REVISED: Ted R-D GoLite Wizard FR
- Further rewritten. Beware Yahooisms. May be found in test folder at
http://tinyurl.com/4rkp5 -- this text is preferred.
Field Report (the second of three reports)
My Initial Report may be viewed here.
Report Date: December 18, 2004
* Name: Edward Ripley-Duggan
* Age: 51
* Gender: Male
* Height: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
* Weight: 215 pounds (98 kg)
* Catskills, New York State
I enjoy walking in all its manifold forms, from a simple stroll in the
woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an extreme
ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to carry
a pack weight of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In recent years, I've
rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within the
constraints of budget and common sense.
Product information in brief
* Manufacturer: GoLite
* URL: http://www.golite.com
* Product: Men's Wizard Jacket
* Year of manufacture: 2004
* MSRP: $300
* Manufacturer's stated weight: 20 oz (570 g), for size large
* Measured garment weight (size XL): 21 oz (595 g)
* Color: Twilight
* Fabric: Alchemy3 main body
* External Pockets: two external, zipped, with mesh pocket bags
* Internal pockets: one small pocket for MP3 player or similar
* Main Zip: full front zip with chin guard
* Pit zips: one under each arm
* Hood: full, with slightly stiffened beak
* Drawcords: at hood and at waist
* Seams: taped
* Additional features:
* Integral SkullGlove balaclava in mesh pocket within garment
* Transparent panel (WatchWindow) on left sleeve for viewing
watch, altimeter etc.
* Converticuff partial mitts
Field and Test Information
For this field report, the GoLite Men's Wizard Jacket was used for a
mix of day hikes and overnight backpacking trips in the Catskill
Mountains, at elevations to 3900 ft (1190 m). Most of the hiking
involved off-trail excursions, "bushwhacks," and included a number of
the more difficult Catskill peaks. Minimal pack load was 12 lbs (5.4
kg) or so for day hikes and up to 28 lbs (11.3 kg) for backpacks. The
lowest temperatures experienced during the testing period were at
elevation at approximately 15 F (-26 C), with wind-chill in excess of
40 F (-40C). Most of the hiking involved at some traversing of light
snow or ice on the summits, although due to a generally mild November
and December there was overall less snow cover than usual. Still, most
of these hikes were done during what were unquestionably winter
conditions, and one backpack was undertaken in very severe weather.
The highest temperature at which the jacket was worn was around 50 F
Product Use and Performance
I received the jacket from GoLite in October, and immediately began
wearing it. First, I wore it simply for trips to the stores etc., in
order to get a sense of the functionality of the jacket. From
mid-November on (I was briefly out of commission with a hiking-related
injury), I used it on a mixture of trail hikes and bushwhacks to local
peaks. On average, I go out perhaps twice a week in the Catskills.
A typical trip was a bushwhack I took to Doubletop in November, which
is a lovely 3860 ft (1180 m) peak. I was wearing a long-sleeve merino
wool base layer and a Patagonia Puffball vest under the Wizard. This
was somewhat more insulation than the 25 F (-4 C) temperatures called
for, but I wanted to test the ability of the Alchemy3 fabric to
transport moisture. I find this one of the more difficult parameters
to judge, as I run hot when hiking and can work up a sweat in a
T-shirt on a cold day!
I was pleased to note that when I removed my pack the back of the
jacket was quite wet, indicating that moisture was indeed being
transported to the exterior of the Wizard shell. In addition, though
my wool base layer was a bit damp, the Puffball was mostly fairly dry.
As a result of this and other experiences with the jacket, I would say
that breathability in fairly low humidity conditions is good or
better. I will test it in wet conditions before the final report in
four months' time. Do note that I don't advocate over-dressing (a
common error among hikers, I've noted)this was strictly for testing
purposes. Usually, I dress to keep just warm enough while moving, and
layer up when stationary.
Also on this hike, I deployed the balaclava briefly while on the move.
This proved easy enough in lightweight gloves, although I have since
found that in mountaineering mitts it is a near impossibilitythey
must be briefly removed. I also used the ConvertiCuffs, but as already
noted in my Initial Report, they do not provide very good coverage.
They work very well as a palm-warmer and a wrist gaiter, but (perhaps
because my hands are fairly long) only in the direst of emergencies
would I consider deploying them fully. They simply do not provide a
sufficiently airtight fit to retain warmth, and the fingers, the most
vulnerable part of the hand, are most at hazard as the tips are close
to the opening.
