OK, so let’s get going. Remember my aim is not to be comprehensive but to start off the debate and discussion. I’ve been looking at gear and gear sites and have picked out some stuff to think about, but no doubt many of you know more than me and are more resourceful!
The High End
To start with let’s just refresh ourselves with the madness of the high end. Here are some jacket samples that I have looked at. I’ve taken by guide prices from mainstream outdoor sites rather than absolute discount ones, but you’ll get the idea.
First off let’s consider some high end Gore Tex jackets and the new Gore Tex pro Layer 3 fabric (this exercise is going to try my patience I suspect).
How about the Arc’Teryx Theta AR jacket? Made of Gore Tex Pro Shell this weighs in at about 500 grams, I guess for a medium size. Cost? £430.
Also in Gore Tex Pro fabric is the Berghaus Ulvetanna Pro at 650 grams. Cost? £375.
And I could go on. I reckon you’d need your head examined to buy this stuff. Mind you, expect significant discounts on GT Pro in the new year.
And the fabric? Well, I’ve no doubt it performs well and will be promoted heavily; Gore Tex are not beyond flying bloggers out to Germans for a weekend to same at first hand their labs and hospitality.
And I suppose we shouldn’t ignore Paramo. The Enduro jacket was commended in the TGO Awards and is a full Analogy jacket, but it costs £350.
Down a bit …
I mentioned Neo Shell in an earlier post. This is the fabric that is the trendy kid on the block at the moment and the one that might knock Gore Tex off their perch.
The Rab Stretch Neo jacket won last year’s TGO Award. Prices are coming down but even so this will set you back £270 for a jacket that weighs 500 grams (medium again I guess).
The Rab Myriad is a tad lighter at 410 grams and a bit cheaper at £250. It has been well reviewed but is still a little pricey.
Montane are also using Pro Neo Shell, for example, in their Fast Alpine Stretch Jacket. The is available for prices that range from £300 to 350. This will weigh around 600 grams for medium. A more basic jacket cut from the same material, the Further Faster Neo will cost £230 for 500 grams.
When considering the Neo Shell remember those weights.
This is where the great value is for me. eVent is a tried and tested fabric which is very breathable (especially when cleaned regularly). eVent is available in different weights. I have used a very lightweight eVent jacket for 7 or 8 years and it is only now showing signs of wear.
Rab use lightweight eVent in some of their jackets although I’ve had bad reports of wear with the lightest ones. I shall consider Montane — my jacket — which in its new versions seems to be as robust as mine.
The Montane Air is the direct ancestor of my jacket and shares most of the same features although in a better package. My search today found the jacket for about £220 but I have seen it for less than £200. Expect 310 grams for a size medium.
The new Montane Mohawk has been trailed here by Webtogs and looks really good value at £149. I can’t find it on the Montane website but it does real exist! A size medium will weigh just over 300 grams. This could well be my next jacket.
Getting lower …
Whisper it carefully but there are even more fabrics that you might consider. And some of them come even cheaper.
The Montane Atomic Jacket has always been a bargain, well designed and fully featured. The fabric used her changes regularly and currently Montane are building this in Pertex Shield which TGO found to be “easily breathable enough for hill walking”. Weight about 300 grams. Cost just around £100.
Other Propriety Items
I mentioned Jack Wolfskin the other day. Their range is clever. You have a heavy full on winter jacket, a medium weight jacket and a lightweight option which looks to me as if it is made of eVent or similar. If you are on a budget— and have a branded store near you — don’t ignore these.
But for my first Bargain Choice I shall go to that distinctly un-fashionable brand Karrimor.
How about the Karrimor Elite Alpinist Jacket? This is made of eVent — so it will be breathable — but will cost you between £90 and £100. It is a tad heavier than the Montane stuff as a quoted weight of 670 grams (I presume for medium). This may seem heavy but just check out those weights above again. I think it is safe to say that this jacket is probably not made out o the lightweight laminates that some have had problems with.
And you know what? The Elite Alpinist has been well received in the real world. Check out hill walker DeanRead’s review here.
… and finally
These lightweight fabrics are not a compromise; used in a proper layer system the lightweight eVent will see you through the whole year round.
So, these are my initial thoughts and I’ve picked out the Karrimor Jacket.
But I’m sure you can do better than me!