The Big Test: Waterproof Jackets reviewed (2018)

Staying dry during a hillwalk can be a challenge, but pack the right waterproof jacket and you’ll be warm, dry and comfortable no matter what the mountain throws at you. We put six jackets to the test on the Lakeland fells.

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The Runners Up


Sprayway Santiago / Atlanta £90

Tester: Jon Bennett

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  • Materials 2-layer hydrodry with loose mesh lining

  • Men’s XS-XXXL (Santiago)

  • Women’s 8-20 (Atlanta)

  • Weight 606g (M) 

This jacket is made with 2-layer Hydrodry fabric. Although on paper this is not the most breathable fabric, the mesh lining on the inside very effectively managed condensation and kept me drier from condensation than the other lower-priced jackets. There are two handwarmer pockets and a map-sized chest pocket. The foldaway hood has face drawcords and rear volume adjustment. Compared with the other lower-priced options there’s a good length to the jacket and it felt warmer owing to the air gap provided by the mesh lining. However, although the hood protected my face it did not turn well with my head. The handwarmer pockets were also not easy to access when wearing a rucksack and the chest pocket was closed by Velcro, rather than a more secure zip.

Pros

Price, condensation management, lots of features and good protection in general.

Cons

Heavy compared to others and hood does not move with the head.

Buy it if...

You want a good all-rounder at a superb price and don’t need either the lightest or absolute best performance on the hill.


Berghaus Stormcloud £100

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Material 2-layer Hydroshell

  • Men’s XS-XXL  

  • Women’s 8-18 

  • Weight 324g (L)

The big advantages here are the price and weight, as both are very appealing. The fabric is a 2-layer Hydroshell, which kept the water at bay while scrambling up the gill but soon became very sweaty inside as there is no inner layer to hide or soak up the condensation. But importantly the pockets are not mesh lined, unlike some higher-priced lightweight jackets, so even if water entered the pockets I didn’t get wet inside. The hood fits quite close and did move a little with my head, but higher-priced designs offer better adjustment. When scrambling the cuffs and hem tended to ride up far too easily, which left my body more exposed to the elements than all the other jackets here. The two main pockets are both annoyingly small and too low to allow the optimum access while wearing a rucksack hipbelt. 

Pros

Price and weight are the main benefits here for hillwalkers.

Cons

Lots of condensation build-up, and not the best pockets nor the best hood design.

Buy it if...

You want a lightweight low-priced jacket for stowing in your rucksack and just wearing during short showers when any condensation will be tolerable.


Rab Ladakh DV £275

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Material 3-layer Event

  • Men’s S-XXL 

  • Women’s 8-16

  • Weight 604g (XL)

The Ladakh DV is made using the durable 3-layer Event fabric, which is superb at controlling condensation and keeping the rain out. The size XL is roomy and nicely long, with adjustment in all the right places, including waist and hem drawcords, plus longer sleeves, all of which kept out draughts and stopped the jacket riding up. The large hood is helmet compatible and has sufficient volume adjustment to keep it in place in wind and rain, and it moves nicely as your head turns to look for holds or take in the view from under the stiffened peak. With pit zips open and just a long sleeve base layer beneath I was never damp from condensation on scrambles or walks. The only design drawback is the lack of a decent third chest pocket, whilst some may consider it heavy in terms of weight and price for hillwalking.

Pros

Durable waterproof and breathable fabric, great pockets, great hood, great sleeves.

Cons

No third chest pocket, and others are lighter and lower in price.

Buy it if…

You want a durable waterproof jacket with generally great features and don’t require a third chest pocket.



The Top three


Montane Atomic £125

Tester: Graham Thompson

The low price and light weight make the Atomic instantly appealing, but how does it compare to higher-priced and heavier alternatives?

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  • Material 2.5-layer Pertex Shield

  • Men’s S-XL 

  • Women’s 8-16

  • Weight 331g (L)

It’s good

This light jacket packs down small, so you’ll hardly notice it in your rucksack. The weight saving comes from the use of 2.5-layer Pertex Shield fabric, and there’s no inner layer, just a printed surface to manage condensation. The fabric is quite thin and supple too. This all adds up to this being very comfortable. 

The sleeves don’t ride up badly when scrambling and the hood has good face drawcords and rear volume drawcord adjustment, so it was easy to see even as I moved my head around to look for good holds during scrambles. 

