UKH

Mountain Shells Around £200 Group Test

The outdoors may be for everyone, but the cost of equipping yourself will be a barrier to many. By the time you've purchased several big ticket items, your outdoor wardrobe might have racked up a small fortune. High-end waterproof mountain shells are among the more expensive items. If you're regularly out mountaineering in the harshest Scottish winter weather, then it would pay to invest. But while top notch fit, features and fabrics will inevitably be quite spendy, it's perfectly possible to pick up a shell that does the job in most situations, for less than half the price of the top-spec models.

In terms of functionality, quality, and affordability, our £200 price point may be something of a sweet spot. We've allowed a bit of leeway on the price tag, but with the cost of living crisis mounting daily, it's fair to say that in this review anything that comes in significantly over budget wins no points for value.

Lightest isn't always rightest: for winter use consider something a bit heavier and more protective  © Dan Bailey
Lightest isn't always rightest: for winter use consider something a bit heavier and more protective
© Dan Bailey

But for general use or warmer weather, you might prefer something lighter and simpler  © Martin McKenna
But for general use or warmer weather, you might prefer something lighter and simpler
© Martin McKenna

On the principle that users may want to budget for one jacket that does for more or less everything, rather than splashing out on several specialised shells for various activities, we're looking for all-rounders. Here's the brief we sent to brands:

These versatile midweight waterproof jackets are suited to a range of 3-season mountain uses, from hillwalking and backpacking to scrambling and climbing. We'll judge them on fit, features and breathability, with an emphasis on value for money. Suggested price range: £150-£250. 

While none of the jackets in this review are built like a top-price highly protective technical winter mountain shell, the more versatile of them do still have a fit, thickness, and feature set that make them feasible for winter mountain use - perhaps at their best in slightly less extreme conditions. On the other hand, the less heavy-duty models here may be preferable if your winter ambitions are limited and you're more interested in something light and packable for summer cragging, backpacking, hillwalking in warmer seasons or just general outdoor use.

Overall Summary

Make and model

Mammut

Kento HS Hooded Jacket

Price: £190

Weight: 435g size M

Pros: Good balance of feature vs weight; sustainability; climbing compatibility

Cons: Hood adjustability could be better; not the most breathable; not a full-on winter jacket

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Rab

Arc Eco Jacket

Price: £200

Weight: 428g size M

Pros: Great cut, versatile features, good for four-season use, sustainability

Cons: Fabric less breathable than some

Best in Test Large

Black Diamond

Stormline Stretch

Price: £140

Weight: 270g size M

Pros: Both the lightest and cheapest on test, and has a great cut

Cons: Not the most waterproof or breathable shell, and better to pack just in case than wear all day in a storm  

Salewa

Moiazza GTX Jacket

Price: £210

Weight: 290g size M

Pros: Very lightweight and packable; good environmental credentials

Cons: Too skimpy and close-cut for winter; short in the body; hood is so-so for walking and poor for climbing

Sprayway

Reaction Long Jacket

Price: £200

Weight: 555g size M

Pros: If you like a longer, more protective cut, then here it is

Cons: Heavy and warm thanks to old fashioned drop lining, so less good in summer

Berghaus

Paclite 2.0 Jacket

Price: £150

Weight: 375g size M

Pros: Lightweight, pretty robust for its weight, and very affordable

Cons: Hood not great with a helmet; pockets useless with harness or hip belt

Best in Test Good Value Large

Marmot

EVODry Clouds Rest Jacket

Price: £269.95

Weight: 595g size M

Pros: Lots of features; thick and protective in cold windy weather; good eco credentials

Cons: Heavy for an all-rounder; doesn't seem that breathable; expensive

Montane

Element Stretch Jacket

Price: £190

Weight: 405g

Pros: Light and breathable for summer use, with good stretch and an active cut

Cons: No women's version. Too close-fitting for winter. Hood not fully helmet compatible

Best in Test Good Value Large

Mountain Hardwear

Stretch Ozonic

Price: £200

Weight: 316g size M

Pros: Simple, lightweight and stretchy

Cons: Hood and pockets not very climbing-friendly; fabric not the toughest

Mountain Equipment

Garwhal Jacket

Price: £190

Weight: 323g size M

Pros: Light, functional, packable, affordable, and well cut

Cons: Too skimpy for full-on winter mountain use; hood is iffy with a helmet

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Mammut Kento HS Hooded Jacket £190

Reviewed by Nick Brown UKC

Highly Recommended

Coming in at £190, Mammut's Kento HS Hooded Jacket is an excellent option for those looking for a midweight, well-featured jacket with an active cut, which should cover you for a range of activities and seasons. It's been designed to be used on the move, be that climbing, scrambling, or hillwalking. It packs down small for its weight, so is a worthwhile addition to any backpack when heading into the mountains. It's unable to compete with higher-spec burly shells suitable for full-on Scottish winter conditions, but at its very reasonable price that is perhaps out of its remit anyway. It'd be ideal for general hillwalking, summer mountaineering, and the occasional Scottish winter day when the forecast isn't too wild. It comes in under our target budget, and you get a lot for your money too.

The Kento HS Hooded Jacket is one of the best all-rounders in this review  © UKC Gear
The Kento HS Hooded Jacket is one of the best all-rounders in this review
© UKC Gear

Weight

According to Mammut the Kento HS is 435g in a size medium. It's not the lightest jacket in the review, but comfortably sits in the middle of the range. For its weight, it's extremely packable, with versatile features and a great length.

Fit

Mammut offer the Kento HS Hooded Jacket in both men's and women's versions. The cut of the jacket is certainly streamlined but perhaps not quite 'athletic.' It has plenty of room for layering underneath and stretches down to well below the hips, which really does help to keep the weather out more effectively than a fashionable short-hem shell. This is also particularly useful when climbing or scrambling, as the jacket doesn't rise up every time your arms are raised. I've worn it comfortably over a puffy down jacket in cold conditions, with very little restriction of movement - most of which came from the down jacket anyway.

The adjustable cuffs have plenty of room and can fit quite bulky gloves underneath and whilst this jacket isn't going to handle the harshest of winter environments, there's certainly merit in describing it as an all-rounder.

The collar around the neck is quite long which gives the option of covering the lower face - I've used this for a day skiing in the wind and it was particularly useful, although I wouldn't advise treating it as a regular ski jacket (there's no snow-skirt for instance).

A decent length in the body is a definite bonus in a shell  © UKC Gear
A decent length in the body is a definite bonus in a shell
© UKC Gear

Hood

The hood has three adjustment points that give a snug fit, with or without a helmet. The two toggles on the neck pull the hood tight in a downwards direction, giving it a close fit over the head or a helmet. These toggles are one of the only criticisms I have of the jacket, as there's no obvious way to un-tighten them. Instead, you're left with quite a long cord hanging down in the neck area which can be a little annoying in high wind. The toggle on the back of the hood works effectively, and except in stormy conditions the jacket could get away with just this.

Thanks to the long neck, the hood manages to fit snugly around a helmet yet maintains an impressive degree of freedom of movement, even when the main zip is done up fully. In this review, the Kento has one of the more successful hoods for climbing.

The brim of the hood is a decent size and is stiffened enough to keep water and spindrift out of the face, whilst the great deal of adjustability helps maintain the shape in windy conditions.

The hood works really well, with or without a helmet  © UKC Gear
The hood works really well, with or without a helmet
© UKC Gear

Fabric

The fabric is Mammut's DRYtechnology™ Pro, at a light-ish but still reasonably burly 40 denier. This boasts a 20,000mm hydrostatic head - in layman's terms it's very waterproof. There's been no wetting out and it feels highly windproof. It's not the softest of materials but feels nicer against the skin than some beefier Gore-Tex alternatives. A measure of stiffness helps this jacket feel more protective than a skimpy lightweight, which boosts its mountain and winter performance a bit.

Mammut describe the fabric as a 2.5 layer material; the outer face fabric, then a membrane layer, followed by a thin polyurethane layer. Its breathability performance figure of 15,000 g/m²/24h is OK if not stellar, and should do fine for medium-output activities such as hillwalking and mountaineering, though for running or cycling you'd probably find its upper performance limit fairly quickly. In use, the jacket feels adequately prepared for quick romps up steep hills, as well as when worn in warmer, wetter conditions. 

Cuffs  © UKC Gear
Cuffs
© UKC Gear

Chest Pocket  © UKC Gear
Chest Pocket
© UKC Gear

Pit Zip  © UKC Gear
Pit Zip
© UKC Gear

Features

The first feature of note is pit zips. I've found I haven't had to use them in anger yet, which probably says a lot about the breathability, but they are there for those that find they need them. Furthermore, the zips are two-way, which I find absolutely essential as I often struggle to pull underarm zips up but not down.

There are two large pockets that are perfectly placed for use with a harness or a rucksack hip belt. They are more than adequate for stuffing a map or large pair of gauntlet gloves in. There is a small chest pocket that just fits my admittedly rather large phone. All the zips are water repellent, robust, and easy to use with gloves.

The hemline is easily adjusted using the same mechanism that's on the back of the hood and this is particularly useful when climbing, as it gives more protection against the jacket rising up.

Overall, the jacket manages to balance the feature set with the weight extremely well. It's by no means an ultra-lightweight jacket but compared to some of the shells in this review it feels versatile for the weight, with all the features you would expect from a hardshell you might want to take climbing or scrambling.

As well as mountaineering, it's ideal for general outdoor use   © UKC Gear
As well as mountaineering, it's ideal for general outdoor use
© UKC Gear

Ethics and Environment

Mammut reference three things on their site when it comes to sustainability: the jacket is a bluesign product, which means that at least 90% of it is made with materials approved by the organisation. In reality, it's hard to actually find out what this means and there's a lot of corporate-speak about the need to 'act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment and resources,' but there's little clue as to what that means in relation to the Kento HS.

More concretely, the jacket features a PFC-free DWR, making it far less damaging than its predecessors. It's likely that you'll have to reproof the jacket more often by washing it in something like Nikwax's TX Direct, but that's a small price to pay for what is ultimately a much more environmentally friendly material.

Mammut are also signed up to the Fair Wear Foundation, who rate them as 'Good.' This means that the brand monitored 96% of the suppliers that it worked with across 15 countries. Read more about their 2021 performance check here.

Mammut say:

The Kento HS Hooded Jacket Men takes sudden changes of weather in the mountains in its stride.

