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New for 2011: Stay dry on the inside with Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q jackets

Have you heard about Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q yet? After years and years of using Gore-Tex (like everyone else), Mountain Hardwear is making a big splash this year with their new waterproof/breathable technology. The reason this is a big deal, however, is how Dry.Q works, specifically the Dry.Q Elite jackets.

See, with existing waterproof/breathable jackets, you have to generate humidity inside the jacket before your water vapor can start to pass through the jacket. This means that, by the time your jacket starts breathing, you’re already clammy and uncomfortable… so you either take the waterproof jacket off, or open all of the zippers, or just deal being damp on the inside.

With Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite, the laminate is actually air-permeable, which means the moist air radiating from your body can actually move through the jacket in addition to the water vapor itself. The result is a jacket that breathes much more effectively, and one that starts breathing as soon as you start moving instead of having a delayed effect. The jackets are still windproof, but you don’t have to feel like you’re wearing a plastic bag.

For certain climates and weather conditions (for example, the humid American Southeast), this is a HUGE step forward for waterproof shells.

There are actually three versions of Dry.Q — the high-end Dry.Q Elite, Dry.Q Active for highly aerobic activities, and a value option called Dry.Q Core — but, since we’re focusing on Dry.Q Elite, here is a fancy diagram provided by Mountain Hardwear:



Got it? OK, good. Here are the Dry.Q Elite jackets for Fall 2011!

Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket (men’s)
Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket (women’s)

With the launch of Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite, the Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket is the flagship offering. This is a top-of-the-line alpine climbing jacket with a bomb-proof shell material; the 3-layer Dry.Q Elite is so breathable, this jacket features stretchy softshell panels in the sides instead of pit zips. Yes, it’s a hardshell that breathes so well, it doesn’t even need pit zips! All of the technical features you need for mountaineering, ski touring, ice climbing, snowshoe trekking, or whatever the heck you’re up to in the winter… but you can move fast without feeling hot and clammy inside your shell.


Mountain Hardwear Kepler Jacket (men’s)
Mountain Hardwear Zahra Jacket (women’s)

This one is really cool: a totally waterproof softshell jacket! Repeat: this is a waterproof soft shell. Thought that was an oxymoron, eh? Gone are the days when you needed a “crunchy” hard shell for seriously nasty conditions… now you can have a comfortable, flexible, stretchy jacket that just happens to be 100% weatherpoof, with sonically-welded seams and the high-end Dry.Q Elite laminate for superior breathability. It has all of the thoughtful, technical features of the hardshells, and the “butter jersey” cuffs are the most comfortable I’ve ever tried; this is a real breakthrough, and a legit backcountry shell jacket.


Mountain Hardwear Ampato Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Nazca Jacket

This jacket is a sleeper. What’s special about the Mountain Hardwear Ampato Jacket and Mountain Hardwear Nazca Jacket? Well, these hardshells feature the top-of-the-line Dry.Q Elite waterproof/breathable material… for $235! There is nothing else like these jackets at this price point, period. This is a two-layer Dry.Q Elite shell with a full, hanging liner for maximum comfort. If you’re primarily looking for the immediate breathability of Dry.Q Elite, but don’t need a super-technical mountaineering shell, this has your name written all over it. These don’t skimp on features, either, with full pit zips and adjustable hood & cuffs.


Mountain Hardwear Jovian Jacket

This style is available for men only, so I stuck it at the end of the list, but don’t be fooled; this is an exciting jacket. The Mountain Hardwear Jovian Jacket is their lightest Dry.Q hardshell, with a durable 3-layer construction and the same “always-on” Dry.Q Elite membrane. Mountain Hardwear has replaced their Gore-Tex Pro shell jackets with Dry. Elite jackets, and this is the technical hardshell that replaces the Optimo Jacket and/or Axial Jacket. Dry.Q Elite is air-permeable, which means it allows air to pass from inside the jacket the outside air, not just water vapor, keeping you comfortable and dry without sacrificing any of its windproof qualities.

Mountain Hardwear has a long history of pushing the technical apparel envelope, and we’re proud to be a complete Dry.Q dealer. In fact, Rock/Creek has all of these Dry.Q jackets available right now… so shop Mountain Hardwear at or come visit one of our stores!

  • Joe

    Have you guys at R/C been testing these? How do they actually perform here in the balmy Southeast? How are the overall waterproof characteristics of Dry.Q compared to Gore-Tex?

    • Joe, the jury is still out — these haven’t been here long — but we’ve been taking turns with a Drystein “demo” and it’s impressed everyone so far. I was hiking this weekend in the Cohuttas during all that rain, and wish I’d had it in hand to try out in a torrential downpour on a ~60 degree day!

      I’m taking my “turn” with it now, and can’t wait for nastier weather, and I’ll also be taking it backpacking in Utah in October; I’ll plan on a full review at that time. I will say, for sure, that my initial impression of the Mountain Hardwear Drystein is more favorable than my go-to hardshell (an Arc’teryx Beta AR, which is basically the best Gore-Tex Pro shell out there). The next time we get a good rain, I’m going to plan on hiking with both and swapping back and forth to compare the real-world breathability while on the trail.

      One thing that really stands out to us is that, if you put your hand on the inside of the sleeve of a Dry.Q piece and try to blow through the fabric onto your hand, you can feel slight amounts of air waft through. Somehow, the material cuts down on the actual “wind” of your breath, but the air breathes on in… which is exactly what you want to happen as your body generates heat. If you try this test with Gore-Tex, you don’t feel a thing. Not that we recommend visiting a Rock/Creek store and blowing on all of the jackets!

      I won’t pretend to understand how this technology works, but the “air permeable” aspect seems legit thus far, and the jacket is still windproof. Obviously that’s a big deal for those of us in the balmy southeast or other areas where the humidity outdoors can keep Gore-Tex laminates from working effectively. I’m optimistic that the Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite jackets will be more functional as a year-round shell, not just a winter piece that doesn’t translate to summer thunderstorm season.


  • joe

    Jeff, have you have a chance to test it out?

    • Sure have! I’ve now been able to use my Drystein in a variety of conditions, including the aforementioned Utah hiking and various activities here in the Southeast (though it’s worth noting it has been unseasonably warm here). It’s absolutely the most breathable hardshell I’ve ever worn, by a significant margin. It’s also the most comfortable. Honestly, it’s a game-changer, it works so differently than the stuffy jackets we’re all used to wearing. You’ll feel naked at first.

      That said, this is definitely an active piece, as if you’re just standing outside in a brutal wind you won’t enjoy the gentle convection of air through the jacket. It’s definitely meant for hiking, climbing, or active use. I’ve actually found that I can layer differently in my Drystein than in Gore-Tex; for example, I might grab a Patagonia R2 instead of an R1 as a mid layer because the shell itself isn’t trapping all that heat. I think we’ve all grown accustomed to wearing hardshells that create their own microclimate, as traditional ones trap so much heat and air and moisture, but the Dry.Q Elite doesn’t do this.

      It feels very different to wear this shell, and takes a bit of getting used to, but the end result breathes like a softshell and protects like the best hardshells. Ever since owning this jacket, whenever I try to hike or do anything active inside my favorite Gore-Tex Pro shell it just feels like a garbage bag. It’s remarkable how big the difference is.