Tuesday, 26 August 2014

OMM Aether Smock - first impressions

Standing on the start line in Sedburgh, the runner next to me turns  and says "so Tim- is that your new jacket? Make your mind up and spend your money? I look forward to the review".
Or words to that effect.

As an aside- and in reference to my previous blog, he also mentioned that he has a Pertex shield top, and true to form - or at least, true to what I've found, the hoods appear to be purely decorative, unless you have an inordinately large head.
We didn't have much more time to chat as someone said "go" and I quickly ran out of breath. 

So anyway, in order to make my decision I sat down with my thoughts and previews of all the jackets, the 3 that stood out were the Inov8, Haglofs and OMM. I trawled the net, found the OMM at a substantially knocked down price, and before I could think twice, I just bought it. Job done.
As much as I would have liked to play around with Ino8's bespoke fabric, or Haglofs Active shell smock, the OMM won out, perhaps mainly because I was so happy with the Cypher smock before it.

Now, you may think I'm a bit mental, spending £140 on a jacket, as another of my clubmates wisely pointed out, whats the point in spending more than £20 on a jacket when its not going to be waterproof after the first 3 outings (as their £100 jacket appeared to be) - especially if it is going to spend most of the time in your bag.

Well, hopefully this blog will spell out the reasons why I spent my cash on the Aether Smock.

The first thing I noticed about the Aether is that although it is made of eVent, the fabric feels a touch lighter than it's previous incarnation, and it appears to be an upgraded version of the fabric. On the scales (yes, on occasion I can be THAT much of a geek), it weighs in at just under 200g, it rolls up smaller than the Cypher does, and is lighter in the bumbag. Thats a good start for a new and improved jacket.
Cypher smock - size S - 239g

Aether smock - Size S - 186g
The first time out for this jacket was a race- Sedburgh hills. I know what they say about never using new gear on race day, but it had to be done. The old Cypher just isn't up to it anymore.

Cut to the same pattern
The Smock has very few seams on it, and is made with exactly the same pattern as the Cypher smock was. The main difference I noticed as I put it on, is the cord pulls on either side of the hood and on the waist cord. They are basically a lighter weight version of cord pull, but not one that I'm entirely au fait with. After a bit of playing about (and looking at it, as opposed to trying to feel what was going on), I got the hang of it. To be honest, its pretty simple. The Cord pull on the waist is also slightly offset, so it is no longer slap bang on the side of you as you wear the smock, but slightly forward - kind of in line with where you would expect a jeans pocket to be, instead of the side seam
The new hood toggles. Actually, pretty easy to use once you actually look at them and work it out. Not so easy when you're running along and haven't looked at the design...

The other major thing that I noticed (indeed, noticed when I tried one on in a shop) is the pocket inside the smock. As far as I'm concerned that is a step back, and the only thing that should stop you buying this jacket. Its a faff to get to when you're moving fast, and for stowing stuff on the move- empty gel wrappers etc, On the Cypher. the outside pocket was great - zip, stow and go.
The japanese have a word for this. Shi-nikui. or "difficult to use". It's in a fiddly place with a fiddly zip. What happened to the useful and usable outside pocket?
Now it is a bit more of a palavar - unzip, reach into you jacket with a soggy begloved hand, fish around for the pocket zip, try and undo it, stuff something into it, fiddle around for the zip, do it up, do up the jacket again, carry on.

Less efficient. It would be good to get OMM's feedback about that as to why they've put the pocket inside. It doesn't make it any more waterproof, and just aids ingress of water where you don't want it when having to access the pocket.

Gripe aside, the arms are still a decent length, and the wrist cuffs with thumb loops are still there- which is excellent. I'm not sure I'd buy a running waterproof without these now, they just seem like the right thing to have.

The hood is of an excellent design - 3 points of compression onto the head, and moves as you move your head. No turning to see what is going on and getting a lovely view of the inside of a damp piece of fabric. I'm not sure if the front compression elastics are going to flap around as I run in the wind and the damp, but that is yet to be seen. The rim is wired as well but not with as solid a wire as the Cypher was. I suppose it would be more appropriate to call it "reinforced" rather than "wired", although this isn't ultralight, is a good thing for long wet runs in the winter.
The inside of the zip at the top also has a bit of soft touch material on it, to prevent mouth/chin chafage as well, which is becoming more and more standard on jackets these days.
Mouth/chin non-abrasive patch

Bits of reflective stuff are on the arms and on the bottom - which is cut quite deep, so that it sits under the bumbag well, and doesn't ride up, and an all over sense of protectiveness completes this jacket nicely.

This is a light eVent shell. Yes, it is expensive, yes, I fully expect it to be weather resistant (not waterproof- only cars and pubs are truely waterproof) over the next couple of winters. It will be used in training, and will be used on a weekly basis, and will also be my racing jacket of choice. It will get a thorough testing and will go through a lot of abuse, and I sincerely hope that it copes as well as it's predecessor.
One thing is for certain. I trust this jacket to do the job a lot more than a £20 one from decathlon.

Yes, I would have loved to try out that Haglofs Active Shell, yes, I would have loved to have had a blast in the inov8 race shell, but my cash has been spent and the die has been cast. I'll write a bit more of a review once the Aether has been through a bit more rubbish weather.

Overall - The Aether Smock
Cut from the same pattern as the Cypher, with a more up to date version of the eVent fabric. It is lighter, has a couple of tweaks in terms of the elastic closures on the hood, but is not without its failings. The main one being the re-arranged pocket arrangement (as it were).
Have I made the right decision?

Not sure yet. I hope this new fabric will be up to the weather I'm going to wear it in, and I may (or may not) get used to the pocket. Had it been full price, it would have been a more difficult decision to buy. 


  1. Good report - having mentioned I struggled with my Minimus hood in the warm-up, I struggled doubly so in the race when the wind really got up. Have subsequently run with the hood over the cap which stops the hood flapping around but only serves to point up the design issue with the hood. I do recall for one Montane jacket it was recommended that you wear a cap under the hood as the hood had no peak so perhaps this design approach has been retained.

  2. Yeah, I remember that the Spektr had the same thing - designed to be run with a cap on - which works fine to a point... but even then, with out a full 3 point compression on the hood, I find they still flap around ridiculously, to the point that the hood comes off and I'm in danger of losing a cap.

    I'm sure it works well for some people, (ie the product designers), but, alas, not for me.

  3. Good review. I have the same jacket and used it in the Challenger '17. I really like it as hardshell combination of a layering system. The breathability is great as well. One thing i did notice that OMM have got rid of is the hood stow away strap - not a biggy but i did like that on the previous incarnation. when i contacted OMM about it they said that it was taken off purely to save weight. That said, all in all its a great jacket.

  4. They have a new version of it out now (SS17), the pocket has been put back on the outside (yay!) and the wrist/thumb loops are undo-able, which makes it quite interesting.
    I tried one on the other day, sizing is very comparable, the hood is as good as ever.
    To stow the hood I tend to just roll it into itself and do up the zip....