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The Starter Jacket: What Were They Thinking?

MSRP: $199

Being a certified gear whore isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but being a gear whore in Jackson, Wyoming–where rent is unfathomably exorbitant–is certainly frustrating. You see, I live in a crawl space. To be more specific, it’s a quaint little thing: an unfurnished, unfinished (aside from the asbestos decor) closet within a closet within a bedroom. This living situation doesn’t leave much room for gear, so, at times, I have to get crafty: crash pad bed; hardware in refrigerator; technical outerwear in clothes dryer, which doesn’t turn on, except with leaded gasoline. I had no place to house it all, but I had every piece of climbing gear ever hammered into existence–or so I thought.

Then one of my climbing co-workers introduced me to a radical new product. That baller swaggered in one morning with a Starter Jacket. Phoenix Suns.

For a piece of technical outerwear so attractive–and one that so undoubtedly subscribed to the light-and-fast ethic–I was heartbroken when I tested my own. Raiders.

At first I was impressed. The stitching was impeccable, the cotton filling was plush and the elastic wrists were just stretchy enough. After picking up some tips in the latest issue of Rock and Ice, I was off for the first experiment: a committing 5.11 swiss ball exercise at the local gym. Leaving behind superfluous technologies like GoreTex and the gamut of synthetic materials, Mr. Raiders (as I grew accustomed to calling the jacket) took a step beyond the competition to excel as my ultimate weight-loss accessory. It didn’t breathe a lick, which meant maximum hydroexpulsion during the swiss ball workout, though I may have benefited even more had I picked up the optional hoodie attachment ($29.99). I must say, I walked home ten pounds lighter, parched and particularly pleased with my new outerwear.

The following weekend Ice Cube called my crawlspace wondering if I was free to swing some tools. Remembering something he’d told me a decade ago–“I think the worst thing you can do about a situation is nothing”–I agreed, and we decided to meet in Ogden for a little ice action. Here, the jacket disappointed, and I learned never to mess with Ice Cube when he’s out on a hairy lead.

First off, you have to understand that I was a bit frazzled that morning. Getting my coffee at the convenience store, I’d nearly been mauled by another climber looking to get their paws on Mr. Raiders. I held my ground, and Ice Cube backed me up, but it’s amazing who’s out there among our community. Anyhow, I took the first pitch and found the jacket got in the way–the rack, the harness, everything was blocked by this black, hulking jellyroll. The material ripped easily and didn’t repel water in the least, except under the logo on the back. Mr. Raiders was surprisingly heavy. And those were just my gripes on Pitch 1. You should have seen my shivers as I belayed Ice Cube stein-pulling through the cruxy hanging pillar. We finished the route, but the rest of the day got ugly: me complaining; him complaining about me complaining.

It made me wonder: for a jacket designed for such a specific niche, Starter really got everything wrong. Maybe a different team would perform better in the mountains, but I doubt it. Next time dude tries to pull the neo-pirate off my back, I won’t put up a fight. No stars–save your cash for the rent.

Pros: Great for swiss ball weight-loss workouts; coveted look; cool star-shaped zipper.

Cons: You name it.