Depending on where you live, layering for ‘cold’-season running requires efforts ranging from throwing on a long-sleeved shirt for the cool breeze settling in the desert valley to figuring out how many base and mid layers you can wear under your synthetic down hoody and facemask combo and still allow for some breathability. If you live in Colorado, you get to figure this out on alternating days… or sometimes on the same day.
The new Mountain Hardwear Super Power Jacket ($90)* was sent to me right before our weather started oscillating between sunny days with highs in the 50s Fahrenheit and blowing snow with near-zero temperatures every few days. Perfect gear-testing conditions. The jacket was billed on the website as “the ultimate for cold-weather running,” so I was psyched. What I found when I pulled the graphite garment with pink stitching out of the box was a very thin microfleece, long-sleeved, full-zip ‘shirt.’ Expectations adjusted.
The 11.2-ounce (318-gram) garment is made of 90% polyester/10% elastane Super Power fabric and has a smooth face which provides a bit of wind resistance and protection from light mist or snow flurries and a very soft brushed microfleece interior. The fabric also utilizes Mountain Hardwear’s Wick.Q technology to help wick moisture which is a welcome quality in cool weather gear as clammy equals cold. I found it to wick very well as long as I didn’t overdress by a layer which is easy to do when you have 25 degrees of temperature swing in one two- to three-hour run. Overall, it’s very comfortable against the skin and has a nice accommodating stretch.
The cut of the jacket is “athletic” which I would say is closer to sleek or formfitting. I’m between measurements with the small and medium sizes and was thankful that I received a medium. That being said, I easily layered a thin long-sleeved base layer and a thin short-sleeve layer under the jacket in combination and still enjoyed a comfortably snug fit. The seams on the underside of each arm are quite noticeable as you slide your arm in, but once the jacket is on, it’s easy to forget about them completely. I had no chafing from these seams on runs up to three hours. The full-length, central YKK zipper is simple to operate with thin running gloves or cold fingers and fits perfectly into a zipper garage at the top which protects your neck and chin nicely.
The website states the presence of front and back reflectivity for safety. I found one, one- to two-inch horizontal dash of reflectivity at the bottom center of the jacket. The small logo at the back of the neck and the front side of the chest were somewhat reflective. I wouldn’t rely on these markings for safety.
There are a few features of the Super Power jacket that I feel the designers really nailed. First, I love the length of the jacket which comes down to my greater trochanters (lateral upper thigh). This keeps the chill out of my mid-section completely regardless of which running pack or which layers I also have on but doesn’t restrict movement at all. The sleeves are long and have perhaps the best thumb-hole style I’ve worn. It’s set back enough that as the sleeve extends toward the fingers, it completely covers my knuckles even with my hands in fists and thin wool gloves on. The stretchiness of the material causes no tightness around the thumb and accommodates my hands well during the first 30 minutes of each run where they freeze and I keep them up inside the sleeves. Best set-up short of built-in mitts. Well done.
Another favorite feature of mine was the small zippered pocket on the right hip. Again, it was easy to adjust with cold fingers or with thin gloves on. I easily fit my enormous car key in there plus two or three gels or one pack of energy gummies without any significant movement of the pocket. The product description states you can fit a phone in the pocket, but it must have only been tested with a very small flip phone. There is no way an iPhone 4, 5, or 6 is fitting in there. The jacket has two side pockets (no zip) on the front for your hands when standing around casually. Tissues stayed in these pockets fine, but I wouldn’t trust anything else to them at running speeds. I’m not that smooth.
The Super Power women’s jacket by Mountain Hardwear has become an excellent layer for me in the 35- to 50-degree range over a short-sleeve base layer, or in cooler temperatures sans wind (25 to 35 degrees) with a thin long-sleeved base layer. I use it as I do my old Patagonia R.5 fleece or in place of layering two long-sleeved thin poly-pro shirts together. I found it worked decently well as I added an outer wind layer when the temperatures dropped further (17 to 25 degrees) or as winds increased above 15 miles per hour, but this definitely decreased the effectiveness of its wicking powers. The smooth face of the material lets it slide perfectly under other jackets without difficulty whereas the brushed interior helps it stay in one place whether over another layer or against the skin. It’s a light midlayer from a warmth perspective, so I’d pick a different layer on an alpine day with variable (read: cold and colder with winds) weather. I like the jacket. I think ultimately, it will be a perfect autumn and spring jacket for dry days with temps in the 35- to 50-degree range.
On a side note, I spent several years in the Pacific Northwest learning how to layer for the persistent mist and rain during the winter months. I don’t think this fleece would be my preference as a main layer in western Oregon on the rainy days. It seems like the warmth and breathability might be limited by the smooth outer surface when wet compared to a higher loft thin fleece which always seemed to retain quite a bit of warmth while wet and would dry quickly as a rain band moved on. On the dry or misty/foggy days at 40 to 50 degrees, it would be a great layer to have on hand. Happy running!
*The men’s version of this garment is the Mountain Hardwear Super Power Half-Zip ($80).