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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

Which Waterproof Jacket

By Fran Hammond
20, Jan, 2017

Whether you try to or not, sometimes you just can't avoid the wind and rain! Here's a guide to which jacket will meet your waterproofing needs.

© Alpkit

We know it’s not always becoming to blow your own trumpet, but if you’re creating something that you’re really proud of, sometimes you just can’t help but sing it from the rooftops. And we are that proud of our waterproof and windproof shells.

Our range of shells is the result of our accrued experience and expertise – both as adventurers and designers. We get that everyone uses their gear in their own way: sometimes you’re looking for something super specialist, and others you just need something to cover all bases, we’ve designed our shell range to reflect your diverse requirements.

There are a few considerations to mull over before you choose a waterproof… What will you use your waterproof for? What features are essential for what you use it for? Which features could you sacrifice?

With these questions in mind, let’s get over to our waterproof range and see what’s on offer… 

Water proof jacket guide

Gravitas

"Super-light and very breathable, the Gravitas manages to balance minimalism with functionality" - UKC/UKH: Best in Test

This is for your fast and light activities, where you really want to keep weight down but retain a high level of protection against the weather. The gravitas uses a ultra lightweight 3 layer fabric, meaning it packs down really small but still offers serious waterproofness and breathability with more comfort and durability over a 2.5 layer equivalent. This makes it ideal for trail running, bike packing and on adventure races where a shell is part of your regulation starting kit. But it's also a superb travel waterproof, where you know you'll be covered when you need it. 

Gravitas Lightweight waterproof jacket

Nick gives the first wave of Gravitas jackets a run out in Torridon

The stats...

Weight: 170g (Men's Medium); 150 g (Women's 10)

  • 47 gsm 3 layer fabric,
  • 7d nylon face fabric,
  • PU membrane,
  • 7d nylon tricot back,
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000 mm,
  • MVTR: 30,000 g/sqm/24hrs (minimum)
Balance 

"The Balance is a near flawless lightweight all-rounder" - Outdoors Magic

Your all-rounder. If you want just one jacket that will do the job well in most circumstances. It's not as light and packable as the Gravitas, but you'll get the extra durability when out in particularly harsh conditions or carrying a pack. What's very special about this jacket is the technical performance of the fabric.  Making it great for just getting out onto into the hills and mountains when it'd be easy to stay indoors and watch the rain drops trace a path down the window pane. From hiking, biking, scrambling to, well, just about anything in the rain. 

Balance high performance waterproof jacket

Connie can't contain her excitement at being out and taking on the elements with her Balance jacket 

The stats...

Weight: 315g (Men's medium); 280g (Women's 10)

  • 92 gsm 3 layer fabric
  • 12d x 15d nylon ripstop face,
  • PU membrane
  • Bi-component knit backer with permanent wicking function,
  • Hydrostatic head: 25,000 mm,
  • MVTR: 35,000 g/sqm/24hrs
Definition

"The Definition is reassuringly burly but properly refined – think James Bond reincarnated as a waterproof jacket" - Outdoors Magic

The tough one. If you're heading up into the mountains and going to hit the foulest, wettest, windiest, snowiest, wildest weather. With a full set of features, from well positioned pockets and vent zips, large hood and functional adjusters, it means you can adapted as conditions change or your work rate varies. This is the jacket that will take whatever abuse you want to throw at it, from Scottish winter, alpine climbing to Munro bagging.

Definition high mountain jacket in the alps

Out testing the Definition in the Alps, despite the particularly fine weather!

The stats...

Weight: 490 g (Men's medium); 450 g (Women's 10)

  • 145 gsm 3 layer fabric,
  • 40d x 90d nylon face,
  • 20d nylon tricot backer,
  • Bi-component PU/PTFE membrane,
  • Hydrostatic head: 30,000 mm,
  • MVTR: 20,000 g/sqm/24hrs
Argonaut

All-weather, multi-activity performance for the considered outdoor enthusiast, the Argonaut is that waterproof jacket that you don’t have to be precious about. You know, the one you’re not afraid to chuck on give your car a check over before the big drive up to the Lakes. You can wear it hiking Hellvelyn too, or paddling Windermere, and chilling around the campsite… We designed the Argonaut to a price point with a vision to make a premium product for UK conditions with an affordable price tag. That means it delivers the most bang for your buck of all our waterproofs, but in more extreme conditions you may want to call in a more specialist jacket.

Argonaut waterproof jacket in front of a lake

The stats

Weight: 330 g (Men's medium); 290 g (Women's 10)

  • PU coated, 2.5 layer fabric
  • Velcro adjustable cuffs 
  • Hydrostatic head: 10,000 mm
  • MVTR: 10,000 g/sqm/24 hrs
  • DWR: PFOA Free C6
  • Mesh-lined pockets
Pulsar

Currently just in a men's cut, the Pulsar is our 2.5 layer half zip waterproof designed for comfort. The fabric we've gone for here has more stretch and a soft "quiet" face fabric combine, barely noticeable when you are wearing them but totally functional at the same time. Great for on, or off the hill.

The stats...

Weight: 250g (Men's medium)

  • 2.5 layer PU membrane,
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000 mm,
  • MVTR: 20,000 g/sqm/24hrs
Arro

Sometimes you just don't need fully waterproof. The windproof in our range that is simple, light and packable. Not much else to add really, other than the fabric has a non rustle, great feel and it's well cut for mobility. The DWR means it's keep light drizzle at bay, so great for taking out biking and running when you want to cut out the wind. 

Arro Waterproof Jacket

Giving the Arro a good ride on a Sonder Transmitter in Torridon

The stats...

Weight: 135 g (Men's medium); 120g (Women's 10)

  • 100% nylon micro ripstop,
  • 100% windproof,
  • DWR finish

 

How we choose our fabrics

We're commonly asked about our choice of fabric. Questions along the lines of: "Why haven't I heard of the fabrics that you use? These branded fabrics have been tried and tested and my mate Tim says they're the best, so why should I trust yours?". Very good questions indeed! For starters, what's in a name anyway? (Well, other than maybe some marketing spin...) A brand name gives you some reassurance that it's been used on so and so's jacket, it's been tested here and there. It's familiar, and familiar is what you want when you're buying a jacket.

Fundamentaly it comes down to the performance of the fabric itself, not the name. We don't just lump for any old fabric off the shelf, we work extremely closely with our factories to make sure we are getting the best fabric for the intended use. That way we know that it's class leading and that the finished garment has the highest specification possible. We don't pay premium for the brand name and marketing spin, instead we focus on the fabric itself.

We've been thinking a lot about fabrics recently, so we trapped our garment designer Ronnie, garment technician Gabe, and product guru Nick and didn't let them out until they gave us a straight answer. You can find what they said in this Develop post: Where do we get our waterproof fabrics from, and why?

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