We ran a news story about Karrimor's £150 Elite Phantom eVent Jacket the other week and promised to get one in for a look. And true to our word, just a week later one of them landed at OM Mansions.
So what's it like? Oddly it's a bit like going back in time. The instant first impression is that it's heavy and, apparently quite tough. Weight for the test medium is a real world 700g, which is a fair whack next to most modern mountain shells. And the face fabric feels stiff and durable aided and abetted by rubber surface prints at hips and shoulders - the latter are a bit Marmit, but on the black version, they're also relatively unobstrusive.
The second throwback cue is down to the explosion of features - there are pit-zips, two huge, deep Napoleon chest pockets that extend right down to belt level and incorporate a captive whistle, two equally big hand-warmer pockets, an internal zipped pocke and, for good measure, slightly stunted pit-zips as well.
And then there's a helmet compatible hood with a wired peak and volume adjusters. Hem and cuffs are adjustable too with Velcro and shock-cord respectively. Oh, and the zips are water resistant ones though the main zip looks like it's a vogueish YKK Vislon with big, interlocking plastic teeth albeit with urethane surround and a storm flap.
Three Layers Of Fabric
Alll of which looks good on paper as does the highly breathable three-ply eVent fabric. Unfortunately it's not quite so clever in the flesh. The cut is long and generous with good crotch coverage for us at least, but the front of the jacket feels really stuff. Dig deeper and you find that the way the four pockets are constructed means that there are actually three layers of full thickness fabric over most of the front section of the jacket.
That, however breathable the fabric - and eVent is one of the best out there - is going to have a big impact on overall breathability. Why does anyone need that many pockets? We don't know. For most mountain use a pair of chest pockets, preferably with some sort of mesh breathable liner is quite enough and keeps breathability high and reduces bulk and weight.
The hood seems decent enough. Because it's designed to take a helmet there's a lot of volume, so you need to cinch both front and rear adjusters right up, but once done it moves with the head and the peak feels protective and stiff. It's plenty big enough for quite a tall helmet as well if you're off for some Scottish winter stuff for example.
Tough But Agricultural
Overall, first impressions are that the jacket's tough but heavy and a bit agricultural compared to the admittedly more expensive competition. And it seems a shame that Karrimor has largely negated the breathability of the event fabric with that triple thickness front panel which also makes the jacket feel stiff and unwieldy.
Against all that, the £150 price-tag is pretty damn good for a fully-specced eVent jacket and the tough-feeling material suggests that it'll cope with a bit of abuse. Just don't expect ultimate breathability and packability.