Saturday, 29 December 2012

OMM cypher smock (vs Montane Spektr)

At the end of last year I was looking into a few new running waterproofs. The thin pertex Montane Lightspeed H20jacket which I had been using for a while was delaminating, and wasn’t all that nice to run in when conditions got really gnarly. A replacement needed to be found.
I had never really owned anything made with eVent fabric before, and so there were a couple of jackets on my radar, the ones that I ended up getting were the Montane Spektr smock, and then, when I realised how unsatisfactory it was for what I wanted, I sold it, and bought an OMM Cypher smock – which I previewed a few months ago.
The question is, has the Cypher smock lived up to expectations, and has it trounced the Spektr smock?
If so, why?

The Cypher Smock is very very yellow. I know that you can get it in Black, but that wasn’t an option when I bought mine. (The one I found on offer was yellow, so I snapped it up). First up,the sizing. I was a Medium in the Spektr Smock- and that only just about fit me. Medium is the smallest it comes it. The Cypher, I am a small, and that fits me pretty much the same as the Spektr I had. However, here we have the first of the major differences.

The Spektr relied upon elastic around everything in order to help it fit. Non-adjustable elastic. I’m apparently relatively small and slight in the grand old outdoor world (at least according to clothing manufacturers), and even with the smallest of the Spektrs, the elastic was not enough to keep the fabric from billowing around me. I like to be able to cinch a jacket in around me, especially around the lower hem and the hood, in order to actually protect myself from the weather, and make the jacket a bit more molded about my body.
The Cypher has an adjustable elastic waist hem closure. Brilliant. Ok, it may weigh a couple of grams more than a strip of elastic on its own, but the usability of it makes it a lot lot more useful.
So far score one for the OMM.

The Hood
Nicely wrapped up
Since having a Mountain Equipment Changabang, I haven’t ever really found a jacket with a hood I have been happy with. Until I put on the Cypher. I have quite a small head, and so quite a lot of hoods just seem to float around my noggin. I turn my head, and the hood stays in place, or worse still, I end up craning my neck in order to try and keep the hood in the right place on my head as I walk or run around the hills. (which ends up with a stiff neck and a horrible headache).
A hood that locks down onto your head, encloses around it and also has a slightly stiffened peak – well, that’s a brilliant combination, and if I have to pay for it in a slight increase in weight. So be it.
You guessed it. The yellow marvel has done it again, wrapping my head up in cosiness so that as I turn, it turns. As I look somewhere, it does so, if I look into the wind, it stays on my head and doesn’t blow about.
The Spektr on the other hand, has no compressing ability onto the head in any way shape or form. It relies on a simple non-adjustable elastic band around the face, and when your head isn’t actually big enough to fill the cavity which is the hood in the first place, there is no way in which to make it small enough to fit your head. Even using a hat (which is recommended by the manufacturer) didn’t solve any problems. So when I used the Spektr in bad weather, I got a wet head whether I liked it or not – as soon as the hood got put up, it blew straight back down again. If I was alpining, and wearing it under (or in my case, maybe even over) a helmet, it might have worked, but non-helmeted, not a chance. (Apologies, I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of me in the Spektr hood).

Yes, I bought the Spektr, partially because the closure system looked pretty funky. I was SURE that I would be able to work it out and make it my own. Try as I might, with gloves, without, I hated the damn thing. It took ages to undo it, and even longer to do up. I’m not the kind of person that gives in easily, but flipping heck, using it just made me LONG for a zip.
Which is exactly what the OMM has. A 2 way zip for venting as well – which is another thing the Spektr doesn’t do. The Cypher even has a small pocket in it. Not huge, but enough to keep a couple of energy bars or a compass or a small pocket thesaurus in. (but its not waterproof, I must hasten to add, so please don’t blame me if you ruin you thesauruses… thesauri… thesaurasisisesii? I have no idea…) Anyway.

So there you have it, in terms of features yes, the OMM wins out, but we knew that anyway. Do the features make it a better jacket than the Spektr? Well, yes, actually, it does.
I used to make excuses not to wear the Spektr, I carried it a few times, but generally just tried not to wear it – and that meant not going out in foul weather, which is a bit silly really. Since buying the OMM I have used it a lot. I have to say that I look forward to wearing it and I am very impressed with the breathability and the feel of the jacket as a whole.
Wrapped up in the Cypher smock
On recces with friends who have been in pertex jackets, they have been impressed with the build and the quality of the jacket, and have expressed a lot of interest in it. Especially in the howling wind and driving rain, them flapping around in a paper thin "waterproof" garment that "isn't rustly", with me snugged up inside the Cypher running along next to them. I’ve purposely run on “warmer” evenings when others have just been in thermals to see how I go – again, impressed, the jackets venting and breathing properties seem to keep me relatively comfortable no matter what. I certainly haven’t been stifled in it.
And no, I haven’t noticed that the fabric sounds particularly “crinkly” – which is what puts a lot of people off eVent jackets. I find the flapping and snapping of sodden pertex a lot more annoying than any noise eVent makes as you run.

Yes, the OMM is a brilliant winter running jacket. I have to thoroughly and heartily recommend it. Yes, it may be on the expensive end of the market, but it works. It really does. Perhaps I should have made the jump earlier and bought one a year ago, however, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try out a Spektr before I sold it and went for this one.
Cypher smock, folded up into its own hood. 
Im sure the Spektr is fantastic as a ridiculously minimalist shell for alpinists who are looking for something to stick in their sack in the hope that they will never need it, but for running, it really isn’t up to the job.

OMM Cypher smock
Good cut. Good zip/vent. Good hood and compression. Not rustly or crinkly when running. Solid in all weather.
Excellent gnarly weather running jacket.

Montane Spektr Smock
Good cut. Rubbish hood. Closure system needs more work. Not rustly or crinkly when running. Solid in all weather – except the hood.
Not so good as a running jacket, probably excellent as a lightweight waterproof for climbers/ alpinists who pray they never need to use it.

Post script
I must hasten to add that the Montane Air Jacket looks pretty excellent as well. From what I have read, it looks like a jacket that takes the basis of the Spektr, and adds a fair few features (including a map sized pocket) and makes a very nice package. However, as I have the Cypher and it works well, getting one of those might be a step too far for the bank balance. I'd recommend it from looks alone, but have not tried one in a shop, let alone in anger. 

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