The Karrimor Vail jacket is a classic piece of kit that many mountain bikers have in their wardrobe. A full length zip, no hood, no pockets and drawcords at both hem and neck. The original Vail was made from ripstop pertex, and packed into a stuff sack only 6 inches by 2. The reason that I rarely use my windstopper vest was that my full-cover Vail jacket packs up much smaller.
Well, the Vail is a superb product, and earlier this year Karrimor released a version produced in Activent material, the “Activail”. Activent is a material from W.L.Gore; a water-resistant membrane for active sports. The breathability is several times higher than that of Gore-Tex but the fabric is only ‘almost’ waterproof, and the seams are un-taped. The end results is a garment that can withstand a couple of hours of persistent rain or a half hour monsoon, is totally windproof, but breathable enough to wear continuously in cooler weather. Ideal for mountain biking.
My previous Activent garment – a Berghaus smock was hindered by an absorbent polyester face fabric, which tended to wet-out rather quickly, causing it to leak after half an hour or so of rain. Friends of mine have had no similar problems with Gore Bikewear or Freestyle Activent jackets.
I bought my Activail from Biketreks in Ambleside at £45, reduced from £59, a bargain (get one while they’re still there!), and it got a thorough testing in the following couple of days.
The jacket takes up more room than the standard Vail, with an eight by three inch pack size. It has a semi-drop rear flap, a reflective logo on the tail, a windproof stand behind the full-length zip, and a fetching blue colour. The seams are intelligently placed to avoid leakage across the shoulders. On Saturday it coped with 6 hours of miserable drizzle & mist , with a couple of hours of real rain thrown in for good measure, as well as the usual river-bed riding and fords to cope with. No problems. On Sunday the weather was better, with mist in the morning but loads of surface water spraying up from beneath. Again no problems.
Two days is a minimal test period, but from friends’ experience with Activent, it can replace a waterproof in all but the worst weather, and it is certainly many times more weatherproof than the pertex Vail. And anyway, Karrimor have discontinued the Activail, hence the price, so if you don’t buy one soon they’ll be gone! To confuse matters even more Activent itself will be known as windstopper from now on, as they were both the same membranes anyway (useful to know if you own any windstopper garments).
The good news for those dosh-laden among you is that the Activail will be replaced next year with the Vail Paclite. i.e. Paclite Gore-Tex fully waterproof, and not much heavier, but £130. Still a snip however, compared to the £200 stretch Gore-Tex Easton jacket and this year’s £240 Paclite offering from Berhaus. Other Vail jackets for next year include a lined four season jacket, and some horrible beige smocks, in a cotton-like material (think Rohan) that look fit only to walk to the pub in.
Anyway, I’m extremely happy that I’ve got one of these superb garments before they disappeared to be replaced by something less practical. If it is anywhere near as useful as the original pertex Vail, I’ll be wearing in on every ride between October & April for the next 6 years!
Check out the whole Karrimor range on their website, go on no-one’s looking.