One of the most important questions for walkers, both new and old is which jacket to buy? Well, there is no easy answer and experience is normally gained through trial and error. This can be a costly exercise, so that I thought that I’d give my opinions based around a review of my latest acquisition.
I have no particular brand allegiance and over a period of 20 years or so I’ve amassed a collection of jackets/coats/tops for almost every occasion. These range from a couple of down-filled jackets for the coldest winters day to a few lighter articles for summer use. Whatever you buy, there are generally two primary considerations: is it waterproof and is it breathable. Well, it is possible to buy jackets which meet both criteria, but as with most things in life, my experience is that you get what you pay for. The more expensive jackets manufactured from a fabric such as Gore-Tex Pro can cost more then £300 and would not be a sensible choice for a casual walker. At the entry level, walking jackets can be bought for less than £50 but this might be false economy as they may only be shower-proof and not very breathable. You could find yourself getting wet from both rain and perspiration.
If your budget allows, I would recommend that you look for something in the £100-£150 price range as this will probably include jackets in eVent. A good guide to the various materials used by manufacturers can be found here: http://www.walkandramble.co.uk/fabric-advice.php Berghaus uses a variety of materials for their jackets. http://store.berghaus.com/c/mens/clothing/waterproof-jackets
My latest acquisition, the Berghaus Derwent (http://store.berghaus.com/p/clothing/mens-derwent-waterproof-jacket/420758) uses their own AQ2 material (http://help..berghaus.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/299) which is claimed to be both fully waterproof and breathable. I should say for anyone new to walking that most of the lightweight jackets are not necessarily warm – that’s not their job. They are primarily to keep you dry, so if you need warmth then you need to consider using a layering system underneath your waterproof jacket.
The Derwent ticks a couple of my boxes in that it has a roll-away hood and, to my mind, is affordable with a price of £100. It can probably be bought for less if you search on the internet. I know that it isn’t quite the thing to do but I like to search the internet for the best available price and then to try on clothing in-store. Both Go Outdoors and Cotswold Outdoors will price-match and the latter offers a 15% discount to Ramblers members.
Back to the Derwent review: most of my friends know that I don’t like walking in the rain but in this case it is something that has to be done as this is the only way that I know of testing its waterproof and breathability qualities. I could have stood under the shower but wanted to test it “in the field”. So, on your behalf, I ventured forth on a rainy day to see how good or bad the Derwent really is. The jacket has a rather large hood with only minimal volume adjustment. The storm flap over the front zip and adjustable cuff fasteners mean that there are reduced opportunities for the rain to find its way inside. My “large” size jacket is a little snug around the middle but that is more to do with me than any inadequacies in the jacket itself. As with most jackets, the sleeves are a little too long for me. Being the shape that I am, trousers are always too long and so are sleeves. For a more normally proportioned body they will probably be just right. I hate it when clothing rustles as you walk along and I’m pleased to say that the Derwent doesn’t suffer from this problem. It is comfortable and there are adequate pockets to store the things that need to be close to hand such as gloves etc.
I’ve worn the Derwent a few times now and, at the price, it’s a versatile walking jacket which does what it says on the tin. It has kept me dry; the water beads well due to the DWR (durable water repellent) finish and has proven to be relatively breathable. It weighs in at 650gms. My similar Sprayway Gore-tex jacket weighs 600gms and my Mountain Hardware DryQ shell is only 320gms. The Derwent is, perhaps, a coat to be worn rather than carried. For those just in case, summer occasions, I think that I’d opt for something a little lighter.