An Alpine climbing shell that's also light and breathable enough for running, the versatile Tupilak Atmo meets pretty much all of Bridget Collier's needs in one jacket.
From the day I opened the parcel I don't think I've stopped praising the Tupilak Atmo jacket. First impressions were how light it felt then how good the material felt, then how well it fits. I've tested it whilst on alpine adventures in the Dolomites, and extensively in the usual wide range of UK conditions.
Mountain Equipment describe this as a "lightweight and highly protective Alpine climbing shell". I don't disagree with that, but actually it's more versatile than that narrow niche suggests. Whether for climbing, walking or running, this is a seriously good piece of kit and it's enabled a better spring, summer & autumn for me because I've been better protected from the weather than in my usual ultralight running shells. I've taken it out with me no matter the forecast so it's either shoved in the bottom of the rucksack, balled up tightly in my running vest or on and doing its job.
Despite trying to disrespect it by shoving it in bags all the time it's continued acting as you'd expect with this sort of quality. To talk of it beading when it rains seems unnecessary because it's a dead cert with the quality of the material. I'm not sure I could describe well enough just how comforting it is to put it on either because of rain or severe wind chill; you instantly feel the benefit of its protective shell and you are guaranteed to stay dry from both the rain and your own sweat.
What makes it so good?
The jacket combines a main body of 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric, with reinforced patches of 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro (40 denier) in the areas of higher wear. This makes it light and really breathable, but also tough enough to take a bit of abuse - as you'd hope from a shell that's designed foremost for Alpine use.
Yes you can find lighter shells, but are they either as tough or as versatile? At 250g (women's size 12) the Tupilak Atmo is sufficiently lightweight to be able to carry everywhere just in case it's needed. Maybe on a perfect forecast you won't be taking it on multi pitch Alpine rock, but for mixed Alpine weather or snowy routes it's ideal. I've also been choosing to take it with me on typical UK summer days when in the hills rather than other lighter jackets, even those designed for summer use. The Tupilak Atmo is only a bit heavier and has the advantage of being more breathable than most, while at the same time feeling more protective in bad weather than your typical ultralight tissue-thin shell - so ultimately it's more useful. You wouldn't use many ultralight shells for winter climbing, but the Tupilak Atmo could certainly cope!
Light and breathable enough for running, but cut for climbing and built tough for its weight: Is this all the shell you need, year-round? You might find its limits on a really gruelling winter day, or for Scottish mixed, but for practically everything else I think the Tupilak Atmo would be a great choice.
Both men's and women's versions are available. The jacket is designed for climbing so it's a nice trim fit with a no fuss waist area, perfect for under the harness and with no pouching. Decent tailoring and articulated sleeves mean it is not creeping up over your harness whilst climbing.
In the Dolomites it was great whether over warmer jackets in the colder hours or just worn over a t-shirt. Plus it will fit over my duvet jacket so it's ideal for winter climbing too. The colour is going to look great against the ice for photos!
There was a day on the Lakes 5 Passes Ultra fell race when I wore it for hours and hours. To save stopping to put it on I put it over my running sack and just had it zipped at the bottom and it was comfortable throughout. On other days I've worn it properly under the sack straps with the zip and hood up. There's no jutting of a stiff bit of material into your chin and the soft material in the chin area means no chafing. I also wore it overnight on a bivy in the Dolomites: we weren't quite expecting the five-hour constant lighting storm that came in and luckily we'd chosen the perfect overhanging rock shelter, but it stayed on all night, it kept me warm and there was no crinkly noise from the material.
The one Napoleon pocket is enough for a paper topo or a thin pair of gloves, but not much more. ME had to save weight somewhere, and this is one of those areas. If you like lots of big pockets then I'm afraid you're out of luck here. Think minimalist.
The two-way full length zip means that when I've popped it on temporarily at the belay I can still fasten it and have access to the belay loop. I do this a lot so I'm glad they haven't gone to the lightweight extreme of removing that second zipper. Plus the zipper works without faff, I've done it plenty of times whilst running and with gloves on so I can vouch for that.
The hood is really well designed. I can't imagine its cavernous size being beaten by any helmet. Once on with the cinches done up it fits snugly to the face so it moves with you when looking around - and that's with or without your helmet on. The hood's peak is small but enough and the key is that the stiffening works but isn't so hard that it stops the jacket scrunching up small, and that's been particularly useful when stuffing it into my smaller running sacks.
The cuffs are fixed with velcro fastenings. I like to wear the cuffs open for extra venting, just tightening them in when climbing or when it's really needed in the worst of weather. The cuffs are wide enough to pull back over my massive Suunto watch when I need to get to it.
I'm trying to find fault with the jacket but I'm struggling, because it's made such a difference to my comfort and ultimately my enjoyment of the outdoors over the year. The price at RRP £300 is high and it puts this coat in the bracket of where you expect something special... and I'd say it delivers on all points. I've owned lighter jackets and cheaper jackets, but none have quite as much versatility as the Tupilak Atmo. Needless to say, it comes highly recommended by me, and I'd say it's worth paying that bit extra for something of this quality.
Mountain Equipment say:
A lightweight and highly protective Alpine climbing shell using hybrid GORE-TEX construction, fully waterproof performance for the most exposed situations. This dedicated Alpine climbing shell uses GORE-TEX PACLITE® PLUS fabric backed up with GORE-TEX Pro 40D fabric reinforcements to give the light weight and freedom of movement required on the most technical ground with the reassurance of extra durability in key areas. Our Super Alpine HC Hood offers serious, helmet compatible, protection.
- Sizes: 8 -16 (women) S-XXL (men)
- Weight: 250g (women's size 12)
- 2.5-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE® PLUS fabric
- 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro 40D fabric reinforcements
- Super Alpine HC Hood
- Seamless face panel for maximum comfort
- Women's Alpine fit with articulated and pre-shaped sleeves
- 1 Napoleon pocket with YKK® WR zip
- 2-way YKK® moulded AquaGuard® centre front zip
- Adjustable laminated cuffs and dual tether hem drawcords
For more info: mountain-equipment.co.uk