John on January 12th, 2011

kamleika-smock-hi-res

Cost Smock £110

Weight 280g

+ Four way stretch fabric, light, close fitting, simple, good value, thumb loops

- Non-helmet compatible hood. New fabric so untested for long term use

The latest incarnation of the Kamleika range features a new Gelanots fabric with four-way stretch, and a new tighter outer knit to help with water repellency which also gives a softshell feel. Waterproofing and breathability are improved on older models with tests showing eVent-like levels of performance. The fit is close, relying on the very effective inherent stretch to give freedom of movement. With a particularly close fitting hood and all black fabric, wearers may be guilty of feeling like a stealth ninja! The hood fits close, almost like a balaclava, which moves with the head reasonably well on our prototype sample, and this may improve in finished versions. The peak is foam filled and flops against the face in strong winds but again, this may improve before they hit the shops. The main water resistant zip comes to mid chest level and is a two-way zip allowing ventilation from the bottom. A laser-cut external chest pocket is also accessed via a water-resistant zip. Thumb loops are excellent for keeping wrists covered when running and biking but mean there’s no adjustment at the elasticated cuffs if you don’t get on with the loops. Finished off with an adjustable, elasticated waist and plentiful reflective graphics on the sleeves, make this an excellent, simple close fitting jacket for high energy sports. Also available in a slightly looser fitting jacket version with full length zip and handwarmer pockets.

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John on April 12th, 2010

Volt Jacket

Cost £200

Weight 580g

+ Stretch panels, comfortable, pit zips for ventilation

- Weight, breathability

The Volt is designed for hiking and backpacking rather than fast moving adventure racing, so is heavy on features and this means weight. The fit is on the large side of large, meaning plenty of room for insulation layers but not ideal for fast movers. Waterproofness and breathability details on the fabric are not close to challenging eVent, and we found in the field that it got hot and clammy damp inside pretty quickly when working hard. A mixture of stretch and light weight fabric panels are combined to give good freedom of movement, but all the seams results in a lot of seam tape which reduces breathability and increases production cost. The hood fits well and will accept a helmet; however, the peak isn’t stiff enough to handle strong winds. There is a pair of handwarmer pockets hidden under a storm flap and a single chest pocket with water-resistant zip, but it’s not big enough to take a map and none of the pockets have drain holes to allow any water that gets in to escape. There is a soft perforated beard guard at the top of the offset zip which makes for a cosy place to be when the weather is rotten. While a few years ago 580g would have seemed lightweight for a waterproof jacket, fabric and construction technology has come a long way and there are better, lighter options around. This isn’t a bad jacket, just more appropriate for walking than racing.

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John on March 18th, 2010

axis-ii-jacket-aw09-zoomWeight

Cost £130

+ Slim fit, weight, pack size

- No hood, value

Designed for runners, this Gore Paclite jacket is unusual in featuring no hood – most runners prefer a hat to a hood. However, most adventure racing kit lists will demand a hood and one can be attached to a Velcro tab at the collar. The cut is athletically slim, clearly designed for lean runners rather than short, barrel-bellied ramblers and there is drawcord adjustment at hem and collar. The Gore Paclite fabric is light and narrow seam tapes help keep overall weight down and breathability up. Aiding this is a permanently open vent across the back of the shoulders, allowing through venting. Opening the high fleece lined collar wide and air will flow through without billowing up the jacket. Fine when training but useless in any race when carrying a pack. The collar isn’t adjustable so if it’s not snug enough you’ll get a bit drafty. Adjustable, elasticated sleeves are long enough to give full freedom of movement and they have enough stretch to allow pulling up when things get warm. The main water resistant zip is backed by a stiffened panel to keep rain out. A small pocket on the right hip will take a mobile, tissue and car keys. There’s some reflective piping along some seams, but not really enough for all round visibility to feel safe on the bike at night. The lack of a hood obviously means it’s not ideal for AR, but as a running jacket it works well and weighs little though is expensive compared to others.