I first noticed two significant issues on this hike, which other trips
only reinforced. First, the WatchWindow proved problematic. Even with
the cuffs deployed and out of the way and my wrist altimeter worn over
my base layer (if worn directly on the wrist it is always impossible
to glimpse through the window) a basic law of physics comes into play.
Naturally, the air trapped under the jacket is generally going to be
moist. The WatchWindow suffers from radiative coolingheat escapes as
radiation through the clear port to a greater extent than the
surrounding fabric, so the view-port is always slightly colder than
the surrounding area. The result is heavy condensation and, at colder
temperatures, sometimes slight frosting. This renders the WatchWindow
essentially useless, and creates a small cold-spot on the wrist.
What ultimately proved a far more significant issue was the front zip.
This is urethane-sheathed on the exterior, in order to provide good
weather protection. About four inches below the neck, the zipper
changes curvature slightly to form a neck-tube. Theoretically, with
the zipper all the way up, the chin tucks slightly against the top of
the zip (which has a fleece pad to avoid abrasion) and a cozy seal is
maintained. In practice, the combination of the curvature and the
urethane coating conspire to make it exceptionally difficult to pull
the zip all the way up. In addition, the draft flap tends to become
caught in the zipper, an added complication (pulling down on the front
hem of the garment and leaning the head back helps create enough
tension to minimize the risk of catching the fabric). If the zipper is
not fully closed, it becomes difficult to properly deploy the hood and
an opening is left for cold, snow or rain. I used graphite on the zip,
which helped slightly at higher temperatures.
In terms of size, layering did not prove an issue with the Wizard. I
experimented with various layers, and I was at various times able to
fit (over a base layer) a Marmot long-sleeve synthetic fill jacket
(model not known, but roughly akin to the Moonstone Cirrus), a
Mont-Bell ultra-light down inner jacket over a Puffball vest, as well
as other jacket combinations. The limit seems to be two layers, or one
heavy layer such as a down parka (the latter being, generally
speaking, way more insulation than I use). This, given the fact that I
am not exactly svelte, is altogether acceptable. I was at no point
forced to run cold, nor did the jacket become over-filled with layers
and restrict my movement.
The Wizard did prove strong enough for off-trail hiking. I pushed
through fairly dense spruce on occasion and was poked by the
occasional spruce-peg and battered with needles and branches, but the
shell seemed strong and was not punctured. At the same time, it is a
trifle unnerving using a $300 shell in these conditions and I would
propose wearing an old nylon jacket or something of the kind on very
Far and away the most extreme circumstances under which the jacket was
used was on a winter backpacking trip to the summit of Lone Mountain
(3721 ft, 1134 m), a bushwhack approach after a trail hike over
another (somewhat higher) peak, Peekamoose. Before leaving, I had
noticed that there was a wind-chill advisory from the National Weather
Service in effect indicating exceptionally low temperatures, but I
have to admit that I enjoy tricky winter conditions! In addition, this
seemed to be an excellent opportunity to give the Wizard a really
On the way up, the jacket performed well, shedding snow and wind.
Temperatures were around 15 F (-9 C). I made camp on the summit of
Lone, in the lee of the wind. The temperatures were, as anticipated,
dropping rapidly, and the wind was starting to come up. In addition,
it was snowing fairly heavily. After eating rather quickly, I piled
into my tent and spent a cozy night, periodically awake but lulled by
the sounds of wind and snow against the sides of the tent. The
temperatures within my little shelter dipped during the night to 5 F
(-15 C) or possibly lower (measured by the thermometer on my
altimeter). When I got up, it was hovering around -15 F outside (-26 C).
I breakfasted in my bag, and attempted to put on the Wizard over my
layers in order to go outside. The jacket was as stiff as a board.
Evidently, there had been enough moisture trapped in the shell fabric
to cause it to freeze solid. I had to huddle with it in my sleeping
bag to make the fabric sufficiently flexible to put on. Even then, I
had real problems with the ConvertiCuffs, which had become
extraordinarily stiff, and only by dint of hammering them out with my
fist could I get my arms through the sleeves. It should be noted that
my pants, a pair of fleece-lined soft-shells, remained perfectly
supple, whereas the fabric of the cuffs did not. This is a significant
issue, in my estimation. In future, under such conditions, I will be
forced to keep the jacket in my sleeping bag along with my water etc.,
in order to ensure that it is sufficiently pliant.
