Hilltrek Braemar Ventile Smock

Tested

Price:

£110.00

Weight: 501 grammes

(mediun)

Features:Single-layer

cotton Ventile windproof fabric, adjustable hem drawcord,

Velcro adjustable cuffs, simple hood with adjuster cord,

half-length zip, large chest pocket available in olive, blue

and DPM -patterned cammo. Hilltrek will adjust arm and

garment length to suit the oddly sized.

Pros

Windproof, nice feel, tough.

Cons

A little heavy, equiute xpensive.


The Concept We've always had a hankering to try Ventile - it's

one of those fabrics out of the history book that get dragged up in

occasional forum gear debates as a blast from the past, but it's

still out there and commercially available from companies like Hilltrek.

Ventile is a very tightly woven cotton, yes, that's right cotton.

The tightness of the weave is such that in the single-layer guise, as

tested, it's windproof and in a double-layer version, waterproof.

When Ventile gets wet, the fibres swell up making it harder for water

to penetrate. It's not treated with anything to repel water and

because it's a natural woven fabric, breathability is good. Like

cotton in fact.

The Hilltrek Ventile smock is designed as an all-round wind-proof

top, like, well, all-round windproof smocks really.


Features Leaving aside the fabric described above, the Braemar

is a pretty standard issue smock with adjustable hood, cuffs and hem

plus a gurt big chest pocket for storing acorns, fish, maps and so

on.


hilltrekbraemarsmock.jpg
hilltrekbraemarsmock.jpg

Action Once we'd got over the novelty of being fully camouflaged

- olive and blue versions are also available - and stopped stalking

the local cats for laughs, we were strangely impressed by the power

of Ventile. This is cotton remember, the stuff they make jeans from,

yet it's a completely different animal from traditional cotton.

It does have some of the usual attributes, like a slightly stiff ,

but comfortable, non-rusttly feel against the skin, but we quickly

appreciated its weather -resistant qualities. The Braemar, being

single layer Ventile, was completely windproof, but also surprisingly

water resistant thanks to the extremely tight weave of the

fabric.

There's no DWR to promote beading, but it shrugs off light showers

and even prolonged rain tends to leave you damp rather than soaked.

It's also nice and breathable, which is why polar explorers are big

fans, we'd say it works as well as woven microfibres like Paramo's

Parameta and Pertex, but with a more comfortable, natural feel

especially in warmer conditions. The generous cut helps here too with

a comfy loose fit that will either suit you or not.

As with other fibres, it will still be overwhelmed if you run hot,

but the same's true of any other fabric on the market. There are

downsides - modern windproofs are feathery light, some weigh under

100 grammes, but the Braemar tips the scales at a smidgeon over 500

grammes. It's also slightly bulky in comparison. To put that in

perspective, a Paramo Fuera smock, which isn't particularly light,

weighs 300 grammes and costs roughly half as much as the

Braemar.


Verdict

If wool can make a comeback in the guise of merino, then why

shouldn't good old cotton give the synthetics a run for their money

in its Ventile incarnation? Certainly weather protection is good and

it a feel-good fabric both when you're wearing it and in the sense

that it's no made from petro-chemical derived synthetics. We also

liked the DPM pattern in a shallow, SAS wannabe sort of way.

We were impressed by the breathability too and in cold, dry, blowy

conditions, the Braemar was hard to fault. On damper days it gets a

slightly clammy feel, but that's true of the synthetic opposition

too.

You do pay for the natural performance both in terms of price -

£110 is a lot of money for a windproof - and weight which is up

to five times what you can achieve. On the plus side, it feels as

tough as battle-hardened badger and we reckon it'll last for

years.

So where does that leave you? If weight and bulk matter to you

then Ventile won't be your cup of tea, but if you don't mind the

weight, price and bulk premium and have a hankering for a breathable

natural fibre that provides great weather protection then take a

look. Which way to the Pole?

Pushed for time:

In the footsteps of Scott and his huskies - Ventile is

close woven cotton which offers great weather protection

with good breathability and comfort, but at a financial and

weight cost.