Its waterproof outer material is complemented by a stormproof hood that you can also pull up over your helmet. Water repellent zippers also prevent penetration of moisture to keep you feeling comfortable even in rainy conditions. Climbing harness-compatible front pockets make this hardshell jacket a must-have garment in the mountains, and thanks to its small packing volume, you can also quickly stow it in your backpack if needed.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) XS-XXL (women)
  • Weight: 435g
  • Mammut DRYtechnology™ Pro products are highly durable, water- and windproof (40 denier polyamide outer fabric, min. water column rating 20,000mm).
  • Breathability: 15,000 g/m²/24h
  • Chest pocket with water repellent zipper
  • Hem width can be adjusted with drawstring
  • Pre-shaped sleeves with hook and loop fastener
  • Low packing volume: perfect for taking anywhere
  • Underarm ventilation with water-repellent 2-way zipper
  • Stormproof, vertically and horizontally adjustable helmet-compatible hood with reinforced shield for an optimum field of vision at all times and easy operation when wearing gloves
  • Robust, water-repellent YKK Vislon® 2-way front zipper
  • 2 climbing harness-compatible front pockets with waterproof zippers
View website

Rab Arc Eco Jacket £200

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Best in Test

Exactly hitting our £200 sweet spot, the Arc Eco is a brilliant jacket at the budget. Cut for free movement, whether you're walking, scrambling or climbing, its simple but functional feature set gives it wide appeal. We think it's more mountain-capable than Rab are giving it credit for. Long and protective enough for winter, but sufficiently light for warmer season use, it may be middle-of-the-pack in terms of weight and breathability, but this year-round shell perfectly meets the versatile brief in this group test. Strong environmental credentials seal the deal on a Best in Test rating.

Appreciating the Arc Eco on a day of mixed autumn weather  © Dan Bailey
Appreciating the Arc Eco on a day of mixed autumn weather
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Our size Large men's review jacket weighs 469g (Rab say 428g size M). While this definitely isn't a lightweight shell, we'd say it counts as midweight, and it's light and packable enough for all but the most weight-critical uses. With a very sturdy, well-made feel, the Arc Eco should outlive a lot of skimpier jackets, and with that in mind the weight is forgivable and the price tag looks like value for money.

Fit

This jacket comes in both men's and women's versions. The cut is generous. I'm 1.83cm and pretty broad, and usually take a size Large in Rab clothing; in this case Large is both roomy and long on me, perhaps a fraction too much in the arms. Good news is that this allows plenty of space for wearing the Arc Eco over several other layers, which boosts its winter credentials. However it doesn't feel boxy or unduly baggy when more lightly dressed, so I'd say Rab have judged the tailoring well.

Shells that fall short in the hem are always a false economy, but no such issue here. The hem sits well below the waist, giving full bum coverage, and keeping wind out of the midriff and rain off the top of your trousers - why wouldn't you want this? It's not so long as to hinder leg lift when climbing or scrambling. Thanks to the active cut, with pre-curved sleeves, I can raise my arms with no trace of hem lift - a prerequisite if you're climbing or scrambling, and often something that shells fail on.

Sleeves wide enough to fit a bulky winter gauntlet are not a given in an all-round waterproof, but in this case the cuffs manage that fine. For a closer fit on a bare wrist you get simple hook and loop tabs.

Its sturdy fabric and longer cut make it good for winter use  © Dan Bailey
Its sturdy fabric and longer cut make it good for winter use
© Dan Bailey

Hood

With a semi-stiffened brim, a brushed chin guard, and three points of adjustment, the hood gives a good snug fit on a helmet-free head. The two front adjustment toggles are built into the seams, which is great for neatness and ease of use wearing gloves, while the elastic tails exit the jacket quite low down so there's no risk of being hit in the eye by them in a gust. Its slightly stiffened brim resists flapping in the wind pretty well, and the high collar affords plenty of face protection. This collar comes up right under the chin, so your neck is covered even when the hood is down. When you don't want it, the hood can also be rolled and secured by a tab (not something I've ever found that satisfactory in a shell, but someone somewhere must like it).

The catch is that the hood is cut just on the small side to be ideal used with a helmet. While it does fit over a helmet, the problem comes when the main zip is done right up, at which point I find head movement becomes quite restricted. Drop the zip a little and it all works fine, however, so the Arc Eco is still viable as a climbing shell if you're not out in a proper winter hoolie.

A nice protective hood for all-round hill use...  © Dan Bailey
A nice protective hood for all-round hill use...
© Dan Bailey

...with three points of adjustment for a close fit  © Dan Bailey
...with three points of adjustment for a close fit
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

We're becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of our gear. Put kindly, the outdoor industry has a lot of work to do. With the Arc Eco Jacket, Rab have made big strides, and should really be commended. Its 3-layer Pertex Shield Revolve fabric is made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester. Because all three layers - the face fabric, membrane and backer - are made from a single type of material, the impact of its production is minimised, say Rab, and the fabric can potentially be recycled again at the end of its life (not something that would be easy to do with a composite material). If all shells were made like this, then in theory I guess you could end up with something like a closed loop. This should be the direction of the garment industry.

Soft to the touch, comfy against bare skin, and quiet when you move, this is a really nice fabric to wear. At 50D, it's tough enough for climbing and scrambling, and has sufficient thickness that it doesn't flap and deflect loads in the wind. This is good for winter use, when air movement inside your clothing can compromise its insulation. Although Rab don't mention it, there seems to be a tiny amount of stretch too, which is never a bad thing.

The fabric is as waterproof as any, and feels breathable enough for most uses  © Dan Bailey
The fabric is as waterproof as any, and feels breathable enough for most uses
© Dan Bailey

But there is a 'wetting-out' look in prolonged rain, even when new  © Dan Bailey
But there is a 'wetting-out' look in prolonged rain, even when new
© Dan Bailey

Unlike market leaders Gore-Tex, Pertex have been open enough to publish lab performance figures for Shield Revolve fabric. With a 20m Hydrostatic Head, this stuff is as waterproof as you'd be likely to wish. The 15,000 MVTR represents a fairly good level of breathability for active wear, but not stellar. While on paper that figure doesn't compare with the best lightweight shells (it's less than half that of Rab's own Kinetic Alpine 2.0 for instance), my experience to date suggests that the test-based number is not on its own a reliable guide to real world performance. I've found the Arc Eco remains comfortably unsweaty when you're working reasonably hard, and it feels no less breathable than three-layer shells in other fabrics. However I've only used it in cooler autumn and winter weather as yet, while a tougher test might be a humid summer day; it'll be interesting to look again at this in a few months time. Meanwhile I'll be very happy climbing or hillwalking in the Arc Eco, but I won't be taking it running - there are limits.

A fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment boosts the environmental credentials, but like all such treatments these days the reduction in nasty chemicals does make for less beading performance than we were used to in former times. This stuff begins to wet out in prolonged rain, though the effect looks very superficial and does not really seem to affect breathability.

The two pockets are really roomy, and feature water resistant zips  © Dan Bailey
The two pockets are really roomy, and feature water resistant zips
© Dan Bailey

Features

Simple functionality is the name of the game, with a feature set well suited to all mountain uses from country strolls, through hillwalking, to climbing. Two very roomy A-line pockets give you plenty of space for gloves and a map, and these are positioned high enough to remain usable when wearing a harness or rucksack hip belt. Instead of using mesh to aid ventilation, the pocket linings are a second layer of Pertex Shield Revolve fabric. This gives you two layers across a large part of the front of the jacket, which is a mixed blessing: an extra protective feel for winter use; but inevitably less breathability over the chest. On balance we'd have preferred mesh, but perhaps the desire to use a single material drove this decision.

On the product info Rab mention that the Arc Eco stuffs into one of its own pockets for easier packing. Yes you can physically do this, but since there's no two-sided zip pull, and no hanging loop, I don't see why you would. It'd make a smaller bundle if you squashed the jacket into a separate stuff sack.

Underarm zipped vents add air flow, and while I'm sometimes dubious about pit zips, I'd say they do make sense here given the reasonably low figure for breathability; I've found myself using them a few times. It'd be better if the pit zips had two zippers, though that's only a very minor inconvenience. The main zip has a single zipper and a little internal zip guard. All zips are YKK Aquaguard, a sturdy midweight design - not the chunkier Vislon you'll often see on shells, but more water resistant (no zip is 100% waterproof). The hem cordlocks can be used one-handed, but it might have been nice if they were built into the seam as per the hood adjustment.

Ethics and environment

We've covered the environmental angle above, and it's a winner. It's also worth mentioning that Rab has fairly recently joined the Fair Wear Foundation, which has awarded them 'Good' status. They say they'd like to do better. "We'll continue working with Fair Wear and other brands to challenge, influence, and develop the working conditions at our factories. Each year we develop a plan with Fair Wear and our manufacturers, targeting efforts to maximise improvements across our supply chain" they say.

Rab say:

The Arc Eco is our first jacket to utilise 3-layer Pertex® Shield Revolve. This waterproof and breathable fabric is constructed from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester. This means the jacket's face fabric, membrane and backer are made up of a single polymer which makes it much easier to recycle at the end of its life. This revolutionary construction reduces the impact of production and improves the chances of closing the loop on polyester's life cycle.

Ideal for all outdoor activities and mountain adventures, this hard-wearing waterproof jacket is a sustainable choice.

  • Sizes: 8-16 (women) S-XXL (men)
  • Weight: 428g size M
  • YKK® AquaGuard® front zip with internal storm flap
  • Fleece lined chin guard
  • Fully adjustable mountain hood with wired and laminated peak
  • 2 YKK® AquaGuard® zipped, A-line chest pockets
  • YKK® AquaGuard® pit zips 
  • Fully adjustable drawcord hem
  • Anti-snag hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs
  • Main Fabric: Recycled Pertex® Shield Revolve 3-Layer  with fluorocarbon-free DWR (50D)
  • 20,000HH /15,000MVTR
View website

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch £140

Reviewed by Rob Greenwood UKC


A £140 the Stormline Strech is the cheapest shell on review, making it an attractive offer for those on a budget. It's got a great cut, a solid set of features, it's packable and it's light. The main drawback is that it is neither the most weatherproof nor the most breathable shell on test (in fact it's probably the least waterproof and breathable of them). With a hydrostatic head of just 10,000mm and unlined pit-zips, this isn't the jacket you'd want to be out in during an all-day storm (despite what the name might suggest). In our view it's good as a lightweight spring/summer 'just in case' style jacket, which you'd carry in the event of an emergency, but if you're expecting outright bad weather then you'll realistically want something with more oomph.

It's light and nicely cut  © UKC Gear
It's light and nicely cut
© UKC Gear

But neither highly breathable nor massively waterproof  © UKC Gear
But neither highly breathable nor massively waterproof
© UKC Gear

Weight

Despite Black Diamond quoting a weight of 320g, the Stormline Stretch in size Medium came up quite significantly under that on our scales, at just 270g. This makes it the lightest on test, which will be appealing to some, although it's worth reiterating that this is also one of the least waterproof. Obviously there's a case of swings and roundabouts on this front, as it's difficult to get the best of both worlds - especially for as competitive a price as this.

