Six months. That is how long it has taken to review the Target Dry Element Jacket I was sent. Much longer than usual (and I am sure much longer than Target Dry would have hoped!) Why did it take so long?
Firstly the lack of rain over the late summer and early autumn months made it fairly tricky to test a waterproof jacket (although sadly the recent rains and the resulting flooding has more than made up for it).
Secondly I hit review fatigue – reviews are tricky and take a surprising amount of time and with three products to review at the same time I struggled (so much so in fact that I am not intending to review anything in 2016!).
Thirdly I was slightly intimidated by Matt (hillplodder) with his excellent detailed (and timely) review of the Element Jacket. Show off.
Finally (and most poignantly) I was stuck pondering whether there is such a thing as a perfect waterproof jacket – a jacket that can hold at bay hours of torrential rain whilst removing every drop of moisture your body excretes without costing the earth.
[Disclosure – this jacket was provided by Target Dry for me to give my own personal opinions on it. They have no influence on these personal views and no editorial control.]
Whilst I have a tried and tested base layer (although I am dreading having to replace my Chocolate Fish merino base layer when it finally falls apart), mid layers (a big fan of the Berghaus Argentium tops issued on completion of 10in10), and insulation layers, my outer shell has always been a bit hit and miss.
Berghaus Argentium 10in10 top modelled on Leather Tor (photo taken by Kate)
Mainly this is because I once thought of myself as a fair weather countryside walker – whilst I did buy a fairly expensive (and rubbish) waterproof jacket when I first started hiking, I mostly just rely on my Target Dry Mac in a Sac for rain protection. It is fantastic in showers and the occasional ‘it was not supposed to rain’ downpour – anything heavier and it works just fine hanging on my chair in the pub by the fire!
Target Dry’s offer to send me an Element jacket, their high performance waterproof jacket, arrived just before my imminent move to Dartmoor (where it is impossible to be a fair weather hiker)! I opted for a large initially. On paper (their dodgy size chart) it should fit fine and it sort of did – it certainly fitted around my body but it felt fractionally short. Target Dry kindly sent me out an Extra Large to compare – it had better length yet felt fractionally loose around my body. After much to-ing and fro-ing I settled on the Extra Large – longer length trumps loose body. Based on my experience, unless your Target Dry Element jacket is just for walking to the pub, I would suggest going up a size from what their sizing chart suggests.
Before I move onto more important stuff, there is a mystery. The hood. I like the hood – it is fairly spacious (generally speaking, and I am prepared for all the jokes when I say this, I have a big head and usually find hoods claustrophobic) and, unlike the Target Dry Origins jacket, the hood stays up even in strong winds thanks to the wired storm peak. The mystery is that the marketing spiel describes it as ‘foldaway’… I cannot work out for love nor money how it could foldaway (or indeed why you would want to!)
I can definitely vouch for the windproof claim though. As Storm Desmond hit, I was up on Hameldown Ridge in Dartmoor. The jacket certainly kept out the ferocious winds battering us and doing their best to blow us off the moor. On several occasions I enjoyed leaning back into the wind feeling snug and warm nestled in the jacket hood. Opting for the larger size however does mean the neck is slightly loose – on the one weekend when I forgot my buff it was noticeably less comfortable and snug without the additional draft excluder.
Me on Shapley Tor on Hameldown Ridge (part of photo taken by Paul Buck)
The Extreme Jacket has fully taped seams and a waterproof rating of 8000mm – not the best yet still very waterproof. This has proven to be the case out in the field as, out of a handful of very wet hikes on Dartmoor, the jacket has only failed significantly once in stopping water from getting in. That particular hike had hours of constant rain and walking through cloud (i.e. a fine mist of water particles) – the jacket saturated and there was significant wet patches underneath. Otherwise, the worst it got was some dampness… and that is probably my sweat….
The marketing blurb states the jacket is ‘highly breathable’ at 4000gsm. I cannot work out what this actually means, but if this is the ‘upright cup test’ then that is not really that great. I get hot hiking, especially whilst laboring up to a Tor and, if I am wearing several layers, I am soon overheating and sweating at a faster rate than is being ‘breathed’ out by the jacket. The jacket is mesh lined, so a lot of the excess moisture is trapped, however some of that sweat ends up as dampness on the outside of my insulation layer.
Preparing to face a wet day on Dartmoor (part of photo taken by Sarah Pascall)
Unless you use the underarm air vents…. I have to admit it took me a while to realise that if you have the ‘pit vents’ open most of the time, it resolves the vast majority of the condensation dampness issues. The vents are well placed to minimise the amount of water that gets back in, whilst providing a much needed boost to the breath-ability of the jacket.
It is worth also mentioning that my original concern that having a baggier jacket would reduce insulation proved to be unfounded. The thick and tough (albeit heavy) material of the jacket means heat is kept in efficiently – perhaps a little too efficiently. I did struggle to find the right balance of layers to wear underneath that kept me warm whilst tor sitting without overheating when exerting myself (when it was raining – so adding and removing layers was not a suitable alternative!)
The other features to note are the fleece lined pockets, a nice touch although you need to resist the temptation of using them when it is raining as they quickly get damp and become less cosy and warm, and the two spacious map pockets, which actually fit maps!
Overall, I have been really impressed with the Target Dry Extreme Jacket, which has done a good job of keeping the wind and rain at bay so I can get out and enjoy Dartmoor, whatever the weather, with minimal discomfort. It is maybe not the ultimate waterproof jacket (if such a thing exists), but at £105 it is no wonder Trail magazine awarded it Best Value and Best In Test in a group test of waterproof jackets. The Target Dry Extreme Jacket has definitely made the grade to be a permanent member of my kit cupboard and passes the ‘would you buy it if you were not given it for free’ test. Yes definitely – especially as, at the time of writing, the Element Jacket is currently discounted to £52.99!!