Just over a year ago, Alan Rayner wrote a post on his Cypher smock, which leaked in heavy, driven rain. The Cypher is a great bit of gear, but, in common with a lot of “waterproofs”, it uses a water resistant zip rather than having a protective outer flap. You can read his post here. I followed up with a short survey of Mountain Equipment, Rab and Montane, looking at their ranges and whether jackets have externally exposed zips or used protective flaps (read here).
Most (if not all) of these jackets use the YKK Aquaguard Coil zip, which is water resistant NOT waterproof. PHD use a more expensive YKK Aquaseal zip, which is claimed by PHD to be fully waterproof (although the manufacturer still state “water resistant”, perhaps to cover themselves). In a prototype jacket, Brenig use RiRi waterproof zips (see Alan Rayner’s review).
I thought I’d do a quick update of my survey, to see if manufacturers had changed their ranges. Unfortunately, the situation is now even worse. Montane (men’s range) has no jackets with a covered zip (the Spektr has no zips at all). Rab has eleven jackets in their men’s range, three have covered zips (four out of thirteen, last time). Mountain Equipment have nineteen jackets in their men’s range, of which eight have covered zips (last time, thirteen jackets, nine with covered zips).
On this small sample, designers appear to be moving further away from waterproofs with truly waterproof zip systems. It seems that fashion is taking over from function. If you want a waterproof with a waterproof zip system, not only is your choice limited, you invariably have to choose a heavier jacket, usually designed for climbing rather than walking. Most seem to be over specified for hiking with loads of pockets and heavy weight material.
I’ve not surveyed whether jackets with zip protection have pockets which are vulnerable to water ingress. If they are using water resistant zips with mesh pocket bags, then these are vulnerable to leakage as well (possibly even worse). The more I look at products in the outdoor sector, the more depressed I become. Mission critical products like many waterproofs and tents are simply not fit for purpose.
Do designers actually use their products in the real world? Do they go out in a howling gale, when it’s tipping down with rain in their waterproofs or pitch their tent? I’m all for aesthetically pleasing products, but if they don’t fulfil their primary function, they are about as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.
I wonder if manufacturers actually read real world reviews of their products by bloggers who use them in foul conditions? If any manufacturers read this, please give us proper lightweight waterproof jackets with zips that don’t leak. You ought to have one “proper” lightweight waterproof in your range that is not fashion driven. You may not have had thousands of complaints, but that’s probably because most people can’t be bothered to kick up a fuss, not because your jackets are perfect! Over to you.