Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody (2015)

Features

The Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is a good all-rounder in terms of features, so you get a medium-weight fabric that offers medium level of insulation, wind and water resistance – potentially ideal for general hill and mountain use. There are two well-placed main pockets and a hood with face and volume adjustment. The 566g weight is reasonable too, so overall a good feature set for walkers. 5/5

Fit

The men’s comes in sizes S-XXL and the women’s in XS-XL. Mine fitted me slightly closer than some others (but it was an M rather than an L), but I could still wear it over a thin fleece. There is no adjustment at the cuffs, apart from elastication; but they fitted me fine, and the cuffs and hem didn’t ride up. The length is average, while the hood fits and moves well. 5/5

Comfort

The polyester double-weave fabric offers good airflow, making the Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody ideal to wear under waterproofs, but it is also windproof enough to make it comfortable on the hill. Inside you get a polyester grid fleece layer for just the right amount of insulation for year-round use. There is a little less stretch here than some fabrics, but overall this is very comfortable. 5/5

In use

The two pockets are positioned high enough to allow access to them while wearing a rucksack hipbelt, and they are large enough for maps. The hood fits well and moves well with the head with its stiffened peak providing good protection, even though it isn’t wired. I would really like a third chest pocket, and Velcro adjustment tabs on the cuffs may improve fit for some, but overall the Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is great. 5/5

Value

The priced is appropriate for what you’re getting here, which is a good set of features and materials for the hill. 4/5

Verdict

The Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is not perfect, but this product offers most of what is needed from a soft shell jacket when heading into the hills. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Arcteryx%20Epsilon.jpg

Arc’Teryx Epsilon LT Hoody (2014)

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. It’s something Arc’Teryx is very good at: making products that seem minimalist but sport features that feel very considered. The Epsilon LT Hoody is fairly light, highly functional and understated-looking, with performance that is pitched just right for most regular conditions. So this is for those who prefer to have a basic, useful jacket that in all likelihood will be worn all year on (and off) the hill as an outer jacket in summer and under a waterproof jacket in winter. You get two huge handwarmer pockets that will easily take an OS map and sit just above the line of a rucksack belt. The lining is a durable microfleece grid that traps air in cold weather, and there is mesh lining with pockets to aid warm-weather venting. The outer is a tough windproof nylon with a small amount of stretch and a superb DWR (durable water repellent) finish. The Arc’Teryx Epsilon LT Hoody feels very well cut: despite being short compared to some the tail is just the right length and though the cuffs aren’t adjustable, they are semi-elasticated, flat and comfy. The helmet-compatible hood is excellent, offering great movement with the head and an effective stiffened peak. The zips run silky-smooth, and the sleeve pocket is tiny but takes some credit cards and a key or two. While the jacket is less roasting than the Rab Vapour Rise Jacket, Montane Sabretooth Jacket or Outdoor Research Alibi, it’s well suited for year-round use as a layering piece, or an outer in summer.

Specifications:
Outer fabric bonded nylon poly grid
Weight 557g (size M)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 0
Hood? yes
Pit zips? no
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes XS-XL
Website www.arcteryx.com

Verdict

Versatile enough to be worn year-round, for hillwalkers the Arc’Teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is a refined, unflashy and functional choice with premium brand appeal. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Marmot ROM (2014)

ROM stands for ‘Range Of Movement’, and this selling point is achieved by an all-over two-way stretch fabric with four-way stretch breathable panels under and along the arms. The Marmot ROM is also a generously long jacket that isn’t prone to riding up. Both of these assets notwithstanding, the freedom of movement isn’t massively more striking than other jackets in this test, but the ROM has plenty more besides to recommend it. The outer is of top-quality Gore Windstopper and while the DWR (durable water repellent) isn’t as impressive as some here, breathability is good and the jacket is surprisingly warm for something so slight-feeling, making this a true season-spanner. Two extraordinary handwarmer pockets that cover the full length of the trunk – shoulder to hem – make the fact that the pockets fall below a rucksack hipbelt easy to forgive. It’s difficult to think of an application for them but it’s good to have the option! The wicking backer on the fabric keeps condensation moving while stopping the wind from entering, making the Marmot ROM particularly suited to walking in changeable conditions. In place of pit zips you get breathable stretch panels under the arms, which – if not quite as effective – help keep the weight down. The Marmot ROM can feel and look a little baggy, but it is immensely comfortable in a broad range of temperatures, and the overall quality is great. 

