Waterproof jackets:- a hole in the market?

In the beginning was the anorak…an outer garment pulled over the head with a kangaroo pouch pocket and made of various canvas materials, usually with some treatment to keep out the worst of the weather. The anorak was cut quite short and had a “frog” that passed between the legs and buttoned up to reduce ingress of weather from below. The frog was also excellent in protecting your trousers/breeches (and crown jewels) from the ravages of the Langs lay rope passing between your legs during the (almost compulsory) classic belay of that era.

Then we saw the cagoule, in short and long versions, still pulled over the head, still with a kangaroo pouch, but made of PU coated nylon, these were far more waterproof (for a few weeks until the coating started to rub or peel off) and very much lighter. They were cheap and compact and seemed like a great idea, but oh did we sweat in them!

Next came Nylon jackets with full length zips, as long as the “long” cagoules, but with two cargo pockets and a chest pocket. Slightly heavier material, neoprene inner coating, better hoods with wire peaks, the jackets were still sweaty, but we could vent them with the zip, so we felt things were going in the right direction….and then came Gore-tex!

Gore-tex resulted initially in lots of jackets just like the nylon ones but made of this new wonder material….a bit heavier and bulkier but worth it because they were breathable, jackets exemplified by the Berghaus Lightening and the Phoenix Amethyst; the world seemed like it would never be the same again!

But then something started to change, manufacturers started to use professional climbers and mountaineers to become involved in the design process, we saw sponsored rock athletes and brand ambassadors. Elite mountaineers and professional instructors were involved in every stage of the design and testing process and garments quickly became much better…. for elite mountaineers and rock athletes! Don’t get me wrong, there have been many superb products coming out of these partnerships: witness Berghaus’s Expedition sack designed by Chris Bonnington, and of course the Whillans sit harness.

My point is that nobody asked Joe Bloggs, who goes rambling in the Pennines every weekend, no matter what the weather, but is more likely to be sitting in a pub than a sit-harness. Joe Bloggs hates waterproof trousers with a passion, and prefers to walk in shorts if there isn’t actually snow on the ground, so he wants a jacket that stops just above the knees, not up around his waist somewhere. He doesn’t wear a helmet so his hood doesn’t need to be helmet compatible, but it does have to be good. He does have to navigate so he wants a chest pocket that will take a map. Oh and he wants waterproof, very waterproof, 9 times out of ten he wants Gore-tex.

Ok I hear you say, there are  one or two long jackets, and of course there are, but these tend to be aimed more at the lifestyle area of the market. They are made of 2-layer Gore-tex and require a drop lining that increases weight and bulk. Such jackets are usually “Interactive” meaning you can zip a fleece into them…more weight…more bulk, and they have roll away hoods which tend to be less effective and, yes you’ve guessed it more bulky and heavy! So long jackets are compromise jackets.

I can see this, other equipment reviewers can see this, so why, when there seems so little scope for further improvement in technical jackets, can’t the manufacturers and (significantly) the retail chain buyers see this?

What many customers are asking for is a three-layer Gore-tex 75 denier jacket, reaching well down the leg, with some cargo pockets below the hip belt and at least one chest pocket above. They want a hood that fits like Mountain Equipment’s excellent hoods, but not with the excess material to make them helmet compatible and with waist and hem draw-cords. They want them in three colourways: a bright orange or red (for those that want to be seen) an olive green (for those that don’t) and a dark blue or black for those that might need to wear it in town too sometimes.


  1. Absolutely! Spot on!

  2. A very interesting history of the life of the waterproof jacket! One thing missed out was zipped pockets that dont let in water. No more small cameras, phones, and paper maps being drowned and donated to the local recycling yard.

  3. we have one brand of jacket that is guaranteed to keep you dry and warm for a whole day in the rain, Paramo their system manages my sweat like no other and I stay dry

  4. I agree, but,like the berghaus IA jackets, they tend to be bulky. I avoided mentioning paramo as I thought it would take us into the usual gore v paramo debate.

  5. Still have our blue lightning jackets and Berghaus Kangs but relagated to garden use. Have been using Paramo for 15 years

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