Latest in our look at what's new for spring 2014 is Manchester-based Mountain Equipment with main highlight being a revamped range of own-brand Drilite waterproof shell jackets some using the brand's excellent new Alpine cut and a new family of damp and cold-friendly sleeping bags using water-resistant down for the first time.
Drilte's been around for a while in various forms and is, apparently, a hydrophobic, monolithic PU membrane... Or something like that. What you really need to know is that it's decently wateproof with a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm, well up there with the competition and ditto on breathability figures where it again scores a phat 20,000 /m2 over 24 hours.
In other words it should perform decently. And it comes in various weighs including with an ultra-light 12D face face and a heavier 50D reinforcement. The face fabrics are Polyamide, so should be tough for the weight.
The Micron Jacket looks like a cracking lightweight option with just the one pocket, integrated vents under the arms - sort of perforations with a protective storm-flap and a proper hood with a wired peak. It uses ME's slimmed down Active Fit and has some nice details including an adjustable hem which has been carefully designed with a drawcord which sits in the right place to minimise any riding up.
Fast and light alpine shell on a budget anyone? It weighs in at just 215g in a large size and will retail for £140 once available in early 2014.
We misheard this as 'Lettuce', which would have been nice, but it isn't. It's a 250g shell that uses the same fabrics as the Micron but with more features. Those include twin hand-warmer pockets, or A-line, or 'not Napoleon ones' - here's the thing, pockets you can put your hands in are seen as more of an all-round feature than ones that you can't.
Its more of a traditional shell than the Micron, and uses ME's Active Fit in a slimmed down version.
Which brings us to the Gryphon Jacket, at least that's how we think it's spelled. Where the Lattice and Micron are ligthweight chaps, the Gryphon is a tougher, slightly heavier customer which uses a heavier, strectch version of Drilite with 40D body and 70D reinforcements, a bit like ME's Gore-Tex Pro collection.
It has a full HC helmet-eating hood and the new Alpine Fit as designed by cunning Swiss pattern-cutting people and one of the best cuts we've ever seen on a shell jacket based on our first impressions of the autumn/winter 2013 Lhotse Jacket.
All of which should make it a bit of a bargain at £190 complete with twin pockets, pit-zips and an all-in weight of 385g.
Vekcor And Aeon Jackets
Both these use a single medium-weight 40D version of Drylite and look like mountain all-rounders. The Vector (£150) uses that Alpine Fit again, has a non-helmet hood, water-resistant zips and mesh-lined pocket bags for extra ventilation.
At 280g it's intended as a light mountain shell jacket for all-round use. Meanwhile the Aeon is a similar sort of creature, but with a fold-down hood for folk as prefer fold-down hoods...
New Matrix Sleeping Bags
Finally most of the sleeping bag range stays the same after a recent re-jog, but there's a completely new set of ruffty tuffty bags called Matrix - we'd call them 'margin for error' bags thanks to a hydrophobic down top-section for insulation with added water resistance where it's most needed allied to PrimaLoft Synergy synthetic fill in the lower section of the bag which is both more likely to get wet and also gets compressed by bodyweight making a syntehtic fill and sensible call.
The bags also get a new hood and foot section, have redesigned collars for better warmth and ME's light but water-resistant HE30 fabric. The idea is that they'll be a bit more resistant to damp and abuse than pure down bags, but lighter than a full synthetic, we don't have weights but 'relatively light' was the terminology used.
There are three versions: I, II and III with prices respectively at £320, £260 and £230 each. Should be good for rough bivvies and random unpleasant conditions.
All the above will be available in around February/March 2014. You can find full details of Mountain Equipment's current range at www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.