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Marmot Speed Light Review
Cons: Small hood, short hem and sleeves, poorer features compared to competition
Bottom line: A lightweight and relatively affordable Gore-Tex Pro jacket that didn’t perform as well as others.
Measured Weight (Size): 14.1 oz. (M)
Material: GORE-TEX Pro
The Marmot Speed Light is a relatively affordable hardshell made with a Gore-Tex Pro membrane that includes a standard set of hardshell features: pit zips, handwarmer pockets, and a storm hood. While we thought it performed admirably when ice climbing and backcountry skiing, we also discovered some problems that when compared to the competition, led to it having the lowest overall score in this review. For us, the fit was the smallest of any jacket that we tested, which led to problems with mobility and weather protection. And while it has plenty of features that one would expect on a hardshell jacket, they just weren't up to the standard we found on some of the higher scoring jackets.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hardshell Jackets of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
While the Marmot Speed Light is constructed based on the right ideal for a successful hardshell jacket, we found that the execution of that ideal was sadly a bit lacking. We tested a men's size medium based on the advice of Marmot's website and found it to be far and away the smallest jacket we received for this review. Our head tester is often on the verge of sizes, but we had two separate testers who always wear mediums test it as well, and they both concurred that it was simply small.
As such, this jacket could be an excellent fit for those with small frames (or who size up for their purchase), but for our testers the small size meant that the sleeves were too short, the hem too high, and the hood far too small for wearing with a helmet (and this factor shouldn't depend on jacket size). We also took issue with some of the features, when comparing them to the competition, such as the type of draw-cord buckles and their locations on the hood. Compared to another affordable Gore-Tex Pro jacket, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, which won our Best Overall Award, there was no competition at all.
To see where the Speed Light ranked in our cumulative overall rankings, check out the chart above.
We have already mentioned how we found that this jacket's small fit led to the sleeves and hem being too short. For us this meant that they rode up annoyingly while we were either skiing or ice climbing, allowing points of entrance for the water and snow that the jacket is designed to keep out. In our shower test, we found that while the hood has a very nice, huge arcing wire-brim that does a nice job of channeling water off the sides, it simply wasn't large enough.
Without a helmet, it could be made to work, but there was almost no way of fitting this hood up over either our climbing or skiing helmets. Additionally, when we tried, the collar became far too tight to wear zipped up. The hoods found on The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX and the Arc'teryx Alpha FL were large and deep, doing a great job of keeping the weather out even with a helmet on. The hood on the Speed Light was tiny and inadequate by comparison, and we awarded only 5 points for weather protection.
Our size men's medium jacket weighed in at 14.1 ounces, virtually the same weight as the Patagonia Pluma, but slightly heavier than the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, which uses a similar Gore-Tex Pro construction. Information on the denier of the face fabric on the Speed Light was not available, but it feels slightly heavier than the 40D fabric used on the Alpha FL. Regardless, weight is not a reason to shun this jacket, as it is light and not very bulky. We gave it 7 out of 10 points.
Mobility and Fit
Our head tester is 6'0" and 160 lbs., with broad shoulders but a skinny frame, and we ordered him a size medium based on the recommendations of Marmot's website. For him, the jacket was a bit too small, providing sleeves and a hem that were too short, and some constriction of movement in the collar and across the back of his shoulders and chest.
However, we also had two other testers who are both shorter and smaller and typically wear a size medium use this jacket skiing and ice climbing, and they both concurred that the jacket fits small. Much like other jackets that use Gore-Tex Pro, such as the Arc'teryx Beta AR, we found this contender to be a bit noisy and crinkly, and it does not use stretch fabric like we found on some of the jackets that used air-permeable membranes, like the Outdoor Research Realm. For this metric, we found this to be the most mediocre performer and awarded only 4 points.
Venting and Breathability
The Speed Light features a Gore-Tex Pro membrane that is pretty effective at breathing when the correct relative humidity is present but has a reasonably heavy face fabric that makes it feel pretty warm to wear when working hard. It has standard sized waterproof pit zips in each armpit but does not offer much else regarding ventilation options, such as a two-way front zipper or mesh backed pockets. While it performed adequately, it did not offer the incredible ventilation found on the Mountain Hardwear Cloudseeker, nor the excellent breathability of the air-permeable Gore-Tex Active membrane found on the Outdoor Research Axiom. We awarded 6 out of 10 points for this metric.
The Speed Light has dual handwarmer pockets that live high enough up to not be covered by the waist belt of a pack. It also has a single external cross-over style pocket, but no internal pockets. While it has dual hem drawcords, we found that the buckles used were not as easy to loosen as the preferred Cohaesive buckles found on the Patagonia Pluma. We also found that the dual drawcords on the side of the hood were located in annoying spots, essentially resting right against the cheeks on the inside of the collar.
We once again preferred hood drawcords with Cohaesive buckles, and pull tabs that live on the outside of the jacket where they are easiest to adjust and don't rub our face. The setup on Arc'teryx Alpha FL would be an ideal example. In the end, this jacket had most of the features that one would expect on a model of this type, but their location and performance was lower than many of the others we tested. 5 out of 10 points.
The Speed Light is light and packable while providing good waterproofness and breathability with its high-quality membrane. While we had issues with the fit, not all people will, and this jacket is well suited to protect you from whatever the mountains can toss your way. It is versatile enough for alpine climbing or backcountry skiing in any weather and can be tossed in the pack when it is too warm to need the protection.
This jacket retails for $450, making it the second most affordable Gore-Tex Pro option that we reviewed. For those with a small frame, it is certainly worth investigating, but we must also point out that the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, an even more affordable Gore-Tex Pro jacket, was the highest overall scorer. We think this jacket presents decent value, with the caveat that there are higher performing and more affordable options available in this review.
The Marmot Speed Light follows the mold of the standard hardshell jacket, featuring a top-quality Gore-Tex Pro membrane, burly and durable face fabric, and the expected pit zips to help ventilate. It is fairly light, easy to pack, and relatively affordable. However, it fits quite small, has a hood that is not compatible with a helmet, and has poorer quality features when compared to the competition. While we think this jacket will certainly succeed in protecting you on most mountain adventures, in our comparative grading scale, it was the lowest scorer.
— Andy Wellman
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