Reviewing the Karrimor Elite Alpiniste eVent jacket
I’d been weighing up my options on which jacket I should buy to protect me from the 2012 style British summer for the past few weeks. Ideally, I’d have stuck with the Bear Grylls range of clothing and waited a month or so to get the new Mountain Jacket. Unfortunately, Craghoppers’ sizing in this range of products leaves something to be desired. A 38″ chest supposedly being a small. Of course, that’s not the case and a small is usually sold as a 36″. I had previously tried on the current Mountain Jacket and it was far too big. They have no plans to change the sizing on their jackets. Bummer.
That left me searching around for decent jackets. I’ve always liked tighter fitting clothes. Or, to be precise, one’s that actually fit properly and aren’t baggy. Baggy clothes look terrible, so my first priority was getting one that looked good when I wore it. It’s all very well them looking nice in pictures, lots do – including the Mountain Jacket mentioned above – but that doesn’t mean it’ll look good on everyone, as I found out before. I realise waterproof jackets aren’t the height of fashion and I should probably worry less about how good it looks or whether the sleeves are too baggy but what’s the point in having clothes that don’t look good?
Field & Trek have regular sales, usually highly reduced as well. That was my first port of call. I looked at a couple of Merrell coats and a Berghaus which looked good and then I spotted the one I would ultimately buy. It stood out because the pockets’ zip colour contrasted with the coat so much. I like cool details, they make a difference to me. The fact that it was reduced from £200 to £89 had no bearing whatsoever.
I tried the jacket on in the shop. I can always tell if I’m going to like something the moment I put it on. If it feels big, it’ll be a no. If it feels tight, it’s an ‘ooh can I make do’ and if it fits around my body, with my movements un-restricted, while having no baggy material, it’s an instant winner. Hence, I made the purchase. This is why I’m a good clothes shopper. No faffing, just quick decisions. In and out. If it’s going to be a no, it’s decided upon quickly and if it’s a yes, I’ve paid and am out the door even quicker.
I had a look over the coat some more on the journey home. The material feels really durable, as it should do for a £200 jacket. It has a three layer fabric which is waterproof and breathable with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. There are two ‘torso’ pockets – or hand pockets as I will refer to them. There’s an auxiliary chest pocket which has now become the norm. All three pockets are of course completely waterproof. They have standard metal zips with string attached rubber pullers which are far easier to use than just a standard zip, especially with gloves on. All zips are YKK AquaGuard (Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki Kaisha, if you must know). They’re the World’s largest manufacturer of zips but don’t worry I’d not heard of them either! Crucially, the zips are marketed as ‘water-resistant’ and not water-proof. Still, on a jacket like this which is fully waterproof I doubt the terminology matters too much in this instance. Yet, it still bothers me.
From what I can see though, most other manufacturers do this as well and barely any have covered zips. So far, water beads completely off the coat and zips and if water were somehow able to get behind it, it wouldn’t matter since there’s the strip of material the zip sits on which spans the width of it anyway. I guess this is the part they market as an ‘internal storm flap with rain gutter’. There we go then.
There’s an internal hem cord adjustment, as you’d expect which easily pulls the jacket tighter around you at the bottom. I did it up a little but stopped before it creased up. The insides of the pockets are a mesh which usually I’d raise an eyebrow at. Luckily the mesh seems good quality, thicker and somehow stronger than usual. In comparison, the mesh pockets in the first production of Bear Grylls Survivor trousers were fairly weak and prone to ripping. Fortunately they revised that. The mesh also allows for better breathability. There’s an Elite logo on the left bicep and an event one on the right cuff. More nice detail.
The hood, oh, the hood. It takes some adjustment to sort out, let’s put it that way. First of all, it has a velcro tab inside the hood, which allows you to roll it back and fasten it on – a rollaway hood. It’s not a tuck away hood or even zipped. Just fastened. Hence, it looks ridiculous. At least the way I fastened it, so I’ll be leaving it hanging at all times. So to speak. Once you’re all fastened up at the front, hood up, you need to adjust the hood with the elastic toggle at the back of it. The peak is also wired, which means you can shape it a little.
The main problem with it is that it seems a little high, as though you need a super long neck. The adjuster at the back pulls the material in so it tightens at the back of your head but creases up and the elastic pullers at the front pull the front of it tighter…and then gradually move back into place, leaving your adjustment un-adjusted. Essentially, adjusting the hood is a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it looks ok, other times not so much. I like the wired peak however, I just think overall it could do with a bit more shaping so it doesn’t ‘sag’ at the sides when it rests on the top of your head. Or maybe I’m just being picky.
I tried the jacket out for three hours yesterday. Taking it through thick, overgrown woodland, up and down incredibly boggy inclines which had about as much grip as ice, I passed areas torso deep in nettles and squeezed through branches of fallen trees. I spent about an hour and a half of the test in heavy rain, during which my top half stayed completely dry. I covered about five miles or so, with a few stops and the jacket seemed to maintain my heat quite well. I felt warm but not hot and therefore could move quite quickly in the areas that allowed it. The jacket gave me enough freedom of movement to swing under and over branches and generally clamber about as I needed. The body length is nice, shortish at the front, slightly longer at the back. Never obstructing me when I crouched. Water beaded off effortlessly and even a quick shake of the arms repelled any water immediately. When I wasn’t moving, the jacket (with a fleece below) kept me plenty warm enough. The sleeves are a good length and are also tapered. The palm side being shorter while the cuff is adjustable with a rubber and velcro closure. There was just about enough room to pull the sleeve back and see my watch, always helpful. Thankfully no elastic cuffs on these – phew!
After returning home, trousers soaking wet, I remained toasty warm. The jacket performed very well and dried out incredibly quickly. My photographers coat meanwhile was still very damp – despite being a raincoat. So far, the jacket has lived up to my high expectations, performing well in everything I’ve put it through so far. My only wish is an improvement to the fit of the hood. Then, it’ll be almost perfect.