I have recently taken the plunge and made the decision to replace my 12 year old jacket and enter the world of modern fabrics and design. I thought I would jot down my experience and share it with you.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that staying dry is the key to staying warm. I spent a lot of time researching different jackets and trying lots on before making a final choice. This is definitely advisable if you are thinking of spending your hard earned cash, as a good waterproof jacket will set you back anything from £120 to £500 depending on what specification, fit, fabric, style, brand and colour you’re after. Don’t feel under pressure to buy until you are happy with your choice.
Things to Consider
The fit: Each brand has a different fit to the next and their sizes don’t necessarily correlate either. I have quite a long torso and short legs, so for me some of the jackets weren’t long enough. For this reason I was glad I spent lots of time in the shop trying everything they had before committing to buying.
Material: It would appear there are lots of different feeling waterproof materials these days. Some feel silky whereas others feel crispy. I was told they are all quite durable in comparison to materials from the 70’s for example.
Each material type has a different weight, with the lighter fabrics being generally less durable, so if weight is a big issue, you may have to forego durability in order to reduce weight. I personally went for a thicker, crispier feeling one as I will use it lots for climbing and don’t fancy ripping it on the rock. Some of the silkier ones had a really comfy fit. I chose a jacket with Gore Tex Pro, as Gore Tex is the most well known waterproofing system and it is well respected, due to it’s breathability, windproofness and waterproof qualities. Breathability means that your sweat will evaporate and not make you wet from the inside (think a long hard run dressed in a plastic bag if you want to know what un-breathable feels like).
Specification: There are hundreds of jackets on the market, all with a different specification. The more technical you get, the more you pay. The sorts of specifications you can look for are:
- Gore Tex / Gore Tex Pro
- Taped Seams
- Cuff Velcro – to help stop water moving under your cuffs
- Hem Toggles – Easy use toggles are a must
- Hood Peak – Adjustable and shapable
- Hood Toggles – To help keep it on in high winds
- Hood Size – Suitable for a Helmet
- Chin protector – To stop velcro / zip grazing your chin
- Ventilation – under arms to cool down on a hard walk-in
- Pocket Size – Big enough for Snacks/ Map/ Guidebook
- Pocket Position – Try it on with a harness
- Number of Pockets
- Size when packed
Once you start to look at the Tech Specs of jackets online, either at individual manufacturers’ websites or at an online retailer, you will become familiar with different features. Cotswold Outdoor are one retailer who have a wide range of jackets available from different manufacturers, along with Technical Specifications to help you make the right choice.
Weight and size: Jackets are available with or without inner layers. Some have none and some may have a few. I guess you need to consider what the purpose of the jacket is and how much you will be wearing/carrying it. My jacket will spend a fair bit of time in my bag, so I didn’t want anything too big and heavy.
Movement: When you try on any jacket lift your arms up and down as you would if you were climbing and see how much the waist area moves. The assistant in the shop was telling me that modern jackets are designed so the waist area shouldn’t move much, meaning that your harness stays still.
There’s nothing worse than climbing in a jacket that lifts up and leaves your back exposed to the elements!
Zips: From experience, I think it’s important to consider how easy the zips are to open when your hands are frozen and you are tired. Do they have smooth zips and do they have easy to grab tags?
Consider what you are using the jacket for – do you need a large pocket for a map?
What is the best pocket position for you?
How many pockets do you need?
Colour: This may not seem like an important aspect but for me it is. My last jacket was white/grey. I only realised when looking at some photos last year, that when I was outdoors on rocky terrain with also grey/blue trousers on, I was almost invisible. This made me worry what would happen if I fell or got lost.
My new jacket is bright orange and that puts my mind at ease a little more. It’s a Mountain Equipment Gore Tex Pro Jacket and my review will follow soon.
You can find out more about jackets, including my jacket, at Cotswold Outdoor
So, that’s it. If you have any questions, post in our comments box or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is sponsored by Cotswold Outdoor.
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