Review: Mountain Hardwear Quark Jacket

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Oh, those dreary, drizzly days of autumn, mist and rain making puddles, soaking golden leaves, keeping you indoors when all you want is to go outside and play. But a good rain shell can change that. Indeed, with the right jacket wet weather does not need to slow you down.

A shell I’ve come to prefer for hiking and general outdoors use, the Quark Jacket from Mountain Hardwear, is marketed as “mosquito netting with a waterproof and breathable laminate.”

What this refers to is a proprietary Mountain Hardwear nylon called Incite that’s about as thin and light as bug netting — purportedly weighing just 1.7 ounces per square yard — though coated with a sweat-wicking waterproof membrane.

The resulting jacket, which comes in men’s and women’s builds, weighs scant ounces though does the same basic job of keeping raindrops out as well as a rubbery yellow slicker.

Mountain Hardwear Quark Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Quark Jacket

Make that a better job, as the Quark has some stretch and breathes when you sweat, letting you hike or pedal a mountain bike regulated and unencumbered by the clothing keeping you dry.

On my scale, the men’s Quark in size large weighs 9.3 ounces, which is half the weight of some competing rain coats. It packs and rolls to the size of a large bean burrito for easy storage in a backpack or bike bag.

All these magic features do not come cheap, as the Quark goes for $200 on www.mountainhardwear.com. It sells for less than $150 on some online retailers.

This steep price includes the aforementioned waterproofness plus a fabric that wicks sweat during moderate exercise. Do a hard run in the Quark — or any waterproof jacket, for that matter — and droplets of moisture inside the fabric are almost guaranteed. No breathable shell I’ve ever used can compete with my sweat generation on an intense run.

But for moderate activity, the Quark feels airy and breathable. It has pit zips to add ventilation if needed.

The hood is large enough to fit over most helmets. Cinched up, it can fit tight and move with your head as you look left or right. A wide brim shields raindrops from the eyes.

Another cool feature is this coat’s welded seams. The sleeves, hood, pockets and other components are not stitched with needle and thread but welded on fabric-to-fabric, saving weight and making the shell easier to keep watertight.

I bring a light shell like the Quark with me at most times in the outdoors as emergency protection against foul weather. It sits in my pack on long hikes or mountain climbs, rarely used during most adventures, though always there and ready should the clouds swell up and turn gray in a sad attempt to wreck my day.

Update: A week after writing this column, the Quark jacket had a critical product failure when the zipper broke during a climb on Kings Peak. in Utah. Indeed, with no snaps or Velcro, I was unable to secure the shell shut, leaving me vulnerable if the weather had turned bad. Though I think I was to blame for the breakage — I yanked on the zipper at home when it snagged, unwittingly cracking a bottom tooth — the scenario has reinforced a realization with me about durability disadvantages in ultra-light gear.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

Posted by René Jeninga - 11/11/2008 05:45 AM

Does this jacket have a roll-away hood?

Posted by seamallowance - 11/14/2008 12:00 PM

Do NOT buy a Quark jacket!

First of all, good luck even finding one, and only a few retailers bothered to buy them. These pieces are like TNF’s electric vest: meant only for publicity, not for actual sales.

Second of all, the welded seams on this item cannot withstand being machine washed. Welded seams are a nightmare for MHW’s warranty department.

This piece is an overpriced, flimsy glorified windbreaker. Shame on Mountain Hardwear for hyping this piece of “vaporwear”. Shame on their Marketing and Publicity departments for having no integrity.

Shame on Mountain Hardwear: once, they were the best, now they are just marketing overpriced crap for Gert Boyle and Columbia Sportswear, their owners.

Posted by Gear Junkie - 11/20/2008 10:42 PM

To René Jeninga: No roll-away hood.

To seamallowance: I disagree with most of what you say. But the price is quite high, agreed.

Posted by René Jeninga - 11/21/2008 01:51 AM

On the Mountainhardwear site by the specifications of the Quark jacket it says: Attached, roll-away, Ergo hood with laminated brim ??? So this is false information!?

Posted by seamallowance - 11/21/2008 06:15 AM

To Gear Junkie: My comments are absolutely 100% correct and come from actual experience with the company’s product, not the fantasies of the Steamboat-Springs-based marketing person. These pieces have nearly a 100% return rate and were sold in minuscule numbers. They never really intended for this item to sell in significant units. More publicity for what they call the “2%” pieces means that they sell more generic fleece boring-wear to the other 98%.

I know that you are old friends with the various PR department’s women (and they are ALWAYS women). Don’t be the outdoor industry writers version of a “beltway insider”. Your readers expect more.

