Testing A Softshell – The Jack Wolfskin Impulse Jacket
Jack Wolfskin, a worldwide, high quality German outdoor clothing and equipment company got in touch with Opinionated World a few weeks ago and asked us if we’d like to test out some of their kit. Since it’s usually me asking companies to throw products our way, I was pretty surprised to receive such a request but of course I accepted immediately. A couple of weeks later, I received their Impulse Jacket.
The Impulse Jacket, a lightweight soft-shell jacket weighing in at just below 400g in size small (410g for a large) arrived in their ‘Tarmac Grey’ colour. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? Especially when you compare it to the ‘Electric Blue’ or ‘Red Fire’ they also have in their range. Best of all though, and the one I didn’t see (darn!) is ‘Phantom’ which is more of a charcoal colour and looks very stealthy. The options do actually reflect the jacket colours quite well. Though the tarmac coloured jacket is actually a light grey (presumably they were going for the old, heat baked tarmac look), the red and blue come with polarised sunglasses to prevent you from blindness.
The red is vibrant enough to allow you to be seen from more than 400 miles away on a clear day and the blue wouldn’t allow you to hide even against the brightest ice-wall. If you’re looking for a statement colour, those two are surely for you. Not me though, I prefer a jacket that’s functional but can also be worn any time, with any clothes. Red fire and Electric Blue simply don’t go well with sandy brown chino’s!
It’s obvious to see that this is a soft-shell jacket, even when you’re far away. It’s so smooth, so soft it’s almost like a matte finish. It’s a light absorber, nothing reflects off it. Apart from the wind, that bounces off like the springiest rubber band ball you’ve ever seen. Not that you can see the wind, but you get my point.
I tested this jacket in very windy, very cold conditions during a gusty minus three morning and I felt nothing. Underneath, I had a thin-t-shirt and a micro-fleece. I should’ve been wearing a thicker and warmer jacket but it turns out I simply didn’t need it. I tend to stay relatively warm in all light jackets as long as I’m wearing a fleece below but I do tend to feel the cut of the wind sometimes. With this, I felt nothing. The wind really did just bounce off. My head was cold, my ears frozen and a hat was required – as were gloves – but my core remained warm.
I completed a fast paced 14 mile hike (at 4mph) with the zip always three-quarters of the way up. The breathability of the jacket is pretty good for something that lets nothing in. The inside is mesh lined and Jack Wolfskin label the material as ‘winddicht’, ‘Extrem atmungsaktiv’ and ‘wasserabweisend’. None the wiser? They say the jacket is windproof, extremely breathable and water repellent.
I can vouch for the first two but unfortunately, on the five separate occasions I took this jacket out, I was never rained on once so I can only give you a guide as to how I believe it will perform in a downpour. The material gives the impression that it would absorb like a sponge, but knowing how other soft-shells perform and their intended use, this definitely isn’t going to be the case. Based on the handful of reviews you can find on this jacket, it seems to hold up very well. I imagined a light to medium shower would be fine and anything else would see you get a bit of a soaking. Supposedly, it ‘repels water droplets’ but I imagine it has its limits.
Jack Wolfskin say the material is a Stormlock O₂ Softshell Laminate which, combined with the macroporous membrane, makes it 50% more breathable than the ‘normal’ Stormlock softshells. Essentially, wind stays out, circulation is high and moisture is allowed to escape.
So what about the other details? The jacket has five pockets – two spacious ‘hand pockets’, two chest pockets and a smaller pocket on the left arm which I have yet to find a use for. On that subject, what do you guys use those arm pockets for? Four out of the five pockets are mesh lined, with the arm pocket of course being the exclusion. I have a bit of a problem with mesh pockets, having had two separate pairs of trousers needing them to be re-stitched to close the holes up. These pockets do appear to be significantly stronger however, the material is clearly thicker and much more resistant to being ripped by something rough.
The pockets all have zips with long string pullers and textured grips, which allows you easier access with gloves on or even in the dark. The cuffs are adjustable with a plastic-rubber closure system with which I found no problems securing. Unlike my Karrimor Elite Alpiniste where they seem to pop open quite regularly. The bottom of the jacket has a drawcord system, with a toggle at the front on either side of the zip. I found this to be a well implemented adjuster, allowing the material to crease only slightly but crucially, not fold. I hate it when that happens! Of course, if you were to pull the cords out a long way, you’d inevitably end up with folds, but for the small amount I usually tweak them, I didn’t come across this problem.
The hood fits nicely, none of the ‘helmet compatibility’ stuff that makes the hood much taller and flopper than it needs to be. The toggles at the front of the hood pull it in mostly from the back, which pulls it nice and tight around the back of your head and it even stays pretty well in place with the zip un-done some of the way.
I found the jacket to fit quite nicely, though I could’ve done with the front being ever so slightly longer. It’s just about right, but any shorter and I would have found it annoying. Though, I do always buy clothes so that they’re not going to be at all baggy. I found my movement completely un-restricted, with the material stretching as it’s supposed to. The zips on the jacket are frankly brilliant. They’re the smoothest zips I’ve ever encountered – all moving up and down perfectly each time with zero stick. The main zip attaches and moves perfectly every time. It’s a rare occurrence with outdoor jackets that the zips work so nicely, but these do.
In terms of aesthetics, I’m a little un-decided. If I were to choose again, I’d probably pick the ‘Phantom’ colour which is much darker. Outdoor clothing manufacturers all seem to be going the same way with the chest contrast pockets and I’m not sure of the reason why. Its function, material and position is the same as the one on the other side, yet they have them in a totally different colour. This shows up most on the grey and red versions, where the right chest pocket is pure black – the arm pocket is too. It’s something I wish they’d steer clear of because I honestly don’t see a reason for it.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this jacket – for it’s lack of weight, the way it keeps out wind and for the quality of the zips, plus the fact that it’s incredibly soft! The price-tag may put some people off, but let me remind you:
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.