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John on March 12th, 2010

Unique harness system for optimum load distribution

TNF Enduro 20

The Enduro 20 features a unique harness that joins at the chest with a large velcro patch to distribute weight across the chest and take some load and abrasion off the shoulders. It feels stable like a packvest but more breathable and durable. The main compartment is accessed by a U shaped zipper across the top of the pack and inside is a bladder sleeve and one central hose exit port at the top of the pack. A hook inside is designed to hold a Nalgene bladder and is a bit awkward with other brand’s designs. There is a small external zip pocket on the front of the pack and there are welcome loops for carrying ice axes or trekking poles. An external helmet holder is a clumsy mixture of mesh and bungee that doesn’t do anything to compress the pack when not completely full but does hold a helmet securely. Side bottle holders are quite tight and hold bottles well, but aren’t the easiest to access on the move. An interesting feature is the waist belt, which closes with velcro and is elasticated for comfort but can also be removed completely, as can the mesh hip pockets which again attach by velcro. The mix of 70 (light) and 210 (tougher) denier fabrics produces a lightweight but robust bag and the smooth fabrics have been well placed on the back of the pack to minimise next to skin abrasion.

TNF Enduro 20 front

The EVAP harness showing velcro fastening in mid chest, detachable elasticated waistbelt and removable pockets

Update

A few points since the original review that have been noted. The chest strap configuration can be problematic for bigger breasted women, so one to definitely try fully loaded in the shop before purchase, just in case. Aside from that, the pack has been passed onto other testers and I’ve heard nothing bad to report. I wish I’d had a bit more time with this one to really put it through its paces but that’s the way it works with 8 bags to review at a time, there’s just not enough training hours in the week!

(Review written for UK Adventure Sports Magazine)

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John on February 9th, 2010

It barely seems possible that it’s now a year since my team mates finished the last great expedition adventure race on Earth – The Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race. Not only did they finish, they finished first by a margin of 19 hours after 6 and 1/2 days racing. The same Helly Hansen Prunesco team of Bruce Duncan, Nicola MacLeod, Mark Humphrey and Andy Wilson are now back in Southern Chile within touching distance of Antarctica ready to go through it all again in order to retain their title.

Patagonia Exped Race Map

This time the race will start with an 8km paddle across the (in)famous Magellan Straits and then head onwards over land for 600km across the island of Tierra del Fuego using nothing better than satellite imagery to navigate by. They face epic legs totalling 330km on bike, 220km on foot and 60km of paddling, hopefully finishing first in around 6 days. The Patagonian wind is legendary and is already blowing relentlessly, which can be so mentally frustrating when heading into it for days on end, but the guys are tough and they know what they need to do to win so they’ll be giving it their all as always. Just wish I was there! Hopefully there’ll be updates up on the team Facebook page or website during or soon after the race so we can all see what adventures they have been getting up to in the wilds. I’ll report on Twitter when I get any updates too so keep an eye out.

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John on February 4th, 2010

Berghauspaclite

Cost £140 though I’ve seen it here for £56!

Weight 340g

+ Mesh stuff sack, short cut, rollaway hood

- Terrible hood, boxy chest

This was one of the first Gore Paclite jackets around and little has changed over the years. The large chest sizing, rollaway hood and hand warmer pockets suggest it’s more appropriate for easy going backpacking and travelling rather than athletic sports. It has a short body length with no drop in the tail to protect you when biking though the hem is the standard adjustable elastic. The hood suffers from serious design flaws that mean it doesn’t come close to sitting snug on the head and annoyingly billows up or blows the peak down on your face in a wind. As a result it doesn’t move with the head meaning when you turn to look to your side all you see is the inside of the hood. There’s no adjustment at the wide neck so when the hood’s not up and the wind is, it can send a shiver straight down the spine. A double storm flap, adjustable cuffs and waterproof zips on the pockets keep the rain out and the pockets are mesh lined to aid ventilation. However, when worked hard Paclite will always feel damp on the inside, but bear in mind all Gore jackets come with a Satisfaction Guarantee – if you’re not impressed then take it back for a refund. It’s probably best suited for easy-going ramblers or as a small, light, packable jacket for gap year travellers and their ilk. If you can get it for £56 then go for it, but if you’re looking for ‘the’ jacket to take out in all weathers then look elsewhere…

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John on January 11th, 2010

Paramo-Velez-Adventure-Light-Smock

Weight 580g

Cost £180

+ Durability, breathability, waterproof, can be reproofed and repaired indefinitely