Fit

The Stormline Stretch comes in both a men's and a women's fit. The cut is nothing short of remarkable, especially when you take into account the price, as there are a great many more expensive jackets with a poorer cut than this. It's got an active cut that is quite close fitting, but the stretch - combined with the cut - mean that I find there's little to no hem lift when my arms are raised. It would make for an ideal climbing or scrambling jacket thanks to this, although you'd have to be careful with the lightweight face fabric.

This shell also has nice long arms, which is great if you are using it with gloves, or - like me - have particularly long arms. On the note of gloves, the sleeves are wide enough for a light-mid weight pair of gloves, which is all that you'd expect to be wearing with a jacket of this kind anyway.

A nice active cut  © UKC Gear
A nice active cut
© UKC Gear

With minimal hem lift  © UKC Gear
With minimal hem lift
© UKC Gear

Hood

The Stormline's hood is described as helmet compatible, but this is misleading unless you're picturing something that could at a stretch be worn under your helmet. While this is a jacket which is as appealing to climbers/mountaineers as it is to hillwalkers, you're not going to be climbing with the hood up over a helmet. You can indeed get a helmet under it, but at the cost of being able to move your head (which in our eyes means it isn't compatible). The hood itself, much like the rest of the jacket, is quite slimline in its cut. This is ideal on wet and windy helmet-free days, as there isn't too much material to flap around; however, it does mean that there's a little bit of resistance whilst turning your head (not loads, but enough to notice).

Volume adjustment comes courtesy of a bungee cord around the back, which extends through the hood just below the ears. This means that when adjusting it'll decrease the volume not just around the sides, but also draw the top downwards too. There's nothing around the opening of the hood, however, which means that in the worst weather it can leave your face a little open and create a gap where wind and water can get in. The brim is laminated but not reinforced with wire, leaving you with something fairly soft that won't resist flapping about in high mountain wind. Overall then, this hood is as lightweight and non-serious as the rest of the jacket.

The hood is quite small and unstructured  © UKC Gear
The hood is quite small and unstructured
© UKC Gear

Cuffs have room to fit over medium-bulk gloves  © UKC Gear
Cuffs have room to fit over medium-bulk gloves
© UKC Gear

Fabric

At a fairly skimpy weight of 110g/m2, BD.dry 2.5L nylon fabric is used throughout. This has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm and breathability of 10,000g/m2 per 24hrs. For those that don't know what this means, it basically translates to pretty waterproof rather than fully stormproof, and relatively breathable rather than really breathable. It's not going to be ideal for heavy rain, particularly our all-too-frequent rain plus wind; and neither are you going to want to do sustained high output activity in it, such as running or walking hard uphill. As such, this is definitely a jacket to be packed when you don't anticipate it raining all day, because if it is then the chances are you'll probably get quite wet (either through the fabric wetting out, getting wet through sweat, or from it coming in through the gap around your chin in the hood).

Unlike 3-layer fabrics, so-called 2.5-layer fabrics don't sandwich the waterproof membrane between the face fabric and a full fabric backing layer, and as such they're both lighter and less durable. While it's light and packable, you're going to want to treat the Stormline Stretch with some care, particularly if climbing or scrambling. This is not a workhorse shell to give a regular hammering.

As the name suggests, there's some stretch in the fabric, which as I've mentioned pairs well with the active cut to offer good freedom of movement.

Features

Down the front the Stormline features a YKK Aquaguard Zipper, which are pretty much the benchmark these days as far as water resistant zips are concerned. However for the pit zips BD have opted to use a 'DWR treated zipper'. My assumption is that this has largely been done for cost, because it presents something of a weak point as far as water is concerned. Granted, it's DWR coated, so will shrug a bit of water off, but after prolonged rainfall water will almost undoubtedly find its way in - further cementing this shell into the 'occasional use' category rather than 'all day use' during a day of full-on rain.

The two pockets are roomy enough for any glove you're likely to want to use with this shell, but it's a struggle to fit an OS-sized map in (you can, just). As per the generally less technical feel of this jacket, the pockets are positioned low, so you can't use them when wearing a harness or rucksack hip belt. One cool feature though, unusual in this review, is that it packs away into its own pocket, with a carabiner clip so that you can - should you wish - attach it to your harness. Again, I think that climbers should generally be quite careful with this jacket, because it isn't designed for huge amounts of wear and tear, but having the option is nice.

Ethics and Environment

The Stormline is constructed using a non-recycled bluesign material, which sounds great, although rather confusingly it contains a PFC (C6 DWR). According to Black Diamond this is the least harmful flurocarbon and is less damaging to both the environment and humans; however, it's still a PFC - hence it feels hard to give the Stormline the seal of approval as far as its environmental credentials are concerned.

Black Diamond say:

Alpine squalls or urban downpours, the StormLine Stretch Rain Shell can handle it all. Featuring our BD.dry™ waterproof/breathable/windproof solution, which is engineered to shield you from whatever the weather holds, the StormLine is a fully featured rain shell. With DWR sealed pit zip vents, two zippered hand pockets and a waterproof center front zipper, the StormLine comes prepared for the wettest conditions but quickly adapts for moderate weather. The StormLine's underarm gussets and ultra-stretchy fabric add mobility and durability, while the climbing-helmet-compatible hood makes it perfect for on-route escapades when inclement weather rolls in. The StormLine also has an adjustable hem and cuffs for dialing in the fit, and when the sun comes out, the shell stows into the right-hand pocket and clips to a harness or bag with a carabiner clip loop.

  • Weight: 270g size M (our weight)
  • Sizes: XS-XXL (men) XXS-XL (women)
  • BD.dry™ 2.5L, Two-way stretch woven face with DWR finish (110 gsm, 100% Nylon)
  • Stretch shell fabric increases durability and comfort
  • DWR pit zips for ventilation
  • Underarm gussets for added mobility
  • Adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood
  • YKK reverse coil PU coated center front zipper
  • Packs into right-hand pocket with carabiner clip loop
  • Adjustable cuffs and hem
View website

Salewa Moiazza GTX Jacket £210


Only slightly stretching the price point for this test, Salewa's Moiazza GTX Jacket is a very lightweight walker's shell for less testing uses and conditions. Its minimalist design and athletic cut make it a good option for those counting the grams, but looking for a bit more protection in rain than some ultralight jackets provide. The Moiazza is ideally suited to use as a 3-season shell, but sufficient in winter only on more benign days where some light wind protection may be all that is needed; don't take it up Braeriach in a blizzard. A nice looking jacket, the Moiazza features a sleek and clean look, with very few seams; overall an interesting model, but not a day-to-day workhorse.

Weight

The Moiazza comes in at a negligable 265g on our scales for size Small (Salewa say 315g size L, so we guesstimate 290g for a M), firmly putting this jacket into the lightweight category. It's among the lightest shells in this review. This reduced weight also comes with packability, making the Moiazza an ideal layer to have sitting at the bottom of your pack should a shower catch you off guard. With all lightweight items, there is a tradeoff with durability, and this is why we don't recommend it for regular use as a climbing shell, where abrasion is more likely.

Fit

The Moiazza comes in both men's and women's versions.

The cut of the Moiazza is what many brands would describe as "athletic". Even on my slim frame, it feels quite close fitting. I opted for a Small size, as this would be the usual size I would take in a jacket. Overall it fits me very well when used over a garment such as a midweight midlayer. I've tried wearing it over an insulation layer and it's tight, restricting movement, and isn't particularly comfortable - another reason we wouldn't call this a full-on winter mountain shell.

The one downside of the Moiazza's cut is its high hem line. Thanks to this it's not a great option for climbing or scrambling, as it will almost certainly lift out after being tucked under a harness, however we already wouldn't recommend it for winter climbing due to its weight, so that limitation is already baked in. Weather protection around the midriff is only so-so. The hem sits just below the waist, giving some bum coverage, but not much. Raising your hands above your head does cause some lift. It's minimal, but with an already short hem line, it may be an issue.

The cuffs don't open particularly wide, so getting a small pair of gloves into them is doable, but anything bigger will be going over the top.

It's trim-fitting and fairly short in the hem  © UKC Gear
It's trim-fitting and fairly short in the hem

Quite narrow cuffs, but with a nice big tab  © UKC Gear
Quite narrow cuffs, but with a nice big tab

Hood

As the Moiazza is mainly designed for walking, the hood is quite small, and won't practically take a helmet. There is a small elasticated fabric strip running under the inside near the forehead, keeping it more secure to the user's head. This does work, and keeps the soft rim of the hood away from the head to properly disperse water, but the brim is not stiffened, and under windy conditions this may struggle to hold its shape and feels like it could even be lifted off the user's head with a good gust. It's a fair-weather hood, which is clearly a disadvantage for use in the UK's usual mix of wind and rain.

Around the back of the hood there is a rear adjustment point to reduce the volume of the hood. This is a simple toggle that can be pulled to resize and pressed to release. The Moiazza's hood is missing front toggles to reduce the size of the hood opening, something other jackets in this category have, and another reason it's not the most protective hood in windier conditions.

The hood has a soft brim  © UKC Gear
The hood has a soft brim

And only a single point of adjustment  © UKC Gear
And only a single point of adjustment

Fabric

The Moiazza uses a 100% Polyester 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, a fabric that is designed to be lightweight, comfortable close to the skin and (as the name suggests) easily packable. Two-layer Gore-Tex bonds the membrane onto a face fabric, without sandwiching it with a backer. This makes it lighter, and arguably more breathable, but also more vulnerable to damage. Interestingly, Gore pitch this as a fabric ideal for backup garments, which we'd take to mean something that you'd carry in the pack and only call upon if conditions unexpectedly change. This fits with the general feel of the Moiazza. Faced with a foul and stormy forecast, this is not the first shell you'd choose to wear all day; it's better carried just in case.

Of course it's still fully waterproof and windproof, but the thinness of the fabric does mean it tends to billow about in higher wind, something that can compromise to an extent the performance of your insulation underneath thanks to air movement in your clothing layers - another reason not to choose this shell in colder, wilder conditions.

How breathable is it? We are used to talking about the Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate (MVTR), a measure of breathability for a fabric as measured in a lab. Sadly Gore do not publish such performance figures for their fabrics, something we'll criticise several times in this group test since it makes an on-paper comparison with rivals impossible for both gear reviewers and the buying public. It's hard not to be cynical about the motive for this policy. However in use we've generally been happy with the breathability of Gore-Tex shells, which tend to feel as if they are performing as well as anything else on the market. While I've no complaints about the Moiazza's performance for medium-output activity like hillwalking, if you're going light and fast it's worth noting that among Gore-Tex products Paclite may be designed to maximise lightness and packability, but it's Gore-Tex Active that's marketed as the highly breathable option.