The two main pockets are well placed to allow access while wearing a rucksack, and both are large enough for a map too. These pockets are lined with mesh, which improves condensation control by allowing a means of adding airflow, while a pair of pit zips add further venting. So in many ways there is lots to like here and for general walking in warmer wet weather this is a superb choice.

However

Problems start to show themselves when you really challenge the material. Firstly this jacket is not as stiff as others and the fit is slightly closer than some, so in the wind it feels a bit chilly. Also as it is only a 2.5-layer fabric condensation develops easier than the 3-layer fabrics, so did get pretty clammy once I overheated. 

Those mesh pockets also allow water to pass right through the jacket, meaning I had to keep them closed properly during the gill scramble – not a problem you’d get with sealed pockets. 

Other jackets also have a useful third pocket for a guidebook or phone, but here you have just two. Of course all these small drawbacks could be reduced by adding features that would increase both the weight and the cost, so you need to decide if weight or comfort is your priority before parting with your money.

Verdict

The weight and price are great, and the design is ideal for milder conditions, but in really wet and windy mountain conditions you may prefer different features.

  • Features 4/5

  • Weatherproofness 3/5

  • Condensation 3/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

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Paramo Alta III £295

Tester: Jon Bennett

Does Paramo’s unique fabric combination improve comfort to a level that overcomes any drawbacks of the design?

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  • Material Nikwax Analogy

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s XS-XL

  • Weight 832g (M)

It’s good

The unique Paramo fabric delivers far greater breathability and better condensation management than the other fabrics on test, and this is why I love wearing the Alta in cold, wet conditions.  

The incredible six pockets – two inside, two chest (one map-sized), and two handwarmer – are all useable when wearing a rucksack. The jacket is a good length and zipped upper-arm vents offer top ventilation. The wired hood also moved really well with my head, with excellent hood adjustment. The Alta is the warmest jacket on test, so when the others were reaching for extra layers at the summit I just zipped up. 

And good to know is that Paramo has strong ethical manufacturing standards, and doesn’t use environmentally hazardous polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

However

While I love wearing the Alta in cold conditions, it can be overly warm in summer (although Paramo does now make a lighter version of its fabric for summer use). Consequently, the Alta is the warmest and heaviest jacket here, and would bulk up a ’sack if solely being carried waiting for a shower. 

Some care is also needed when leaning on wet rock during a gill scramble, as water can pass through the jacket under high pressure. The fabric dries exceptionally fast though, so I was totally dry during our waterfall adventures. 

There are cheaper jackets than the Alta, but if you sweat a lot then it will at least quickly pass through this jacket to the air so you’ll be dryer than in a cheaper one!

Verdict

Unique fabric ensures that condensation is managed far better than other jackets but the extra warmth, extra weight and extra cash are the main drawbacks to consider.

  • Features 5/5

  • Weatherproofness 3/5

  • Condensation 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Mountain Equipment Lhotse / Manaslu £350 

Tester: Tim Butcher

This is a well established 3-layer Gore-Tex jacket but is it really worth paying all that extra cash? And could this classic be even better?

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  • Material 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro

  • Men’s S-XXL (Lhotse)

  • Women’s 8-16 (Manaslu)

  • Weight 531g (XL)

It’s good

The Lhotse continues to be the benchmark against which other jackets are measured. Built of tough 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro it’s incredibly durable, giving armour-like protection in storms and high levels of waterproofness and breathability, so I was never damp on our final test day in Langdale, even with changing conditions. 

The design also delivers when it comes to practical features, providing both good body coverage and unrestricted movement, with sleeves and hems staying put when reaching for holds on the steep rock. The three external pockets are in just the right places, clear of rucksack straps, allowing ‘hands in pockets’ walking and a chest pocket large enough for a map or guidebook. 

Pit zips, which aren’t stiff under the arm, open easily to improve ventilation, and the hood with a well-stiffened peak and rear volume adjuster kept the wind and rain out without restricting vision whilst walking and scrambling.

However

With top-spec gear, the cons are often weight and price, and it’s not the lightest jacket available. It could be argued that it’s over-specced for most Lakeland days out, and a lighter jacket would suffice, but if you walk year-round in the UK as we do, and you’re looking for one jacket that’ll tackle everything, then the extra weight is worth it. 