Specifications:
Outer fabric Gore Windstopper
Weight 526g (size M)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 1
Hood? yes
Pit zips? no
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes XS-XL
Website www.marmot.com

Verdict

On many levels the Marmot ROM is a comfortable, premium-quality and highly versatile jacket that’s ideal for the British hills. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket (2014)

Exceptionally comfortable and billed as the ‘original’ soft shell, Rab’s insulated Vapour Rise garments aim to be very warm yet extremely breathable. As such they are well-suited – and well-proven as such – to excelling in the British hills in seasons when you really don’t know what’s likely to be thrown at you. The Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is very impressive: it uses windproof and water-resistant Pertex Equilibrium, while the insulation comes via fluffy, high-loft Polartec Thermal Pro fleece. This is extremely luxurious-feeling, and combined with the thin-but-durable outer and the generous cut, the freedom of movement in this jacket is exceptional. In terms of other features, you get everything you could want along with a lot you might not need: pit zips to aid venting; five pockets (two zipped internal, two handwarmers and an OS map-sized chest pocket); a fleece-lined, helmet-compatible hood with a wired peak that rolls away; a decent scooped tail; double front zip; adjustable cuffs. The Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is far from waterproof and gets heavy when soaked, so it’s worth keeping that DWR (durable water repellent) performing: however as the name suggests this is a product an outdoor professional would invest in given its ability to weather every season. But this is born to be warm and given active use in cold weather, and as such it’s difficult to imagine it being packed for every trip throughout the year.

Specifications:
Outer fabric Pertex Equilibrium
Weight 787g (size M)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 2
Hood? yes
Pit zips? yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.rab.uk.com

Verdict

The Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is incredibly comfortable, well-featured and warm with good breathability. For heavy winter use this is the best.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Mountain Equipment Shroud (2014)

The Mountain Equipment Shroud is a jacket that I’ve been wearing regularly for four years and amazingly its price hasn’t changed in that time. It’s built around Polartec 100 fleece fabric, which for me provides just the right degree of insulation to wear year-round in the UK over a base layer or under a waterproof jacket. The fabric also offers medium levels of air permeability, so there are more windproof options as well as more open-weave options, but for me this fabric is about right for most hillwalking situations. The hood, underarm and sides of the jacket are made from Polartec Powerstretch, which is more elastic and helps to improve the fit. As there is no adjustment the Shroud’s hood either fits or it doesn’t, which is a drawback, although for me it does fit fine – but if this doesn’t work for you then another fleece jacket may be better. The two main pockets are large enough for maps and they’re ideally placed for easy access when wearing a rucksack. The cuffs get thumb loops, which are useful in winter. A worthwhile addition to the latest version is a flap inside the front zip to keep draughts at bay when the Mountain Equipment Shroud is worn without a waterproof over the top to block the wind.

Specifications:

Material Polartec Classic 100 Micro, Polartec Powerstretch
Men’s/unisex sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Weight 376g (size L)
Hood yes
External pockets 2
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

An excellent blend of fabrics and design make the Mountain Equipment Shroud ideal for a wide variety of outdoor activity, but check the hood fit as there’s no adjustment provided. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2014

 


Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket (2013)

Not all Gore Windstopper fabric is the same, and the version used in the Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket is a lighter weight without added insulation inside – and the result is a more general-purpose garment that is slightly lighter in weight than some options. The Trojan offers the wind- and water-resistant qualities of other jackets, but has a softer and more stretchy feel as well as a closer fit. This fit means it won’t easily go over extra insulation layers worn underneath, so it is less flexible than other jackets. There are pit zips though in case you overheat. The two main pockets are slightly lower on the body than some jackets, but you can still access them reasonably easily and they are OS map-sized. There is a small chest pocket that would be fine for a GPS receiver too. The hood gets a rear drawcord and face drawcords and this allows it to fit closely and move easily with the head. There is a wired peak on the hood, although it is almost too small to be of real benefit. Overall the Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket feels great for climbing and mountaineering as well as travelling light and fast, as long as you can wear it over appropriate base layers to provide insulation, but that close fit does limit its ability to be worn over extra insulation.

