Waterproof zips?

Alan Rayner has just published an interesting post on his blog about waterproof zips. Like me, he has an OMM Cypher Smock. I was very pleased with mine on the the TGO Challenge as it stood up to Stormy Monday well. However, the wind was mainly behind me on that day. Alan was out for about four hours in very heavy horizontal rain, which led to an apparent leak in the zip area.

Now if you read the OMM product literature, you will see that the zip is described as “water resistant” NOT waterproof. It’s an interesting concept to have a “waterproof” jacket/smock which has an inherent design weakness which leads it to be not actually waterproof. Most of the time, this may not matter much because the zip does a reasonable job at repelling water, as my Cypher smock did on the Challenge.

Out of idle interest, I thought I’d look at the ranges of “waterproofs” from Mountain Equipment, Rab and Montane, all well respected manufacturers, to see how many jackets had proper, covered zips. Interestingly, the marketing men now call these “shells” in the case of Rab and Montane. Only at Mountain Equipment are they called “waterproofs”. This is betrayed in contrasting approach to the design of the main front zips on their jackets.

Looking only at the men’s ranges, Mountain Equipment have a total of thirteen jackets, of which nine have covered front zips. Of the four that use exposed zips, one (the Kalanka) uses RiRi water resistant zips which are supposed to be much better than the YKK water resistant zips.

In contrast, in the Rab range, only four out of thirteen jackets have covered zips. Montane has a smaller range of nine jackets. Only one has a covered zip. One has no zips at all, the odd-ball Spektr smock. In the Rab range, three of the four jackets are comparatively heavy, with only the Tempo jacket qualifying as lightweight. For Montane, their SuperFly is middling at 490g, while the Spektr is very light at 210g.

The moral is that if you want a truly waterproof jacket that will stand sustained driving rain, your choice is likely to be limited to jackets at the heavier end of the spectrum and you have most choice in the Mountain Equipment range, although you are confined to GoreTex as a material. The ME Supercell is the lightest at 350g.

In the Rab range, the eVent jackets with zip flaps are all quite heavy, so your only option is the Tempo jacket, 320g, but it is made from Pertex Shield. In the Montane range, the Spektr smock is very light but the design is decidedly odd-ball. The only other option is the SuperFly jacket.

In my jacket collection, I still have a Montane Quickfire jacket, which has a proper covered zip, weighs 328g (L), is commendably light and made from eVent. It’s a shame the hood is a bit mediocre. I still have my Berghaus Paclite smock, 285g, which also has a proper zip flap. It also has a great hood. Unfortunately, it is Paclite, which is significantly less breathable than eVent. If OMM modified their Cypher smock to have a covered zip, it would be my ideal waterproof.

My Berghaus Paclite Smock with a proper zip cover. OMM please note.

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9 thoughts on “Waterproof zips?”

  1. Although the ME Supercell has proper storm flap to the main zip, the pocket zips are of the water resistant type… and since they’re mesh pockets, it kinda negates the storm flap, to an extent. (They actually put a card in the pocket advising not to put electronics inside the pockets)

    In saying that, I was out in heavy, driving rain at the weekend, with no leakage.

    1. Good point. ME jackets with protective flaps on pockets: Kongur, Ogre, Karakorum, the rest have water resistant zips. Whether the pockets are mesh is not clear. The only Rab jacket with flaps covering pockets is the Tempo.

  2. I like the ME Firefox! Currently I have the Patagonia Rain Shadow, however it’s not a laminate and could be a bit sticky, though it does have pit zips! All zppers are waterproof ones whereas the Torrent Shell is the same H2NO but with a storm flap. I’m not sure which would be better considering weights are similar!

    ME Morpheus Jacket has always been a favorite but not pit zips which I feel is a must.

  3. The pockets on my Kongur are solid, not mesh. I have experienced wet pockets with this jacket under heavy wind driven rain conditions. When it’s not too windy, the umbrella approach greatly helps with keeping dry.
    I use this jacket for multiday backpacking (about 520 grammes for size medium) and have an old Haglofs Oz Pullover for day walks where I am not as bothered if I get a little wet.

  4. Thanks Robin for the mention to my posting and i am pleased that you, like me , think that there are some definite issues here between what people in the industry think we want and what we actually need. I don’t really know how this discrepancy has come about, considering all the “experts” who do the testing of these products. Why should we want a mountain jacket with suspect zips which will render the jacket useless. It beggers belief.
    I am an eVent fan, it breathes better than GoreTex and having the Cyphur smock just proves it to me personally. It’s the best waterproof i have ever had, zip apart.
    I am going to find a way of covering the zip myself and then it will be a jacket worthy of the hills in a down pour. As for continuous backpacking the jury is still out but its done well so far.

  5. the old Montane Atomic DT (which I am still wearing 5 years after getting it) has a storm flap which is held in place over the zip with small velcro tabs. Not perfect but it does work

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