Moisture management relies on having the right combination of base layers underneath, so in changing conditions it was fleece on/off a number of times to maintain ideal temperature and prevent overheating. 

However, I can’t fault the fabric or the design, and coming onto the summit of Harrison Stickle into a cold, rain-laden wind, with both test jackets in my pack, it was the Lhotse I instinctively reached for.

Verdict

A seasoned performer, with high-end fabric and brilliant design, I’d wear it with confidence in any conditions in the British mountains.

  • Features 5/5

  • Weatherproofness 5/5

  • Condensation 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Mountain Equipment Manaslu womens Jacket Review 2016

Features

The Manaslu is an Mountain Equipment classic, and for good reason. Gore-Tex Pro fabric offers durable waterproofing and high breathability, and is extremely rugged. The three large pockets all take an OS map – and the inner chest pocket is smartphone-sized. Sleeves are preshaped and articulated for comfort, and there are pit zips to aid venting. The helmet-compatible hood is well-fitting with a stiffened, wired peak. 5/5

Fit

The Manaslu is sized 8-16 (the men’s Lhotse is S-XXL). It’s neat around the hips and waist with room for a thick warm layer and some bum protection from the length. There’s a little cuff movement when reaching, but not much, and the preshaped sleeves increase comfort. The hood moves well with the head, but some pricier options offer a more precise fit. 4/5 

Comfort

The Gore-Tex Pro used is a robust and slightly stiff fabric, designed to keep terrible mountain weather out – and this is very reassuring in the depths of a Scottish winter. Though relatively heavy, it’s breathable, and you can use the pit zips to cool down. Not as soft as some, but that’s the trade-off for bombproof weather protection. 5/5

In use

If you’re mainly a low-level hillwalker, the Mountain Equipment Manaslu may be too much; but if your ventures include winter forays to Scottish summits, it will suit you well. The three main pockets will swallow maps, GPS devices, phones and anything else you want to keep close. The helmet-compatible hood fits well and everything’s designed for use with gloves. The material is extremely robust. Made for high mountains. 5/5

Value

Impressive fabric and excellent features – this is real mountain armour. The price is high but it’s competitive in its market. RRP £330. 4/5

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Manaslu is a mountaineering jacket with the features and material to prove it. A safe choice for winter. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade. 4.6/5

Mountain Equipment Rupal Jacket Review 2016

Features

The Mountain Equipment Rupal is built with Gore-Tex, but not the higher-spec Pro version – although it does have the benefit of feeling very robust to fend off bad winter weather. You get two huge chest pockets that are easily accessed and a hood with a very well-stiffened wired peak. Pit zips are provided for more ventilation control. There are only two chest pockets though and some others are slightly lighter. 4/5

Fit

Available is sizes S-XXL for men and 8-16 for women. The fit is about 4cm longer than the short jackets we looked at, so it does give the bum some protection. The hood fits closely and moves easily with the head, and sleeve movement is very good with barely any movement in them or the cuffs when raising arms. The overall cut is less close than some. 5/5

Comfort

This does feel stiff, which you may not like in milder weather; but for me I prefer this when battling across the winter mountains as it buckles less in the wind and feels warmer as more air remains trapped inside. There is a massive patch of soft fabric at the top of the zip to protect the chin from being scratched, which I really like. 4/5

In use

On a tough day’s scrambling the Mountain Equipment Rupal really proves itself. It uses 75 denier fabric so it has more abrasion resistance than some others. It feels nice and protective, and those two massive pockets are ideal for maps, gloves or guidebooks. The hood really makes foul weather enjoyable as it offers so much protection. I’d like a third pocket ideally, but that is the only niggle. 5/5

Value

There are lots of lower-priced jackets but this has benefits that others cannot offer and you have to spend more to better it in my view. RRP £250. 4/5

Verdict

A really solid performance on the hill that is ideal for those heading into more challenging conditions. The Mountain Equipment Rupal wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.4/5

Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket Review 2016

Features

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse is made with 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric for durable levels of waterproofness and breathability. You get three big pockets on the chest, which can be easily accessed while wearing a rucksack belt. There is also a zipped internal pocket. The helmet-compatible hood has a wired peak with face and rear volume adjustment. Pit zips add extra ventilation. 5/5

