surface

3. When the sweat reaches the outside of the fabric, it spreads out so it can dry two times faster than cotton

One aspect of the Variant that I need to bring to light is the issue of excessive polyester.  Fellow writer and Snowshoe Magazine contributor, Cameron Martindell, mentioned his concerns with static electricity – especially after trying the Variant at the SIA Snow Show.  Nonetheless, he enjoyed the Variant’s performance fit and stretching movement.

Polyester is notorious for its static problems – especially right out of the dryer.  And Cameron was correct: Static is an issue – the Variant is no exception.  Although many companies are using polyester fabric (and polyester hybrids), the static builds and builds with movement in dry, low humid conditions. 

But there is no need to fret.  Static will be an after-thought on the trail.  However, here are some tips to get rid of the static before it makes your hair stand on end:

  • Hand-wash the garment, rather than machine wash it
  • Hang the garment to dry completely
  • Once it’s dry, rub a metal cloths hanger thoroughly over the entire garment
  • Use skin moisturizer to prevent dry skin

And, yes, always wash your gear!  It will last longer…and you’ll stink less.

For more information about the Variant jacket, visit http://marmot.com/products/variant_jacket.  

To purchase the men’s Variant jacket, click here.  To purchase the women’s Variant jacket, click here.