I have now had the Keela gear for three months and the unusually wild weather has meant the Hydron has had a heck of a lot of use, perhaps more than in a usual summer. The Scuffers have similarly be worn a lot. Three months may not sound long but as a mountain guide and photographer, I am out in the hills most days so the tough testing soon adds up. It’s hard to imagine a tougher environment for kit testing.
Extremely abrasive rock such as gabbro and peridotite, endless scree slopes, high winds, heavy rain, hail and sleat combined with long days in the mountain carrying heavily loaded back pack, climbing and scrambling makes for a torture test for clothing.
Softshells like the Hydron are perfect for marginal conditions which are so prevalent in the Cuillin where maritime climate meets massive mountains rising straight from the sea. Conditions can change rapidly and be very localized so you’d be forever changing in and out of hardshells as rain came and went. Softshells are renowned for their versatility, an ability to provide shelter from showers and light rain, windproof and warm. Certainly in the summer, I’d often take and wear a softshell with a lightweight waterproof in case conditions worsen. If the forecast was bad then a full bore goretex might be more appropriate.
The Hydron looks good especially in my choice of red and certainly works well in photos. The fabric is slightly stretchy and water readily beads up on the outside. The slighty stretch makes for ease of use and comfort. The cut of the jacket combined with the stretchy fabric make it ideal for climbing and scrambling and backpacking. A long scooped back means it doesn’t ride up and cause discomfort with pack hipbelts or climbing harnesses. Similarly the arms are long enough that they don’t ride up when reaching up for handholds.
The design means there is a lot of scope for adjustment to get a nice snug fit or conversely to open things up and dump heat when engaged in aerobic activity. Thus the elements can be kept out and heat retained or vice versa. Velcro adjustable cuffs are easily altered and at the hem a shock cord is easily adjusted even with one hand so easily done on the move with no need to stop. A storm baffle covers the rear of the front zip providing extra protection from the ingress of water and wind. Not only useful but being inside it keeps the jacket looking neat and tidy.
The hood has a volume adjuster and can also be neatly stowed away with a velco fastened tab to secure the rolled away hood. The hood itself provides a haven of shelter from bad weather and works well with a climbing helmet. A wired peak helps protect from wind and rain and the hood allows freedom of movement (ie turning head) when up.
Zipped side vents below each arm allow heat to escape and have proved useful to regulate heat during exercise without the need to remove the jacket. Pockets are well designed with two zipped hand warmer style and two zipped chest pockets. A big plus point is that all the zips have cord with a grippy plastic bit making them easy to operate in adverse conditions especially if wearing gloves.
The Air Xtreme external fabric is softer than lots of membrane type materials whilst the internal square patterned, air channeled fabric is warm and comfortable and feels nice on the skin. A medim fits me well and allows room both for movement and for additional layers to be worn underneath. It’s warm, relatively weather proof, comfortable and hardwearing.
One downside perhaps for summer use is the weight of 663g which is possibly on the heavy end of things. Given the bad weather it has seen a lot of use but had things been warmer and drier then a slightly lighter alternative may have been better. To be honest, the weight does reflect the tough build, robustness and design and I’d rather have that combination than an ultra light weight garment that wasn’t capable of the rigors of the Cuillin mountains.
If you are going to wear it most of the time then the weight really isn’t a problem. The only time the weight is a real penalty is if the weather improves and you need to carry the softshell. For spring, autumn and winter this is an ideal softshell but maybe overkill for warmer/drier conditions.
Despite a lot of use, the jacket shows no sign of wear or tear. It has become a personal favourite to the extent it is one of those garments that my wife, Bridgette, has to forcibly confiscate for washing!
People who know me, will realise the emphasis I place on “usability” as a major usually the most important criteria when I review gear. If it’s usable then it works for me and gets used. Forget pointless bells and whistles, usability rules and the Keela Hydron and Scuffers have usability to spare.