It’s been a couple of years since anyone’s sent me gear to review – not because I haven’t had the offers, but simply because I only accept those offers that fit into the type of activity I do and are the sort of thing I would at least consider buying myself. And being able to do the review justice.
The last offer I took up was to review the Montane Atomic Stretch Jacket, a jacket I love for its weight and small pack size. But it’s not something I would consider if I knew conditions were going to be torrential – for really prolonged wet conditions I’d usually go with something a bit more substantial. And that’s where the Target Dry Element comes in.
For “bigger” rain I’ve hitherto typically used one of two jackets – an old Lowe Alpine jacket I bought so long ago that I can’t remember the name of it, but which has acres of space and is long in the body. I use this in town over a suit as well. The hood, though, really annoys me on this jacket as it’s almost impossible to get the huge opening right so that I can see out of it without turning my whole body. If I’m in the proper outdoors, I have an old Berghaus jacket (again the name of which escapes me), but I’ve always found it a bit short for my liking.
I’ve always considered the outdoor industry to have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with waterproof jackets. You only have to walk through Keswick on a Saturday to be struck by the notion that jackets are what walking is all about, due to the array of discounted jackets on rails in shop entrances. Of course it rains a lot up there, and outdoor companies have realised that this is one product that they can sell to townies as well as outdoor types. The irony for me is that the outer shell is probably the area of my kit that I least often change. As I’ve already said, for general use I’ve been using the same jackets for getting on for 10 years now. Softshell and tents is where I spend my money it seems.
Anyway, it was high time for an upgrade, and the offer from Target Dry came at an opportune moment. I’ve always bought waterproof jackets on a whim in sales (see above) and so have never really gone out and looked for the features and spec that I want like I would for other bits of gear, like tents or rucksacks for instance. The Element, though, on paper would make the shortlist if I actually bothered to do such a thing.
My requirements in a “stand up to anything I’m likely to bother going out in” situation are simple, but frustratingly difficult to achieve:
- It has to have enough room in the body that I can wear a variety of mid layers underneath depending on temperature/time of year. It also has to not be too ridiculously loose if just worn over a base layer.
- It has to be a decent length. I don’t want a jacket to just cover my belt – I want it to pretty much cover my whole backside. In my case that requires a substantial amount of extra material.
- I really really really wish more waterproof jackets had venting in the sides/underarms. I generate a lot of heat and there’s no point keeping the wet out if instead it’s keeping huge amounts of internally generated wet in. No matter how breathable a jacket claims to be, they’re always less breathable than you need, and particularly so in my case. There is ultimately no comparison to being able to open a hole in a strategic place to let the warm wet stuff out.
- A hood that isn’t too flappy but also isn’t too restrictive. This is a “know it when I see it” thing rather than something I can actually quantify.
- It needs a decent array of pockets – I’m not too fussed but I do like handwarmer pockets at a particular point up the jacket so they’re comfortable to walk around with my hands in my pockets when in town.
Some may wonder that I’ve not made weight or pack size one of my key criteria and this is simply that they’re less important to me for this type of jacket. The situations when I’d be wearing it are likely to be those where it’s on all of the time, rather than carried in my pack. When weight is more important, I’d be using the Montane anyway.
So let’s get down to talking about the Target Dry itself…
The Spec (ripped from the Target Dry website)
- Waterproof (8000mm)
- Breathable (4000gsm)
- Fully taped seams
- Mesh Lined
- Foldaway, volume adjustable hood with wired storm peak
- 2-way YKK® AquaGuard front zip
- 2 chest map pockets with waterproof zips
- Internal pocket
- Velcro® adjustable cuff tabs
- Underarm air vents with waterproof zips
- Adjustable drawcord at curved hem
- Lightweight oxford nylon
The package arrived and the first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the jacket – it seemed huge. That was until I tried it on though. Perfect length in the arms and body but it was a tad tighter than I’d ideally hoped for across my girth. It was my own fault for opting for a Large though – usually I’d take an XL but had been persuaded to risk the smaller size by the size chart. I even measured myself first. So my first point on the jacket is that I’m not convinced by the size chart. I imagine that if you go for your usual size it will be ok – that’s what ultimately worked for me. Certainly don’t be persuaded to go down a size from your usual purely on the basis of the chart, unless you’re looking for an “athletic” fit.
The replacement XL when it arrived a few days later was more like it. A first try on over a suit jacket and it was ok – this is important as the nature of this jacket means it will get worn to work as well as in the proper outdoors (hopefully it will replace the tired old Lowe Alpine). Sans suit jacket it was a bit more comfortable, and even with a proper mid-layer it’ll do up. I’ve got used to a closer fit with all of the Montane kit I’ve been wearing recently, including the Atomic jacket alongside which, incidentally, Trail reviewed the Target Dry, and against which I’ll be comparing it.
