Hilltrek Braemar Ventile Smock | Review
I love the smell of Ventile in the morning, it smells like, erm, cotton... So can a natural fabric really offer decent weather protection, we tried the polar explorers' fave fabric for size.
|Hilltrek Braemar Ventile Smock |
|Weight: 501 grammes |
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.
Windproof, nice feel, tough.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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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