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Apparel Review

Mountain Hardwear's Recon is designed to be the Ultimate Backcountry Outerwear

Date: 2/26/03
Tackle type: Apparel
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.91

Introduction:  With snow and ice in the direct path to backcountry waters many anglers can find themselves cut off from the prime fishing locations in Winter. For those willing to brave the rigors of winter to reach these pristine and un-pressured waters Mountain Hardwear introduces the Recon Jacket. The Recon is designed to for the ultimate hardcore backcountry explorers, climbers, and die hard anglers.


Mountain Hardwear Recon Jacket Specs

Materials Ripstop 3L Face Fabric, 3-Layer Conduit Laminate, and Nylon Taslan reinforcement
Weight 1lb 12oz/780g
Sizes Available Small, Med, Large, X-Large
Colors Burnt Orange/Silver, Dark Sage/Shark, Ultramarine/Silver
Fastening (Adjustment) Zippers, Draw cords
Price as tested $280.00

Impressions: Imagine being able to reach that perfect stretch of water, being only human being within miles of flurry covered wilderness, with the only sound you hear being the trickle of the stream and your flies sailing in the wind with each cast....for many of us this is a picture of paradise. While not for everyone the adventure of hiking into the backcountry in the coldest months of winter is a tradition for some. For these willful anglers the Recon represents the latest in shell engineering, boasting innovative features and equally advanced materials in it's construction. When I first received the Recon from Mountain Hardwear the first thing I noticed was how amazingly light this shell was. Weighing in at 1lb 120z the shell was feather light, and seemed emaciated and streamline in construction. I was skeptical of how well such a thin shell could possibly protect anyone from the harsh elements of winter. But after a few initial tests, and two trips to the backcountry I would find myself eating my own words, as the Recon proved to be much more then I originally estimated.


The Recon Jacket is made for backcountry outdoorsman and the harshest conditions


The Materials/Colors: Last month NatureBoy reviewed Mountain Hardwear's Exposure II Parka which introduced us to the 2 Layer Conduit Membrane. The Recon ups the ante with a three layer laminate advancement. Conduit Membrane is quiet and lightweight while still remaining waterproof and breathable. The membrane is made out of interconnected hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules that actively work to draw moisture vapor away from the angler's body. The garment is actually able to accelerate the process of transpiring moisture the more you sweat. The face fabric is durable nylon ripstop, and the Recon is reinforced with Taslan, a textured yarn that is extremely rugged but feels soft to the touch. You can tell that these are not the standard cottons and nylons found on your run of the mill jackets.



Because the Conduit does not rely on micro pores it remains truly waterproof while moving moisture out of the garment


Mountain Hardwear offers the Recon in three color combinations: Burnt Orange/Silver, Dark Sage/Shark, and Ultramarine/Silver. The reason that Mountain Hardwear builds the garments with these color combinations is to appeal to a number of different activities and applications. The Orange and Ultramarine with silver are much more striking combinations that are great for climbers and skiers where high visibility is an asset. For anglers the ability to blend into the background and remain invisible to shy backcountry fish should be a key factor in clothing selection. The Sage/Shark combination is absolutely excellent for disappearing into the background forage...and is the color we recommend for all backcountry anglers.


The Field Test: To test the Recon we set out on two treks into the High Sierras. One trip involved hiking along miles of snow laden streams while the second trip consisted of a day of fishing at Saddlebag lake. During both trips we fully tested the Recon's wind and water resistance thanks to moderate to heavy snowfall throughout both expeditions.

The combination of Ripstop face fabric and Conduit form a effective barrier to moisture while remaining breathable

Durability: How do you test durability on a jacket? In the lab we hooked up each cuff to a pressure scale and achieved 15lb's of exerted pressure without a single stitch breaking loose. In addition we ran rocks, sandpaper, and hooks vertically and horizontally over the Ripstop fabric. While sporting a matte finish the Recon was amazingly slick and negotiated all these stress tests with little more then minor cosmetic damage, none of which would impair the performance of capabilities of the garment. This jacket is light but extremely solid thanks to a complete interior reinforcement of tough Nylon Taslan.

The entire interior is reinforced with high density Nylon Taslan

Storage: The Recon offers a moderate amount of storage via weatherproof zip pockets that are located on the chest of the jacket. In addition to these pockets are two extra long pit zips that actually open up for instant ventilation and very convenient access to a vest or fleece liner. In addition the Recon has one small zip pocket on the right side of the interior which is large enough to shelter valuable tools and instruments. While the amount of storage is not as much as some of their other jackets in Mtn Hardwear's lineup this shell always felt lightweight and does enable anglers to reach quickly inside to access primary layers of clothing.

