Sunday, 16 September 2012

Karrimor X-lite Helium Jacket

This jacket, for me, was tentative choice. It is Karrimor's 'own' jacket. Everything about it is produced by Karrimor, down to the material. The Heliums big brother is the Alpiniste and is constructed with eVent fabric, this one is made with Weathertite 2.5 layer shell.

Karrirmor, in my opinion, has lost a bit of its reputation in the past few years. I have set of KSBs I've had for years, before the buy out. I know Michael felt the same and has included a bit in on this in his review of one of their new packs. I am hoping that the recent releases are showing a refocus of the brand to provide good quality gear for outdoor people. Lets face it there has been a period where that hasn't been the case, unfortunately.

First impressions were reasonably good, it has an 'active' cut so is quite short but has a slight scoop around the bum to give a bit extra protection. The draw cord only adjusts around the back half of the hem, personal preference for me is a full perimeter drawcord, though the end of the cords do come up in to the pocket concealing it, which I like. Also in the pocket is a large section of mesh which allows a bit of controlled venting. 

The 2 zip pockets are set high enough so a hip belt or harness won't hinder them. The cuffs have a velcro fastener and a little scoop on them too, I thought this was a nice touch.

Good hood, controlling the volume works well, it clinches around the face and back of the head using the rear clinch along with the front pullcords giving a good range of movement and no issues of looking into the side of it. There is a good baffle around the sides of the face giving added protection and a skipped wired peak, a well featured head shelter. I haven't used the hood whilst having a climbing lid on but lab tests (in the garage) seem pretty good.
General movement is good and unrestrictive although this does have its limitations. This is where the jacket starts to highlight its main weakness; the material! Weathertite, no matter what anyone says, does not breathe. The texture of the material on the inside proves this. The PU coating provides a barrier certainly but it's both ways.

I've worked this jacket hard. Bad weather from the outside and perspiration from the inside. The pocket vents don't do enough to eliminate the condensation produced on a muggy wet day. It left my base layer saturated. I'm sure it was just sweat, I am convinced that no precipitation managed to get in. The inside coating grips to wet things which is where the limitation of movement comes in. When putting it on over wet skin it clings like putting my phone in an ortlieb bag. Once on and moving with a pack on the back rides up as every twist causes the jacket to claw its way up my back.

As I said the positives are that it is a waterproof shell and I do want to push this. If the Alpiniste is designed like the Helium and has its features then it will be a great jacket. I really want Karrimor to get back to a brand that outdoors folks go to instead of making do with. There is a review of the Alpiniste here from Dean Read and, as I said, Micheal has reviewed the X-lite 45:10 pack here.

It is advertised as a £120 jacket, the tag that was attached had it at £60 from a Direct supplier of Sports equipment. Trail magazine tested this jacket in the September 2012 edition and they awarded it "Best Value" at the £120 value, so if you can get it cheaper it's worth it. Although they also said "the fabric performs well" which I would disagree with. My opinion is I don't think they've given it a good run out but they did have other good things to say about it which I would agree with

The Helium has its place, it will be a good jacket for a rambler type and someone active looking for an affordable jacket. The shell will keep you dry just don't work too hard in it. Good features like the hood set it and Karrimor in good stead. Now if they were to make it with the new eVent 2.5 layer fabric, DVL, then it could be a promising garment. I will always keep it handy but unfortunately it won't be my first consideration. There is potential though!