Material Gore Windstopper X Fast 230
Weight 551g (size L)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 1
Pit zips yes
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website
www.mountain-equipment.co.uk 

Verdict
The Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket is a close-fitting soft shell for fast and light action in the mountains, but in colder conditions you won’t be able to wear much underneath. It won Trail’s ‘Best for Women’ award.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013


Montane Sabretooth (2013)

A frequent winner of Trail tests, the Montane Sabretooth has everything a hillwalker, scrambler or mountaineer might need from a soft shell jacket. It is made from Polartec Powershield, a fabric that is water- and wind-resistant thanks to a membrane that is full of tiny holes. However the key benefit of this fabric is that it is not totally windproof, so it is very breathable – which means you can wear this under a waterproof jacket if needed without overheating. It also has a good level of general insulation, so it’s not overly hot in warm weather and can be easily combined with extra insulation worn underneath in colder conditions. It has a great set of pockets too, with a pair of Napoleon pockets on the chest and a pair of conventional chest pockets – and all these are easily big enough for maps. When the wind or a passing shower blasts into you it’s great to have a functional hood, and the Sabretooth’s is a fine example of this. It has a wired peak, and it fits and moves with the head really well, so you can wear it as needed with confidence. The Montane Sabretooth was only available in black in the past but now it comes in blue as well, as shown here. The only drawback is there is no women’s version, though Montane tell us to expect one in late 2014.

Material Polartec Powershield
Weight 562g (size L)
External pockets 4
Internal pockets 2
Pit zips yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website
www.montane.co.uk

Verdict
The Montane Sabretooth is the soft shell jacket that defines what is needed in the mountains, but sadly there is no women’s version. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ and ‘Best in Test’ accolades.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013

 


Montane Alpha Guide Jacket (2013)

The story behind this pretty but initially unremarkable-looking jacket from Montane is the fabric. The Montane Alpha Guide uses the brand new Polartec Alpha, the latest innovation from the Massachusetts-based synthetic insulation wizards who have been keeping us warm and cuddly for over 30 years. The wheeze here is breathability and warmth, together as one in a jacket that – at a push – could be described as ‘puffy’. The result is a light jacket boasting a high inherent warmth and robust water-resistant insulation that cuts down on weight, which can be used for actual hillwalking without you drowning in sweat. The jacket is a hybrid construction, with the insulated areas covering the same core areas a gilet would. A stretchy, smooth-face fleece fabric makes up the arms, underarms and hood, allowing very good freedom of movement and decent reach in the areas where you need it. The insulation is certainly subtle: you wouldn’t know it was there if you couldn’t feel the benefit, or did a thumb-and-forefinger pinch on the insulated area. The outer on this core zone is a Pertex Microlight Stretch shell, which offers decent wind resistance and just a tiny amount of give, making this a particularly subtle, soft-shell-like jacket to wear.

Inside is lined with PEAQ nylon, which is comfortable in use. Wind resistance is good in the core area, and reasonable in the arms. The July heatwave meant that during testing water resistance couldn’t be fully explored, though a later dousing confirmed the Pertex shell was fairly water-resistant. However this makes no claims to be a rain jacket, though helpfully its insulation will continue to work when it’s wet: the big advantage of synthetic over down. Happily the mugginess did allow us to assess breathability, and it was certainly more impressive than other insulated jackets I’ve used before: the only area likely to get overly clammy is the back, so a rucksack with a floating back system is advised. Problems: not many, though the Montane Alpha Guide’s hood is a non-adjustable head-hugging affair that – given it is designed to allow use under a helmet – looks pretty awful without one, though it must be said feels fine, and competitor jackets fare little better looks-wise. Thumb-loops on the sleeves will be a love-them-or-hate-them feature, and highlight the appeal of the jacket for multi-activity users, as does the harness-compatible two-way zip.

Overall though the Alpha Guide is a solid product with some truly useful applications, principally as a fairly light fleece alternative that will keep you warm both in a chilly camp and on the move. Liveried in Montane’s pre-iconic blue/orange combination (though also available in black and yellow for Navy SEALs fans), it cuts quite a dash in the style stakes, too. 

