By Chris Barlow
It doesn’t take an advanced degree in journalism to know that when reviewing a product, the reviewer should use the product in the way it was intended, to test it under the circumstances for which it was designed, which is what I typically try to do. So, what do I do when I get a new rain layer, the Hyaction jacket by Mountain Hardwear for example, for a month-long desert climbing trip, and it doesn’t rain?
Don’t get me wrong: I had plenty of opportunities to put the Hyaction through the appropriate wringer on my desert adventure. I wore it up several big routes in Zion and Red Rock and a lot of rugged cragging near Moab, apparently as a wind-layer and to scare away the rain. Mountain Hardwear designed the Hyaction to be a lightweight jacket for technical climbing scenarios. It’s definitely a minimalist jacket, focused on the basics: fit, weatherproofing, and breathability. At nine ounces, it was an easy jacket to bring along on my desert escapades, just in case, and it was impressively compressible, barely taking up space in the pack.
A jacket this light, however, begs the question about durability. On my first day out with the Hyaction, I wore it up a route in Red Rock with substantial chimneying and offwidth and many other routes after. The fabric, while thin, is tough, and the jacket is put together with burly seams. Even after several months of deliberate abuse, the Hyaction shows minimal signs of wearing thin or coming apart. Likewise, while my very dry desert climbing didn’t test the jacket’s waterproofing, it did test its breathability, and in this respect the jacket performed well. Even on a long evening slog out of Oak Creek Canyon, I arrived at the car cool and dry.
The Hyaction’s greatest selling point, however, is probably the fit. It has a trim cut that fit my typical climber build (broad shoulders and relatively narrow waist) well. Whether swimming up a perfect hand crack, ratcheting up an offwidth, or slapping up a thuggy boulder problem, I could move easily and freely in the Hyaction. The waist of the jacket is cut low so that it wears comfortably under a harness. Another nice feature is the wrist sleeves, which seemed a little strange at first. These thin, stretchy sleeves, sewn inside the main jacket fabric, kept an excellent fit around my wrists without the need for tabs or loops. They have only a minor drawback in that I found it impossible to take the jacket on and off while wearing thin belay gloves.
I’ve noticed only a few minor details of the jacket that I don’t like. One is that there is no chest pocket. While the side pockets are oriented to be accessible when wearing a harness, I prefer to carry things (a bar or hat maybe) in the chest pocket. The other is that the main zipper is a bit finicky to get started. I often have to try three or four times to get the pin far enough into the slider to engage the teeth. Aside from that, all the zippers are relatively big gauges and are still working as well as they were on day one. The Hyaction does not have ventilation zips, which improves the jacket overall as it contributes to a simpler, lighter design.
The men’s Mountain Hardwear Hyaction jacket is available from Mountain Gear for $349.95.