I love it when I get to test specialised gear in the appropriate environment, which is exactly what happened during this Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review. I was invited to a trip to the Scottish Highlands in September 2023 to see how the latest membrane innovation from Gore-Tex fares in harsh environments, especially up in the mountains surrounding the quaint little town of Aviemore.
Gore-Tex shells are regarded by many as the best waterproof jackets. The brand is synonymous with these types of garments, the same way people say 'GoPro' when they talk about action cameras or 'Hoover' when they mention vacuum cleaners. However, even if you've been using Gore-Tex jackets for decades, the membrane technology used for the Makalu Jacket is different from traditional Gore-Tex and uses what's called an ePE membrane, which is said to be lighter and thinner than the original Gore-Tex. It's more environmentally friendly, too.
Should you buy the Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket, even if you aren't planning an imminent trip to the mountains? Read my review below to find out.
[First reviewed October 2023]
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: price and availability
The Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket is available to buy now in women's and men's versions at Mountain Equipment UK and Mountain Equipment US (women's and men's) for a recommended retail price of £300/ $399.95 (approx. AU$ 574) – AU price and availability TBC.
Both come in four colours. The women's colourways are Spruce/Deep Teal, Majolica/Capsicum, Stellar/Majolica and Amethyst/Medieval. Men's colourways include Imperial Red/Crimson, Mykonos/Majolica, Dusk/Cosmos and Topaz/Majolica.
I tested the Imperial Red/Crimson version, which is the one I'd recommend for people planning on using the Makalu jacket for mountaineering. The bright red colours of the jacket would help you get noticed by rescue teams should you get in trouble up in the mountains.
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: specifications
- Type: shell
- Waterproofing technology: Gore-Tex with ePE membrane and FC-free DWR
- Waterproofing (HH): a minimum of 28,000 mm
- Breathability: less than 13 on the RET scale
- Pockets: 3 external, 1 internal, all zipped
- Pit zips: yes
- Durability: 3-layer construction with 75D face fabric
- Fit: Alpine
- Weight: 518g/ 18.27oz (tested, men's medium)
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: design and build quality
As the name suggests, Mountain Equipment is in the business of providing mountaineers with durable, weatherproof gear for inhospitable environments. Therefore, the Makalu Jacket is primarily designed for mountaineering, mountain walking and trekking and has several features to enable the garment and its user to survive in harsh conditions.
(This doesn't mean you can't wear it for walking the dog or going for a stroll in a nearby forest on a Sunday afternoon, of course.)
The unique selling point is most definitely the new Gore-Tex membrane called ePE. It's based on expanded Polyethylene (ePE), a light, thin and strong material that enables durable, waterproof, windproof and breathable performance. Gore-Tex claims ePE is PFC-free and has a reduced carbon footprint (per Higg MSI) achieved by its lower material mass and a new material combination.
The Makalu Jacket has what Mountain Equipment calls an Alpine Fit, which is between the tighter Active Fit and the roomier Mountain Fit. I wore the coat over a base layer and a fleece mid-layer, and the only area I would've appreciated some more room was under the armpits.
Pockets are aplenty, and they are also voluminous. You get two zipped hand pockets that are big enough to house maps, a zipped Napoleon chest pocket and even a laminated internal zipped chest pocket. All external pockets have YKK WR zips for added weather protection. (Mountain Equipment recommends putting your valuables in a waterproof pouch inside the pockets for maximum protection.)
The Mountain HC Hood is fully helmet-compatible but works well without one, thanks to the drawcord at the back that can be adjustable using one hand only. The hem cuffs and the hem are fully adjustable, too, to keep draft out of the jacket. The Makalu Jacket also has pit zips for extra ventilation when required.
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: performance
As mentioned above, I first tried the Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket in Scotland, in the mountains surrounding Aviemore. I found it fascinating that the temperature dropped so suddenly the higher you went. In town, we wore nothing but a t-shirt, and our fleeces zipped all the way down, but half an hour of ascent later, there weren't enough layers in the world to keep us protected from the wind and cold.
Which, of course, was the perfect playground to test the capabilities (and limitations) of the jacket, as the wind was quite literally blowing through our bones as we were going from ridge to ridge. And, not surprisingly, the Makalu Jacket did pretty well, keeping me protected from the gust. I liked the pockets that could hide my hands as well as my phone, etc., which was useful as I forgot to bring my cold-weather gloves with me.
The hood was extremely useful, and better still, I could test the helmet compatibility of the Mountain HC Hood during the mountain biking sections of the trip (it works perfectly). There wasn't tons of rain during the trip, but I managed to test the waterproofness of the Makalu Jacket after I returned home (the joys of living in the UK). As expected, the water rolls off the membrane without ever getting the chance to penetrate the outer shell.
At 518 grams, the Makalu Jacket isn't the lightest waterproof jacket on the market, but considering the protection it provides, it's pretty darn lightweight. Better still, it can be folded up easily and when in a ball, the jacket takes up very little space in your hiking backpack.
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: verdict
There is very little, if anything, to criticise about the Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket. It's a superb waterproof shell that will keep you protected from the elements in the mountains, where this jacket belongs. It can be used anywhere else, too, especially if you need a reliable, durable, waterproof shell for walking or cycling.
The innovative Gore-Tex ePE membrane does what it says in the box and provides ample protection from wind and rain without sacrificing breathability. The jacket has plenty of storage space and is adjustable to the nth degree to ensure the perfect fit in any environment.
I appreciate the reduced environmental impact of the jacket. The Gore-Tex membrane is FC-free, and the jacket's laminate construction is also bluesign-approved. Even more importantly, Mountain Equipment is a Fair Wear brand, meaning they are supposed to treat factory workers better.
Best of all, although it isn't cheap, the Makalu Jacket is far from super expensive and provides tons of benefits for its wearer. An excellent choice for the environmentally-conscious mountaineer/hiker/walker!
Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket review: also consider
The lightweight Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket uses a unique combination of technical materials to deliver warmth, waterproof protection and breathability. While it might not replace a full winter jacket, it does an excellent job in anything short of full winter, and for anyone looking for a low-weight, weatherproof single-piece garment, it’s well worth a look on that basis alone. Read Mark's full Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha Jacket review.
For something less expensive, check out Jack Wolfskin's Eagle Peak Waterproof Jacket. It's an excellent all-rounder that delivers in most situations – although it's only let down slightly by a lack of breathability. It can't compete with pricier technical options... but they're not always necessary. Read our full Jack Wolfskin Eagle Peak Waterproof Jacket review, also from Mark.