Strafe Recon Jacket & Pants
Reviewer: 5’8”, ~155 lbs
Strafe Recon Jacket
- Stretch woven fabric: 70-denier, 84% nylon/15% spandex, 160gsm, extremely high CFM
- Wind and water resistant with DWR-coated exterior
- Perforated panels under arm and perforated panel on upper back for enhanced venting
- Inside chest pocket for phone w/ media port
- Mesh-backed hand warmer vent pockets
- Single pull peripheral hood adjustment
- Single pull hem adjustment
- 1/2 elasticized low profile cuffs
- Climbing helmet compatible hood
- Active Fit
Sizes Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight: 379 grams
Strafe Recon Pants
- 10″ laminated sew-free hamstring vents
- Thigh pockets big enough for small skins and high enough to not interfere with knee
- Lightweight Cordura® cuff guards
- Concealed zipper in lower outseam allows cuff to open and fit ski boot (up to TLT6 size), yet be “runnable” when closed.
- Eyelets on inside/outside of cuff opening for alpinist style stirrup
- Removable “light and fast” boot-compatible gaiter
- Highly articulated knees for fast movement
- Active Fit
Size Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight:
- Pants, no gaiters: 374 grams
- Gaiters: 33 & 32 grams
- Pants with gaiters: 439 grams
Days Tested: 18
Test Locations: Cameron Pass, Mt Evans, Rocky Mountain National Park, Guanella Pass, & Arapahoe Basin, CO; Grand Teton National Park, WY
We’ve now reviewed a few of Strafe’s outerwear pieces, including the Temerity Jacket and Pants and the Cham 2 Jacket and Pants. The Aspen-based company is known for designing products with an emphasis on breathability, and they’ve taken that a step further with their 4-season Recon kit. The Recon Jacket and Pants are made from a thin, softshell fabric, and they feature a slim fit and minimal featureset.
The Recon kit is a bit of a reflection of the progression of Strafe’s founders, John and Pete Gaston, who have moved more into the realm of ski mountaineering and away from their inbounds roots. John had a particularly impressive season last year, setting a new record for the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse with fellow Strafe athlete Max Taam, and achieving the highest-placing finish ever for an American at the Pierra Menta Ski Mountaineering World Championships.
So Strafe’s new Recon kit was designed by some serious skiers, is meant for 4-season use, and offers an interesting combination of fabric, features, and fit. This all makes for some unique products, and both Cy Whitling and I have been spending time in the Recon Jacket and Pants to see how they perform.
The jacket and pants both use a 70-denier, 84% nylon / 15% spandex fabric. Upon first seeing the Recon kit, I was surprised by the material. It’s very thin, and doesn’t have the hefty, plush feeling of most softshells I’ve used. The fabric does have a bit of stretch, but it also has a slightly stiffer hand than the Polartec Powershield Pro (which, to date, is my favorite fabric for winter touring) that’s used for the Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants.
That being said, the Recon’s fabric is by no means uncomfortable, it just doesn’t feel like most other softshells. And I think that’s great. One problem with a lot of softshells is their heft; they don’t pack down as small as hardshells. But both the Recon Pants and Jacket can be smashed down to about the size of a Nalgene.
Another common issue with super stretchy softshells is their tendency to snag easily on branches and rocks, an issue I have not encountered with the Recon kit. The fabric has a smooth hand, slides very easily over layers, and is comfortable on skin.
Both the Recon pants and jacket have a very slim fit. I wear a Medium in pretty much everything, and the size Medium in both the jacket and pants fits me very well.
The Recon Jacket is much slimmer than any ski jacket I’ve used, and its fit is more similar to some running and climbing jackets. The Recon Jacket is a bit roomier than running jackets like the Salomon Bonatti or Strafe Scout. It is larger throughout than the Patagonia Houdini, and is a bit slimmer overall than the climbing-oriented Arc’teryx Alpha FL, with less room in the shoulders, elbows, and torso. However, I haven’t had any issues with range of motion, in part due to the fabric’s stretch.
The pants are the slimmest ski pants I’ve used. I tested the Recon pants in a size Medium, which is what I normally wear for ski pants. I’d say they fit somewhere between the Patagonia Alpine Guide and a casual, slim pant like the Prana Brion. For me, the thighs are just a bit larger than what I’d call “form-fitting,” and the knees have plenty of room for movement. The only times I’ve felt restricted by the Recon pants was when the vents were fully open and I had my phone at the bottom of the thigh pocket.
Although the Recon Jacket and Pants are relatively minimal with regard to features, the ones they have are smart and functional.
