Tested in the Cairngorms

Used extensively by Cairngorm Treks throughout Autumn and Winter 2017/18 in the Mountainous areas of the Cairngorms and Skye.

The Thundershadow Jacket is extremely lightweight (285g) for what Mountain Hardware claims to be a reliable and quality waterproof, packing up nicely and easily fitting into some of the smallest nooks in a crammed rucksack. This is instantly noticeable, as when we first held the jacket we were astonished at just how small this jacket could actually pack down to bearing in mind the amount of features it includes are more typically found on a full weight shell jacket. The material feels thin but by no means delicate. Made from VaporDry 40D 2.5L Stretch Ripstop, this promises to be a flexible, waterproof and breathable jacket to act as a shield against most mountain weather conditions. It certainly then ticks all the boxes but how would it perform on the hill? We were a little skeptical as with previous jackets that promise so much there is usually a snap somewhere.

Because of its ultra lightweight nature, the ThunderShadow Jacket is a pleasure to wear – extremely comfortable, feeling almost non-existent when compared to other hardshell jackets. The fit is good and there’s a decent amount of stretch, meaning movement isn’t hindered and again, this contributes to its ‘absent’ nature.

Where this jacket excels is its accessibility from the bag in times of need. We found that even on very calm warmer days the Thundershadow was almost non-existent being packed away in the rucksack. As anyone who heads into the mountains a jacket is an essential piece of safety equipment which should always accompany you even if a forecast of favorable weather is predicted.

Within Britain we all know how weather prediction can be underestimated so the Thundershadow fits the role of a jacket you can count on which also isn't a bag filler! In intermittent wet weather, performance is good and the breathability of the VapourDry fabric means that clamminess is minimal. There are also underarm vents that offer additional airflow in those sweaty uphill moments. Although, when used throughout a day of prolonged heavy rain, breathability was reduced and moisture was present in a few areas. If a trek with heavy rain predictions is forecast for single day use it will be sufficient but you may want to take a heavier weight jacket for multi-day use. While the jacket is windproof, it certainly isn’t warm, and in fairness this is something we expected from a jacket this light. Pairing with a mid-layer such as a down jacket is advisable for cooler weather and the fit of the jacket allows this without compromising its comfort or flexibility. We are sure Mountain Hardware thought about this in the construction of the Thundershadow.

From a practical perspective, the minimalistic design is good, with no dangling toggles or excessive zippers to get caught. If you use a waist or chest strap on a rucksack, this is a welcome design feature. The zips are all water resistant and the large pockets make a stashed map and compass easily accessible when wearing a rucksack or harness. The breast pocket is also a handy feature and can store a regular sized mobile phone or bank cards/cash comfortably.

The hood is excellent, being fully adjustable at the back of the head and around the face with minimal fuss, with a wired peak for added shelter. Once adjusted, it is as comfortable as the rest of the jacket and the high neck means that you feel well protected from the elements. The wrists have a simple Velcro adjustment – a tried and tested solution for quick and easy alteration that works well.

Our Verdict

For a lightweight hardshell, the ThunderShadow Jacket performs very well. Its comfort is exceptional and is almost reason enough to justify keeping it as part of your trusted kit, made up of a thin material which we can honestly say has been more reliable than quite a few of its much heavier more expensive competitors. Effortlessly packed away if needed and easily paired with a warm mid-layer, this can be a jacket for almost every occasion offering excellent resistance to wet weather.

Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...

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