The Meru GORE-TEX jacket is part of The North Face’s Summit Series, built for seriously rugged pursuits. So while its technical details are aimed for the needs of mountaineers and peak-baggers, the Meru jacket boasts plenty of perks for the slightly less ambitious snowshoer. Particularly those who fall into one of two categories: the perpetual water-logged resident of the Pacific Northwet or long-haul trekkers with a stormy agenda. But even the recreational showshoer will appreciate the hardworking technical performance found in the Meru, thanks to the relatively new GORE-TEX Active Shell construction.
The Active Shell laminate is ultra-thin and ultra-light for highly active sports. The entire jacket tips the scale at roughly 11 oz., but you won’t feel robbed of any of GORE-TEX’s signature features, like impermeable waterproofing or stellar breathability. (In a nutshell, tiny GORE-TEX pores in the jacket’s membrane allow trapped heat vapors to escape but don’t allow water or snow to enter.) So whether you’re trapped in soggy conditions created by you or Mother Nature, the Meru shell does a dang good job of keeping you dry in the most critical situations – as was demonstrated by a recent trip to rainy Seattle, as well as a half-day trek up Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Staying true to its design philosophy to accommodate big ascents and big packs, The North Face stripped the Meru of any non-essential details, like pit zips or media pockets, to save on weight. But if you’re ditching your urban walk for the seclusion of a backcountry ‘shoe, those are traits you won’t miss. The extra-large chest pockets are backpack-friendly – meaning you access your goods by reaching across with your opposite hand. Sure, it’s not entirely convenient for shoving your hands in your pockets, but its large capacity has the ability to store most of your biggest essentials within easy reach. Silicone shoulder grips are strategically used to keep your pack comfortably in place without shifting, and an extra-large storm hood is helmet compatible if you choose to, say, swap your snowshoes for skis on the descent.
In testing this jacket, it’s worth noting that its alpine fit, which boasts a tapered cut, is surprisingly roomy. I tend to size up when it comes to hard shells, given the addition of a few, thick layers underneath, but it still left me with plenty of mobility to move my arms without constriction. The cut also sits lower, below the hips, for more weather coverage.
While The North Face Meru jacket may be suited for high alpine adventurists, its lightweight, waterproof and breathable construction is exactly what any snowshoer should seek in a technical shell. If your top priority is saving weight or staying dry in the face of wet weather, the Meru does both efficiently and effectively.
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