The Recon Jacket has two mesh-backed handwarmer pockets. Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to companies making every pocket mesh-backed, as I’ll take any increased ventilation option I can get. The handwarmer pockets do sit fairly low, so they are partially obstructed by a pack’s waist belt or climbing harness.
In addition to the handwarmer pockets, the Recon Jacket has a laminated interior chest pocket that has a media port for headphones, and it fits a phone or wallet nicely. I did notice the pocket droops a bit when I have my phone in it (likely due to the stretch in the fabric), but this is a very minor complaint, and it doesn’t inhibit any range of motion.
The Recon Pants have two zippered pockets that sit about an inch below the waistband. They are fairly deep, and Strafe says they are big enough to fit small skins. I was able to cram the G3 Mohair Mix skins (cut for the 185 cm Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon) into the pockets with some effort, but it was a very tight fit. I’m sure more minimal skins would fit better, but I’ve opted to instead stuff the skins in the larger handwarmer pockets of the Recon Jacket, or just store them in my pack. The thigh pockets extend down to a few inches above the knee. I don’t have any issue skinning or hiking with a phone or wallet at the bottom of the pockets, but it’s a tiny bit restricting when making high steps (like on a steep bootpack) with something at the bottom of the pockets.
Fortunately, the right thigh pocket has an internal mesh media pocket that sits slightly below the opening. It has a key / beacon loop next to it, and fits my iPhone 5 nicely. The pocket will fit a BCA Tracker 2 beacon, but it’s a very snug fit. Cy Whitling reports that the smaller Tracker 3 fits great. I love this pocket as it doesn’t inhibit any motion while also keeping a beacon or phone easily accessible.
The Recon Pants feature a cordura patch on the inside cuff to protect them from ski edges and crampons. The Cordura on the Recon Pant is lighter than similar patches on heavier, resort-oriented pant cuffs, but it has yet to tear during my use. Inside the pant cuff is a removable elastic gaiter, similar to those used in ski mountaineering racing suits. I don’t have any boots that are small enough to fit with the gaiter, but Cy has tried it with the Arc’teryx Procline and Fischer Travers Carbon with success, although he says Dynafit boots with the large “Ultra-Lock” buckle might not fit without alteration. With the gaiters removed, the pant functions just fine, and I haven’t been bothered at all by the interior attachment snaps.
The outseam on the cuff of the pants features a minimal zipper that expands or contracts the cuff. The zipper has a tiny metal pull tab which works ok without gloves but is very hard to manipulate with any glove thicker than a liner. During the winter I plan on just tying some paracord to the tab — an easy fix. With the zipper open, I can fit the Recon Pant’s cuff over the Salomon QST Pro 130 with its buckles open while touring. When I buckle the boot up, I can zip the cuff securely over the boot.
The Recon Pant’s cuff is the one area where I have some durability concerns. First, the zipper on the outseam is very small, though I haven’t had any issues with it yet. Second, I have to stretch the cuff to get it over the QST Pro 130, and I am worried that repeatedly stretching the fabric over the buckles might eventually tear the fabric. However, Strafe clearly states that the cuff is meant to open up to fit boots up to the size of a Dynafit TLT6, so the QST Pro 130 is definitely outside of this category. If you use lower-profile boots, I’m sure the cuffs will fit better.
I really like the wrist cuffs on the Recon Jacket, which only have elastic on the inside half of the opening. They lie flat and fit snugly without gloves, yet still fit over bulkier gloves up to the size of the Hestra Leather Fall Line.
The Recon Jacket features cutouts at the arm and on a 14” by 3.5” section of the back (pictured below), which are meant to increase ventilation and breathability. I haven’t really noticed the underarm vents, but the cutouts on the back do provide a noticeable boost in breathability if you’re not wearing a pack.
The Recon Pants have 10” zippered vents along the outer back of the thigh. They provide a bit of added breathability, but do restrict movement when they’re fully open and you have something in the thigh pockets. This is much less noticeable with empty pockets, or when the vents aren’t all the way open. However, I don’t use the vents that often anyway, due to the fabric’s fantastic breathability.
The hood of the Recon Jacket fits snugly over the Black Diamond Vector helmet, and also works nicely without a helmet. In accordance with Strafe’s description, the helmet would not fit over my ski helmet, which doesn’t bother me since I very rarely use my hood over my helmet while skiing, but should be noted if this is something you look for in a jacket. You can tighten the hood via one cordlock on the back of the head, which tightens the hood both around your head and pulls the collar further up. The collar is much lower than most of my other shells, and sits slightly below my chin. This hasn’t bothered me during the spring and summer, but might be an issue in colder months where increased face coverage would be appreciated.
NEXT: Breathability, Weather Resistance, Etc.