The Moiazza providing a good level of protection from wind and showers  © UKC Gear
The Moiazza providing a good level of protection from wind and showers

Features

As this is a lightweight jacket to keep weight down, features have sensibly been kept to a minimum. There are two large zipped pockets on either side of the chest. These are an ample size for a pair of gloves or items such as a map. They also sit above the line of a rucksack hip belt, or where your harness would sit if you do decide to use it while climbing. One thing to note here, in general the zips on the Moiazza don't seem quite as good as other jackets we've used. On the pockets these are waterproof zips, but they just seem a little flimsy.

The main zip has an external storm flap, which is perhaps a bit unusual these days, and depending on the wind direction this isn't necessarily going to do a lot to keep out driven rain.

Probably what is notable is what isn't included. Inside the jacket there is nothing, so these two exterior pockets are all you get. There are no nice to have features like pit zips, although all of this is to keep the overall weight of the garment down, which Salewa have achieved.

Ethics and Environment

Salewa have quite an ambitious environmental and ethical policy, for instance working towards reducing their carbon footprint. The company has been awarded Leader status by the Fair Wear Foundation, and works closely with their factories to ensure high welfare and production standards - see here.

The Gore-Tex Paclite fabric used in the Moiazza has a PFC-free DWR.

Salewa say:

A lightweight, weather protection GORE-TEX® shell for alpine trekking that's easy to pack and takes little space in your bag.

It has a fully-featured construction that includes hood and hem cord locks for quick, single-handed adjustment (including when you're gloved up), a high storm collar for additional protection, two high-set pockets that you can access while wearing a harness or pack, and a front zip with a full external storm flap. Velcro-adjust cuffs, ergonomic patterning to ensure reach and mobility, while preventing hem lift and the clean-cut, stylish finish round things off nicely.

  • Weight: 315g size L (Salewa's weight)
  • Sizes: men's and women's available
  • Fabric: GORE-TEX® PACLITE® DULL LUSTRE 105 ECO DWR BS (100% Polyester), GORE-TEX® PACLITE® SOFT 2L 122 ECO DWR BS (100% Polyester)
  • Free motion patterning ensures no hem-lift while climbing
  • Ergonomic sleeves and shoulders for a good fit
  • One hand adjustable hood
  • Collar integrated into hood with closure up to chin for maximum comfort and breathability
  • Front zip with full-length external waterproof flap
  • 2 pockets with waterproof zipper
  • Velcro-adjustable cuffs
  • One-hand elastic hem adjustment
  • Bonded details
  • Reduced stitching for clean finished look
  • Waterproof finish, all seams welded
View website

Sprayway Reaction Long Jacket £200

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH


Solid and a bit old fashioned, the Reaction Long is the only shell on test (probably the only one we've ever reviewed) with a traditional drop lining: most will find this adds weight and bulk to no particular effect, but it does make for a warmer jacket. The price tag hits our remit head-on, and you're getting a lot for your money. Literally. Whether the weight and thickness is a good or a bad thing will depend on what you're doing, and the season. We'd say it's best suited to winter use, and the wetter and colder ends of autumn and spring. While this is not a minimalist model for climbers, it's not out of the question for scrambling and climbing thanks to its great active cut. If you're simply after something reliably protective for hillwalking, and not overly fussed by weight, then there's a lot going for it. In rainy and/or windy conditions the longer cut is great.

It's a good weight and thickness for hillwalking in the colder months  © Dan Bailey
It's a good weight and thickness for hillwalking in the colder months
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 593g in size Large, the Reaction Long is one of the heaviest shells in this review, and a lot more than most (Sprayway quote 555g size M). This is hardly a surprise given its longer cut, separate lining, and full complement of features. However it's not a packable model for weight-critical uses, and the weight and thickness says more rambler than scrambler (though actually it'd be surprisingly fine for the latter). Neither is it something you'll want to stuff into a small summer pack just in case; it's a jacket for wearing more than carrying.

Fit

A female-fit version of the Reaction Long Jacket is available, in a good range of sizes from 8-18. It's great to see larger women's sizes on offer, since much of the outdoor industry has a blind spot there.

Shells that are shorter in the body may have become a bit of a trend, particularly among models aimed at climbers, but fashion should never trump function. Higher hems are self defeating if the weather can get at your midriff, and the top of your trousers ends up wet. A few extra centimetres won't add much to weight, but it certainly will to weather protection - and if the weather is bad enough to demand a shell then you'll appreciate the difference. No issue with a short body in the Reaction Long Jacket, which - as the name suggests - makes a virtue of its above-average length.

For walking in harsh conditions there's a lot to be said for the longer body  © Dan Bailey
For walking in harsh conditions there's a lot to be said for the longer body
© Dan Bailey

I'm 1.83cm, not skinny, and with a reasonably long trunk, and on me the size L is a generous fit. At the rear, the hem completely covers my bum, while at the front it doesn't only sit comfortably below the waist, but in fact rides low enough to protect the top of the thighs. It's the longest shell I've worn in years, and that's something worth toasting since it allows you a bit more leeway before having to resort to overtrousers. Perhaps it's too much information, but if I went out in the rain without shell trousers I could almost come home in dry pants. For climbing or scrambling, the typical argument against such a long cut is that it restricts leg lift; but in this case I can hardly feel that happening at all. In terms of length, if not bulk, it also works OK with a harness. This may be a jacket made more for walking than climbing, but actually it'd work pretty well as climbing shell! Maybe it's time designers of more technical jackets reconsidered body length too.

Warm and waterproof, but comparatively heavy thanks to the extra lining  © Dan Bailey
Warm and waterproof, but comparatively heavy thanks to the extra lining
© Dan Bailey

For colder weather, there's plenty of room inside to fit several other layers. While I find the cut a little close in the forearms, sleeve length is generous, and there's a good articulated shape that allows full arm movement and - perhaps in combination with the longer body - gives minimal hem lift when you reach up. The cuff covers the back of the hand more than the palm, and has enough width to pull over bulky gloves (though a fraction more would be better); a simple hook and loop tab tightens the wrist to suit.

Hood

For walkers the hood is really good, with three points of adjustment that give you a close fit and a protective seal around the face. The side toggles are neatly housed in the seam, which reduces clutter and makes them easier to use when wearing gloves. With a high collar and a low brim, chin, cheeks and forehead are well covered. The broad laminated peak keeps drips and spindrift out of your eyes (though does also limit upward vision on steep ground), while its wire reinforcement helps everything hold its shape in high wind.

In other respects this walker's jacket will double quite effectively as a climbing shell, but unfortunately the hood partially lets it down. While the hood can be pulled over a helmet it's just a bit tight, so with the main zip fully fastened head movement gets restricted. While it works a bit better with the zip partially undone, side-to-side motion is still impeded. There can't be many occasions when you'd climb with the hood on but wouldn't also want the zip up. We don't think Sprayway really set out to build a climbing shell here, so it would perhaps be unfair to hold this near miss against them.

It's a good protective hood  © Dan Bailey
It's a good protective hood
© Dan Bailey

With three points of adjustment  © Dan Bailey
With three points of adjustment
© Dan Bailey

And a really big stiffened brim  © Dan Bailey
And a really big stiffened brim
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

This is a 2-layer Gore-Tex shell, with a soft but durable-feeling 75D recycled polyester face fabric that makes it quite a lot burlier than most other models on review here. Inside you get a drop lining, as I've said, which is a mix of open mesh and smooth taffeta. The idea behind this is to hold the wet/cold outer away from your body for increased comfort, but while you do see linings on less specialised waterproof jackets aimed at less exacting users, it's a long time - if ever - since I've encountered one on a reasonably pricey shell designed for the hills. It's an ancient idea, but has pros as well as cons. The thickness makes for a more protective-feeling jacket in stormy weather, while the air space between the lining and outer effectively gives you an additional air-trapping insulating layer. Of course this increased warmth is only an advantage in cold or windy conditions, while for active use outside of winter it makes for a hotter and more clammy experience. Overall it's also a comparatively bulky and heavy jacket, and may be slower to dry than non-lined alternatives. Great for tramping over Kinder in a sleety downpour; less useful on a summer Cuillin traverse.

It's a good choice for dank winter walks  © Dan Bailey
It's a good choice for dank winter walks
© Dan Bailey

So how breathable is it? Since Gore do not publish performance figures for their products, it's impossible to definitively compare any Gore-Tex jacket like-for-like against rivals that use different materials. But whatever the lab results do or don't say (and it's hard not to take the secrecy as a bad sign), in subjective and entirely unscientific real world use I've always felt I got on as well with Gore-Tex as any other waterproof membrane. The Reaction Long uses standard Gore-Tex, aimed at middle-of-the-road uses, as opposed to the more durable (and expensive) Gore Pro or the more breathable (we're told) Active. With that lining in the picture it's hard to single out how the waterproof fabric itself is behaving, so I'll just reiterate that this is a warm shell not well suited to higher output activity or higher temperatures. It's been fine for autumn and winter hillwalking, but for summer or fast-n-light use it would be too heavy and too stuffy.

Features

No minimalist, the Reaction Long Jacket has a list of features as extended as its hemline. If you like lots of pockets, you're well supplied here. The two zipped hand pockets are positioned up out of harness or rucksack belt range. They're roomy enough for thick gloves, and will fit an OS sized map - though slightly more width would make this easier. Combine the taffeta pocket bags with the outer and lining of the coat and you've got four separate layers of fabric across a large part of the front of the body - well I did say this was a warm and bulky shell!

Double storm flap keeps weather out, but can be a bit fiddly  © Dan Bailey
Double storm flap keeps weather out, but can be a bit fiddly
© Dan Bailey

The pockets are only just big enough to hold a full sized map  © Dan Bailey
The pockets are only just big enough to hold a full sized map
© Dan Bailey

The single outside chest pocket is if anything rather too big. None of these pockets feature water resistant zips, and while they have a bit of storm flap this isn't going to keep out wind-driven rain for long. Inside is a curious velcro-sealed pocket reminiscent of the inner of a suit jacket (in my limited experience of such clobber), and though this feels out of place in a hill shell it's probably the sensible place to carry your phone in really wet weather.

As per the pockets, the main zip may be pretty sturdy, but it's not water resistant. Most modern shells stick a fabric strip inside to keep out wind and gutter away any water that finds its way through, but here Sprayway have gone for a more traditional external solution. This double storm flap is secured at intervals with velcro tabs, which will be fine in moderately nasty weather but seems unlikely to stay closed in a proper gale. It's one more thing to remember to secure, makes zip use a bit fiddly, and adds to the external bulk of the jacket. It's fair to say I'm not a fan.

