Looking at this seasons technical waterproof jacket offerings at Cotswold Outdoors

In this review I’m not going to comment on colour choice as it’s such a personal thing, and can be better gauged online or in store. I have not worn any of these garments in anger, but as I occasionally work at Exeter Cotswold Outdoor, I have had the chance to examine them all, try some on etc. Fit again is a personal issue, so I’m not commenting on that overly what I’m looking for is what they are best suited for and comparative value. So work out which ones suit your needs then try them on and pick a colour! I’ve focused on the Cotswold stock because there will be a store within reach of most people, and the standard of advice tends to be better than some other chains.

Arc’teryx Beta AR: £500 460g Made of the new Goretex Pro (most rugged) fabric in 40D which is how it attains it’s light weight. It doesn’t have the reinforcement areas of the Lhotse though so it will be interesting to see if it is as resilient as the price-tag will lead buyers to expect. It has two external pockets and pit-zips. The hood/collar arrangement is new and again it will be interesting to see what buyers make of it. It’s only 40g lighter than the Lhotse and £100 more expensive, but is a little more packable perhaps. The main zip can be pulled open with out needing to use the slide, which is useful with gloved hands….as long as the zip doesn’t start opening by itself as it gets more worn. All in all this is one for the people who really need the special features of this jacket, which is not many of us who don’t ice climb as our main source of fun or work.

Arc’teryx Zeta SL: £280 310g Made of Goretex Paclite Plus the Zeta SL has two pockets and the hood is not compatible with helmets, however it does adjust well. It is intended as an emergency jacket and for that it excels, but at £100 more than most Paclite jackets it’s expensive for something that is intended to remain in your sack most of the time. Don’t think that because it’s priced like the Rab Kangri, that it will be as resilient, because it won’t so don’t buy it for expedition backpacking.

Mountain Equipment Changabang: £500 680g This is very much a snow sports jacket, made of Goretex Pro (most breathable) 80D fabric throughout and fitted with a ski pass pocket on the arm and a snowskirt inside. It has 4 large pockets chest pockets, which not only give a lot of storage capacity but increase the amount of wind protection you have from the front. For ski touring, Ice climbing, and anywhere that you may be flailing around in powder snow this is a great jacket, but for backpacking and day walking its too heavy and bulky, although to some degree this is mitigated by the snow skirt being removable.

Mountain Equipment Lhotse: £400 500g made of Goretex Pro (most breathable) 40D fabric with 80D reinforcement areas. Alpine cut. This jacket should satisfy the demands of almost any mountaineer. You can pay an extra £100 for the Arc’teryx Beta if you need the extra features such as the zip you can pull open with mitted hands, but be honest with yourself…will you use these features. If not the additional pockets of the Lhotse, and the tougher shoulder and arm areas of the jacket should seem a snip at £100 less than the Beta. Like all the M.E jackets listed the Lhotse has a Helmet compatible (HC) hood, and articulated arms (ME make their sleeves quite long). It is an Alpine cut and has generous pit-zips for ventilation. This jacket has been a standard that others are measured by for years.

Mountain Equipment Tupilak: £380 500g This jacket is made of Goretex Pro (most breathable) 80D fabric throughout. It has an inner pocket and two external pockets. It has all the cut and technical features of the Lhotse and the Shivling. The key thing is that 80 denier fabric which makes it tougher than both. This is a jacket for people who give their kit a real hammering from all directions. It avoids being heavier than the Lhotse by having less pockets, but I think that’s a price I might be prepared to pay, especially when the Tupilak is £20 less.

Mountain Equipment Shivling: £240 (02/12/20 usually £360) 410g This jacket is exceptional value at the sale price, being made of Goretex Pro 40 denier material throughout. It  has the usual hood and alpine cut features, but only has two pockets. Less pockets and being 40D fabric, adds up to make it significantly lighter than the Lhotse. If heavy backpacking into winter Munros on multi day trips is your thing though I’d probably go for the Lhotse compared with the full price of the Shivling.

Mountain Equipment Makalu: £300 585g Made of 75D Goretex throughout this is a tough jacket with a good range of external and internal pockets and good pit zips. Its competes against the Rab Kangri, and justifies the extra £20. The womens equivalent can be seen as M.E.s Nanda Devi model. It is also comparable to the M.E. Rupal (£270) which Cotswold Exeter don’t currently stock, all you need to decide is if the extra pockets are worth an extra £30. For me the answer is “Yes”. It is slightly heavier and less breathable than a jacket made of GTX Pro though so if you can pick up a Shivling at sale price, or stretch to one at full price, do it!