Posted by QUARK-owner - 03/23/2009 02:03 AM

This is to seamallowance. Do you even own this jacket? I didn’t think so because I do – for a year now. It’s the best three season shell I own. And in my line up I have arcteryx, tad gear, and outdoor reasearch. It works great and breaths unlike any other. Shame on you – for reviewing a product you don’t own, shame on you for slander, shame on you for getting your facts wrong! And by the way who the heck throws a high end shell in the washing machine anyway moron? Never threw my theta ar in the wash, or any other for that matter. Why am I wasting my time you obviously don’t know your head from your azz.

Posted by Quark-borrower - 05/14/2009 06:18 PM

I must say that this was an interesting piece taken on a week long trek in the green mnts. I borrowed it from a friend to see if it might be worth the investment… though I was taking a set of rain wear I usually take too. In the end I never used my own jacket and the Quark held its own during three days of hiking in the rain. However in the end I went with the North Face DIAD as it was almost as light but had a much tougher fabric, though waiting for a sale key as I couldn’t shell out for that jacket at full price either. Now if someone would start to make lighter rain pants, though the fabric would need to be abrasion resistant and light

Posted by Quark-Owner (as well) - 10/21/2009 06:37 AM

I would have to agree with the reviewer and the other Quark owner as far as the reviews of the jacket. I spent a good deal of time playing in the Flatirons of Boulder in rain, snow and ice. It also made several trips into the Sangre de Cristos and the Cascades, but for shorter trips. I wouldn’t be comfortable putting a thirty or forty pound pack on it, but everyday use it’s tremendous.

A warning: I’ve been looking for one for my girlfriend and realized the Quark is no longer on Mountain Hardwear’s website. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stopped making the Quark because of low sales. The price point was a bit high, though if you could get it on prodeal it was nice. :) I also own Arcteryx and Patagonia jackets and the Mountain Hardwear is the most breathable. Be well and namaste.

Posted by David - 11/13/2009 05:52 PM

I see these things all over. I got mine at a Colombia outlet, but have seen this jacket a plenty of outfitters in MN and WI.

Awesome jacket, though not very durable. Brushed against the tree and ripped it. It’s really light and breathable though, and kept rain and sand off of me during a freak sand storm. I have a gore-tex shell now for rougher adventures and keep this for emergencies and when I want to be REALLY comfortable.

Posted by Jon, a kiwi mountaineer - 01/19/2010 11:00 PM

I wore this jacket on my last trip into the southern alps. It kept out the wind, kept me dry and even after a 30m skid down the ice it came off with only a tiny tear which really suprised me. It’s certainly not a jacket that I’d wear when bush-bashing through South Westland but for what I want it’s a top piece of kit.

Posted by verson1 - 03/11/2010 08:45 AM

To Seamallowance…Really? You sound like a guy MH fired because of stupidity. What an idiot… Anyways, I’ve owned this for over a year and it is awesome. Super light, stretchy, waterproof and more breathable than any goretex I’ve used. I’m a field tech for a biology research project and spend over 100 days a summer in the Teton Range backcountry. I have no rips, nothing and I’m always carrying a 40# pack. This jacket rules.

Posted by Anonymous MH Employee - 11/23/2010 01:21 PM

@verson1 You are much closer to the truth than you can possibly know.

He is right in stating that the Quark was a 2% piece. Products like it always will be- users of our technical gear will always be outnumbered by casual outdoor consumers. It’s been that way since long before the purchase of the company, and we’ve continued to move in that direction because of the demands of the market and COLM.

I don’t work in marketing or design, and I’m not an executive so I won’t waste my time pretending I can explain the business reasons for this. It’s the same at all of the other large outdoor companies- Marmot, Patagonia, The North Face, etc. The numbers for technical vs casual consumer are even lower for TNF and Patagonia, where the relative sales is closer to 1%.

Posted by Michael - 12/21/2012 09:41 AM

Maybe my Quark jacket is “broken”, but I don’t agree with all of the praise in the other comments. I’ve owned my Quark for a number of years, and almost always find myself reaching for another jacket. Here are my issues:

– Not very durable. Beware of hiking close to trees, etc. Mine snagged a tore quite easily. It was also repaired quite easily with some McNetts t-tape. – Even though the jacket doesn’t leak, it feels like it’s leaking. I can’t wear this jacket on my skin. I always have to wear a long sleeve layer underneath.

I almost always take it along in my backpack, and it is super light, but I don’t really trust it. Just my 2 cents.

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