Further problems emerged with the zipper. It was now absolutely
impossible to close at the neck, even with some force applied. This
meant that I could not properly deploy the hood, although it would
stay up after a fashion. In addition, even with the Wizard's
SkullGlove balaclava in place, my neck was rather exposed, so I
hastily added a down layer (I was wearing a vapor barrier shirt and so
was not concerned with the down becoming damp). I was, given the
difficult temperatures, not pleased with this turn of events. Weather
of this order is potentially dangerous and equipment failures are not
to be taken lightly. As it was, in an unguarded moment I removed my
mitts to fold a tent pole and almost immediately got early-stage
frostbite (fortunately, I caught it within seconds and no apparent
damage was done).
The return trip was interesting, even enjoyable, although the winds
were ferocious along the ridgelines. The balaclava kept my head warm
(it was sometimes augmented with a hat), and the hood could be
deployed reasonably well to keep driven snow off my face, even though
the jacket was not zipped fully. We made it back to the car in good
shape. It was at this point that I found my beard (a short one) had
become welded to the balaclava, which was so stiff with condensate
that I could barely flex it. As the balaclava is sewn in, I could not
take the jacket off until I had sat with my chin over one of the car's
heating vents for four minutes. This sounds slightly hilarious (and
indeed, I was laughing about it), but had it happened in the
backcountry with a second night's camping ahead I would have to have
either attempted warming my chin near the stove (rather risky) or
taken scissors to my beard! I've never had a balaclava freeze up in
this manner before.
Once I got home, I called GoLite, whose representative was sympathetic
and helpful. We primarily discussed the zipper, as that was the single
most important issue. I am returning the Wizard and will be receiving
a new one shortly. My hope is that the problem I was experiencing was
the result of a slightly defective zip. I will report on whether the
replacement was an improvement in my next posting in four months time.
Two further points worthy of note:
1. The waist drawstring functioned well. I was able to tighten it
sufficiently well that I was able to carry a couple of quarts of water
(approximately two liters) against my chest, so that it would not
freeze too badly. The relatively short jacket length did prove a minor
issue, in that the down layer I was wearing had to be tucked up
inside, but I can't say that this struck me as a significant
inconvenience and my comfort was not affected.
2. The fabric of the jacket has (so far) withstood pack-strap abrasion
well, and has not caused the straps to slip unduly.
If the problem with the zipper is resolved by replacement, one major
objection to this jacket for cold weather use will be addressed. The
difficulties with the freezing of the jacket can be easily resolved on
winter backpacks by putting the jacket in my bag. The problem with the
balaclava is a little harder to address, and I may simply not use it
on very cold days. However, the adhesion may be prevented by use of a
heating pad and I will experiment with this. Despite these
disappointments and some other reservations expressed in the
paragraphs above, I think the jacket does have promise as an alternate
to a heavy Goretex shell, which is poundage I prefer not to carry,
provided my safety is not compromised.
Good breathability in cold weather
ConvertiCuffs form a good wrist gaiter and keep snow out
Strong fabric for the body of the garment, can withstand fairly heavy use
The fabric used for the cuffs and balaclava, which becomes inflexible
The stiffness of the zipper (though this may not generally be an issue)
WatchWindow does not have real functionality
Future Testing Strategy
A number of questions posed in the Initial Review have already been
answered by the field test. However, many remain, and will be examined
over the months to come.
1. I will conduct further experimentation with the pit zips and mesh
pockets to examine venting ability. How waterproof are the zippers ?
Does the replacement jacket have a smoothly operating front zipper?
How detrimental is cold to the operation of that zipper, and the
jacket zippers generally?
2. The Alchemy3 textile has, so far, withstood some heavy wear. Will
it continue to do so? Does it lose its waterproof/breathable ability
with wear or soiling? How well does the laminate on the shoulders
continue to hold up to the rubbing of pack straps?
3. How breathable is Alchemy 3 in wet conditions?
4. Over what temperature range is the shell alone adequate?
5. Does washing interfere with the waterproofing or the breathability
of the fabric? Will it indeed be necessary to renew the DWR coating
periodically (customer service indicated this might be a good idea)?
I thank BackpackGearTest and GoLite for permitting me to participate
in this very interesting test.