Mountain Equipment Saltoro: £240 430g The Saltoro is something of a hybrid jacket, attempting to span the gap between jackets best suited to day walking and those suitable for heavy backpacking. To this end it has Goretex 75Denier fabric over the shoulders and along the outer side of the sleeves, as well as the lower back where a rucksack would rub. The rest of the jacket is 2.5 layer Goretex paclite, a lighter fabric that does have a reputation for being a little “sweaty”. For this reason I’m disappointed that the under-arm zips are only half the length of most and don’t therefore gape open the way most do. The hood is still Helmet Compatible but the peak is less stiff than the more expensive M.E. offerings. In many ways M.E. have made a good all rounder here, but it could have been better, either by better pit-zips or none at all.

Mountain Equipment Garwhal: £185 340g The Garwhal is made of Goretex paclite 2.5 layer fabric, this means that the inside surface of the fabric is a coating rather than a woven material. Paclite is less breathable than some Goretex fabrics but it is light, and so is this jacket. The Garwhal has two large pockets and a helmet compatible hood, along with a generally alpine cut. It competes with the Rab  Meridian, the Montane Pack Plus, Berghaus Paclite Peak and the Patagonia Calcite. Only the Montane and Berghaus manage the same price point however.

Rab Kangri £280 525g made of Goretex 70D fabric throughout, so not as waterproof and breathable than Pro, but quite rugged. The jacket has enough pockets (including one internal) and good pit zips. This is a good hillwalking jacket and competes well with the M.E. offerings such as the Makalu (it has one less pocket but is £20 cheaper and is 60g lighter..about right).

Rab Firewall £225 517g The only jacket here made of 3 layer Pertex shield with some stretch in it, which none of the other jackets have. This material comes close to Goretex  levels of performance, and it has a great cut and usable features, including three external pockets and pit-zips. A good climbers jacket, but robust enough for backpacking, and a better jacket for the price than the Meridian, if a little heavier.

Rab Downpour Plus £130 340g This jacket is made of Pertex 2.5 shield fabric. This has a coating rather than a full layer of fabric on the inside of the material, hence 2.5 rather than 3layer. It’s a light jacket, and at a keen price, but that coating is unlikely to resist abrasion on the shoulders from heavy backpacking, so this really is a day walking jacket for fast and light hill days. The jacket stuffs away into one of the pockets too so easy to stow. I have only included it here because the coat has quite a technical cut for one as cheap as this.

Rab Meridian £220 340g Made from recycled Paclite Plus 40D fabric and featuring two hand warmer pockets and pit-zips, and coming with its own stuff sac, this is a jacket for day walks rather than serious backpacking. At £220 it is close on price to the M.E Soltoro, but the jackets are rather different. The Meridian has better underarm venting than the Saltoro but it doesn’t have the reinforced shoulders and back that allow the Saltoro to be light enough for the daysack but tough enough for backpacking.

Montane Alpine Resolve £360 480g This jacket, like the Lhotse is made of a mix of 40Denier and 80Denier Goretex Pro (most breathable) fabric which gives a very tough, waterproof and breathable garment, reasonably packable and good for most mountain activities. The jacket has pit-zips, three external pockets, and an inner pocket. The hood is helmet compatible. This jacket is a direct competitor for the M.E. Lhotse, and at £40 less it’s well worth consideration.

Montane Pac Plus £185 283g Made of 30 Denier Paclite plus, this jacket is definitely aimed at day walks when the hope is the jacket will spend most of its life in your rucksack. It isn’t as technical as the top spec jackets listed above, but when you do get a heavy shower, it will do the job. The two pockets will both accept a map and the whole jacket will stuff into one of them, and, what’s more, the pockets are mesh, so if you undo the zips they will do some venting. However if backpacking is your plan this jacket is unlikely to stand the rigours of rucksack strap abrasion for long, so look for something a bit tougher, at least the Saltoro.

Patagonia Triolet £325 is made of Goretex similar to the M.E. Makalu and Rab Kangri. It has two chest and two napoleon pockets, and the pit-zips have flaps to protect them. The helmet compatible hood is good too and the coat looks great. However it’s a little pricier than the others it competes with, perhaps there is an element of Patagonias environmental ethics in the price.

Patagonia Calcite £250 Made of Paclite Plus and Fairtrade sewn, this is a lightweight jacket, with sufficient pockets and under-arm venting…which it will probably need as Paclite is less breathable than some other Goretex fabrics. More a jacket for day walks than serious winter backpacking as the fabric is not that dense.

Berghaus Paclite Peak: £180, made of Goretex Paclite and with pit zips for ventilation this jacket competes with the M.E. Garwhal and Montane Pac Plus. It has two pockets and packs down well. But like all Paclite jackets this one is for the days when you hope to leave it in the rucksack, don’t expect it to last for years whilst backpacking through the wilderness.

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