Marmot Minimalist

By Justin Walker 27 March 2014
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This jacket will keep you warm and dry without adding weight or bulk.

I HAVE ALWAYS been a fan of lightweight gear, provided the equipment doesn’t sacrifice functionality in pursuit of that always-welcome lower weight. Yes, it is a fine balance; lugging less in your pack (or on your person) is always a good thing, provided you don’t compromise performance or, more importantly, your safety when you need the equipment to perform in trying circumstances.

Marmot’s Minimalist is, as the name suggests, the company’s premier offering in the lightweight outer shell category. It uses the well proved Gore-tex Pac-lite fabric as its waterproof/breathable membrane, to keep it nice and light, but Marmot also manages to squeeze in a raft of features you wouldn’t expect on a jacket in this segment.

The articulated under-arms (dubbed Angel-Wing movement by Marmot) are welcome from both a climber’s perspective, and in general, allowing a large range of movement without the jacket riding up your waist. The hood is large enough to accommodate a helmet (or cap) and is easily adjusted, and the zippered hand pockets are roomy – great for storing gloves, etc.

I used the Minimalist on my Chilkoot Trail trek in Canada in 2012, and it has become one of my go-to garments when I am in the outdoors. During that trip, the jacket offered ample protection from what were often very windy and cold conditions – especially up in the higher altitudes – but could also be worn in sunny (but still windy) conditions without me overheating, thanks to the pit zips. I have a couple of outer shells with these and, after initially dismissing them as a gimmick, am now a huge fan of them.

Protective assets aside, the Minimalist’s other high points are its light weight (a Large weighs only 425g), combined with its small packed size – it can easily be (and has been over the past 12 months) rolled up or squashed into a day pack without taking up too much precious cargo space. The exterior polyester fabric, although feeling light/thin, has been a slight concern – especially when wearing a heavy backpack in terms of abrasion potential – but with a bit of extra awareness and care, it is so far, so good.

The only negative I have noted is its short length – it would be near-perfect if it finished a bit further down over your hips – and it is a shame the water-resistant zip from the chest pocket wasn’t carried over to the two hand pockets, rather than just standard zips being used. Storm flaps cover these pockets, but having water-resistant zips on these would have added that extra bit of assurance. 

The minimalist belies its name and offers good overall performance for the asking price. Take into account its design remit of a lightweight jacket that can be used across multiple activities (I have used it on multi-day treks, mountain bike trips and the odd road cycle commute), with a bit more care than a heavier-duty outer shell, and you will get years of reliable service out of it.

RRP $349.95