Fit

The Lhotse comes in men’s sizes S-XXL. For women the Manaslu comes in sizes 8-16. The fit is described as ‘Alpine Fit’ by the manufacturer, and it has a slightly closer fit than older Mountain Equipment jackets. It is not the longest model available and my bum is not fully protected, but this is the same with many other jackets. The hood fits superbly. 5/5

Comfort

Three-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric is used here. It feels slightly stiffer than other versions, so it does not buckle as easily in the wind as softer fabrics, and thus it’s comfier in the wind. The pit zips aid condensation control if needed without removing the jacket, while the hood very comfortably moves with the head and protects the eyes. The slightly short length is a niggle but many jackets have this problem. 5/5

In use

Those massive chest pockets easily take a map or hat and gloves. Access is easily maintained when wearing a rucksack with hipbelts, as they are nice and high with long zips. The hood peak is stiffened and can be reshaped if it gets distorted, and the hood moves well with the head so you can easily see when scrambling. Movement in the sleeves is also great for scrambling. 5/5

Value

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse’s price is lower than many other top-end jackets, but it is still a considered purchase despite offering better value than some. RRP: £330. 4/5

Verdict

A great combination of features makes the Mountain Equipment Lhotse ideal for heading onto tougher mountain terrain. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade. 4.8/5

Mountain Equipment Pumori (2015)

Features

This is made with Mountain Equipment’s Drilite 3-layer laminate, which boasts extremely high waterproofness and breathability figures, plus a softer feel than some heavier jackets. There are also pit zips for extra ventilation, three external chest pockets that are all large enough for maps, plus a hood with a wired peak. So you are getting more features than some here. 5/5

Fit

Available for men in sizes S-XXL and for women in 8-16, the Mountain Equipment Pumori has what Mountain Equipment describes as an ‘Alpine’ fit, which for me translated as a slightly closer fit than some in the body. The body is a little longer than some too, so it covered my bum reasonably well. The hood fits very closely and moves easily with the head. 5/5

Comfort

The Drilite material is slightly softer than others and this is a slightly lighter jacket too, which makes it a little more comfortable. However in really heavy wind and rain that closer fit and softer material mean it feels a little less warm as there is less air trapped inside. But overall the Pumori’s comfort is great throughout. 5/5

In use

The three huge chest pockets are ideal for maps or to warm the hands and this is easily achieved even with a big rucksack hipbelt. The cuffs and hem don’t budge when scrambling and the fit of the hood is superb and allows great vision thanks to its wired peak. If you are rough on your gear ME’s Lhotse is a more durable option, but that is really the only caveat here. 5/5

Value

The Mountain Equipment Pumori is hard to beat at this price, with costlier jackets just adding a more durable fabric. 4/5

Verdict

For hillwalkers the Mountain Equipment Pumori may be everything you need, but harder users may benefit from a higher-priced jacket that uses more durable materials. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2015

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Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu (2015)

Features

One of the most well-established mountain jackets there is, the Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu uses tough 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric for durable levels of waterproofness and breathability. There are three big pockets on the chest, plus a zipped internal pocket. The helmet-compatible hood benefits from a wired peak with face and rear volume adjustment, while pit zips add ventilation. 5/5

Fit

The men’s Lhotse comes in sizes S-XXL and the women’s Manaslu comes in sizes 8-16. It has an ‘Alpine Fit’, according to the manufacturer, meaning it fits a bit closer than older ME jackets. It was a little short for me, as my bum was not fully protected, but this is the same with many jackets these days. The hood fit is superb though and really sets this jacket apart. 5/5

Comfort

The 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric is stiffer than some others but that also means it does not buckle in a breeze and so it feels more comfortable to me because of that. The pit zips further aid condensation control and that hood comfortably protects the eyes and face. The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu is a little short for my liking but that is the only niggle that comes to mind. 5/5

In use

You can get a map in all three of those chest pockets, and wearing a rucksack with a big hipbelt does not impede access to them. The hood drawcords are easy to adjust while the wire in the peak allows it to be reshaped as preferred for maximum protection. Movement in the sleeves is great with no riding up of the cuffs or hem when scrambling. 5/5

Value

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu’s price offers better value for money than many top-end jackets, but it still makes me wince. 4/5

