Monday, January 14, 2013

Gear Review: EMS Divergence Pro Jacket

For about a decade, starting in the mid nineties, I lived in a fleece.  It was the most comfortable piece of clothing I owned.  It was big and black and fuzzy.  It fit loosely and made me look about twenty pounds heavier than I was.  (Which at that time was about forty pounds heavier than I am today) As I lounged on the couch in it eating chips and Oreos I was transformed into a giant teddy bear.  A giant, cuddly, adorable, crumb covered teddy bear. You see, the thing that made it so comfortable also made it collect anything and everything within five feet of my face.

While my bearskin fleece was at home on the couch, it didn’t fare so well outside of captivity.  It had a traction beam that was particularly good at grabbing loose snow- which would then melt from my body heat.  Once wet, it didn’t insulate very well.  And to a gust of wind it might as well have been a screen door. 

Largely because of my experience with the bearskin, I soured on fleece as an acceptable material for my outdoor endeavors.  So when EMS sent me their Divergence Pro Jacket for a review I opened it with all the enthusiasm of a cat on bath day.

And so my fleece therapy began slowly.  

I wore the jacket for errands around the backyard when the weather began to cool.  I liked the way it fit me.  It wasn’t too bulky and didn’t get into the way.  As my confidence grew, I took it on trips to the store.  I noticed that wind didn’t easily slice its way through.  Plus, instead of the fuzzy finish that I was used to, the Divergence Pro has a polished feel from a DWR treatment that is both water and dirt resistant.

Before the end of mountain biking season I wore it on one of my nightly rides, which is the ultimate sweat test in my book.  Despite the warmth and wind protection it breathed exceptionally well.

Finally, my confidence in fleece restored, I decided to put the jacket into the rotation and took it on my recent trip to the Mohawk Slides in Western Mass.

With temperatures in the twenties and a cold wind blowing, I donned the Divergence Pro over my baselayer hoody for some extra warmth as we started up the first slide.  As Gered and I worked our way upwards, the jacket kept me warm and shook off the loose snow.  About halfway up, I opened up the front and the pit zips to cool off.  When we finally reached the top, I buttoned up again to keep warm while preparing for our descent.  The jacket breathed well, and didn’t get clammy despite the fact I was pretty warm from the climb up.
Yeah I know,  I need to keep those arms in.

It also passed the durability test.  I took a couple of good tumbles in the snow where both times I scraped along hard rock underneath.  The jacket was no worse for the wear.

Nothing is perfect, so what are my complaints?

There are two things I feel like I would add to the jacket to make it perfect.  First, I would add a hood.  Although I can wear one of my light hoodies underneath, I would prefer if I was able to wear this jacket with just a light hood-less baselayer.   I  have plenty of hooded jackets, so I don't see it as a "must have" but instead something I would simply prefer.  I am sure there are just as many people out there who would prefer it not have a hood.

Secondly, I've grown fond of map pockets on the breast of my jackets and miss having one on this piece. Again, between this jacket and my hoody, there are plenty of pockets.

I think my complaints are minor and more a matter of what I have become accustomed to wearing rather than a complaint about the functionality of the jacket.  Perhaps I'd prefer the EMS Fader Jacket.  (It's on sale right now too!)

In the end, my fleece therapy is now complete thanks to the Divergence Pro.  I have restored confidence and a new perspective on fleece.  I see myself wearing it with a hoody baselayer on sunny day tours with temps in the twenties: wind or no wind.  I’m especially looking forward to bringing it spring skiing.

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