Icebreaker Coriolis II Hooded Windbreaker
By Shaun King
Icebreaker has a well-known reputation when it comes to Merino wool base layers and socks and they have been building on that reputation by extending their expertise to outer layers.
Icebreaker advertises Merino wool as being lightweight, warm in the cold, cool in the heat, odour resistant, naturally renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. By lining this nylon outer jacket with Merino, the aim was to combine the properties of breathability with weather protection.
The jacket is quite minimalist with no drawcords around the hood or at the hem. The cuffs, hood and hem all have a simple elastic which keep the weight down but do not allow for cinching or adjustability.
There are two Merino-lined hand pockets but no chest pocket.
My size medium weighed 368 g and the large is advertised at 400 g. This seems heavy for a windbreaker but light for an insulated soft shell.
The Coriolis II is touted as a nylon, water resistant windbreaker and while it looks like something you would just wear casually around town, I took it mixed climbing and ski touring to see how much weather it could really handle. In the wind I was thoroughly impressed as the nylon outer cut the wind almost as well as a hard shell. Pulling the hood over my head (with no toque beneath) was enough to comfortably protect me from strong winds in near freezing temperatures.
Breathability was also impressive as high energy uphill hiking and ski up-tracking was no sweatier than when wearing a soft shell, but with much more wind protection. There is also an upper back yoke vent for improved ventilation. I couldn't detect this while wearing a backpack but pack-less runners or XC skiers would likely appreciate it.
While mixed climbing, the limited icicle dripping and spin drift was a non-issue, and although I have not worn this piece in the rain, water from the tap seems to bead and run right off it. After holding my jacketed arm under the tap for one minute, the Merino lining was still dry, but it wetted through quickly when subjected to strong jets of water.
Merino retains its characteristics well over time, so I have no doubt that the liner will hold up, but I am curious to see whether abrasion and repeated washings will have an adverse effect on the shell which seems impressively weather resistant when new.
The wool lining is luxuriously comfortable against the skin and the relaxed fit of this jacket combined with the stretchiness of the material makes it well suited to activities that require a wide range of motion.
I was expecting this to be primarily a casual windbreaker to wear around town and while it is quite stylish, the high performance of the materials offered impressive warmth, breathability and weather resistance making it an excellent choice for cross-country skiing and cool weather mountain biking, running or climbing.
While it certainly held up impressively well to mixed climbing and ski touring, it is not designed for this use. The low-profile hood fit well under a helmet but the elastic around the face was too loose to keep out wind-blown snow and errant ice chunks. The lack of a hem cord had the back riding up while glissading down snow slopes.
The bones are certainly in place if Icebreaker wanted to create a more technical piece though. The addition of glove-friendly zipper pulls, hood and hem drawcords, and a designated pocket for stuffing the jacket into with a carabiner clipping loop would add tremendous versatility while maintaining the jacket's good looks.
The main criticism I have of this jacket is the hand pocket zippers which constantly get stuck in the cover flaps, making single handed use nearly impossible. The zippers all have a DWR finish, so I don't see the need for the flaps. Apart from this, I have nothing but praise for this versatile jacket that is as cozy as a hoody, as functional as a soft shell, and good looking enough to hit the town.