By Chris Townsend
September 19 2011
Selecting a Best in Test has rarely presented such difficulty. Of the 13 budget-priced jackets presented here, not one is such a great allrounder that it truly deserves to be labelled as head and shoulders above the competition. A handful of contenders emerged, pulling ahead of the fi eld by only by the slimmest of margins.
The Berghaus jacket is the lightest and packs away small but has breathability issues: accumulated moisture doesn’t dissipate quickly. Patagonia’s similarly light Torrentshell smock handles moisture better but, like the Berghaus, lacks useful pockets, while adjusting its fl oppy-peaked hood is awkward thanks to the concealed toggles. The other prime contender was the Keela, a great jacket but weighty, bulky and therefore less attractive for summer use.
In selecting the Sprayway jacket, therefore, I admit to having had to make a few compromises. This wasn’t a clear, first-past-the-post winner, more one that slipped to victory because others failed in key features. My alternative vote accumulator.
The Hydrolite is not among the lightest jackets tested but I found it to be very comfortable, thanks in part to the fabric’s stretch quality. It also features my personal bugbear, a detachable hood, and I certainly had an issue with it: it came off, unbidden, when I tensioned the drawcords to pull the hood around my face. Otherwise the hood would be commendable: snug, with a good, projecting, stiff ened peak… at least it can be worn as a hat, and a reasonable one too!
Other features are excellent: pockets are well-positioned and usable when wearing a pack belt; they’re also mesh-lined, which aids venting. The front zip features a storm fl ap (which could have done with a little extra Velcro security to fully block out draughts) and the hem drawcord can be operated with a single hand, though the jacket isn’t long enough to cover my backside. The collar too has a drawcord and can be pulled in around your neck, which should help retain a little heat on cooler days.
This was one of the best-vented jackets; but for its weight and the removable hood’s habit of removing itself – the hood zip must account for some of that unwanted weight – I would have given it five stars.
It was supplied, uniquely here, with alternative zip-pulls.Tweet
Protection: HydroDry Flex
Pockets: Two zipped hand, one inner Velcro-closed hood pocket
Weight: 540g (L, inc stuff sack)
Sizes: Men: S-XXL, Women: 8-18
Likes: hand pocket positioning, hood comfort and design, breathability/ venting, stretch material
Dislikes: weight, zip-off hood
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