The Cho Oyu from Mammut
Among the various impressive newcomers in the hi-end alpine hard shell sector this year, the clever Swiss designers at Mammut have thrown the most exotic and radical card on the table with their Cho Oyu jacket. Not only does this alpine shell look rather fancy - with its aggressive cut and hood, and a perforated top zip closure to aid breathability when the jacket is fully fastened - but it features an extremely fancy new fabric from Schoeller called 'C-Change', and comes with a suitably fancy price tag, too.
But what exactly is this 'C-Change' stuff, and is it really worth spending the best part of £400 on a jacket? To cut a lot of technical jargon short, what c-change means is that the fabric behaves differently at different temperatures: when it's cold the fabric structure 'closes' (in the same way a pine cone changes according to temperature) and becomes warmer but less breathable; conversely, when either the jacket or its user are warm, the fabric opens up and allows maximum breathability at a very impressive rate of 20,000 g/m2/24hr. This is roughly the same as the vapour permeability rate of eVent, yet on a jacket that can work in conditions that would leave most eVent products for dead.
So how does this clever technology perform when used in anger? PlanetFear have recently been using the Cho Oyu in a variety of alpine conditions in the Indian Himalaya at altitudes up to six thousand metres, and we have been extremely impressed with both the way in which the c-change fabric does indeed change significantly according to temperature (thus delivering the optimal level of either warmth or breathability subject to the conditions) and also with the overall design and functionality of the Cho Oyu.
Using this jacket in a high mountain environment, it quickly becomes clear that Mammut have put a huge amount of energy into creating the ideal alpine shell with this winning combination of an innovative fabric coupled with an intuitive design catering specifically for the hi-end user. This jacket is so good at what it's designed for that it is actually very difficult to find anything negative to say about it. Everything down to the razor thin and ultra sticky velcro tabs on the cuffs, the subtle offset angle of the side pockets, the precisely tapered sleeves, and the comfortable soft lining on the back of the collar and on the zip baffles gives the Cho Oyu the feeling that its been glued together with some serious alpine adventures in mind, by people who know their summits and seracs as well as they know their technical clothing.
The only concern that will discourage potential buyers is the hefty price, but if you want an alpine shell that will really do it all, both in warmer spring / summer conditions and for colder winter climbs and ski journeys, then you won't be disappointed with the formidable Cho Oyu.
The Cho Oyu also comes in a more sober black / red colour scheme
The PlanetFear Star Rating Explained:
* A poor product with design and functionality problems. Not recommended.
** An average product. Recommended only for its low cost or as a back-up item.
*** A good product. Certainly worth considering, although better products may be available at the same price.
**** An excellent product and among the best available in its category. Highly recommended.
***** An outstanding product defining the cutting edge of outdoor technology and design. You won't find a better one!
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