Review of PHD Tundra Jacket

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PHD Tundra jacket review…….a study in evolution.

Back in the day, back when I was young and short of cash Mountain Equipment produced the “Mountain Jacket” I should say THE Mountain Jacket. To my mind this garment was the bees knees able to compete with anything that is produced to this day. The jacket was made of Ultrafleece (Karisma by another name), a fleece marginally more windproof than other leading fleeces. It had four pockets, two chest ones positioned to avoid rucksack hip belts and two lower hand warmer pockets which likewise avoided the hip belt too. The waist was elasticared to hug the body and the arms were cut to maximise freedom of movement. The wrists had thumb loops and there was a fitted hood with a stiffened peak. The pockets meant that the torso was protected by a double layer of material at the front making the jacket quite windproof. The jacket also had abrasion resistant material on shoulders and the backs of arms etc. and it looked great. Plans Y Brennin staff told Mountain Equipment this was the one jacket they shouldn’t drop from the range…so ME did! It was years before they produced another jacket I would buy….decades in fact!IMG_0637

L-R Mountain Jacket, Taiga, Tundra

Fortunately for me one of the leading lights of Mountain Equipment in those days was Peter Hutchinson who eventually left the company to form Peter Hutchinson Designs, a mail order only company making some of the best warm gear on the market. Their down gear is legendary and they have a “design your own” sleeping bag range that is world class. Well just as I was getting desperate to replace my Mountain Jacket with something of similar quality and miserably failing to find one in 2008 ( I think) a mate tipped me off that PHD had a sale on and included was the Taiga. The Taiga was almost a clone of the Mountain Jacket but without the handwarmer pockets and the abrasion resistant shoulders. The two jackets were similar in weight, the Mountain Jacket being 580g to the Taiga’s 550g and the Taiga chest pockets were made of a more windproof material, offering better protecTion for the upper Torso. I liked them so much I bought two. I had one embroidered with my company logo and had the second fitted with lower handwarmer pockets. That second jacket has taken a hammering….8 winter trips to Scotland, countless family walks, commercial walks and courses I have run and 15 overseas expeditions in jungles, deserts, mountains and almost any other abuse you can imagine. It has lost weight…..it is only 530g, the extra pockets have worn out and it has become threadbare in places, but until this week it has remained my “go to” jacket.

So time has come to replace the Taiga and lo I spotted PHD had their Tundra jacket on Sale. At first glance you would be forgiven for assuming the Taiga and Tundra were the same jacket, but the Tundra weighs 640 g. It is almost identical to the Tundra in its cut, but instead of 1 layer of material it has 2 layers of fleece sandwiching a windproof membrane. Either red with a blue lining or blue with a red lining. so it’s heavier, but much more windproof and quite water resistant. Again there are no handwarmer pockets and again I am considering making an alteration. The only fault I have found with the new jacket so far, is that the thumb-loops are cut larger and so may allow more cold air than they might. Why this has changed isn’t clear to me, unless it is to use the loops whilst wearing thick gloves?

So far I love the Tundra. The pockets are so voluminous I can stuff them to the point where I look like a 38 Double D! The fleece keeps me warm and there is no restriction in movement. I wore it up several Munros last December and actually I did wonder if it could be too warm and I suspect I may go back to my Taiga when I head off to Borneo for a month in July. I intend to give the jacket a good hammering and update this review this time next year.

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