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu is a proven mountain workhorse that provides durable protection for the hills with a great set of pockets, a great hood and a great fabric. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2015

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Mountain Equipment Aeon (2015)

www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Features

There are lots of similar jackets to the Mountain Equipment Aeon, but I liked the combination of features here. It is reasonably lightweight at 362g (size L) with three pockets that can be easily accessed while wearing a rucksack and a hood with a wired peak to improve vision in wet and windy weather. The downside is mesh pockets and a short body. 4/5

Fit

This is available in size S-XXL for men and 8 to 16 for women. The body is of average length at the front with a scooped tail for better protection of the bottom. The cuff area of the sleeves is a little baggy but can be tidied up with the Velcro adjusters. The cuffs and hem don’t ride up when raising your arms, and the hood fits and moves with the head well. 5/5

Comfort

The Mountain Equipment Aeon uses a 2.5-layer Drilite material, which boasts top-quality waterproofness and breathability. But like all 2.5-layer materials it is clammier than 3-layer or mesh-lined products. It is very thin too, which means it does not shed wind so well as thicker and heavier materials. Also, the pockets are mesh-lined, allowing water ingress if not carefully managed. 3/5

In use

For a lightweight jacket the Mountain Equipment Aeon is superb in many ways. The pit zips can improve comfort, while the two main pockets take maps easily. The third chest pocket is not big enough for maps, but it is useful for compass or GPS. The hood and sleeve movement are excellent, the main niggles being mesh pockets and a material that is not great in the worst weather. 4/5

Value

There are a lot of similar jackets to this at the same price, but this has the edge on them, so its price is good in comparison. 4/5

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Aeon is the best lightweight jacket we saw in our test under £170. While it’s not perfect, I suspect many walkers will find it more than capable. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine Spring 2015

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Mountain Equipment Aeon (2014)

Features

The Mountain Equipment Aeon has three main pockets, all taking an OS map, although the chest pocket is a tight squeeze. They’re all mesh-lined – great for extra ventilation and reducing weight, but not so good for staying dry. There are also pit zips for venting. The hood folds to the collar, where it can be secured, and benefits from a wired peak with rear volume and face drawcords. 5/5

Fit

Sizes XS-XXL for men and 8-16 for women utilise the ‘Alpine fit’ of this jacket. The body covered my crotch and was slightly loose at the waist but not as baggy as some. The sleeve fit was slightly loose but allowed exceptionally good movement without the cuffs or hem moving. Like most ME hoods this fits closely and moves effortlessly with the head. 5/5

Comfort

The body is made from Drilite, for top-end performance in terms of waterproofness and breathability (but it does feel slightly clammier than other 3-layer options). The advantage is the weight of just 357g (size L) coupled with the fabric’s softness, which really boosts comfort. In heavy rain I’d like a stiffer 3-layer fabric to trap more air inside. If water gets in the mesh-lined pockets you may feel damp too. 4/5

In use

On the hill in mild weather the Mountain Equipment Aeon is great, thanks to that low weight and the fabric softness and breathability. You can easily access all pockets while wearing a rucksack and stow maps in the bottom pockets, but a map only just fits in the chest pocket. The pit zips are useful for venting, and hood and arm movement are superb. 4/5

Value

This is decent value as you get top-end features and performance with only tiny niggles. 4/5

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Aeon is a great jacket for mild-weather mountain trips. It was awarded a ‘Trail approved’ accolade.

4.4/5

www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2014

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Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu (2014)

Features

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu has been a favourite jacket of mine for years, in part due to the fact that it has the essential features for hill and mountain walks. Primarily you get those all-important three big pockets on the chest, plus a zipped internal pocket. The helmet-compatible hood has a wired peak with face and rear volume adjustment, and there are pit zips. 5/5

Fit

The jacket, which comes in sizes S-XXL for men and 8-16 for women, boasts an ‘Alpine fit’, which is closer than Mountain Equipment jackets of old. It didn’t quite cover my crotch, so I’d prefer a little more length, but this is the same with most jackets these days; that said, I did like the scoop tail, which provided extra protection at the back. The hood fitted really well and moved with my head perfectly. 5/5