The dual tether hem drawcords avoid the risk of accidental snagging, and though the toggles are quite small they are still reasonably usable wearing gloves. In keeping with its retro aesthetic, the Reaction Long is the only shell on review to have a second drawcord at the waist. This pulls the fit in snug at the sides, helping to reduce billowing in the wind; but since a rucksack hip belt does much the same, the feature is arguably superfluous for serious hill use and only comes good when you're out for a stroll with no big pack (perhaps why most modern designs have no waist adjustment). With the toggles hidden away in the pockets, it's unobtrusive when not being used.

I have mixed feelings about pit zips, which have cons as well as pros. On lighter and more breathable shells I'd rarely use them, but given the Reaction Long's weight and warmth it's a bit surprising that Sprayway didn't add them here. When working up a sweat in rainy conditions, where I don't want to undo the main zip, I have once or twice found myself wishing I had the option to vent under the arms.

Ethics and Environment

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an independent non-profit organisation whose mission is to improve labour conditions in the garment industry. Sprayway are signed up to the 8-point FWF Code of Labour Practices, which is based on UN and ILO principles. FWF publicly reports on the progress of member companies towards implementation of the Code.

The face fabric of the Reaction Long Jacket is 100% recycled, and PFCec-free: both things to celebrate.

Sprayway say:

Built around our 'Function First' design ethos, the Reaction Long has all the features required to keep you dry and protected on those big hill days.

Reaction Long Jacket  © Sprayway

Guaranteed to keep you dry, 2-layer GORE-TEX fabric with a 75D recycled polyester plain weave face is durably tough yet soft to handle. Mesh and taffeta lining for all day comfort.

Our award winning, fully adjustable Hill Hood keeps the wind and rain at bay and can be rolled away neatly when not required. There are then all the other features you'd expect from us like amazing arm lift, proper map sized pockets and that all important longer length to give added protection in the worst of conditions.

  • Weight: 555g size M (Sprayway's weight)
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • 2-layer GORE-TEX 75D PFCec Free recycled polyester plain weave fabric offers high levels of protection and comfort
  • 100% recycled polyester outer, 100% polyamide lining, 100% polyester mesh, ePTFE membrane
  • Mesh and taffeta combination lining for all day comfort
  • Fully adjustable Hill Hood with a laminated and wired peak and roll away tab
  • YKK® centre front zip with double storm guard
  • 1 large napoleon chest pocket
  • 2 large zipped hand pockets
  • 1 hook and loop tabbed inner pocket
  • Concealed drawcord waist adjustment
  • Adjustable cuffs
  • Adjustable split hem drawcords
View website

Berghaus Paclite 2.0 Jacket £150

Reviewed by TobyA

Good Value

The Berghaus Paclite 2.0 is a lightweight, simple, and relatively cheap entry point into the world of GORE-TEX fabric waterproof jackets. There is something appealingly retro about the Paclite 2.0 - and not just the blue and red colours that our review model came in which seem to hark back to the 90s when the Berghaus Trango and Alpine Extreme Goretex jackets were objects of desire for aspiring Scottish winter warriors and football fans alike. The outer fabric on the Paclite 2.0 is reminiscent of the Taslan Goretex of the 90s, giving the jacket a bit more structure and feeling of protection than the lighter versions of Paclite, and resisting that 'crisp packet' feel that some have.

The Paclite 2.0 is a good all-round shell at a very decent price  © Toby Archer
The Paclite 2.0 is a good all-round shell at a very decent price
© Toby Archer

At £150 full price the Paclite 2.0 is great value. It seems quite a high sales volume item and with lots of shops selling it, there are definitely some good discounts available. Even the Berghaus website itself has some older colours of the jacket (including the rather handsome red/blue combo we tested) available at half price if you are lucky enough to fit the limited sizes still in stock.

Weight

At 375g size Medium (Berghaus say 347g Size L), this is not an ultralight shell but definitely among the lighter models on review here. It's a decent low weight for an all-rounder. The relatively stiff and protective feeling given by using GORE-TEX Paclite with a heavier face fabric is reflected in the weight, but the stripped down and simple design without bells and whistles means that it doesn't turn the jacket into a heavyweight overall.

Fit

The Paclite 2.0 is available in both men's and women's fit. Both versions come in a really wide range of sizes, and for the women it's great to see plus sizes (up to 20) on offer. Not all outdoor women are a smaller size, but outdoor brands don't often cater for everyone.

I normally go for medium in most outdoor brands and Berghaus's medium in the Paclite 2.0 fits me well - no nasty surprises. The jacket is perhaps best described as mid-length, it just about goes down over the bum but doesn't offer that much protection. There is decent mobility in the shoulders and the arm length is plentiful for my 5' 10" frame. The Paclite 2.0 hasn't been designed particularly with climbing or scrambling in mind, but the arm mobility is fine. I've even climbed a 6a sport climb in it with no issues, and scrambling up and down a number of Dark Peak cloughs also went fine. Nevertheless the pockets are obscured by either a climbing harness or even a rucksack hip belt, so not a climbing oriented shell.

The cut of the arms is good for scrambling and climbing  © Toby Archer
The cut of the arms is good for scrambling and climbing
© Toby Archer

Hood

For walkers the hood is great - it has a proper wire stiffener in it meaning plenty of protection from the rain, and good wind performance, plus a well functioning volume adjuster at the back along with drawcords to tighten the front. For the climber in a helmet or if you took it out mountain biking and wanted to pull the hood over your lid in heavy rain, the fit isn't great. It is possible to do the main zip fully up while wearing a helmet but you can't move your head much if you do! Pulled over a helmet and with the zip open down to below your chin it is OK, but that's clearly not what the hood was designed for.

The fabric feels robust, and water beads well  © Toby Archer
The fabric feels robust, and water beads well
© Toby Archer

Fabric

As noted above, although GORE-TEX Paclite is used, a stiffer face fabric makes this neither the most packable nor the lightest jacket available. On the other hand it makes the jacket feel more protective in terms of not deflecting in the wind as much as the lightest fabrics tend to do. Additionally Paclite is a two-layer version of Gore-tex, so the absent scrim liner must reduce weight and bulk over the three layer versions.

The jacket has been worn for walks in heavy rain and has kept me as dry as you would expect in those conditions. Rain mainly beads up readily although in areas that have probably had more abrasion than elsewhere such as round the cuffs you can see the rain starting to wet out the face fabric in limited areas.

The hood works well without a helmet  © Toby Archer
The hood works well without a helmet
© Toby Archer

Light, affordable, and reasonably durable  © Toby Archer
Light, affordable, and reasonably durable
© Toby Archer

GORE-TEX are famously reticent about publishing stats on the breathability and waterproofness of their fabrics. They now group their different "fabric technologies" under black label: "Guaranteed to keep you dry" (the good old waterproof Gore-Tex) and white label: "comfort and performance" (windproof, breathable and waterproof-ish - what used to Windstopper, now Infinium).

Paclite is a black label fabric - so you have the same guarantee of waterproofness that you get with GORE-TEX Pro jackets costing three or more times the price. If they are both "guaranteed to keep you dry" you would think Paclite has to be significantly less breathable than Pro, otherwise why not use the obviously cheaper fabric? But in use so far we haven't noticed a huge difference in sweat build up on the inside compared to Pro jackets. I will get hot and sweaty in any waterproof-breathable jacket in many conditions, and the Paclite 2.0 is no exception to that, although surprisingly it isn't noticeably worse than more expensive jackets. Of course fabric performance isn't the only thing that sets prices - the Paclite 2.0 is a simple design made more for country walks, perhaps without even a pack, than it is for mountaineering or even mountain walks, and its lack of features reflects this.

Features

In short: not too many. The Paclite 2.0 has two zipped hand-warmer style pockets at waist height. Unfortunately this makes them unusable if you're wearing a rucksack with a hip belt, or (less likely with this particular jacket) a harness. The cuffs are adjusted by velcro tabs - the tabs are a good size and made out of the same material as the rest of the jacket. They work perfectly well but immediately reminded me of my first early 1990s Gore-tex jacket, and add to the retro feel of the Paclite 2.0.

Simple but effective tabs on the cuffs  © Toby Archer
Simple but effective tabs on the cuffs
© Toby Archer

Ethics and environment

Berghaus says that the Paclite 2.0 "contains bluesign® approved fabrics" which means at least some of the fabrics have been certified to not be made with any harmful chemicals. Berghaus has more on its environmental policies and fair labour/anti-modern slavery policies on its website.

However the version of Gore-Tex Paclite used here currently contains PFCs, which are increasingly regarded as an environmental no-no. "The aspiration is to remove PFCs altogether, but there's still some work to be done to establish alternatives to the current options that deliver the right levels of performance and durability" Berghaus tell us.

Berghaus say:

GORE-TEX® Paclite® fabric technology offers lightweight, fully waterproof protection and allows the jacket to pack down really small so you can easily store it in your rucksack ready for when the weather turns. A fixed, fully adjustable hood offers additional weather protection.

  • Weight: 375g size M (our weight)
  • Sizes: 8-20 (women) XS-XXXL (men)
  • Fabric: GORE-TEX® Paclite® fabric technology provides fully waterproof protection
  • Baffle behind front zip stops water from getting inside
  • Reverse coil zip for a sleeker, more stylish finish Hook and loop adjustment at the cuffs
  • Contains bluesign® approved fabrics
View website

Marmot EVODry Clouds Rest Jacket £269.95

Reviewed by Nick Brown UKC


The Marmot EVODry Clouds Rest is certainly not aimed at anything technical like climbing or big days out in Scottish winter conditions; if anything, it's aimed at the opposite end of the technical spectrum. It's not a lightweight jacket and in our experience it doesn't seem particularly breathable either, limiting the type of activity and the output to not particularly rigorous hillwalking. What it lacks in lightness and breathability, it makes up for in eco-credentials, but as the most expensive jacket in this review it will struggle to hold its own against other options.

Marmot EVODry Clouds Rest Jacket  © UKC Gear
Marmot EVODry Clouds Rest Jacket
© UKC Gear

Weight

Marmot have the weight down as 595.3g in a medium and as such it's firmly at the heavier end of this review. It's certainly sturdy, but this means it isn't particularly packable and it's not a jacket to use when weight is critical; however, it's likely to outlast some of the lighter weight models.