- Too warm for summer use, short arms

To those that haven’t tried it, the Paramo concept can be hard to explain in a short review, so I would urge you to read more about it elsewhere. Feeling soft like a shell suit, it can be hard to believe that the Nikwax Analogy fabric could keep you dry, but with Directional Waterproofing abilities it works exceptionally well. The regular Velez Adventure Smock has been widely acclaimed and is used by many experienced kit aficionados as well as mountain rescue teams, however, it is a bit on the heavy side at 774g. The new Analogy Light fabric drops weight by 20% to a more reasonable 580g. Although heavy compared to other jackets I’ve had on test it outshines everything in performance tests, being superbly waterproof and breathable, as well as soft and comfortable to wear. Sizing is a little odd, with short arms, though this may be addressed and custom sized versions are available. The smock may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s great ‘fit and forget’ kit; once on it can be worn with just a baselayer in all but the coldest of conditions. The extra layers of fabric unfortunately provide extra insulation that makes it a bit too warm for summer unless you run really cold, but for really bad weather use it works exceptionally. A large front pouch pocket will swallow an OS map and clever side vents expose two internal handwarmer pockets. The wired-peak hood fits well and moves with the head, though is a little small to fit a helmet under. Superb comfort, breathability and waterproofness in new lighter weight format. Highly recommended for winter or expedition racing.

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John on December 30th, 2009

haglofs-oz-pullover

Cost £190

Weight 175g

+ Ultra lightweight, simplicity, superb hood

- Long term durability, breathability, expensive

Made from the latest Gore-Tex Paclite fabric this is a weight fetishist’s dream jacket. Haglofs’ clever smock design means the jacket, excluding hood, is only produced from two pieces of fabric. This results in minimal seam taping, hence reduced weight and improved breathability (as seam tape will never be as breathable as bare fabric). It’s squarely aimed at fast and light movers looking for the lightest, most packable fully waterproof shell around and there are none better at the moment. The face fabric, to which the Gore membrane is laminated, is exclusive to Haglofs and is extremely light, which with the minimalist design gives a genuine weight of 175grams for the test size medium. Body cut is slim, as would be expected, and features are sparse to save weight. It does have a laminated front chest pocket, (not big enough for an OS map) and an astounding hood with unusual external compression system.

Oz Pullover hood external compression system. Check out the three small tabs that route the elastic cord around the crown of the head. Cinched tight the hood fits condom tight.

Oz Pullover hood external compression system. Check out the three small tabs that route the elastic cord around the crown of the head. Cinched tight the hood fits like a second skin.

There is compression adjustment by a toggle at the back of the head, which thankfully doesn’t get in the way when worn under a bike or climbing helmet. Dual toggles adjust the peak position, but in windy conditions I found the peak a bit too floppy and some other reviewers including PTC, have modified their Oz’s by inserting speaker wire into the peak brim. Check out their sites for details on modifications, however, the 2010 Oz, now called the OZO will feature a stiffer peak.

There are thumb loops in the sleeves to keep wrists covered while running, scrambling or on the bike and an adjustable elasticated hem. The fabric was very waterproof during testing, though breathability struggled when working really hard and the inside often felt damp to the touch (not to be confused with leaking). Paclite has a habit of breathing well then suddenly being overwhelmed, creating a damp inner surface. However, those that understand fabric technology will understand that internal condensation is crucial in how Gore-Tex fabrics work, so some should be expected. Additionally, I’ve always been of the mindset for fast moving sports, that if it’s cold enough to need a full waterproof shell, as opposed to a windshell, then chances are you’ll be (or should be) wearing a long sleeve wicking baselayer, so you simply won’t feel any clamminess next to your skin.

Anyway, if weight and pack size are your priorities in a waterproof shell and you want the assurance that your jacket will protect you from the heavens when they open, then look no further, the Haglofs Oz Pullover is a stunningly good jacket. As the 2009 Oz is fazed out and replaced by the 2010 OZO then there are many bargains to be had, in fact a quick search reveals it at half price here. Get there quick!

