The Cotopaxi Kusa Jacket first catches the eye with it’s features, such as back buttons, but wins the user over with a comfortable fit and good performance. We loved the cuffs and comfort, which represents the basis for its performance. The most obvious and consequential drawback is that it’s a bit heavy for how warm it is.
Quality This is a well thought-out, well designed, and well constructed jacket. After field testing we experienced no insulation loss, and the exterior holds up well against the minor abrasions that can be expected in the backcountry. The buttons are durable. Looking at the zipper before use we expected some snags, since the fabric comes close to the zipper teeth, but in the end we had no issues.
Comfort/Fit This jacket also proved to be a comfortable fit. It runs slightly toward the voluminous-torso end of the spectrum, but not as dramatically as other jackets in this set. The cuffs are tight without being irritating, and easily slip under a variety of glove types without snagging. The hand pockets are soft, providing that extra dose of warmth and creature comfort when hands are jammed in against a biting wind or cold.
Warmth The Kusa Jacket struggles a bit in this category. The back buttons provide an entry for wind, and the insulation is thin throughout. The tight, comfortable cuffs keep wind from coming up the sleeves, but it is not suited for the coldest of conditions.
Features The Cotopaxi Kusa Jacket’s most apparent feature are the rear buttons, which allows the user to hike up the back of the jacket for use under a backpack, or for particularly technical outhouse applications. It is also reversible, which adds a bright color as a potential emergency-situation signal. There are zippered, soft pockets on the primary exterior, and unzippered pockets on the alternate side, and a zippered chest pocket for valuables.
Packability This jacket packs down well, into a space about the size of a grapefruit. Slightly limiting its packability are the buttons on the rear of the jacket. The strong packability score contrasts with lower warmth score, which points to the fact that this is a thinner and lighter jacket than others in the test set.
Scott Morris guides backpacking expeditions and hiking trips for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. He is a writer, traveler, and runner. Scott tests backpacking equipment.