The hem is quite high on the Clouds Rest  © UKC Gear
The hem is quite high on the Clouds Rest
© UKC Gear

...and can rise up a fair bit when climbing or scrambling  © UKC Gear
...and can rise up a fair bit when climbing or scrambling
© UKC Gear

Fit

This jacket comes in both men's and women's versions. The cut is distinctly boxy and whilst there is plenty of room to fit other layers underneath, it's let down by its hem which doesn't sit low enough for me. A shorter hem means more wet and weather getting in at the waist, which isn't ideal in a shell. This also means that when worn with a harness or when scrambling (anything which means your arms are raised), the hem rises up quite a bit, leaving your midriff exposed - another reason why this jacket is likely to be limited to less ambitious hillwalking. 

Getting a large pair of gloves under the sleeves is difficult as they're not very wide - you'll have to secure them over the top. On the other hand the length of the arms is good and adequately covers my +1 ape index.

The lack of adjustment leaves a wide opening  © UKC Gear
The lack of adjustment leaves a wide opening
© UKC Gear

It's advertised as helmet compatible but using one is quite restrictive  © UKC Gear
It's advertised as helmet compatible but using one is quite restrictive
© UKC Gear

There's a single toggle at the back of the hood  © UKC Gear
There's a single toggle at the back of the hood
© UKC Gear

Hood

The hood can certainly fit a helmet underneath it, although I wouldn't recommend it. Once the hood is over the helmet, it affects the movement of the jacket quite substantially and the jacket also restricts easy head movement when looking sideways or down. 

The brim of the hood is slightly stiffened by simply doubling up on the fabric and using a stiff cord - not quite enough structure in windier conditions, compared to a traditional wired peak. It has one adjustment point at the back and whilst it's possible to cinch the hood nicely over the top of the head, there's little nuance to the fit around the chin or sides, leaving quite a space. In my opinion, lacking toggles to reduce the size of the opening is an oversight since it allows the weather in.

The fabric is relatively soft next to the skin  © UKC Gear
The fabric is relatively soft next to the skin
© UKC Gear

Fabric

The fabric used is Marmot's 3-layer Membrain® Eco, which is marketed as a 'waterproof/breathable fabric [that] repels water and reduces internal condensation; excellent protection for activities like hiking and skiing in moderate rain, snow, and wind.' Firstly, it's certainly waterproof; there have been no problems so far with the jacket wetting out. Marmot say the fabric has a 20,000mm hydrostatic head, which should be a big enough number for any uses and compares well with other models in this review.

On paper the fabric's 15,000 (MVTR) is the same figure for breathability as the Mammut and Rab shells in this review, which would make it decent for an all-round shell if not in the same league as an ultralight jacket for running. But while it's always hard to translate subjective real world experience of breathability into quantitative statements, my experience of wearing it in a variety of conditions to date suggests that this jacket is significantly less breathable than these comparable alternatives. For more athletic activity the thick, heavy material will leave even a disgraced Royal sweating.

The fabric is relatively soft next to the skin and would be comfortably worn over a baselayer for summer hillwalking, so long as you weren't exerting too hard.

Pit Zips are an essential inclusion on this jacket  © UKC Gear
Pit Zips are an essential inclusion on this jacket
© UKC Gear

The fabric is waterproof but really not that breathable  © UKC Gear
The fabric is waterproof but really not that breathable
© UKC Gear

Features

The design is feature-heavy, which will please some. Crucially for this jacket, there are underarm zips for quick venting of heat and increasing air flow, something you're likely to welcome. The main zip on the front is a chunky and robust two-way YKK zip, and all - including the pocket zips - are easy to use when wearing big gloves, although a toggle on the bottom main zipper would be useful.

The main pockets have plenty of space for gloves, and are the perfect size for a map. They are positioned high enough for use with a harness (although this isn't really the jacket for climbing, as previously discussed), or for a waist belt on a rucksack. There's also a roomy internal pocket, comfortably big enough for a large phone, wallet and keys.

The main fabric is 100% recycled  © UKC Gear
The main fabric is 100% recycled
© UKC Gear

Ethics and Environment

Marmot say that their EVOdry collection is the most sustainable rain jacket range they have ever produced. The main nylon fabric used throughout the jacket is 100% recycled and combined with a PFC-free DWR coating, which is definitely something worth celebrating. The EVODry collection is also manufactured without water, so the jacket's environmental credentials are impressive. Read more about Marmot's sustainability policies here.

Marmot say:

Thanks to the Men's EVODry Clouds Rest Jacket, you'll stay dry during multi-day rain spells at basecamp and downpours on the mountain all year round.

It's part of our EVODry collection, the most sustainable rain jackets we've ever made that are now more breathable than ever.

3-layer Marmot® MemBrain® Eco fabric is waterproof and windproof, and combined with a PFC-free DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) finish and 100% seam taping, offers complete leak-proof protection. An adjustable drawcord hem, VELCRO® cuffs, and a 2-way center front zipper provide even more protection from the elements. Heat-releasing PitZips improve airflow and help regulate body temperature if you work up a sweat. Articulated elbows make it easy to move even when layered, and the attached hood with an adjustable drawcord won't interfere with your helmet.

  • Weight: 595g size M (Marmot's weight)
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Main Fabric:EvoDry™ 3L 100% Recycled Nylon Plainweave 5.8 oz/ yd
  • Rated at 20,000mm (water column) waterproof and 15,000g (MVTR) for breathability
  • Environmentally sustainable PFC-free DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) finish repels water from the fabric's surface; 100% seam-taped to keep water out
  • PitZips provide ventilation to regulate body temperature
  • Water-resistant hand-pocket zippers; Interior zippered pocket; 2-way, water-resistant center front zipper with snap bottom
  • Articulated elbows for increased mobility
  • Adjustable drawcord hem; Adjustable VELCRO® cuffs
  • Attached hood with peripheral cord adjustment
View website

Montane Element Stretch Jacket £190

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Good Value

With its soft, stretchy fabric the Element Stretch Jacket feels almost like a thin softshell, and this makes it an easy waterproof jacket to get on with. Thanks both to its stretch, and a decent active cut, it earns its billing as an all-rounder that's suited to both hillwalking and climbing. But while light and packable enough for spring and summer use, it's cut too close for cold weather layering, and lacks the bombproof and protective feel of a full-on winter shell. This is best considered a 3-season jacket. Coming in under our benchmark budget, it's really good value.

Using it as a windproof on a cold and blowy Ben Wyvis  © Dan Bailey
Using it as a windproof on a cold and blowy Ben Wyvis
© Dan Bailey

Weight

All-round shells don't tend to be hugely light, and in size Large the Element Stretch comes in at 430g on our scales (Montane say 405g, size not specified), which is roughly mid-range in this review. For the jacket you're getting we think the weight is fine, and it's certainly light and packable enough for hillwalking and backpacking unless you're in a situation where every gram counts. No stuff sack is provided, and the jacket does not scrunch down into one of its own pockets, which is a feature we'd like to see more often.

It's light and breathable enough for use in warmer weather  © Dan Bailey
It's light and breathable enough for use in warmer weather
© Dan Bailey

Fit

No women's version of the Element Stretch Jacket is currently available.

This shell has quite a trim cut, and in my standard size Large I can wear it over a baselayer and midweight fleece, but that's about the limit. Add any more insulation and I find it too tight, and this rules it out for use in more hostile winter weather. Hem length is about medium, and while it sits below the waist, and drops a little at the rear to give a degree of bum coverage, a bit more length in the body would make for significantly more weather protection around the midriff - and again, this gives the Element Stretch a seasonal ceiling. Going on fit alone, we'd consider this a 3-season model.

It's got a decent length in the hem  © Dan Bailey
It's got a decent length in the hem
© Dan Bailey

For me there's sufficient length in the arms, but the sleeves are narrow, particularly from the elbow to the forearm. You'll struggle to fit a bulky insulated winter glove under these cuffs, though it can just about be done.

The benefit of a closer cut is that everything feels that bit more streamlined, which is great when you're lightly dressed and on the move. Despite not being the longest in the body, I find the articulated cut of the sleeves really effective, so I can raise my arms without suffering much in the way of hem lift. It stays pretty well tucked under a harness, and in this regard the Element Stretch would work well for climbing or scrambling.

The hood works well on a helmet-free head  © Dan Bailey
The hood works well on a helmet-free head
© Dan Bailey

But side protection is a bit less than some  © Dan Bailey
But side protection is a bit less than some
© Dan Bailey

Hood

While the hood is described as helmet compatible, I find this very borderline. There's just about space to fit it over a helmet, but the jacket hem lifts when you do. With the zip done right up head movement becomes too severely restricted to climb or belay (if you can't look up, you can't do either), and the collar is pulled uncomfortably tight across the face. It's better, but still not brilliant, if you drop the zip a bit. In dank summer conditions I can see myself doing a mountain scramble or easy climb in the Element Stretch Jacket, but as soon as I wanted to put the hood up it would become annoying if not impossible, and here's another good reason not to treat this as a full-blown winter shell.

This hood is better for walkers than climbers. With three points of adjustment it can be tightened snugly onto a helmet-free head, and although your cheeks don't get much side coverage the chin-height collar fully protects the neck. Unfortunately the adjustment toggles are too small and fiddly to use wearing thick gloves (another seasonal limitation). In the hills, rain usually comes with added wind, and a soft hood will flap about impotently; Montane clearly appreciate this, and have provided a wired peak that holds its shape well in the breeze, as well as directing drips out of your eyes. When not needed, the hood can be rolled away and secured with a small elastic loop should you wish (I never do).

Simple cuffs, with enough room for gloves if you need them  © Dan Bailey
Simple cuffs, with enough room for gloves if you need them
© Dan Bailey

Fabric 

If you're used to waterproofs that crinkle like a crisp packet as you walk, you might be pleasantly surprised by the soft and quiet 3-layer, 20 denier fabric used here, which feels almost more softshell than hard shell. A blend of 90% Nylon and 10% Elastane, its slight stretch aids freedom of movement, and I really notice this at the elbows where the relatively close fit might otherwise limit what I could do with a bent arm. Though it has a soft face it seems pretty tough, and I'd have few qualms about scrambling or rock climbing in this jacket. For full-on winter foulness, when something fortress-like comes into its own, the fabric is a bit lightweight, but on the flipside that makes it more packable and versatile for year-round use. 

Out in the hills, the Aqua Pro Stretch fabric feels similarly impermeable to wind as Gore-Tex and others, and though soft it has a reasonable resistance to billowing about (something that can compromise the insulation in layers you wear underneath).

