Gear Review: Marmot Ether DriClime Jacket

When I’m asked for gear recommendations, I’m known for being pretty long-winded in my responses. My mentality is that most gear is good gear, you just have to find the right stuff that suits your needs. Few items please everyone. But the Marmot Ether DriClime jacket is the exception. You need this jacket.

This recommendation isn’t built on a handful of outings. I’ve had and used and loved and abused this jacket for eight years, through all four seasons, from coast to coast (plus a few other countries), and sea level to 16,000 ft. I’m officially declaring it the most underrated piece of gear of all time.

Marmot
The Ether DriClime jacket in this year’s color

Where I use it: it’s my cold weather uphill layer, an easy layering piece for days with big temperature swings, my small, packable, “oh shit” layer for the summer, my just-in-case layer for urban bike commutes, a key travel piece for vacations, and a low-profile jacket liner for when my other jackets need a little extra warmth.

 

Here’s what I love:

  1. It’s the perfect level of insulation for your uphill cold weather layer: This piece is my go-to layer for winter ski touring, early alpine starts, and high altitude volcanos. When I’m moving, I don’t really don’t need a whole lot of insulation to stay warm. This jacket has a super thin layer of Marmot’s proprietary DriClime felt-like fleece lining. It’s 32 g/m2, which is half the weight of the Polartec Alpha insulation in the OR Deviator Hoody, a third of the weight of the OR Ascendant’s insulation, and a quarter as heavy as the Rab Alpha Direct jacket. It’s lighter than your Arc’teryx Atom SL and it’s lighter than your Patagonia Nano-Air. If you’re sweating on the uphills, ditch some insulation.
Hood
An early morning skin on the Palmer Glacier in my Ether DriClime. Photo by Mitch Pittman.
  1. It provides really great weather resistance than most mid-layers. The other thing winter ski touring, early mornings, and volcano summits all have in common is that they’re super blustery. While the Ether DriClime doesn’t have a ton of insulation, the main way it keeps me warm is by cutting the wind that would chill me to the bone if I were just in my base layer, thanks to a tightly woven nylon face fabric. And between the outer fabric and the DWR, it’s been a more than capable layer in a drizzle.
Glacier
Skiing in the Glacier Peak Wilderness on a scorching hot Memorial Day. Photo by Mitch Pittman
  1. But it’s designed to be versatile and can handle a little heat too. I’m a self-confessed diva when it comes to temperature regulation on the trail. I’m never shy about stopping my rope team to add or shed layers. When the winds die down or the sun comes out, this jacket has really good mesh venting under the arms and outstanding wicking in the DriClime liner. It’s got a really impressive comfort range compared to my other layers that keeps my wardrobe changes to a minimum.

 

  1. It’s low profile and packs down small. There’s never any mental calculus about whether or not it’s worth packing. It less than half a pound and stuffs easily into the tight corners in your pack. The silky face fabric also makes it incredibly easy to layer over (although the fleecy liner can cling to base layers underneath if they don’t have a silky. Polyester is usually fine, but I could see it clinging to wool). I slip mine underneath my ski jacket on cold days or even as a liner under my wool dress coat during frigid January work trips to Toronto.
Hood2
Photo by Mitch Pittman
  1. It’s durable. After 8 years, the main sign of wear is that the Marmot logo just reads “Ma_m__,” and the mesh in the underarms shows signs of abrasion on one side.

 

  1. It’s so cheap. You might get a little more durability out of the Rab Alpha Direct or OR Ascendant that have Pertex in the face fabric, a coated nylon that has an edge on weather resistance and durability. But at what cost? The Ether Driclime has an MSRP is $100, but easily sell for $40-50. Here’s a list of comparable jackets & prices, and it’s easy to see that new hot fabric technologies like Pertex and Polartec Alpha certainly come with an upcharge, and based on my experience with the Ether DriClime, I’m not sure they’re always with it, particularly the Alpha insulation.
Jacket MSRP Best Clearance Prices
Marmot Ether DriClime Jacket $100 $40-50
Marmot Ether DriClime Hoodie $125 $45
OR Ascendant Jacket $215 $65
OR Ascendant Hoodie $249 $110
OR Deviator Jacket $189 $80
Rab Alpha Direct Hoodie $275 $165
Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoodie $229 $140-160
Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid $199 $140
Black
Scrambling up Black Peak after the first dusting of fall snow. Photo by Mitch Pittman.

Things I don’t:

  1. The looks. The Marmot aesthetic always seems to be just a little bit off to me. In this case, it’s the seaming; it’s boxy. The other jackets in this subgroup all have a more feminine cut that’s more fitted at the waist and seam work to the shoulders and bust that flatter a woman’s figure. But extra seams cost extra money, and curved lines cost more than straight ones. The design’s imperative to their sharp pricing. But add on the fact that mine is black and it has a shiny finish, and my jacket looks a little like a trash bag. At least the looks are the last of my concern when I’m out on the mountain.

A few snippets from the Ether DriClime’s early excursions, several years and several haircuts ago. If you look closely, you can find a few cotton base layers in there too!

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