My favorite innovation by far is the welded arm radio pocket that is made to hold almost any handheld radio. In this pocket the radio can remain turned on and still can be used simply by moving your arm across the front of your chest to speak into the radio. What this innovation allows you to do is free up a hand while fishing or climbing and still maintain close communications with your party.

Large Pit Zips are great for ventilation and accessing inner layers.

Wind Resistant: The Recon doesn't just reduce wind exposure it stops it. Like a solid wall from the elements the combination of 3 layer Conduit and the Ripstop face fabric form a formidable barrier. The Recon has one of the best integrated hoods I have ever seen which simply rolls and Velcro's neatly behind the collar. On some jackets the hood is so large and cumbersome that when it is tucked away it still weighs heavily on the back of your neck. With the Recon you hardly feel the presence of the hood, but don't let the small folded size deceive you. Once unfurled this is a huge hood...so big in fact that without a hat it is actually hard to see out of. The reason the hood is enlarged is to accommodate climbing helmets. The hood also features a soft visor that does an excellent job of keeping snow and rain from coming in direct contact with your face. Once zipped up I felt well shielded from the stalwart winds.

The Recon has waterproof pockets with well reinforced zippers

Waterproofness / Breathability:  In the wilderness the Recon was faced with varying levels of cold and constant exposure to moisture in he form of sleet and snow. To further stress the jacket we intentionally pinned it down outside of shelter where it was covered with half a foot of snow by morning. After locating the jacket (which was no easy task under the white blanket of fresh powder) we simply shook the snow off. The Recon's interior was not only completely dry but the outside showed no signs of moisture penetration either. The best way to describe the Recon is that it seems to repel moisture. The bottom of the jacket can be drawn tight and has a fused inner skirt which acts as an effective gasket for snow, if there was one thing we could add to the Recon it would be to have this same innovation on both cuffs. While the cuffs can be drawn closed with Velcro straps snow and moisture can still get in if you fall or reach into snow pack.

With an incredible ability to prevent moisture from entering the garment one might think that the interior would easily trap sweat. This is hardly the case as the Conduit does a first-rate job of allowing unwanted moisture to escape.

Even with the Velcro strap drawn tight some snow can still enter the cuff

Warmth: The Recon is a good shield from the elements but you will still require a fleece layer to be comfortable. The Recon is designed not as a primary jacket but as a outer shell. I combined this jacket with Mountain Hardwear's Ozone fleece for an extremely light and mobile combo that still was very warm. Compared to some of the other editors in my party I easily had the lightest outfit, yet I was still the most comfortable throughout the trek. 

By far the coolest innovation is the integrated radio pocket that enables you to keep your hands free and communication open


Applications: Climbing, hiking, and fishing longer is very possible armed with the Recon. At a price tag of 280 dollars the Recon is among the mid to high priced shells on the market, but at least in the case of the Recon you are definitely getting what you pay for. The Recon enabled me to hike through the backcountry in the middle of the storm to earn the privilege to fish waters that, except for my flies, will remain untouched for the rest of winter. While made for backcountry outdoorsman the Recon also serves as an excellent layer for fishing in bad weather or from watercraft. When on my bass boat I often find myself suffering the force of high wind resistance as I zip from one side of the lake to the next...while sporting the Recon the trips seem a lot shorter. Because of its light weight and ability easily pack small this is a jacket that can go anywhere your will desires.


The enlarged hood does a great job protecting you from the elements and is even large enough for a hat or climbing helmet



Mountain Hardwear Recon Jacket Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Excellent construction and use of extremely high quality materials...this is one jacket built to last 9
Performance Conduit continues to become more and more enhanced and is a worthy competitor for the well known Gore-Tex competition. 9.5
Price A bit pricey for some but we believe you are definitely getting what you pay for with this garment 8
Features Lots of features like enlarge pit zips, and an integrated radio pocket make the Recon a pleasure to use. 9
Design (Ergonomics) Well fitting, great ergonomic hood, good accessibility but some people may want more storage capacity 8.5
Application great for anything from simple rain protection to surviving that unexpected blizzard 9.5

Total Score (avg)


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Extremely Light L Some people may want more storage
J Very Durable L Wish cuffs had skirted second layer
J Excellent moisture protection  
J Excellent wind resistance  
J Excellent breathability  

Conclusion: Mountain Hardwear has a well earned reputation for designing and building some of the most innovative and high performance outdoor products to ever grace the backcountry...and the Recon is no exception. The Recon is built to impress, and any angler that yearns for a backcountry adventure will be in good hands under the protective layers of Ripstop and Conduit that this garment affords. There are not many jackets that can offer the best of both worlds, with exceptional portability and superior protection. If you are in the market for a premium quality shell you simply can't go wrong with the Recon.









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