It's less prone to flapping about in the wind than thinner, lighter weight fabrics tend to be  © Dan Bailey
It's less prone to flapping about in the wind than thinner, lighter weight fabrics tend to be
© Dan Bailey

Unlike Gore (who play their lab-based performance cards close to their chest) we've got a figure here for both waterproofness and breathability - and really consumers should expect this level of disclosure as standard. On paper the 10,000mm Hydrostatic Head is lower than that of many shells, but in wet weather I've had no issue as yet with the waterproofness. I think in practical terms it's as waterproof as you'd likely need a shell to be. As for breathability, the test-based figure of 20,000g/m2/24hrs MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) is pretty respectable for an all-round shell. My experience bears this out; I find the Element Stretch Jacket as comfy to wear on the move in a mix of conditions as any equivalent weight shell, and better than many. As with all waterproofs you'll get a bit sweaty if you're working hard in warm and humid weather, but for hillwalking in cooler mixed conditions this is pretty much a wear-all-day sort of layer.

Features

Simplicity is no bad thing, and the design here is pretty stripped-down. You don't, for instance, get pit zips for ventilation. Perhaps thanks to the breathability of the fabric, I have not found myself missing them.

The pockets are big enough for bulky gloves, but not an OS sized map  © Dan Bailey
The pockets are big enough for bulky gloves, but not an OS sized map
© Dan Bailey

The pockets are medium-sized, so while they're OK for a hat or gloves it's not really feasible to cram an OS sized map in, despite Montane's claim to the contrary. This is an oversight, since the visibility is often going to be poor enough to need a map to hand if you're hillwalking in weather that requires a shell. Plus points are the lightweight water resistant zips, and the mesh lining which helps the pockets double as vents (in the absence of pit zips) and boosts breathability by not giving you two layers of waterproof fabric across the front of the jacket. Another tick is the high position of the pockets, which remain usable when you're wearing a rucksack hipbelt or a harness. It would have been nice to have a single smaller chest pocket, since we all need somewhere to carry a phone these days.

A lightweight water resistant YKK main zip is provided, with a small anti-snag backing strip that should channel away any rain that does make it through the zip (none are fully waterproof). As with the cord locks on the hood, the hem drawcord toggles are a bit small and pernickety for use with gloves.

Ethics and environment

Montane have their own sustainability standards, Further Forever. This rests on four 'pillars': building to last; sustainably sourced materials; ethical trading; and a commitment to helping maintain mountain environments (through things like contributions to Fix the Fells).

"From reducing the environmental impact of the materials we use to demanding the highest ethical standards in our supply chain, our journey towards sustainability is ongoing" they say.

In October 2019 Montane became a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. This is an independent, non-profit organisation that works with brands and manufacturers to improve labour conditions and worker's rights in the global textile and apparel manufacturing industry.

Montane say:

Constructed using AQUA PRO STRETCH, a durable 3 Layer waterproof fabric with good stretch and breathability for ultimate comfort and freedom of movement. This well featured jacket is suitable for mountain walking, climbing and everything in between.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Weight: 430g size L (our weight)
  • 20 Denier waterproof and breathable AQUA PRO STRETCH
  • 90% Nylon, 10% Elastane
  • Micro-taped seams throughout
  • Fully adjustable helmet compatible rollaway hood with wired peak
  • Articulated arms with engineered tailoring
  • Full length YKK AquaGuard® front zip with internal storm flap
  • Two backpack harness compatible, mesh lined, map-sized hand pockets with YKK AquaGuard® zips
  • Adjustable cuffs and hem
View website

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic £200

Reviewed by TobyA


The Stretch Ozonic is a simple, lightweight, and stretchy rain jacket that works well and hits our target budget squarely. Its decent cut and nice soft drape make this an easy shell to like. We'd call it a 2-3 season model, as it's more something to chuck in a pack on spring through to autumn hikes, multi-pitch climbs or long mountain bike rides, than it is a full-on winter hard shell. But within those reasonable limitations for a jacket of that low weight and cost, it's a very good rain shell. It has even been reportedly deemed "pretty cool looking" by my 16 year old son's mates, and what higher praise is there for its aesthetic qualities than that?

It may not be super tough or full-on winter-worthy, but this is an easy shell to get on with  © Dave Smith
It may not be super tough or full-on winter-worthy, but this is an easy shell to get on with
© Dave Smith

Perhaps the biggest problem is availability - looking online I haven't been able to find many on sale from UK based shops (you may have more luck if you go to an online Euro-shop).

Weight

I make it 316g in my size Medium jacket (Mountain Hardwear say 300g for M). This makes the Stretch Ozonic one of the lightweights of the review, a packable option for weight-conscious days out or small summer rucksacks. While it's a good choice for backpacking, or as a just-in-case shell for mountain multi pitch climbing, it doesn't feel hugely sturdy. Something this thin offers limited protection in hard winter conditions, too. It's sold as a shell that will take you from 'cityscape to mountainside', which is a good reflection both of its versatility and its upper limits.

The drop hem gives decent coverage at the rear  © Dave Smith
The drop hem gives decent coverage at the rear
© Dave Smith

Fit

This jacket is neither baggy and blousy, nor super "athletic" (meaning you can't fit much under it), so it's good for active use while still being roomy enough for layering in colder weather. Freedom of movement is good. Mountain Hardwear make both a male and a female version of it too.

It's about medium length in the hem - below the waistline but not particularly long in the front, then dropping at the rear to give pretty decent bum coverage. You'll find longer and more protective shells in this review, but for a lightweight jacket the hem length on offer here seems pretty good. With arms raised I get a little hem lift, but this is limited by the material being stretchy; if climbing, I find it stays tucked under a harness, again thanks to the stretch. 

For me at 175cm tall, size medium is spot on in terms of sleeve length, but I've definitely seen longer sleeves on a jacket of this size, so if you were much taller and with longer arms then sleeve length may be something to bear in mind when trying it on. For winter use, there's enough space in the cuffs to fit over bulky insulated gloves.  

As per most shells, there are velcro-adjusted cuffs, and a waist drawcord.

The hood only slightly works with a helmet...  © Toby Archer
The hood only slightly works with a helmet...
© Toby Archer

...but it's a good shell to take cragging just in case  © Dave Smith
...but it's a good shell to take cragging just in case
© Dave Smith

Hood

The hood is OK, without being anything to really write home about. Despite the generally less-technical feel of this shell it does actually fit over a climbing helmet, but it then becomes too tight if you do the main zip up fully, which is both uncomfortable and restricts head movement. On balance we wouldn't call it fully helmet compatible, though it'll do at a pinch if you only want to buy one shell and only intend to climb in it occasionally. To be fair, a proper alpine style hood is not in this jacket's remit.

Neither is this the most storm-ready hood out there. It's only slightly adjustable, with just a single rear toggle, and though it has a peak there is no wired brim to help hold its shape in the wind (a UK-useful feature that's often lacking on North American-designed shells, in our experience). The adjustment elastic runs around the crown of your head, and if you are not wearing a helmet then you can snug it down well. But because there isn't also elastic around the face you end up with baggy material either side of your cheeks, even when the hood is snug around the crown of your head. This is not ideal for wintry weather and strong winds.

Fabric

The jacket is made with Mountain Hardwear's own branded fabric, "Dry.Q™ Active", a 40D Nylon. They call this a 2.5 layer waterproof-breathable fabric, which has a smooth membrane on the inside of the face nylon with a printed pattern which constitutes the "half layer" to protect the membrane.

How tough is it? On close inspection I noticed a couple of tiny nicks through the membrane, so that you can see the nylon on the other side (see photos). The jacket has seen a lot of use after child no.2 took a liking to it and has been borrowing it on a daily basis. I suspect the tiny tears might have been caused by something like being stuffed too quickly into a backpack or perhaps put quickly over the back of a well-used classroom chair. A dot of seam-grip or similar will easily fix them, but it does demonstrate that light membranes without a full scrim-liner as a full third layer are more vulnerable.

The 2.5-layer fabric seems quite easily damaged  © Toby Archer
The 2.5-layer fabric seems quite easily damaged
© Toby Archer

In use the Dry.Q Active membrane seems both waterproof and reasonably breathable. As with any shell really, if I wear it riding uphill on my mountain bike it's not breathable enough. When hiking with a heavy pack on I'll get a wet back. But out for a walk on a cool day, even if it's raining, it feels like it is working as well as jackets that cost three times as much, in terms of breathability.

I have seen a few reviews elsewhere that claim in continuous heavy rain it will eventually let water in. I've not experienced this, and do wonder what to make of such claims - beyond anything else, I know if I have a jacket done fully up, hood up, and I'm trekking along in rain with a pack on, I'm highly likely to get sweaty on the inside. Even if no water is getting through the fabric, you'll still end up feeling damp. So walking in wind and rain for any length of time, I would expect some dampness to get in that way. But of course, light materials are always likely to be less durable and the nicks I've made in the inner membrane on this jacket show it isn't indestructible.

Thanks partly to the stretch, this is a shell you can readily climb in  © Dave Smith
Thanks partly to the stretch, this is a shell you can readily climb in
© Dave Smith

I've read other reviews that claim the Stretch Ozonic isn't particularly windproof. Again, it's not something I've found, but the jacket has a very soft drape, and in high winds it deflects as easily as a light nylon like Pertex, a billowy effect that will compromise to an extent the performance of insulating layers underneath. Soft jackets like this never feel as protective in strong wind as heavier, burlier winter shells made with 80 or even 100 denier nylon face fabrics. This is not a winter mountain shell, but I have used the Stretch Ozonic when rock climbing on a very windy day and it significantly added to my warmth. Indeed it works well for climbing and scrambling because of the excellent 4-way stretch qualities of both the face fabric and membrane.

Features

The Stretch Ozonic is fundamentally a simple rain shell, which of course helps keep its weight down.

The main zip is a water resistant (none are fully waterproof) YKK Aquaguard, with no external storm flap. There's a mesh-backed chest pocket, into which the jacket can be packed away - not something we've seen a lot in this group test, but a good feature for lighter shells that you might conceivably want to hang off a harness just in case. It makes a fittingly compact bundle when stowed away.

It packs into its own chest pocket, a useful feature that not many shells in this review can boast  © Toby Archer
It packs into its own chest pocket, a useful feature that not many shells in this review can boast
© Toby Archer

There are two zipped hand pockets, but these unfortunately sit below the hip belt of most packs, or a climbing harness. These are quite big, and easily take a pair of gloves on one side and a woolly hat on the other, if you don't mind the associated bulk. I can get an OS map (without the cardboard cover on) in the chest pocket, but it has to be folded over and creates a big bulge as a result. It obviously wasn't designed with that in mind.

Finally, there are simple and relatively short pit zips. These have a single zipper on them, and the zip is a normal nylon one, not a waterproof or water-resistant type. The pit zips are though covered by a narrow flap. In use so far they have not shown themselves to be a weak spot for leaks even without water-resistant zips.

