Many hikers yearn for a jacket that hits that sweet spot: a lightweight, technical jacket that not only performs well in the mountains but is equally at home in the city. The Kuhl Jetstream jacket certainly ticks the right boxes but does it live up to this promise? I’ve been testing it to find out.
At first glance the Jetstream hiking jacket seems to have all the right credentials. It’s made with a highly waterproof and breathable 2.5 layer fabric (Airskape) that comes with a 20K waterproof rating. All seams are steam-sealed and water-resistant zips are used on the front, chest and hand pockets. The jacket is made with woven ripstop nylon that gives stretch and strength, topped with a clear hydrophilic membrane that’s breathable but also disperses any moisture so the fabric dries faster.
So its high-performance credentials would appear to be up to a soggy day in the hills. But is it suitable to be worn on your local commute as well as on a mountain summit?
In my experience it certainly is. The Jetstream fabric is soft to the touch, lightweight (the medium-sized test jacket weighed in at 307g) and it packs up small. There are five, fairly muted colour combinations (mine is pirate blue, similar to a dark denim shade) which won’t stand out like a sore thumb on the station platform. The jacket is nicely shaped, with five-panel articulated sleeves that add to its comfort. I found the cuffs to be a close rather than a tight fit, with some ‘stretch’ to the fabric. So while there aren’t velcro or elasticated fastenings the cuffs certainly keep draughts and water out. There’s a generous hood with a reinforced brim and an eye-lock adjuster at the rear, although no roll-away fastening.
The Kuhl company’s brand strapline is ‘born in the mountains’, having emerged in 1990 from Utah. It makes a range of outdoor lifestyle clothing for men and women and according its website, Kuhl’s staff all have an outdoor passion, whether it be for skiing, moutaineering, backpacking, cycling or global travel. I first noticed their products about three years ago and have since bought a pair of Rydr trousers and a pair of Renegade shorts, both stylish and hardwearing. The Jetstream is clearly well-designed and fits well into this outdoor lifestyle brand image.
I found the medium size a fairly generous fit without being overly roomy. It’s comfortable to wear, the fabric being soft and flexible. At a fraction over 300g I really like its low weight. It’s the kind of jacket you would easily take in your rucsac in fine weather ‘just in case’ without weighing you down. A neat feature is the way the right hand pocket becomes a stuff-sac complete with hanging loop. The Jetstream then packs down to a respectable 20 x 15 x 10cm.
I’ve been testing it throughout the summer and early autumn. On a wet day’s backpacking in the Cairngorms in September it proved a great rain jacket, keeping me warm and dry, with the rain beading off the outer membrane. I did find the size of the hood a little too generous though. Even with the drawcord adjusted at the rear it felt a little too big and I would have liked the peak to be much stiffer to keep the rain away from my face. All in all, the hood felt a little too ‘flappy’ to use comfortably on windy summits.
Not only have I used the jacket when out walking and backpacking but I’ve been wearing it on a daily basis for work and commuting. It certainly is multi-functional, being stylish and comfortable in the city while also being a practical, high-performance jacket in the mountains.
There are compromises to be made when designing a jacket like this of course. Its lightweight materials, while great for the daily commute, are not up to all-season wear. This isn’t therefore the jacket I’ll be reaching for when temperatures drop towards freezing and I’d recommend it only for 2-3 season use when outdoors in Scotland.
One fairly significant drawback is that the two chest pockets are too small for OS maps. I like to have a map handy at all times and find it too unwieldy to have to store a map in my rucsac. The pockets are certainly large enough for a wallet or a pair of gloves, but not for convenient map reading.
The other gripe I have – though less significant – is the front zip. I’m presuming this is down to US convention but the zip pull is on the right hand rather than the left hand side which would be the norm for mens’ jackets in the UK. It’s not a huge issue that the zip feels as though it’s on the ‘wrong’ side, and not enough to put me off wearing the jacket, but just mildly disconcerting.
The Jetstream is a very capable multi-functional jacket suitable for walking, backpacking and camping at the weekend, yet smart enough to wear around town on a daily basis. It’s not without its drawbacks though, particularly the hood that’s a little too ‘flappy’ and small-sized chest pockets. For the UK climate I’d be happy wearing this between March and October.
What I liked:
- Lightweight (307g) and packing up into a small pocket/stuff sac
- Highly waterproof, with water-resistant zips and steam seams
- Comfortable fit
- Muted colour combinations
- Multi-functional – at home in the city and in the mountains
What I wasn’t so keen on:
- Over-generous hood and lack of stiffness to the peak
- Chest pockets too small for a map
- Front zip on the ‘wrong’ side (for UK males)
The Kuhl outdoor clothing range is available in various outlets including Tiso, Blacks and Go Outdoors.
Note: The Jetstream jacket was provided to me to review for free by Kuhl. I have no connection with the company. I have provided an honest and impartial review based on my personal experience in using it.