Bear Grylls Expedition Jacket Review
The final instalment in our top-end jacket comparison is the Craghoppers Bear Grylls Expedition Jacket. It’s Craghoppers’ most expensive item by a considerable margin with the next being another from the Bear Grylls range. With that said, the Expedition Jacket is also packed with the most technology and features – Craghoppers put everything into this model. Oh and it’s worn by the man himself too.
Opinionated World wanted to find out what your hard-earned money will buy you when it comes to premium, top-of-the-range jackets. We selected three pricey models from three of our providers – Jack Wolfskin, Craghoppers and Salomon – to show you what the differences are and to highlight the positives and weaknesses of all three. To answer the question – which one is best?
For the first time, we will be using a rating system to test the jackets on a number of abilities and features that will give us an outright total and a score-based winner. Plus, you’ll still get to read the in-depth, look-at-every-aspect reviews we pride ourselves on.
The three jackets we have selected are listed below and you can click to head over and read the reviews – links will be updated as the other reviews roll out.
The first thing to talk about is the price of the Bear Grylls Expedition Jacket – it’s retailing for £299 which is a lot of money unless you compare it to the Jack Wolfskin High Amperage Jacket we tested alongside it. Craghoppers don’t have a jacket on sale above £150~ which makes most of the Bear Grylls range a step up not only in terms of features but price too. Since the introduction of the Bear Grylls range around six years ago, Craghoppers have moved more and more towards complete separation of their ‘standard’ and ‘survival’ ranges – they don’t sell expensive clothes outside of the BG branded products full stop.
Craghoppers have essentially turned all of their more premium products into ones branded and developed – to a degree – by Bear Grylls. It gives them the opportunity to hike the prices up further than they otherwise would and appeal to a much greater, more passionate audience. Anyone who is a Bear Grylls fan will buy his clothes over another brand.
So what does the Craghoppers Bear Grylls Expedition Jacket have to offer?
The jacket is made from the most well known waterproof material on the market; GoreTex. It is well known and highly thought of for good reason. It has a waterproof and breathability rating higher than you’ll ever need, at 28K/28K which will keep you dry against the rain and your own body moisture for as long as you need, in the harshest of conditions. The main difference you’ll immediately notice between this and the other two jackets in our test is the ‘hardness’ – the obvious durability of it. You can tell immediately that it’s hard wearing and designed to take a beating.
Waterproof ratings are measured by placing a 1” square tube over the fabric and determining how high a column of water – measured in millimetres – can be suspended over it without leaking. The higher the number, the more waterproof the jacket is.
Breathability ratings are generally measured by how much water vapour – the evaporation of your perspiration – can pass through a square metre of the fabric from inside to the outside over a 24 hour timescale. The higher the number, the more breathable the jacket is.
Other jacket manufacturers claim their products are robust but over a long period of time, it’s easy to tell which will mark or snag first. It won’t be the two layer performance ripstop present in the Expedition Jacket, that’s for certain. The durability adds to the weight, which comes in at a test-high of around 740 grams.
The jacket is made in only one colourway which uses Bear’s signature colours – grey, darker grey and orange. It looks great for the same reasons the Jack Wolfskin High Amperage Jacket does though it isn’t brightly coloured. The way the greys contrast with the orange gives it a design edge over most jackets that use just one colour. Pockets, logos and technology markings pop from the neutral body.
The front of the jacket is adorned with two cavernous pockets, big enough to carry a two litre bottle of drink for the times you wear your £300 survival jacket to the supermarket. They are of course designed to carry a map – I also got the entirity of the Salomon Tour2 jacket in one pocket – which they will do with ease. Fortunately this jacket comes with hand pockets too. Thank goodness. These are pretty large, giving you enough room to put not only your hands but most of your forearm as well. There are two further pockets inside the jacket, one of which is zipped for security, plus another on the bottom of the forearm.
There is a reason the pockets are so spacious though. The jacket is huge. Gargantuan even. I am not overstating this.
Let me put the sizing into context. For clothing I wear a small, friend one wears a medium and friend two usually has a large. The Bear Grylls Expedition Jacket in my possession is a size small so it was a massive surprise to find the jacket is more like a large. Three people have modelled this jacket for me including friend one and two and another person who is in-between small and medium. It was baggy, puffy; clearly too big on everyone but friend two. In his case, the only bit that didn’t fit was the sleeve length – which was marginally too short.
It’s too long, it’s too baggy, there’s just a wealth of un-needed material. The sleeves curiously fit very nicely. I was able to get a down layer and a windproof top below the Jack Wolfskin High Amperage Jacket, which gave a tighter fit and offers plenty of warmth even in winter. Below the Expedition Jacket, I fitted one base layer, seven fleeces and a down-jacket. While my arms looked ridiculous, the body still had enough give for another couple of layers. I honestly do not understand how or why the jacket is sized in this way.
I ended up pulling in the hem cords by a good six inches and rolling the bottom of the coat underneath – hardly ideal and far from good-looking. It’s a shame because with the right fit there would be no complaints. The High Amperage jacket had one major complaint and scored zero points for it and it is only the sleeves on the Expedition Jacket saving it from a similar fate.
What this means is that unless you’re willing to wear something more than two sizes too large, you’re not going to want to buy this jacket. Anyone usually taking a large, order a small and it’ll fit as you’d expect. I dread to imagine what the body size is like in an XXL which supposedly is for a 46in chest. A small is supposed to fit a 38in chest but placing the jacket flat on the floor, it measured 21.5in both front and back which is roughly a 43 inch chest. I almost wonder whether this jacket was mis-labelled as a small. We’ll have to see what Craghoppers say on the matter because it seems a serious design oversight particularly in their most premium product.
With the sizing issue out of the way, let us take a look at everything else. The inside of the jacket is lined with a polyester mesh that sits below the 100% polyamide and GoreTex membraned outer. This feels nice on the skin and keeps you from being affected by a potentially cold outer shell. The cuffs on the jacket feature heavy duty rubberised velcro closures which always stayed secured – they’re also subtly branded with the BG logo.
On top of both shoulders is a grippy, rubbery panel which I can only imagine is there to keep a rucksack in place nicely while you’re climbing or running. That’s something I’ve not seen before but I really like the idea of – it works well in practice too.
The hood is very nicely fitting and easily adjustable with a selection of toggles. It is non-removable and cannot be stowed away but the jacket falls out nicely even with the hood down, preventing the collar and zip collapsing into your face. There is a brushed chin guard to prevent your face being abraded by rough ripstop material.
Overall I was more than happy at the technology, features, aesthetics and performance of the jacket but the sizing problem cannot be overlooked. A lot of people will purchase this jacket simply because it’s used by Bear Grylls and he’s their idol; their hero. The problem is that they’ll be disappointed, just like I was.
At £300 there is little better on the market in terms of looks and performance but nearly everything out there will fit properly – and that is the only issue.
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