Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review and thoughts on Montane Spektr smock

I've worn the Spektr Smock a few times since buying it. I wore it for quite a lot of the High Peak Marathon, and for a few training runs, and I have formed a few opinions about it.

As my first eVent jacket, I have to say that I am very impressed with it so far. It has been very breathable, beaded well, and has been an excellent windbarrier. I haven't used it for nearly as much time as any of my goretex jackets, so I have no information or thoughts on what it is like in the long term. It is definitely a fabric that you need to keep clean or else it really won't breathe well, but I haven't got it to anywhere near that stage yet.

The cut of the body is excellent. The best cut waterproof I have come across for a while. I am of quite athletic build, and generally speaking, waterproofs are cut for hulking big people that need a lot of fabric. The Spektr has none of that. Medium is the smallest size, and I have to say, as someone who is often swamped by Smalls, it fits and it fits well. The fabric does not flap around all over the place, and it feels snug. I see that other reviewers have said that the cut is very small- I would say it is cut for athletes, not for recreational walkers who enjoy beer more than walking. So far so good.

What drew me to the smock to begin with was the somewhat different closure system around the neck. There is no zip to speak of, only velcro, a "tornado roll" design like the top of a dry bag, and 3 elastic toggles. Very lightweight, very sparse, and occasionally quite fiddly. The amount of times I have been running around trying to either do the damn thing up because the weather is getting gnarly, or undo it to get some ventilation and haven't been able to is far too many.
I've been doing hill repeats in hail, and really don't have time (or the brain power) to be faffing around trying to velcro it up, roll it about and do up an elastic toggle. With gloves on it became a virtual impossibility to get the right bits in the right places, I ended up with 2 toggles fastened, but with massive gaps and hail coming in the jacket. That was just on a regular day, not in the midst of a race or a long day in really bad weather.
Maybe if I was going at at slower pace and had a chance to stop and do it up, that might have worked.

However, that is nothing in comparison with the hood.
I have a small head, I know this. Caps and helmets have to be adjusted down to almost comical smallness so that they don't come off my head. The Spektr Smock has done away with any type of adjustment in the hood (however, it does have a piece of elastic going through the hood- in the precise place where a volumiser would have been BRILLIANT- but there just isn't a volumiser there. Why?!) and so when I put up the hood, and do up all the toggles, the hood is still massive, and when running in any kind of wind- light or strong, it gets blown all over the place.

Yes, the official blurb says that it should be worn with a cap. Tried that. It still has massive wind ducts on either side of the head which let in serious amounts of water. Yes, Montane may have been saving weight when they thought of this, but weight saving at the expense of a jacket that actually works? Thats like saving weight on an F1 care by not attaching the tyres. Yes it's lighter, but it's completely ineffectual.

A constant state of affairs. How do I do up/undo this damn thing? It doesn't seem to get easier.
The Spektr smock is indeed ridiculously light, the lack of adjusters on the cuffs- not a problem, lack of pockets, not an issue really. The extra faffage of having an opening which, even with practice, doesn't close as well as a zip is an annoyance, and the hood that just doesn't work for me is a complete showstopper. If only there was some kind of volume reducer, or a way of battening down the hatches- it would have made the jacket not only bearable, but bloody brilliant. However, it just doesn't work for me. A real shame. I had been looking forward to getting one of these for months.

If you have a bigger head than mine, and are planning on using this as a "stick in the bag and forget about it" jacket which you will use while cowering behind rocks in massive storms rather than running through them, this might well be the jacket for you. It is kind of built more with alpinists and runners in mind. However, as a runner, I really don't think it cuts the mustard for running in, there are just too many things which make it more of an annoyance than a revolutionary and useful bit of kit.

Shame really. Maybe the next generation will be a better go at it.
In the meantime, I'm going to see if I can get hold of an OMM cypher smock in my size. Always a bit of a challenge. 

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