Comfort

Being made from Gore-Tex Pro means the Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu is a durable waterproof and breathable jacket that will keep users comfortable. A mesh-lined jacket is more comfortable, but heavier, and the mesh tends to snag. Lighter jackets are softer and more flexible, but less durable. Pit zips further aid condensation control. So overall for durable mountain comfort this is ideal. 5/5

In use

Wearing a pack, I could put a map in any of the chest pockets and whip it out without having to undo or adjust any buckles. The hood is easy to adjust, and allows great vision thanks to good movement and a wired peak. I could also do a scramble without the hem or sleeves riding up. External stormflaps may make the zips more water-resistant, but I had no problems. 5/5

Value

Without doubt a great jacket, but only regular users may feel it’s worth the price tag. 3/5

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu is tried and trusted for mountain trips when wild weather demands the best performance.

4.6/5

www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2014

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Mountain Equipment Aeon (2014)

The Mountain Equipment Aeon boasts a wealth of hill-orientated features. Firstly the Drilite fabric features top-end waterproofness and breathability, while the ‘dry-touch’ inner treatment helps to manage condensation – although higher-priced fabrics may be even better. The fabric also feels a little softer than some options, which gives the impression of being less durable, but I think it will be durable enough for most hillwalkers. The jacket has a water-resistant front zip with a soft internal flap to block wind and water, but this flap on other jackets has a gutter design and is stiffer, which may help to funnel water away from the wearer. The two main pockets easily take a map while being accessible when wearing rucksack belts. The third chest pocket is smaller but still useful for a guidebook, compass, phone or GPS receiver. The two main pockets are mesh-lined, so water could make its way through the jacket via these pockets. In warm weather those mesh linings add ventilation, and there are pit zips for further ventilation control. The hood can be rolled away and secured in the collar during calmer conditions, while in the foulest of weather the hood’s stiffened and wired peak along with drawcords ensure good protection. Not all is perfect with the Mountain Equipment Aeon, though, as the cuff adjusters are annoyingly narrow and faffy while the forearm of the sleeve is a little baggy.

Specifications:

Fabric Drilite

Lining none

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Women’s sizes 8-16

External pockets 3

Stowable hood? yes

Side/pit zips? no

Weight 350g (men’s size L)

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Aeon is well-priced with a very high-performance fabric and generally great features for the hillwalker. Paying more may bring more durable fabrics and better condensation control.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine July 2014

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Mountain Equipment Vector (2014)

What sets the Mountain Equipment Vector apart from many of its lower-priced lightweight counterparts is that here you’re getting a much higher-spec fabric, which means it should remain waterproof for longer while also being more breathable. It’s only a 2.5-layer fabric, though, and 3-layer fabrics and jackets with mesh lining will control condensation better, although there are vent holes under the arms to improve airflow. The Vector also only weighs 291g (size L) and it can be worn over a fleece or other mid layer without feeling restrictive. The design is typically short, but it’s not as short as some others, which considering the weight is a remarkable achievement. The front zip is exposed but it’s a water-resistant type, which again not all the lower-priced lightweight jackets can offer. There’s a flap on the inside to trap leaks as well. The two pockets are well-placed to allow easy access to their contents while wearing a rucksack hipbelt and they are large enough for maps, but they are mesh-lined, so they are not the most waterproof design. The sleeves are outstandingly good and allow more movement without riding up at the cuffs than any jacket here. The hood is very good too, thanks to a close fit and good movement with the head, while a wired peak provides good protection.

Weight 291 (size L)

Fabric 2.5-layer Drilite

Lining none

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Women’s sizes 8-16

External pockets 2

Can hood be rolled down? no

Side/pit vents no

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Vector carries a higher price than some other lightweight jackets, but you’re getting a better fabric and some details of design that make it more suitable for hillwalking.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine Spring 2014

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Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu (2013)

The Mountain Equipment Lhotse (men’s version) has previously been a firm favourite of mine and it’s regularly done well in Trail gear reviews. For 2013 this classic gets a few design tweaks as well as the new Gore-Tex Pro fabric, which boasts increased breathability over its predecessors. The jacket now has an ‘Alpine fit’, meaning it is closer-fitting than before, which is no bad thing as it had started to feel a bit ‘boxy’ compared with newer designs. But for me the new version is a bit short and I’d prefer a good 5cm extra in length. Like many modern designs the main zip is left exposed, with an internal flap to keep leaks under control, while the chunky nature of the zip itself should resist grit and mud easily. The three large chest pockets are ideal for hands, maps or guidebooks, while the pair of pit zips can be used to vent the jacket on the move. The hood is a typically good effort from Mountain Equipment, with a wired peak and excellent fit and movement making it a joy a wear. All that for 571g and £300 is pretty good by current standards, although for my money I’d like a bit more length to make it absolutely perfect when mountain walking, backpacking and scrambling. The Manaslu is the women’s version of this jacket.

