Once upon a time, you would be looking into taking out a second mortgage in order to finance a bombproof hardshell. Thankfully, those times are long gone

As the industry has moved on, so have people’s perceptions of what they actually need in a jacket, whether it be for scaling the high peaks, or sticking to gently rolling hills and valleys. Each jacket comes with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, so whatever you read here, it is not a point of picking out winners or losers, as each product is subjective. Rather, you need to sit down and decide what works best for you. This is merely a small selection of what is currently on the market, As we are all travellers, we need a jacket that is going to be packable, and easily accessible, so it is no good having your hardshell tucked away neatly in the baggage hold of the aircraft, to find that when you glance out the window, rain is bouncing off the runway. The following are exceptionally good jackets for their price points, and you will see that amongst the three hardshells, I have included a new SoftShell from Sprayway and Snugpak’s new foray into the world of fleece.


Regatta Imber is a lightweight, technical hardshell


The first thing which caught my eye about Regatta’s Imber was the rather striking colourway, pretty much guaranteeing that fellow walkers are not going to lose sight of you on a miserable, dank day on the hill. Originally introduced for Spring/Summer 2016, this highly compressible jacket has gone through the odd tweak and still fits snugly in Regatta’s lightweight, technical stable. Being a 2-layer jacket, it is not mesh lined, allowing the manufacturer to keep the weight down. There is a nice feel to the ripstop outer fabric, which is both durable and stretchable, due to the inclusion of active fit stretch yarns. Named after the Latin word for a rain shower, you are guaranteed excellent defence against wet weather, thanks to the waterproof and breathable Isotex 5000 stretch polyester fabric, sealed seams and a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. The Imber features a fixed wired peak hood with easy adjustment for optimal coverage and visibility. The articulated sleeve design and stretch binding to the cuffs and hem, deliver a contoured fit that nicely seals out the elements. Two zipped mountain pockets are a really good size. Thought has clearly gone into the placement of those pockets and the overall zip length, with plenty of room to accommodate a rucksack’s harness without hindering pocket access. Other features include an inner stormflap with chin guard. At one time it was difficult to produce a quality jacket at this price point, yet year-on-year I see Regatta doing just that. So, if you are seeking a versatile jacket which you can easily pack into a suitcase or rucksack, ready to tackle the occasional downpour or just to keep the chill out the air on a dull day when out rambling, then the Imber could well be for you. One thing is guaranteed, you will not be wasting your money. £85.00, www.regatta.com


Didriksons Nomadic captures that timeless, classic design


I love Didriksons’ philosophy about the synergy between clothing and the outdoors. For over a hundred years since the company was founded (1913), it has remained faithful to one simple rule – instead of challenging the elements, adapt to them. And so, true to form, Didriksons followed faithfully the quest to make functional garments that work all day, every day, come rain or shine. With the Nomadic, the manufacturer has once again produced an outer garment which captures that timeless, classic design. You just know that when you put on a Didriksons coat, sewn into it are all those years of experience; yes, a century of product development. With the Nomadic, you have a thin, mesh-lined jacket in polyester weave. The jacket has a fixed hood which folds away in the collar, and two decent sized waterproof front pockets. The fit is enhanced by a drawstring at the hem and soft elastic fabric at the cuffs. The material is water and windproof resistant, as well as breathable, and incorporates a PFC-free DWR finish. The jacket has a fixed adjustable hood and two waterproof front pockets. To enhance the fit, synching it more to the contours of the body and thereby eliminating drafts, is a drawstring at the hem and a soft fabric at the cuffs. £90.00, www.didriksons.com


Mammut Mellow includes underarm venting


If you want reliability from your everyday jacket, and a garment which will also prove to be your best companion on hikes, then you are going to get it with a Mammut hardhsell. New to the scene is the Mellow DRYtech 2.5-layer shell. Believe it or not, the Mellow has the same waterproof breathable rating as most ski jackets, so you are not going to be bothered in the slightest when the heavens decide to unleash their wrath on the countryside, and everyone caught out in it. The Mellow’s fully taped seams enhance the jacket’s waterproof capabilities by preventing a single raindrop from seeping through. The jacket features an adjustable hood with reinforced peak, and the manufacturer has also added ventilation under each arm via zippers, with easily accessible adjustments being made at the hood, hem and cuffs for a secure fit. The splashproof zippered side pockets are easily accessible when wearing a backpack. The Mellow comes in a regular fit, and carries the Bluesign swing tag, which identifies consumer goods that meet the Bluesign criteria, having been produced with a minimum impact on people and the environment, through the responsible use of resources. £150.00, www.mammut.ch


Sprayway Kalmar takes SoftShell to a new level


I was a fan of SoftShell from the very outset, having realised early on the benefits of its use in a layering system. In contrast to the stiffer material found in a hard shell (or waterproof) jacket, a SoftShell jacket is made from a woven material, and, unlike a conventional jacket, a SoftShell does not have a lining, but instead is made by bonding two layers of fabric together. Traditionally designed to bridge the gap between a fleece (which offers less water resistance and protection from the wind), and a waterproof jacket (which is less stretchy), we have seen many incarnations since those early forays. The two types of SoftShell jacket are either stretch-woven or manufactured with a membrane. Essentially, a stretch-woven SoftShell has a water-repellent coating, whilst in a membrane softshell a waterproof membrane is bonded between the two layers of fabric. It is worth bearing in mind that neither is 100 per cent waterproof, due to the lack of taped seams to stop water entering in at the stitched areas. Sprayway’s latest venture into this side of the market is with the Kalmar, which benefits from a 4-way stretch, lightweight TecWEave, with zoned wind protection. Features include a two-way adjustable, wire peaked hood, stretch cuffs, two zipped handwarmer pockets and a zipper Napolean pocket to the left breast, with a windproof overlay on the chest, shoulders and hood. Incredibly light, the jacket also has Inso/Therm insulation on the hood, and a DWR finish, enhancing its windproofness and breathability. Wear it in moderate to good weather, over a baselayer instead of a fleece, or as a midlayer underneath a hard shell jacket in more extreme conditions, and you won’t be disappointed. This is what I term a ‘grab and go’ jacket, so always have it to hand, as you never know when you will need it next at the drop of a hat. £90.00, www.sprayway.com


Snugpak Impact is available in an attractive pebble grey with blue relief


Now to round off this round-up on jackets, and having banged on about the benefits of SoftShell, I am going to throw into the mix Snugpak’s new Impact Fleece Shirt. Well, they call it a shirt, but it is, in fact, a half-zip fleece, and very nice it is, too. So let’s begin with the highlights of this moisture-wicking and breathable, pullover style top, which includes a high neck-warming collar, chin protector, and anti-pilling, brushed flecce finish on both inside and out. In an attractive pebble grey with blue relief, this warm, cosy mid layer will be great for year-round use, either as part of a layering system or worn solo. My sample was delivered as the weather took one of those all-too-often downward turns, so then it was a simple battle to keep my wife’s hands off it. On reflection though, it would be a tad cherlish of me not to buy her one, being as it is at such a reasonable RRP. £24.95, www.snugpak.com

Tester: Michael Cowton