Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Waterproof top- options

I'm writing this mainly to make sure in my own mind that I've picked the right one to buy.
Since my OMM Cypher smock ended up being consigned to the metaphorical dustbin (I can still wear it, but it just isn't waterproof) I realised that I had to stop lusting after a Castelli cycling jacket, and focus on replacing something that is a staple of winter training.

As this is pretty wordy, if you want to skip the whole thing to get to the punchline, I've summarized it all at the bottom, feel free to jump on down there if you're short of time. 

I do like Waterproof smocks, as they have less zip area in which to let moisture in. Admittedly, when running, you do tend to build up a lot of moisture inside the jacket- even when it is a highly breathable one, it is still a really grim feeling to have that cold stripe of water ingressing through the zip onto your baselayer.
I shudder just thinking about it.
So the less zip there is to let that in, the better. Hence my penchent for smocks over full zippered coats.

At this time (2014) there is quite an array of smocks out there for the discerning fellrunner, going through a few different fabrics and also cost points. The best thing to do was to sit down, work out what I wanted, how much I didn't want to pay, and then cancel out the various options until I got down to the One.

Berghaus Mens Vapourlight Hyper Smock FireLooking at the ridiculously lightweight to begin with- the Berghaus Vapourlight Hypersmock- a top with a couple of superlatives thrown in there for good measure, looks amazing. At 110g for a Large, this has to be the lightest "waterproof" smock out there. It packs down to almost nothing, and you'd barely notice it in a bumbag. It apparently complies to all FRA regulations, has a hood with 2 point adjustableness, and an arm pocket (which you can't fit much in at all- maybe 3 jelly babies), and on sale at £90... well. That's really not a bad price for a racing jacket. If I was in the market for the bare minimum to race with, this would indeed be my choice. However, the fabric is ridiculously thin- it has to be to get the weight down so low, and although it is waterproof and windproof, I'm not sure how well it would cope after 5 hours of thrashing rain and wind in the middle of Bleaklow.
For racing, and bimbling about on 1-2 hours runs, this might be the ticket, but from experience, I know I'm going to need something a bit more meaty.

Next on my list are the relatively new Inov8 offerings. The Race Elite 150, and the Race Shell 220. Both made very much with the weight conscious runner in mind- the numbers being the amount of grams each weighs, and priced at £120 and £150 full retail- you can get them cheaper in various outlets, they are pretty much slap bang in the range of decent in terms of price.
Inov-8 Race Elite 150 Stormshell AW14 Blue/Lime
Inov8 Race Elite 150
I've seen a good few people around in the 150, and I have to say that they do look nice. (The waterproof... not always the person in it), however, having seen one upclose and personal in a shop, I was a little less than impressed at the build quality. Although it boasts "2.5layer waterproof fabric", it looks incredibly like a lightweight material which has been waterproof backed- like the pertex on my Montane H2O velo jacket- which ended up delaminating pretty quickly. In fact, it was so much like it that the odd one or 2 150s in the shop had ALREADY started delaminating on the hanger. What they would be like after prolonged abuse, let alone a couple of outings, was weighing on my mind.
So on the last outing of my OMM, in the wet, in the clag, I asked those people wearing one what it was like as a waterproof. As I suspected, amazingly light, but after a couple of outings, lost a lot of its waterproofness and also ended up being damp and chilly. Although it would past muster in a race, not something that would hold its own for hours on end on Bleaklow.

Inov-8 AW14 RaceShell 220 Black/Red
Inov8 Race Shell 220
The Race Shell 220 looks a little more robust, being made with a ptfe membrane with taped seams- basically something along the same lines as eVent, but without the brand name. It has thumb loops, always a good thing, and looks pretty sleek, while being able to roll away into its own pocket. I like this jacket, and haven't had a chance to look at it in the flesh, but from the specs, it certainly looks good. My one concern would be about the fabric. I may be a little bit of a snob in that I like to have a jacket made of a "named" fabric like eVent or Goretex... using a bespoke fabric is always a bit interesting, and here we have what appears to be an eVent like jacket - which would normally cost in the region of £200 for only £150 rrp.
Nice. I'd quite like to try one.

