Haglöfs Talus Windstopper Jacket
The Haglöfs Talus windstopper is a superbly made minimalist soft shell jacket with just the right balance of features and simplicity. It is the softest, quietest (yes, some jackets can be noisy), and most comfortable soft shell I've worn, but more importantly it has proven extremely effective at stopping wind.
Over the past few months we've experienced some pretty nasty weather storms up and down the east coast and I'm thankful that I had the Talus jacket to throw on over my micro-fleece whenever I had to go outside. North Carolina was spared the worst of Super Storm Sandy, but we did get some very high winds that were perfect for putting the Talus to the test. A test it passed with flying colors thanks to the features listed below.
Breathable The Talus has proven itself effective at stopping wind in some of the strongest storms in recent times, but it didn't do all that great of a job at keeping me warm like some soft shells. That's fine though, my winter layering system easily accommodates this and even though I am personally somewhat of a heavy sweater, the wicking capability of the Talus is very effective at pulling the moisture away from my mid layer.
Even with moderate to high activity I've found that I don't sweat any more than normal wearing the Talus zippered shut. The Talus is labelled as a soft shell, but technically it is more of a Gore windstopper active shell. No wonder then that it's so breathable.
Fit With more and more of us buying apparel online to snag the lowest prices we can, I think it's important to discuss the fit. I am 5'10", 155 lbs, and find that the mens medium size fits me perfectly. I would describe the overall fit as slim or athletic, but will also point out that there is just enough room to comfortably wear a micro fleece mid-layer underneath the Talus without it feeling too snug.
Pockets I like that the two front zippered hand warmer pockets are large enough to accommodate my hands with gloves on. It may seem like a small detail, but trust me it's a huge pain to have to keep taking your gloves off to get things out of your pockets. There is a small zippered pocket on the outside of the left breast that can hold smaller items that you need easy access to.
There are two internal mesh pockets, one on either side of the jacket. Yet again it seems that Haglöfs have done their homework and positioned the opening to the internal pockets at close to the perfect height - roughly level with the bottom of my pectoral muscle. This makes it easy to put items in the pockets without having to unzip the jacket too far. It also makes them deep enough to safely hold items without them falling out.
Adjustable Another area where the Talus shines is it's ability to be adjusted to keep the wind out. The removable hood can be adjusted in three ways. There is a draw string for tightening the opening of the hood around your face. There is another draw string that runs horizontally from side to side around the back of the head at roughly the level of the base of skull. This allows the hood to be drawn tight to the head for a perfect fit.
Lastly, across the top of the hood is a Velcro strap that can be used to adjust how far the top edge of the hood extends down the forehead. In true Haglöfs style, both the draw strings can be easily operated with one hand - another simple, but useful detail.
The inside waist of the Talus also contains a draw string with, you guessed it, toggles that can be adjusted with one hand just like the hood. In fact there are waist adjustments on both sides. There are also adjustable Velcro cuffs for keeping the wind out. I like that the Velcro straps are very flexible, even compared to those of my much lighter Patagonia Torrent shell.
Other Nice Details Instead of using a wind flap with snappers to cover over the main front zipper, the Talus has an oversized internal flap that goes behind the zipper to help block the wind from passing through. This provides easier access to the zipper especially with gloved hands. The top of the main zipper incorporates a large zipper garage to protect your neck and chin from being scratched. The inside of the jacket collar is lined with a soft micro-fleece that provides an extra touch of warmth and comfort.
Conclusion I've been wearing the Haglöfs Talus jacket for several months in both warm and cold conditions. It's proved to be a spectacular windstopper with great breathability despite using slightly older membrane material technology. The Talus is highly adjustable, even with gloved hands and easily the most comfortable soft shell I have worn. Haglöfs attention to details is second to none, yet the Talus looks and feels like a simple "no-frills"shell. One of those pieces of gear that works extremely well without you having to think too much about it. At only $140 (retail $446) I'd say that the Haglöfs Talus would definitely give Patagonia's Northwall soft shell ($450) a run for its money!
In conjunction with this review, the awesome folks at Sierra Trading Post are running a Haglöfs gear giveaway. To enter, simply head on over to the Sierra Trading Post giveaway post and leave a comment telling them which piece of Haglöfs gear you'd like! While you're there be sure to mention I sent you!
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Disclosure: Sierra Trading Post provided Brian's Backpacking Blog with a complementary Haglöfs Talus jacket for testing, and review.