The other thing I noticed about the jacket was the weight. I just had time to weigh the Large before sending it back to Target Dry, and it topped the scales at 845g. Admittedly, this was including the clear plastic bag it came in and the tags which I never removed. The official weight for a large being 776g. Either way it’s more than twice the weight of the Montane Atomic. But although Trail tested them alongside each other, to me they’re for different conditions. The Atomic is, for me, for fast and light use in the warmer half of the year, and it’s ideal to just stick in your pack when unsure about the forecast as it packs really small. The Element is a different beast though, and if I were expecting more prolonged wet weather, that’s the one I’d choose of the two. To me the Element is for those times when you expect to be wearing your jacket more than carrying it in your pack.
The Element appealed to me at once when I was browsing through Target Dry’s website to decide which product to select for review. There were two main points of attraction, which have been particular bugbears (see above) for me with other jackets:
- The longer than usual body length.
- The array of pockets and venting options.
First the length. The jacket reaches down over my backside meaning that when kitted up for a walk, there’s some protection for the “downstairs department”, and whatever’s in my trouser pockets stands a better chance of staying dry. I’m a huge fan of longer lengths in waterproof jackets, and especially so when looking for one to also wear in town over a suit. This one does the job nicely.
Second the zipped bits. There are two handwarmer pockets, fleece lined, in just about the right place for comfort. Two chest pockets big enough to hold maps, or for me the stuff that I tend to not use when it starts raining simply because it’s inconveniently tucked away inside under several layers. The two chest pockets are big enough to hold anything I’m likely to want to have handy. My 8″ tablet disappeared nicely into one of these.
Best of all are the pit zips for a bit of side ventilation. Why oh why don’t more manufacturers offer these ? I realise that these would add weight and also create risk of water getting in, but hey the alternative is that I’m wet because moisture can’t get out. I’m one of those walkers that generates a lot of heat when I walk, so having the option to vent is invaluable to me. This feature alone would be the clincher if I was looking to buy a jacket for proper rain.
The hood’s good too – it’s sufficiently stiffly wired to stay in place and keep its shape, but also offers decent freedom of movement. Hoods are another of my bugbears and I’ve yet to find one that isn’t either flapping all over the place or confining my head so that I have to turn my whole body to look right or left. The one on the Element has promise though.
So all in all, first impressions are good with the jacket satisfying the plus points I’d identified beforehand. Now to try it out in some rain.
Getting some rain on the jacket
The jacket arrived in high summer, and although I know my friends up north had been moaning about the wet and murky conditions of late, down in the south east it had been essentially warm and dry for weeks. And it also coincided with school holidays and a lull in my hillwalking calendar. So opportunities for a thorough test in proper outdoor conditions were initially thin on the ground.
Still, I managed to try it out on a showery day, so I took the opportunity to wear the jacket to work. This gave me an opportunity to get a better sense of the fit and at least get it wet for the first time.
A few spots of rain fell and up went the hood. This kept its shape well and I didn’t have the usual struggle with head-turning or the hood collapsing. The rain itself was visibly bouncing off the jacket. Obviously being brand new, I’d expect it to be beading reasonably well, so this wasn’t much of a test.
I’ve now been wearing the jacket for 3 months as the weather starts to turn autumnal and the conditions which prevented a proper test become a distant memory. And I’ve now had the opportunity to take it out in some properly wet weather. It continues to hold the rain at bay, with no seepage or wetting out, and the long tail length has been a godsend when wearing it to work over a suit.
I’ve found it a pretty warm jacket – so much so that I’ve been wearing it with the pit zips constantly undone. And as it becomes cooler but not yet cold enough for a full winter coat, it’s been great at providing that extra bit of warmth needed when travelling to work in the dark. If anything on a longer walk it’s proved too warm.
The jacket’s now firmly established as my go to everyday coat when weight or pack size isn’t an issue – i.e. when I wear it from the front door and don’t need to take it off and carry it. I don’t really see me wearing it on the hills much, mainly because I have more versatile and lightweight options, and because having used this for the daily commute I want to keep it nice for wearing in town.
If you’ve read this whole post, then the main things I like about it won’t be much of a surprise by now – the length, the ability to get a bit of air in the sides and the large pockets. The hood also seems a lot better than any of my other jackets. If I’d actually been looking for a jacket that fixed all of the problems I have then this would have absolutely nailed it.
But it’s not perfect: the biggest minus is the sizing – I found the size chart misleading and unrepresentative, and even in my usual size it is a little snugger than I’d ideally like – not badly so, for non-active use I just generally like my stuff a little looser. This snug fit does have the advantage of trapping the warm air effectively – possibly a little too effectively as I constantly have the side vents open.
Is it worth a try ? Well, probably yes. It does its job well if you like a long close-fitting jacket, and don’t expect to have it stashed in your rucksack most of the time.
Target Dry provided me with a jacket free of charge for test and review, after allowing me the choice of anything from their range. I considered myself under no obligation to paint a glowing picture if it was unwarranted.
The Target Dry Element is available from the Target Dry website, and is currently priced at £85.95 having been recently reduced. You may also find it in shops like Kathmandu and the independents.