From one British Manufacturer to another one- Montane. A real favourite of the Mountain and ultrarunning community. Montane have a couple of offerings that I'm interested in, and even a Jacket (shock, horror), that looks good.
Montane AW14 Minimus Smock - Black
Montane Minimus Smock
The lighter weight of the Montane offerings is the Minimus Smock - the smock brother of the ever popular Minimus Jacket- which I know a lot of fellrunners really like. It's made of Pertex Shield+  which is basically a bit like the inov8 Race Elite- but with a brand name. Ripstop nylon with a microporous layer on it, but with quite astonishing numbers in terms of waterproofness and breathability. It isn't all about numbers though, and as I have shown my bias before, so I will show it again, and say that this kind of fabric, though good on races, ain't going to cut it on Bleaklow in December. Not only that, but I have reservations about the hood as well. Although it has 2 point adjustability and an elastic volume adjuster for the back, the last jacket I had that used this configuration was the Montane Spektr, which appeared to have been made for someone with a head about 3 times as large as mine. It also lacks a peak, which is a bit of an issue, but the main point is that I'm never buying a decent waterproof again that doesn't have 3point adjustability. My head is, surprisingly, just too small! Which is a shame, because I really like the idea of that massive front pocket. The cuffs and the bottom are both elasticated, with no adjustability, which is also annoying as on the smaller end of the market- these things tend to stay too big for me, unless the entire coat is too small. At £130, though, its not a bad price for a light smock with a decent amount of storage.

Montane AW14 Mens Aero eVent Pullover Tangerine
Montane Aero eVent smock
The second smock is the heavier weight Aero eVent smock - which as the name suggests, is made with eVent material- always a winner. As such is it a bit heavier (280g) and a bit more expensive (£240) than the pertex offerings. The design seems somewhat reminicent of the Spektr smock, and has some pretty cool features, like the offset zip, again the huge pocket in the front, a stiffened brim on the hood, but still, it is a 2 point adjustment, with an elasticated back bit. Fine if your head is bigger than mine, but no matter how "head hugging" the design, its a complete no go for me. I love the assymetric zip design and the rear vents, andm to a point, the adjustable wrist closures, but the hood is a real deal breaker. 

Montane AW14 Mens Further Faster Neoshell Jacket - Blue
Montane Further, Faster
The third Montane that I had an eye on was actually a Jacket- the Further Faster Jacket. Made with Neoshell- a Polartec material that is stretchy, as well as waterproof and breathable, I've seen a couple of mountain jackets made out of this stuff, but not really any running products. At first look, this is a long day out jacket - it has massive pockets, a 3 point adjustable hood (yay!) and is constructed of fabric that is going to stand up to a proper beating on the hill. The cuffs are adjustable, and so is the hem, which is always a good thing. However, at 425g, its nigh on twice as heavy as anything else I'm looking at, it isn't quite as streamlined as other jackets, and the packability really isn't there either. So although it would be a superb bit of gear for hill bashing in the winter, it unfortunately won't do for a race jacket as well... If I had £200 to spend on a winter jacket, and then more to spend on a race jacket, this would be up there. Unfortunately, I don't.

Haglofs Gram Comp Pullover Gale Blue
Haglofs Gram Pull
The usage of different fabrics continues with the Haglofs Gram Comp Pullover- using Active shell, the latest in a long line of Gore-tex product and is apparently the lightest and most breathable incarnation yet. Haglofs have used this to good effect with a great lightweight jacket - coming in at 215g. It has a 3 point adjustable hood- proof that you can do it even when going lightweight- please take note Montane, non-adjustable elasticated wrists and a simple napoleon pocket. Simple design. Lightweight. Good fabric - though needs to be treated quite carefully from what I have heard. This could well be a good choice- though at £250 rrp, it is up there with the eVent jackets in terms of price- but it is definitely up there in terms of a competitor to the Inov8 Raceshell. 

