Ultralight red riding coat (but no hood)
Karrimor Vail PacLite
Features: Gore Tex Pac Lite fabric, drawcorded collar, velcro tab cuffs.
Test logbook: 6 hours on the North York Moors, 3 hours hard sludge trudging on local trails.
Karrimor’s Vail jackets have been a benchmark for minimalist, high performance weatherproofing for years now. Previous versions have been Pertex or Activent, but this year the Vail design gets a whole new league of waterproofing (and price) with a complete Gore Tex Pac Lite skin.
Pac Lite is Gore Tex’s lightest, smallest packing waterproof fabric, with tiny rubber dots on the inside helping the wicking of moisture, and taking up less pack space than a mesh liner.
Karrimor take this cutting edge fabric and cut out all the unneccesary features. Don’t waste time looking for pockets, vents or a fleecey collar here. The Vail still gets a drawcord on the mid-height collar to stop draughts, though we’d have liked a bit more collar, and the occasional clatter of drawcord tab on helmet was confusing till we realised what it was. The drop tail is elasticated to stop it saddle catching. Sleeve length is generous even on ape arms, with enough width for easy rolling up and broad velcro cuff tabs to batten down the hatches.
So does it keep the outside out?
The Pac Lite fabric is fully seam sealed so water only gets in through the holes where you come out. Given that they’re drawcorded or velcro shut that leaves you about as dry as possible this side of a dive suit. We did miss the snugness of a fleece collar if our base layer was low necked though.
With rubber dots rather than mesh, the fabric feels cold and a little crackly and any insulation comes from other layers. Breathability is theoretically 15% better than standard Gore Tex jackets; enough to keep you steam free when trundling on flat trails or road sections, but gradually overwhelmed when you put the work in for any length of time. Steam build up soon clears if you back the pace off though and the two way full length front zip and easily rollable sleeves make up partially for the absence of true vents.
Jacket cut is pretty much spot on; generous enough for unhampered movement with a couple of layers underneath but not baggy or billowing at speed. As previously mentioned arms, collar and dropped tail are all long enough without getting in the way. Reflective strips on back and cuffs aren’t intrusive in the day, but work well at night with the cuff strips ideal for signalling in traffic.
At 300g, weight is amazingly low for a full waterproof and it’s supplied with a cord-locked 20 x 10 cm stuff bag which it’ll just squeeze into. You can then strap this to the seatpost with the two velcro tabs on the outside. Because of it’s lightweight nature Pac Lite is less durable than standard 3 ply Gore so try and treat it gently wherever possible to increase it’s longevity. We haven’t had it long enough to comment but it’s survived some shrubbery diving action without complaint.
Considering the lack of features and simple design £130 may seem a lot of cash to pay but PacLite is Gore Tex’s lightest and one of it’s newest and most expensive fabrics. By comparison Berghaus’s Paclite jacket (500g – but with full feature hood, vent pockets and other touches) is £200 and most PacLite jackets are more than that. As usual, if you want the latest technology, you’ll have to pay for it.
Verdict: The Vail-Paclite takes a proven classic design and updates it with the latest high performance fabric, for fully waterproof breathable performance at a stunningly low weight and handy pack size. This is designed from the outset as a minimalist protective shell not a do everything multi purpose jacket, so if it’s doubling for dog walking look elsewhere. Using Pac Lite has pushed the price up significantly but if you can afford it the performance advantages are obvious and if the winter continues like this you’ll get your money’s worth very quickly.
This is traditionally where we give a link to the manufacturer’s homepage, but it’s just a holding site at the moment, and the general Karrimor site doesn’t have the bike gear on. Oh well at least the kit is good when you can find it.