Marmot Genesis review
Reviewed by Will Sim
Although soft shell is by no means a new concept I, like many others have always preferred not to meddle with my tried and proven choice of layering. Consisting of thermal and wicking layers beneath a waterproof hard-shell for winter or alpine climbing. I was therefore interested as to how my personal clothing system would change once I tried out the Genesis soft shell.
For me the definition of a soft-shell has always been unclear and more like a word has been invented which no one can actually explain. So to simplify things Iíve come up with three specifications which the Genesis jacket must meet for it to qualify as a good soft-shell, these are as follows.
- When wearing the soft-shell not as many subsidiary layers are required – This is because it should do the job of a shell (i.e water and windproof) as well as providing insulation that would otherwise be provided by an extra thermal.
- The soft shell must provide decent protection from the elements, however more of an emphasis must be placed on the breathability of the garment. Rather than with a hard-shell, whoís waterproofness comes before its breathability as a priority.
- The soft shell must be comfortable and versatile enough to allow a good range of movements and not restrict the user in any way. In other words feel more like wearing a comfortable everyday jumper or hoody rather than a cumbersome and awkward waterproof.
The Genesis is sold as a heavyweight soft shell with an emphasis on alpine climbing. It represents the forefront of where softshell technology has reached to date, with pioneering construction techniques such as tectonic welding.
To achieve softshell comfort and flexibility that approaches hard shell protection from the elements, Marmot introduced Techtonic Welded Construction. Bonding rather than stitching the 4 way stretch fabric effectively eliminates seams from this expert-level shell. It’s highly weather resistant, extremely breathable, and moves with you easily.
Techtonic welding eliminates the usual week spots that are the seams and therefore helps keep the jacket as ‘waterproof’ as possible. I’ve been told many times before that something is ìcompletely waterproof and from experience I now know that nothing is completely waterproof. However, I was happy to wait and see if the Genesis jacket would alter my views, and nothing would prove it more than three months of hard alpine use.
There were very few times this summer and autumn in the Alps when I wore anything more than a light, short sleeved wicking top underneath the jacket. This was great as it meant that when I was walking from a route in the heat all I had to take off was the jacket and there I was in short sleeves topping up my tan and cooling down. Rather than having to take off several layers and carry them all in my bag. This system of only wearing one subsidiary layer worked well even when I was stationary for long periods of time. On an attempt on Tentation on Pointe Lachenal I was expecting to have to pile on a down jacket a few minutes in to the two hour belay as my partner methodically cleared the caster sugar out of the crack above, but the Genesis was quite sufficient.
Will Sim on Tentation
Breathability is perhaps the most crucial aspect of a jacket designed for alpine use. This is because the temperature variation that a climber experiences throughout an alpine day is phenomenal. Although freezing cold at those 4am starts, its only a couple of hours until you are baking in the ferocious sun while still trying to maintain the same pace.
On the breathability side of things I have also found the jacket to be excellent. In previous jackets I have never been keen on the pit zips as they have always been awkward to access and have seemingly made no difference to my overall temperature. However, on the Genesis the zip is much easier to operate due to the large toggle and there not being a waterproof flap covering the zip. I certainly reaped the benefits of such features earlier this year on the Kuffner Arete with Jon Griffith. We woke up in the Fourche Bivouac hut to see at least 4 groups of headtorches strung along the route seemingly hours ahead of us. About 3 hours later we topped out on the summit of Mont Maudit after having broken trail for the previous two. Hours before as we’d ran past the other teams on the lower arete I had failed to notice Jon behind me with his heavy hardshell dripping with sweat. For the last hour of climbing the sun had been floating just above the Italian skyline and was baking Jon alive. As he stripped down to his lightest base layer on the summit I remained dry and toasty in my Genesis jacket which didnít have a hint of moisture on its inside.
Will Sim on the Kuffner
The Genesis is definitely the first softshell I’ve ever worn which has actually lived up to the status of Waterproof (well ok its not 100% waterproof but its very good). The water resistant softshells I’ve worn previously have barely even been that.
After climbing solidly for the last three months in the Genesis jacket it’s somewhat ironic that its real test came a few nights ago (the same day as the ill fated OMM) when I had to walk a couple of miles in torrential Cumbrian rain after my car spluttered to a halt on the way back from work. Although I resembled a drowned rat when I reached my house I was amazed to find that my torso was dry apart from the bottom third that had soaked up from my jeans. I was surprised because after about 5 minutes of exposure to the rain it stopped beading and the rain seemed to soak in to the fabric, this therefore proves the performance of the waterproof membrane which prevented the rain from soaking any further in to the jacket. Although the jacket does do the business of keeping what’s underneath nice and dry it shares the flaw of all softshells which is that it gets very heavy and uncomfortable to wear once the outer layer has become waterlogged.
Although it stood up to the challenge well, the Genesis jacket was not designed for extreme Cumbrian road walking so it would be unfair to judge it purely on that. In the less humid climate of the Alps the shell stood up to anything moist it encountered from wet snow to burst beer cans. Iíve always thought that a softshell would be inappropriate for the majority of Scottish winter use due to how mild and wet it is, but the Genesis would probably be ok for all but the very worst days, and on those days you’d get wet climbing Point 5 in a submarine.
When wearing the jacket it doesnít take long to realise that the fit isn’t great. I personally have always preferred quite a tight cut shell layer which stretches around me as I move. The Genesis is quite baggy compared to other softshells such as Mountain Hardwearís Synchro which apart from it just being annoying and looking like you have breasts, in theory means that it isn’t as warm as a snug fitting shell and can untuck its self from the harness. I also found that the sleeves aren’t quite in proportion to the torso and theyíre shortness often results in spindrift down the arms. This isn’t helped by a microscopic sized piece of velcro being used on the cuff adjustment flap which never keeps tightly shut. However, I have got several other people to wear the jacket and it appears to be only a few of us that it affects. I have also found that when wearing big gloves the cuffs aren’t a huge problem. The hood on the other hand is an excellent size to fit over a hat and helmet and has a flexible peak which folds back easily when you don’t want it up. That coupled with the high chin zip gives excellent protection from driving wind and snow.
Unlike softshells I’ve handled before, the Genesis doesn’t have a feel of elasticity when you try and stretch it, instead the fabric has a more tough, hard and robust feel to it. This pays off when squirming through narrow granite chimneys and generally adds lifespan to the jacket.
I’ve probably worn the Genesis more over the last few months than any jacket I’ve owned before. It has been an excellent companion when wet, tired, cold, scared, hungry, and generally pissed off with life in those miserable alpine moments. It has Kept me dry walking home from drunken nights in Cham and kept me looking cool when I’ve felt anything but.
Above all, the Genesis jacket achieves brilliantly what a softshell aims to achieve; to do the job of several jackets while only being the one. Although not even Topshop could ever produce a softshell which has the breathing qualities of a lycra base layer, the warmth of a down suit and the waterproofing of a cormorant, Marmot have got pretty close with the Genesis jacket.