OMM AW14 Kamleika Race Smock 2 Black/Orange
OMM Kamleika
The final pair of jackets are from OMM, which brings the tally of British manufacturers on this list to 3, which is pretty good when you consider the state of the market a few years ago. The Kamleika Smock, made from Genalots fabric is a perennial favourite of a lot of fellrunners, and has had a bit of a redesign in the past year. Genalots is waterproof, breathable and stretchy. I reckon it feels a bit too much like being in a latex suit for comfort. Having worn a kamleika on the hill a few times, I have to say that it just wasn't for me. Not sure what it was, but I wasn't overly convinced about the material. Maybe I'm just a bit old school and don't like change, but whatever it is, those that like this jacket, love it, but not me. Nevertheless, it has a massive front zip (for a smock), thumbloops, a fully adjustable hood (yes, its a big thing for me), and all in 240grams.

Omm AW14 Aether Smock Black
OMM Aether Smock
The replacement for the Cypher smock is the Aether smock. Made from eVent, weighing in at 200g, and with a full on mountain hood, thumbloops and a chest pocket, this is pretty much the same as the Cypher, but in a different colour... and with the pocket on the inside of the jacket instead of the outside. Which confuses me slightly. If there was anything that was I am a little worried about getting wet, it wouldn't be in any jacket pocket, in or out. Now if I want to get to my compass or food, I have to open the jacket to get to the pocket, letting in the weather, which seems a little silly, but there you go. Still, as someone who has had and broken a Cypher, maybe staying with the same company is the best idea? At £240, it is pretty steep, though can be got on sale in a few places. I guess I just need to sit down, weigh up the differences, the pros and cons, and work out where to spend my cash.

Berghaus - 110g. £120. Crazy lightweight. Good for racing. Not good in winter.
Inov8 Race elite 150 - 150g, £120. Light, but delaminates and wets out fast
Inov8 Race shell 220 - 220g, £150. Solid fabric, decent hood, looks like a contender
Montane Minimus - 146g, £130. Pertex Shield+ 2 point hood. Good for races - not necessarily for winter
Montane Aero eVent - 280g, £240. eVent = great. 2 Point hood = deal breaker.
Montane Further Faster - 425g, £200. Neoshell looks fab, should be good for winter- but not in the bumbag
Haglofs gram Comp - 215g, £250. Activeshell. Light. Simple. 3 point hood adjustment. A contender
OMM Kamleika - 240g, £130. Genelots. Stretchy, light, personally, I don't like the feel of it.
OMM Aether - 200g, £240. eVent. Same as the Cypher, but lighter. Certainly a contender.

So there you have it. Just to see what deals I can get - as all these prices are pretty much full rrp.


  1. Hey up Zephr
    Have you looked at the Rab Pulse ?

  2. Good call sbrt. I like the look of it, but i appear to have developed a pathological aversion to pertex. Not sure why. I need to get that out of my system and try a pertex proof in crappy weather and see if it is as bad as i remember...

  3. Have you looked Berghaus VAPOUR STORM JACKET? Not the lightestbut looks good.

  4. Also - Castelli Pocket Liner Jacket (eVent) - 170g = $315

  5. OMM Aether severely limited for anything more than about 5 hours of real weather. Nearly hypothermic in mine at Tor Des Geants last year overnight. Best eVent I've had was the Rab Demand smock. Just trying to find one again but they don't seem to exist anywhere anymore. Good writeup! Thanks for putting these all in one place to compare.

  6. Interesting you say that Roger. My Aether has been pretty decent, and was the only waterproof top I wore along the Spine Challenger.
    I grant you that the eVent material isn't quite as thick as the material on the previous incarnation (Cypher), and its a little cooler as a result.
    Never tried a Rab Demand, but always heard good things about them.

    Ah- and on the Spine, over night in the snow I also had a Berghaus hypertherm on as well.... than bumped up the warmth factor by a couple of degrees.