I’ve been fortunate enough to use a lot of different manufactures clothing over the years. One of the key items that I use a lot is a waterproof jacket, sometimes referred to as a hard shell.
My current hardshell of choice is the Mountain Equipment Tupilak II Jacket. I believe this for a number of reasons.
- Fabric choice – the Gore-Tex Pro fabric that mountain equipment have used provides second to non weather protection. I’ve tried it through a summer and winter season with forty plus quality days in the hills. This has included everything from 70mph winds with snow and hail, driving horizontal rain, steady drizzle for hours on end; even the odd bit of sunshine! Other fabrics I’ve tried such as Neoshell and Mountain Hardware’s Dry.Q do provide good waterproofing and feel more breathable but don’t provide the protection that you get from Gore-Tex.
- Large hood – I have a love, hate relationship with the Tupilak II’s hood. it does easily swallow a helmet and works well without. When down it folds nicely and doesn’t collect rain like some do. It is also easy to adjust. Unfortunately it does need this adjustment regularly. There isn’t quite enough stretch in the fabric so putting a helmet on requires you to loosen the back and front toggles before donning the helmet then re-tightening, ensure you do the neck toggles first otherwise it will sit too far back on the head. The hood can also be rolled away to form a thick neck baffle, why you would do this though I don’t know. Good but with a minor annoyance overall.
- Simplicity – While not a featherweight jacket the Tupilak II’s limited features provide just enough storage for map, compass, hat and gloves. This can be done with well proportioned Napoleon pockets. Other than these pockets the features are limited to one internal pocket, a hem-draw-cord (that I seldom use) and the above mentioned hood. This keeps the weight down and means there’s no faffing trying to find the correct zip or the like. Spot on for many conditions.
- Durability – I’m generally tough on my kit. I tend to wear it a lot and drag it over rough rocks, go out in the wildest conditions, and use it for random tasks that it was never designed to do like cleaning a crag. With this jacket I’ve literally hosed it down, dunked it in the sea, chimneyed up steep rock climbs, forced my way through forests and subject it to snow, rain and hail. It’s held up to it all. To give you an idea my last waterproof lasted 6 months, this one is doing well a year on.
So what could be improved. Personally I still feel there’s room for improvement in the hood design. I spend time on the hill pulling toggles and releasing them again in order to get it to fit so the wind doesn’t blow it off my head and it doesn’t work it’s way too far back. This is particularly true when wearing a helmet. That said the hood is by no means bad and most are much much worse. I’m looking forward to the day a manufacture can make a waterproof hood that fits as well as my Arcteryx Gamma MX Softshell one. Though this is undoubtedly down to the stretch in the material.
Overall I’d give it eight out of ten and would recommend to people looking to purchase a tough do it all jacket for UK conditions and further afield.