Price £130
Weight (men’s M) 464g
Shell Pertex MicroLight Stretch; Mt Thermo X Stretch
Lining PEAQ Synthetic
Insulation Polartec Alpha
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website
www.montane.co.uk

Verdict
A quietly important debut by a useful fabric in the shape of a jacket that will no doubt become a minor classic. The Montane Alpha Guide is perfect for chillier walks in all seasons.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2013

 





Montane Hyena Jacket (2013)

The Hyena is cut from the excellent Polartec Power Shield fabric, which is stretchy, around 99% windproof and pretty water resistant; yet it remains breathable when worked hard. It’s a good-looking jacket with contrasting stitching, yet it performs in the hills both as a mid-layer, where the warmth provided by the fleecy backer definitely makes a difference, and as an outer, where decent-sized pockets double as vents. The collar is high and cosy and the hem tightens with drawcords. It is let down by tight cuffs that won’t roll up, but that aside, it's an excellent all-rounder.

Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Polartec Power Shield/Dryactiv
Weight: 410g
Women’s version: No
Contact: 01670 522300; www.montane.co.uk

Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2013


Berghaus Saltoro Jacket (2013)

A very lightweight jacket made with supple, four-way stretch soft shell. The flattering, figure-hugging design traps warmth really well and breathes brilliantly, and there’s a lovely high collar which locks in warmth. There are really versatile, stretch cuffs which fit nicely around the wrists yet pull up easily too – really welcome when the going gets warm. It performs brilliantly, blocking out wind and staving off light rain, with plenty of options for spilling heat, including two mesh-lined handwarmer pockets. There’s a small zipped sleeve pocket for valuables too. All the zips have pulls which are easy to use with gloves on. 

Sizes: 8-18
Fabric: Berghaus AF soft shell
Weight: 275g
Men’s version: No
Contact: 0845 607 2477; www.berghaus.com

Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2013


Páramo Torres Jacket (2013)

‘Block insulation’ is the term Páramo uses to describe the Torres Jacket, and it does create an apt image: the Torres is a super-warm, chunky layer. It isn't cut for action: this thing is made to protect you from really grim, gnarly weather when you’re stopped, sleeping or in trouble, and Páramo’s CV of gear built for Britain’s climate means you can buy this confident you’re getting the right kit for the job. This new Torres is built from the same light, windproof and water-resistant outer fabric as Páramo's Velez Adventure Light, and it does well to keep bulk down – something the older Torres struggled with. Durability and resistance to the elements is the obvious trade-off – and it's still beefy – but that brings this Torres down to the level of most others here rather than below it. Features-wise, there isn’t a lot; you get an adjustable hood, three zipped pockets, elasticated cuffs and that’s about it. Being a jacket less interested in fit than the others here, the Páramo Torres excels more at being thrown on top of an outer layer than sitting under one. The loose fit means it can be a bit draughty; but with clothing underneath hopefully most gaps will be plugged.

Weight 611g (size S)
Outer fabric Nikwax Windproof
Insulation 133gsm Nikwax Analogy Insulator (100% polyester)
Stuffsack/packable? No
Adjustable hood? yes
Men’s sizes XS-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website www.paramo.co.uk

Verdict

The Páramo Torres Jacket is an excellent insulated over layer, which, while bulky, provides reliably bombproof weather resistance.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine March 2013


Mountain Equipment Bastion (2013)

Slim and close-cut for activity, the Mountain Equipment Bastion, a new jacket, is very well-featured. Gore Windstopper Active Shell makes up the outer, cutting wind chill and increasing water resistance while retaining breathability. Mountain Equipment has catered closely for the British walker: the company’s own weather-resistant Polarloft fill looks after insulation; soft-shell cuffs make the fit around the wrists both neat and comfortable; the roomy hood is adjustable; and you get three zip-up pockets (none of which can take an OS map, tut tut), an adjustable hem and excellent arm movement. Fit is on the lean side, so if you want a jacket principally as an over layer for stops rather than a mid or outer layer, you’d do well to bear this in mind when selecting your size. That said, this is probably the jacket most viable as a stand-alone outer layer; I was really impressed with the Bastion's ability to cope with quite persistent rain, and this – coupled with breathability, and all-over warmth that isn’t excessive – makes the Mountain Equipment Bastion both the best-featured and most versatile jacket here. These features do come at a price, though; if the general spec works but the price doesn’t, the Berghaus Ignite should be your second choice.