Ethics and Environment

Some MHW products are Bluesign-certified. "Components that are assessed and confirmed sustainably-produced are designated as 'bluesign® approved'" they say, "meaning, from the raw material to the finished product, there are no missing links in sustainable materials and production". However the Stretch Ozonic is not advertised as being among those products.

Mountain Hardwear say:

We can get down with technical rainshells, but sometimes simple is supreme. Because when you're transitioning from cityscape to mountainside scouting out boulders, you've got enough to plan for. And having one jacket in your pack that can handle it all⏤that's one less problem you have to tick off.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) XS-XL (women)
  • Weight: 316g size M (our weight)
  • Fabric: Dry.Q™ Active Stretch 40D 2.5L 100% Nylon
  • Dry.Q™ Active technology banishes moisture
  • Ultra soft 4-way all over stretch fabrication for maximum movement
  • Abrasion resistant 40D face fabric
  • Large under arm vents
  • Fully adjustable hood
  • Exposed matte Aquaguard® vislon zipper with zip stowable chest pocket
View website

Mountain Equipment Garwhal Jacket £190

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Highly Recommended

Why make things complicated? A simple, lightweight shell in Gore-Tex Paclite, the Garwhal is a functional choice that comes in under our target budget. With an active cut, harness-friendly pockets, and enough room for cold weather layering, it's a good all-rounder for both hillwalking and climbing, and light enough for weight-conscious uses ranging from backpacking to mountaineering. However it's not an all-season mountain shell, since it's really too skimpy for full-on winter weather or regular climbing abuse, and while we're not particularly going to penalise that in this review it's worth pointing it out to anyone looking for a do-everything model. The hood is only semi-viable with a helmet, too.

Pushing the Garwhal's seasonal performance on a day of cold winds and snowfall  © Dan Bailey
Pushing the Garwhal's seasonal performance on a day of cold winds and snowfall
© Dan Bailey

Weight

This is one of the lighter jackets on test, at just 336g in size Large according to my scales (Mountain Equipment say 340g for L, and 323g size M). While it's not an ultralight specialist, the Garwhal is certainly light and packable enough for most purposes and won't, for instance, take up much space in a small summer day bag. I'd happily take it backpacking, where extra grams matter, or stick it in a crag pack on a day of iffy weather. It's thin, but it feels well made and durable for the weight, and as a result would make a good shell for summer scrambling.

Fit

The Garwhal comes in both men's and women's versions. Though it's light, Mountain Equipment haven't skimped on the sizing. I'm 1.83cm/6foot, and not skinny, and in my size Large there's space to wear several insulating layers. Thanks to careful tailoring, however, it manages to be roomy without feeling like a tent, and it's still close fitting enough for athletic uses such as climbing.

It's cut long in the body, giving good coverage below the waist  © Dan Bailey
It's cut long in the body, giving good coverage below the waist
© Dan Bailey

Shells that are too short in the body are one of my pet peeves. To keep draughts out of your midriff and help protect the tops of your trousers from rain, you need a hem line some way south of the waist. The designer of the Garwhal seems to agree. This jacket goes down to thigh-top level at the front, dropping further at the rear to cover most of your bum. I find there's enough length and articulation in the sleeves to eliminate most hem lift when the arms are raised. The jacket stays tucked under a harness if you're climbing. A climbing-friendly cut has to be considered a basic essential in an all-round mountain shell, but it's not something that all brands manage equally well. In my experience Mountain Equipment have always done a good job here.

Generous cuffs fit easily over winter gloves   © Dan Bailey
Generous cuffs fit easily over winter gloves
© Dan Bailey

The sleeves are roomy throughout, and don't taper too much in the forearm (something that I, and I imagine many other climbers, notice on a lot of jackets). Huge cuffs swallow a bulky winter glove with ease. Given the Garwhal's limited winter capabilities in other respects, this may actually be more room at the wrist than you really need, though the hook and loop adjustment tabs work fine if you need to tighten it all up.

Hood

For climbing, especially in winter, it's worth noting that while the 'Mountain HC' hood is big enough to fit over a helmet, it does only just fit. With the jacket zip done right up I find head movement quite restricted, both looking up and side to side, and the collar is either uncomfortably tight across my chin, or my chin pops out and it's uncomfortably tight over the throat (no improvement). It's just about viable, but it's only if you drop the zip to collarbone level that everything is properly freed up. If you were climbing or scrambling in straight-down rain this would probably be fine, but on a windy day it wouldn't be great if you had to climb with the top of the jacket open and the hood unsecured. In typical Scottish winter conditions this arrangement would not be an option, so for winter climbers the hood has to be considered sub-optimal.

The little external toggles are a fiddle with cold hands  © Dan Bailey
The little external toggles are a fiddle with cold hands
© Dan Bailey

But the hood is a good fit on a helmet-free head  © Dan Bailey
But the hood is a good fit on a helmet-free head
© Dan Bailey

This design is a lot better for walkers than climbers. With three points of adjustment, the hood can be neatly tightened onto a helmet-free head, giving a close seal around the face and offering plenty of cheek and chin protection. I don't like the cord lock toggles, however, which are small and fiddly to operate with cold hands, and even harder to use if wearing thick gloves.

It feels tough for its weight, but there are limits (nothing is puppy-proof)  © Dan Bailey
It feels tough for its weight, but there are limits (nothing is puppy-proof)
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

Made from 2.5 layer Gore-Tex Paclite polyester fabric, the Garwhal is light, and scrunches down small for easy packing. In 2.5 layer fabrics, the waterproof membrane is bonded to the outer material without the protection of a third backing fabric layer (some kind of coating may be used instead). This makes it thinner and lighter than an equivalent 3-layer fabric, an obvious advantage in summer or for weight-critical uses. Of course the longevity and durability are not going to be up there with something burly like a 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro mountain shell, but while I wouldn't want to give the Garwhal regular abuse (ie. thrutchy rock climbing or mixed climbing), it does feel durable and well-made for the weight.

Another disadvantage of a thinner fabric is that while it may be fully windproof (as here) it doesn't offer as much resistance to flapping about in the wind as a stiffer, heavier shell, and in colder conditions this does compromise the sense of protection and to an extent the performance of insulating layers underneath. For mountain use in all weathers, the Garwhal is best considered a three-season jacket (I'd use it in winter only on a nice day, when carrying a shell just in case).

It's certainly waterproof enough for summer downpours  © Dan Bailey
It's certainly waterproof enough for summer downpours
© Dan Bailey

The high collar is nice and protective  © Dan Bailey
The high collar is nice and protective
© Dan Bailey

Having subjected it to several rainy days I can confirm that the Garwhal is as waterproof as you'd hope, and the fabric isn't particularly prone to wetting out (how long the DWR lasts is an open question on all new shells). But how breathable is it? As with every Gore-Tex product in this review, we can't definitively say, since Gore do not publish test results for their products. We are entitled to be at least a bit sceptical about why. But while a direct on-paper comparison with rival products isn't possible, our long experience in use is that Gore-Tex shells feel as breathable as any. Having subjected it to a range of weather from warm, humid and very wet on Dartmoor in the summer, to sub-zero and windy in the Cairngorms, the Garwhal's Paclite seems pretty good in that regard, and I've generally felt comfortable and non-clammy when exerting myself at walking pace. I wouldn't go running in it though.

Both the men's and women's models come in a good range of colours.

The two pockets are large enough for an OS (or Harvey) sized map  © Dan Bailey
The two pockets are large enough for an OS (or Harvey) sized map
© Dan Bailey

Features

There's not a lot to say here, since minimalism is really the main selling point of the Garwhal. Easily big enough for gloves or an OS map, the two pockets have water resistant zips, and are placed high enough to be completely usable with a harness or rucksack belt. They are lined with the same Paclite fabric as the rest of the jacket, which has the advantage of preventing a possible route for rain to get in should you leave a zip undone, but does also compromise breathability to an extent by creating a double waterproof layer across the front of the body. In a lightweight more summer-oriented jacket like the Garwhal I think a mesh lining would have been more suitable since it'd have given you a way to vent; there are no pit zips.

The main zip is a chunky and reliable YKK Vislon, which seems to be Mountain Equipment's standard choice for jackets (for good reason), and it's backed with a wide, snag-free weather-excluding strip. The hem drawcords are their excellent dual tether design, which won't accidentally cip into something on your harness, though the cords themselves feel a bit thin and flimsy, while the toggles are small and fiddly.

Ethics and Environment

Mountain Equipment were awarded 'Leader Status' by Fair Wear Foundation in 2016 and have been given their highest accolade for performance every year since. Fair Wear work to ensure living wages, reasonable working hours, safe and healthy working conditions, and the prevention of child labour.

Unfortunately GORE don't offer this version of PACLITE with a PFCec free DWR, so the Garwhal isn't PFC free. The long term aim is to replace these harmful chemicals, without compromising performance. 

Mountain Equipment say:

Using GORE-TEX PACLITE® throughout this is a jacket that can be comfortably worn all day when the weather dictates but packs away unnoticed when not required. Our Alpine fit removes excess fabric whilst still allowing room for warmer layers and our proven Mountain HC Hood provides an essential refuge from windblown rain.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) 8-16 (women)
  • Weight: 323g size M
  • 2.5-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE® fabric
  • Mountain HC Hood is fully adjustable
  • Alpine fit with articulated and pre-shaped sleeves
  • YKK® moulded Aquaguard® centre front zip with internal flap
  • 2 large pockets with YKK® WR zips
  • Adjustable laminated cuffs and dual tether hem drawcords
  • 100% Polyester, ePTFE Membrane
View website


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10 Feb

I'll add another to the mix - one of the OEX waterproofs (~£85) from GoOutdoors. I bought one whilst one of my other jackets was sent in for a warranty defect. It is a great jacket although only 2.5L, it nice and soft, fairly breathable and keeps the majority of the wet out! My version has two high pockets that work with a harness and are large enough for a map too, although the new version seems to have lower pockets..

10 Feb

I just don't get the obsession with water resistant zips without a storm flap on waterproofs. It's a low cost way of increasing weather protection, although it carries a slight weight penalty. I can see the logic on lightweight running kit, but not on 'mountain' jackets.

10 Feb

Fit is a main constraint for me: Rab stuff is nearly always the wrong shape (made for long narrow people), Mountain Equipment right (bit more square, like me).

Oh, and can't remember the last time I had to pay full RRP for a jacket.

10 Feb

Is £200 now considered a budget price point for a shell jacket? Don't think I've ever paid more than £150

The 'Best in Test' lasted 4 months for me before the wetting out became 'lets water in like a windshell'.

It was across shoulders directly where rucksack straps had been - after 10 days with a rucksack on.

I have replaced with an ME product - which is noticeably better cut.

:(

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