Weight 571g (size men’s L)

Fabric 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro

Lining none

Men’s sizes S-XXL (Lhotse)

Women’s sizes 8-16 (Manaslu)

External pockets 3

Can hood be rolled down? yes

Side/pit vents yes

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

A reasonable price and weight for a jacket that is generally well-designed for heading to the hills, unless you want a little more length on the body. The Mountain Equipment Lhotse/Manaslu won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2013

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Mountain Equipment Saltoro (2103)

Here’s a new jacket from Mountain Equipment that appears to compete directly with the better-established Rab Bergen. The Saltoro is made from 3-layer Gore-Tex so its waterproof and breathability standards are well-established. You get just two chest pockets, and these are huge so they easily provide room for cold hands, maps or guidebooks. They are easily accessed no matter what rucksack you are wearing. The jacket is shorter than some we looked at, and about 5cm shorter than the Rab Bergen, so you’ll need overtrousers readily to hand. There is no external stormflap over the main zip either, which saves weight and makes it easier to use the zip, but allows greater potential for water seepage, although this may only be an issue in driving rain. The hood is excellent and fairly typical of the brand’s design with a massive wired peak plus excellent fit and movement with the head. At 518g (size L) the Mountain Equipment Saltoro is slightly lighter than the Rab Bergen, but it is not as long. I’d personally go for the Rab every time when hillwalking, but there will certainly be some who prefer the more minimalist design of the Saltoro, however – so try them both before buying.

Weight 518g (size L)

Fabric 3-layer Gore-Tex

Lining none

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Women’s sizes 8-16

External pockets 2

Can hood be rolled down? yes

Side/pit vents no

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Saltoro is almost an ideal choice for hill and mountain walking, but it is not as long as similar jackets, a fact you may value as more important than the weight saving it offers.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine November 2013

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First test: Mountain Equipment Lhotse (2013)

Gore-Tex Pro is the latest waterproof, breathable fabric from WL Gore. It promises increased breathability and is intended for the hill and mountain walker in need of durable performance. One of the first jackets to feature this fabric is Mountain Equipment’s Lhotse.

I first used the new Gore-Tex Pro fabric on a press trip in November 2012 during a wet weekend in Snowdonia. Gore claims it is 28 per cent more breathable than Gore-Tex Pro Shell, with improved durability. However, I did get some condensation inside and the design of the jacket I wore wasn’t ideal. So I was particularly excited to try the new fabric in the Mountain Equipment Lhotse, a jacket that has previously been awarded ‘Best in Test’ in Trail reviews.

The latest version of the Mountain Equipment Lhotse has a trim and tailored ‘Alpine fit’; but it’s also shorter than in the past, and I would like it to be about 3 to 5cm longer (this is a common problem with modern jackets). It features an exposed front zip without an external flap, the zip being a new chunky affair that is likely to be better at keeping the weather out as well as running smoothly when coated in mud or snow. On the chest there are three huge pockets that also get these chunky zips, and they’re all superb for warming hands or stashing hats, gloves or maps on the move.

There are also pit zips, which are useful for mountaineers, but their existence hints that although the new Pro fabric is more breathable than Pro Shell, you still need to manage airflow to prevent condensation building up inside the jacket.

As with many Mountain Equipment jackets the hood is helmet-compatible, and it’s very good thanks to a wired peak and a very close fit that allows it to move effortlessly with your head when looking up, down and around. There’s good movement in the sleeves, too, to prevent that short hem from riding up when scrambling.