Weight 429g (size S)
Outer fabric Gore Windstopper Active and Windstopper X-Fast
Insulation 80gsm Polarloft Micro (100% polyester)
Stuffsack/packable? stuffsack (+13g)
Adjustable hood? yes
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

Superbly featured, comfortable and versatile, the Mountain Equipment Bastion insulated jacket is a pricy option – but you’re getting a lot for it. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine March 2013


Mountain Equipment Lightline (2013)

Mountain Equipment’s Classic Lightline, a frequent winner of Trail ‘Best in Test’ awards, is now renamed the Lightline, although it remains otherwise unchanged this year. There is a good amount of quality down used so it feels genuinely warm, thus you can feel safe in the knowledge that it’ll beat the chill. The outer is Drilite fabric, which is waterproof to 1500mm of hydrostatic head – which in simple terms means that the down will stay dry even when the snow or ice melts or the jacket comes into contact with some condensation inside your tent. The hood is removable, which is ideal; and it fitted me okay too – although I’d like some volume adjustment to make it a slightly snugger fit. The Mountain Equipment Lightline’s sleeves are not as shapely as some but they are acceptable, and you get Velcro adjustment at the cuff to lock in the warm air. The two zipped hip pockets are positioned just high enough up so you can access them with a rucksack on if needed. Nice extras are a wired peak and a brushed polyester chinguard at the top of the zip.

 

Outer Drilite
Insulation 316g of 675+ fill power 90/10 down
Weight 769g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Lightline is the down jacket that sets the standard for general purpose winter insulation, and it remains hard to beat for the hillwalker. If in doubt just buy this and head to the hills knowing that it’s a proven classic! It won the ‘Best Value’ award in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Berghaus Ramche/Ilam (2013)

At this price you would expect the Berghaus Ramche (men’s) / Ilam (women’s) to be pretty special – and it is. It is one of the MtnHaus products designed by a crack team that includes renowned mountaineer Mick Fowler. The jacket features hydrophobic down, which resists ‘wetting out’ (saturation) better than normal down, meaning this keeps you warm even when it gets damp, say from condensation or melting snow. There is plenty of down used in the jacket too, so it feels really warm. The shell is made from Pertex Quantum GL, which is extremely light but also durable. The hood is very large so it can fit over a helmet easily, but it can also be adjusted to head size with an extremely impressive fit. The sleeves are also very well-profiled to give an exceptionally good fit. There are two huge pockets and two internal pockets. The cuffs get tab adjusters too. All that for just 516g (men’s L) is stunning. The only niggles are that the fabric is very shiny and the price tag is very high if you don’t need its impressive performance levels. But for serious winter use when weight and performance are number one priorities the Berghaus Ramche/Ilam is the best product in our test.

Price Ramche/Ilam £300/240
Outer Pertex Quantum GL
Insulation 850+ fill power 90/10 hydrophobic down
Weight 516g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL (Ramche)
Women’s sizes 8-18 (Ilam)
Website www.berghaus.com

Verdict

The Berghaus Ramche/Ilam is an outstanding down jacket for regular use in the most demanding situations but less frequent users can save lots of cash and stay warm with other very good jackets. It won the ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Vaude Shipton Hooded (2012)

The innovative hood design stands out as soon as you put the Vaude Shipton Hooded on. As you can see from the picture, it rises from inside the collar to make the fit really snug around the head and move with you. There are no hood adjusters, so as long as your head fits inside this is a great design. Made from Polartec Power Stretch, this is a great ‘warm but light’ (384g size UK 12) jacket that wicks sweat fast and has excellent freedom of movement for scrambling, some wind resistance from the tightly woven outer and a warm, fluffy inside. The Vaude Shipton Hooded would suit people with longer arms and there is plenty of reach for scramble holds. The thumb holes are slightly large, but the rest of the cut is excellent – slim and sporty – so the lack of a drawcord is not noticeable. The zip is two-way so you can vent from the waist if required, the two side pockets are high enough not to be obscured by a hipbelt, and the small, high chest pocket is a useful extra. The wide loop zip pulls are the best here for use with gloves on. The Vaude Shipton Hooded is also eco-friendly enough to be Bluesign-approved as it’s made from 90 per cent recycled materials and underwent the Vaude low-CO2 ecolour dyeing process.

Weight 384g
Pockets 2 side, 1 chest
Material Polartec Power Stretch
Thumb loops yes
Hood yes
Men’s version yes
Website www.vaude.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Vaude Shipton Hooded is an excellent, eco-friendly, warm jacket that’s stretchy enough for walking, scrambling and mountaineering, and has all the features you need.

Review by Claire Maxted
First published in Trail magazine October 2012