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Because of the failings of my recently bought Rab Myriad jacket, I’m looking for a new hard shell with an external storm flap. My experience is that zips leak in driving rain and that the more you can do to stop water getting to the zip, the better. Robin Evans has written a good blog post on this.

I’ve been looking at reviews of jackets from journalists who offer comparative reviews in magazines such as The Great Outdoors and, frankly, most of these simply do not give enough information to judge whether or not the gear reviewed is any good or not. No-one mentioned the waterproofness or otherwise of the zip.

The problem is not the reviewers, who I’m sure exercise their best judgement, but the reviewing process. Magazines get a bunch of equipment sent to them and and the reviewer has to spend time assessing this equipment. But, when we read a review, we are not told how much time has been spent using the gear, the conditions under which it was assessed, the loads carried for rucksacks, the type of terrain, and so on. Estimates are sometimes made of durability but do the reviewers actually do objective tests on this?

With the best will in the world, reviewers cannot test gear in identical conditions and the inevitable deadlines of publishing (and the suppliers desire to get their latest models reviewed quickly) means that some products may be used for longer than others.  Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate – if rain jackets are reviewed and there’s a long period of cold, dry weather, it may be impossible to test all of them in driving rain before the publishing deadline.

So, I think it really is time for transparency in these reviews. For each product reviewed, the number of hours it was used and the weather conditions should be honestly stated. For footwear and rucksacks, the terrain should be described and comparisons should focus on critical attributes. For example, a recent review of mountaineering jackets I read simply did not assess how waterproof they were in poor conditions although it did say of one of them ‘it held out the rain’. Does this mean the others didn’t or is this journalistic filler – readers are simply not told?

All this means is adding a short description to reviews such as ‘Worn for 8 hours on a 2-day backpacking trip in the Lakes, heavy rain one day, dry the other’.  If rainwear leaks, if rucksack straps slip, if boots are uncomfortable or if other flaws are found, then the reviewer really must mention this, although advertisers may not like it and perhaps there should be a checklist comparing these critical attributes. Only then will reviews be really useful to readers.

9 Responses to “Outdoor gear reviews: time for transparency”

  1. Some good points there Ian. I do mention any flaws found in equipment but there is a difference between design flaws and discomfort due to my shape. With footwear I always try and describe the fit as boots that are uncomfortable for me may well fit someone with another foot shape really well. Durability is a problem with monthly comparative reviews and I’m careful not to suggest good durability unless I know it’s true.

    Even then there are differences between individual items. I’m sorry you had a Myriad jacket that leaked. I used this jacket on my Scottish Watershed walk when it had weeks of wear, often in torrential, rain and I never got more than slightly damp in it. From my experience the Myriad is durable and waterproof.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Chris – it is strange how different people have different exoeriences. I have never had the catastrophic Paramo fail that others have reported even in v. heavy rain (but have had leakage around rucksack straps). Maybe quite small manufacturing variations make a big difference – I reckon the problem with my jacket is that the internal storm flap doesn’t cope with the leakage.

      You are right about comfort – this is very individual and subjective but I think saying something about the test conditions would be really helpful.

      • I’ve never had the catastrophic Paramo fail either. Small manufacturing variations can make a big difference and different batches of some gear may be made in different factories. Footwear can vary in fit from one batch to another with the same model.

        I agree saying something about test conditions would be useful. I do this a bit – I’ll try and do it more!

  2. HI Ian
    If your looking for a good quality Uk produced waterproof jacket with a double storm flap check out our Osprey jacket, video review of the jacket carried out by Ed Benton of Hikersblog are available on our Facebook site ( he wore the jacket in 8 hours of rain and still wears it 2 years later ) …I pride myself on the development of high performance waterproof and breathable fabrics …After successfully winning the National Police contract All the Police forces in the UK now use my products in their waterproof garments.Adding on to the products i have developed for the Irish Army, Garda, Ambulance services and special forces ..If you want a product that works ours does or your money back … We had a special offer on the Osprey jacket of £60 off the RRP for BuyBritishDay …if you want a product that works and lasts come and buy one you will not be disappointed … By the way we have over trousers coming as well which Robin Evans has helped in the design of

  3. John D says:

    I noticed that held out the rain comment and wondered about it.

    Even if a zip is waterproof, a dry chest cannot be guaranteed. Zips tend to be taped in and tape tends to be impermeable, making taped seams bad for condensation. Taped seams on either side of the zip and another where the storm flap has been attached combined with the surprisingly large number of sweat glands on the chest make the chest area second only to the small of the back for dampness.

    Another problem occurs when cold rain chills the fabric of a waterproof. Even if it is permeable, condensation will form, so rain hitting my chest when I’m backpacking uphill means getting wet.

    Having said that, leaky zips certainly do exist. RABs zips haven’t let me down but another company’s did.

    • admin says:

      Rab admitted their zip was leaky but claimed internal storm flap should cope. Basically, it can’t – perhaps mine is faulty but that’s not obvious.

  4. AlanR says:

    Hi Ian. All very true. Rain hitting your face has to go somewhere and it usually finds a way to the chest area no matter how good the zip is or even if it has a storm flap. Just the constant moving of the head, up, down, side to side allows small amounts of ingress. I think we need jackets with pull down visors.

    However, zip wise i have had no leakage through my Riri zip. It’s a nice piece of kit.

    I would consider the Rab Bergan which has a storm flap although it may be a bit heavy for you. Sheila has had one for a few years and it has been an excellent waterproof.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Alan – I agree some leakage is inevitable but my zip leaks all the way down (I get a clear line of wetness) not just at the top. Will take a look at the Bergan though I’m a bit off Rab after their unhelpful customer service.

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