Material 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro
Sizes S-XL (men’s) Cloud Peak is nearest equivalent for women
Weight 537g (size L)
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

Gore-Tex Pro fabric and the Mountain Equipment Lhotse jacket have both received superb upgrades, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect for everyone in every situation.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine August 2013




Mountain Equipment Firefox (2013)

The Firefox is very light at a mere 250g, but still has all the features you’ll need for a day in the hills. The Gore-Tex Active fabric is waterproof and very breathable, and has waterproof zips to prevent any leaks. It’s also got a really decent hood – it won’t envelop you, but the stiffened peak keeps drips off your face and driven rain out of your eyes; and drawcord adjustment locks it down. The fabric is quite rustly, but it packs down into the size of an orange so works well as an emergency jacket too. Velcro-adjustable cuffs and mesh-lined pockets add versatility.

 

Sizes: 8-16
Fabric: Gore-Tex Active
Weight: 250g
Men’s version: Yes
Contact: 0161 366 5020; www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

* Review from Country Walking magazine, May 2013.


Mountain Equipment FireFox (2013)

The Mountain Equipment FireFox is well-established, and is now made from Gore-Tex Active fabric to keep its weight down to just 335g (size L), despite having pit zips and chest pockets. It’s about 3cm longer at the hem than some similar-looking jackets. The jacket has an exposed front zip with an internal stormflap that’s about half the width of some other internal flaps. The two chest pockets are higher on the body than some others, so they’re much easier to access when wearing a rucksack with a hipbelt and they’re also very large, ideal for maps or other items. The pockets are mesh-lined, though, so they’re great for ventilation – but not so good at keeping water out once it enters the pocket. Unlike most jackets in this weight category the Mountain Equipment FireFox has pit zips for extra venting, which seems a little over the top considering that the Gore-Tex Active fabric isn’t overly warm anyway. The hood doesn’t get a wired peak, but the peak is stiffened and when adjusted with the volume and face drawcords it works very well. A great offering for £200.

Fabric Gore-Tex Active
Lining none
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
External pockets 2
Stowable hood yes
Side/pit zips yes
Weight 335g (size L)
Website www.mountainequipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The mesh-lined pockets mean the Mountain Equipment FireFox is not quite so good for the wettest of conditions, but it is longer than some and has great pockets, pit zips and hood for hillwalkers. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine July 2013


Mountain Equipment Morpheus (2012)

The Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric on this is superbly breathable and as tough as nails; and it boasts a great hood, with a stiffened and wired peak. The pockets are excellent (although they don’t vent at all) – the cavernous chest pocket simply swallows maps and guidebooks. The hem has drawcord adjustment and there's a helpful waist adjuster, too. The sleeves are a little baggy, but the Velcro tabs make it easy to get a good fit at the cuffs. The jacket has a really effective storm flap and a lovely soft collar.

Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Gore-Tex Pro Shell Ascendor II
Weight: 500g
Women’s version: Seraph
Contact: 0161 366 5020; www.mountain-equipment.co.uk


Mountain Equipment Diamir (2012)

The Mountain Equipment Diamir makes you feel completely protected in the worst of British weather. Though slightly on the heavy side at 530g (size UK12), it is very stormproof and amazingly durable, with Gore-Tex Pro Shell Tenacity reinforcements over the shoulders, upper back and upper arms. The rest of the jacket uses highly breathable Gore-Tex Pro Shell Ascendor II fabric, so it feels very comfy when you’re exerting yourself, and you can also open the water-resistant pit zips and glove-friendly cuff adjusters for extra venting. There’s a double stormflap in front of the main zip, and the Napoleon chest pocket and high side pockets (accessible when wearing a hipbelt) have stormflaps as well as the usual water-resistant zips. Even so, Mountain Equipment still includes a warning note to remind you that the pockets are not completely waterproof. There’s also an inner mesh pocket and elasticated pouch. The wired-peak hood is superb – fully adjustable, helmet-compatible and folds away secured by Velcro. The jacket comes up quite large, especially around the arms, so you might need a size smaller than usual, depending on what insulation you usually wear underneath. The closest men’s equivalent is the ME Kongur (£300).

Weight 530g (size UK12)
Material 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Ascendor II Fabric with Gore-Tex Pro Tenacity fabric reinforcements
Women’s sizes 8-16
Men’s sizes n/a
Pit zips yes
Wired hood peak yes
Stowable hood yes
Website
www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Diamir is a bombproof jacket with all the features you need for tackling the British mountains whatever the weather, and at a brilliant price too. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Claire Maxted
First published in Trail magazine November 2012