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?