Merrell Steel Bay Tri-Therm Waterproof Jacket
Product Review & Walking Gear Test
Steel Bay Tri-Therm Waterproof Jacket
Features to Note:
- 2-Layer Merrell Opti-Shell™ jacket plus removable Opti-Warm thermal liner
- Merrell M-Connect™ three in one hidden snap-in system
- Fabric: 100% nylon (shell and liner), DWR finish, Merrell Conductor Ultralight micro-thermal barrier
- Insulation : 100g quilted Merrell Opti-Warm™ lightweight, low-bulk synthetic insulation
- Nylon shoulder reinforcement
- Venting zippers on chest
- Chest and hand pockets on shell
- Removable, adjustable hood
- Soft chin guards
- Internal mesh stash pocket
- Molded cuff tab closure
- Adjustable waist on liner and shell
- 2 hand warmer pockets on liner
- Dropped tail design on shell
Merrell's Steel Bay Tri-therm is a shell jacket plus a thermal liner giving three options for use - shell plus thermal liner, shell only or thermal liner only.
On the body it seems to be true to size although (at 5'10'') I found the overall length of the shell to be just about long enough - however, there is additional length at the back. The sleeves, which have cuffs adjusted via a velcro fastening, are a decent length.
My first few walks wearing the Steel Bay were in reasonably mild temperatures so I was wearing just the shell.
At ca 800gms weight (L), the shell component of the Steel Bay is reasonably substantial on its own. There's a good zip, covered by a generous storm flap. As is the case with all the zips, the toggles are a little tricky to get hold of with gloved hands and could do with being a little more chunky. The shell zips right up over the relatively large collar and chin guard which has a soft-feeling lining.
There is a detachable hood, the size of which can be simply adjusted via a velcro tab at back of head. The hood - with its reinforced peak - stays in position and provides good protection although a minor gripe I had is that with the hood up, the chin guard only just meets; on the plus side, however, this does provide a really quite close fit which is good if it's particularly windy. There's no stow-away feature so the hood is either detached or it's attached and hanging loose when it's not being used. There's room for a hat (and also a helmet) in the hood. I thought the hood performed better when I was wearing a hat with it; when I was wearing the hood on its own, I found that it didn't turn with my head which meant that on occasion my sideways vision was a little obstructed.
The shell has 4 pockets in total; 3 outside comprising a breast pocket (for keys or for an ipod albeit without an exit for earphones) and two side, handwarming pockets - which unfortunately were obstructed somewhat by my daypack belt. There's also a large unzipped, mesh pocket on the inside similar to those found on the inside of a tent. This is large enough to take an OS map; I've also used it store my ipod.
The shell is certainly waterproof and also impressively wind-proof. However I did find that I was getting rather sweaty after only moderate exercise. This was mitigated to some extent by using the 32cms long pit zips and loosening the sleeve cuffs.
There isn't any articulation in the sleeves; despite that the freedom of movement is quite reasonable. However, the shell did tend to ride up a little when I lifted up my arms.
The fabric is reinforced in the shoulder areas and along the length of the sleeve. After several week's regular use, the fabric is showing no sign of wear and tear.
The thermal layer has a rather pleasing, understated look when worn on its own. There are two hand warmer pockets plus inner zipped one (big enough for ipod, phone etc.) but not for an OS map. I've worn it with a decent base layer and been comfortable at about 7 deg C although it doesn't seem to have much wind resistance. Adding/removing this thermal layer to the shell is really simple and can be done quite quickly 'on the go'.
I've been very comfortably warm in the the combined shell/thermal layer certainly at temperatures down to 1-2 deg C. (I've not had opportunity to try it a lower temperatures.) The main issue with the combination is that - because the thermal layer doesn't have any pit zips - getting adequate ventilation for higher energy periods is even more of a problem.
Aspiring Munro-ists or Wainwright baggers may need to opt for a jacket with greater breathability. However, Merrell's Steel Bay Tri-Therm is an attractive, very flexible jacket for lower level walking in winter or - without the thermal layer - for general walking throughout the year. Smart enough for cold weather leisure wear.
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