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John on December 24th, 2009

Montane Halo

Weight 410 grams

Cost £225

+ eVent fabric, stretch panels, helmet compatible, breathability, fit

- Stiff feeling fabric at first, expensive

For a company that makes so much excellent lightweight outdoor gear, it’s a little surprising perhaps that this is the first item I’ve had the chance to review for sleepmonsters.com or UK Adventure Sports Magazine. Hopefully it won’t be the last, as the quality and performance of their products is superb and the constant refinement of designs means that over the past few years they’ve really sharpened up a range of ‘Fast and Light’ that’s got to be near the top of most people’s ‘Must Try’ list.

Heavy on features and talking points, the Halo could be the jacket for those looking for bombproof weather protection and excellent breathability . The, unique to Montane, lightweight eVent fabric is as waterproof as it gets with breathability surpassing the best Gore has to offer, meaning it works especially well for those who run hot. It feels stiff at first but after a couple of washes it will soften. Stretch fabric panels on the back, underarms and forearms give extra freedom of movement especially noticeable when wearing a pack while scrambling. The hip and forearm sections are reinforced for durability at minimal extra weight.

The integral wire-peaked hood offers great face protection and will cinch tight around the head as well as accommodating a helmet underneath. It’s a superb fit whether onto bare head or helmet and the neck section is long enough to allow full freedom of movement and with the stretch panels gives a proper ‘ninja’ feel. There are two soft mesh lined handwarmer pockets, which help with venting and there’s a large chest pocket which features a ‘love it or hate it’ upside-down water-resistant zip to make getting something from the bottom of the pocket easy. On the plus side it’s easy to get small things in and out of the pocket and it stops the weather getting in when you need that lip balm hiding in the bottom corner, but it can be easy for small items to fall out when you pull that fat gloved hand out again…swings and roundabouts. Another boon is that the pockets are designed to be expandable so as you fill them, they increase in volume internally instead of stretching the exterior fabric, ultimately increasing comfort.

Body fit is ‘athlete-ready’ close, though relatively long making it suitable more for walking and mountaineering, than running. There’s not a whole bunch of reflectivity going on, but those looking for such featured are probably in the minority and there are a few patches dotted around to keep your mind at ease for those late night bimbles along dark lanes. Pleasingly, long arms keep wrists covered when stretched out on the bike or jumaring, making this a great all conditions, all-activity jacket ready for the toughest expedition races.

The waterproofing level of the fabric is top of the line as is breathability, so combined with great fit and exceptional freedom of movement, I’m struggling to see any downsides to this jacket. The water repellent treatment on the fabric is still beading up after 8 months of use and when the time comes I know it can easily be revitalised in the washing machine – another of eVent’s many great attributes is its machine wash capability, something that is in fact recommended to be done often to keep it oil and much free and keep it performing optimally. If push came to shove I’d have to say there are other jackets that come close in performance but don’t have the stretch panels, for example, and therefore are on the shelves for a bit less moolah, however, I’ve seen the Halo in the sales for as little as £150 so if you see one, snap it up quick!

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John on November 27th, 2009

Review for Autumn edition of UK Adventure Sports Magazine
Rab Momentum Jacket

Weight 330g

Cost £160

+ Weight, fabric, great cut, long arms, hood

- Nothing really

The Momentum is Rab’s lightest eVent jacket to date and is aimed squarely at alpine climbers and adventure racers. It’s made from lightweight three-ply eVent with a micro-grid rip-stop pattern for added strength and there is narrow seam tape on ‘non-critical’ seams to save weight. Breathability is as good as it gets for a traditional hard shell fabric and the close fit helps with the Direct Venting eVent is well-known for. It’s short at the front for freedom of movement and long at the back for backside protection. The hood has a wide range of adjustment and will cover a climbing helmet with wired peak protecting the face. It moves as one with the head and is one of the best hoods we’ve ever come across. Something we’re pleased to see is long arms that keep wrists covered when stretching out – why can’t other manufacturers get this simple, key factor right? There are two Napoleon style deep chest pockets that will swallow OS maps with water resistant zips. Zip garages on the pocket and main zip help stop water penetrating any gaps and the main zip is two-way easing use over a climbing harness. While weight isn’t down there with the sub-200g products, it is nonetheless acceptably light and packed down it occupies little space. At the moment it looks like Rab are onto a winner with this jacket and only longer term use will judge how the light fabric stands up to abuse. So far so very good!

Bottom Line – UK Adventure Sports Magazine Recommended

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