I would not consider myself a gear nerd. I can get overly excited about cool gear, but it tends to be simplicity that gets me going. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles – give me an innovative piece of gear that requires little to no instruction and serves a purpose. The Altra StashJack is precisely this piece of gear and it brought out the child-like enthusiasm in me. It’s also the first of its kind – ratchet that excitement up a few more notches. With the constantly fluctuating weather we’re experiencing at this time of year I’ve already utilized it many times – not only because I think it’s so cool but because it truly does make a lot of sense and is so easy to use.
The StashJack is a 3.3 oz wind and water resistant shell that stashes conveniently into its own pocket. That pocket is a hip belt, so you wear it just as you would any other hip pack. The real magic comes with its unique open-back design. When you’re out on the trail (or road) wearing a pack you don’t have to stop moving and/or remove your pack to throw on this jacket. The jacket keeps your pack exposed so you continue to have access to it while adding a layer of warmth and protection from the elements. It also frees up space in your pack since you don’t need to store it. Genius. No instructions required, but just to show you how simple it is:
1) Open velcro hip pocket
2) Unfurl jacket (I really just wanted to use the word unfurl)
3) Put your arms through the sleeves
4) Throw the jacket over your head
5) Close around your waist by using velcro closure on your lower back
6) Keep running without skipping a beat
Taking it off is equally simple – the jacket is super-easy to roll up and stash back into its own pocket. The jacket is a half zip and also has a hood along with a velcro closure at the chin. You can really get all snuggled up in this thing. It features flat lock seams and is made of 100% ripstop nylon. There is also a mesh pocket on the back side of the waist pack in which you can store a small item or 2.
– If you’re like me your packs hold bottles on the front. Wearing this jacket covers those bottles. I did not find this to be a major issue because the half-zip allows easy access to those bottles. Plus if you worry about nozzles freezing this thin layer of protection and warmth can help prevent that. (As an added bonus wearing the jacket over these bottles makes me look…ummm…well-stacked if you know what I mean).
– Wearing the jacket as a waist pack means there will be some bounce. So far this hasn’t bothered me because it’s so lightweight.
– It’s not going to protect you in extreme cold and/or wet conditions, but hey – it’s not marketed for extreme conditions. I’ve worn it in the snow and wind in sub-freezing temps and it kept me warm and dry through the duration (1 hour). I actually find it beneficial to have the protection on the front while allowing ventilation out back.
Overall it’s perfect for long days on the trails where you experience variable conditions requiring you to add and remove a layer multiple times. I can see myself getting a lot of use out the StashJack for all of the fun training adventures I have planned for 2017!