Staying Dry, without sounding like a crisp packet
Need a heavy duty rain jacket that will take a punishing, keep you dry, but not rustle and make a pile of noise like most Gore-Tex jackets do? Don’t want it in bright colours? The Monsoon II Jacket from Ridgeline might just fit the bill.
Hunters, Photographers and people who like blending in
For anyone spending time outdoors a good hard-shell rain jacket is essential. Traditionally the colours they are available in are not all the conducive to blending in with the environment – as fashion changes they go from Red to Blue to Highlighter Green. while there are valid reasons for wanting to be seen, sometimes you just don’t. You might be out on a hunt – either with a gun or a camera, or simply prefer not to stand out so much from the environment around you. Whatever the reason, the Ridgeline Monsoon II Jacket provides a great alternative to the high-street options out there.
Available in Teak or Buffalo Camo, the Ridgeline Monsoon II Jacket is made out of their own waterproof/breathable and abrasion resistant seam sealed RL-Tex three layer shell – which translates to a waterproof layer overlayed with a softer style of fabric, bonded and seam sealed. The result is a jacket that is waterproof, breathable (to a point), but doesn’t rustle like Gore-Tex or eVent fabric is known too. If fact, it’s nearly silent.
Looking like Friar Tuck – the smock
I have had a range of jackets in the past and as I am often wearing a pack, either in the form of my Ribz Chest Pack or my Mystery Ranch Nice Frame (or both) the two lower pockets on most jackets are rendered ineffective. I was keen on a design that omitted these useless pockets. The smock design means the jacket is pulled down over your head. It is also longer than many of the modern jacket designs – especially down the back – where the length enables you to sit down on the rear of the jacket – protecting your trousers from the wet ground. There is a drawstring cord that you can use to tighten the lower half around your body, but I actually ended up removing.
The hood is large and can be pulled down right over the face, or if not needed, removed completely, though a raincoat with has no hood seems a little pointless.
You get two pockets with the jacket, one traditional expanding pocket that is large enough to carry a pair of binos and a close fitting second pocket – ideal for maps and the like. These are both water proofed.
There is a zip that runs down half of the front, and combined with the dome over flap, provides an ability to regulate temperature through venting. It’s worth noting though – despite being sold as a breathable fabric – it’s going to get hot under there.
Venting – building up a sweat
While being marketed as a breathable material, the RL-Tex quickly builds up heat – especially when being physically active. Given the nature of the jacket, it is highly likely you are going to be bush bashing or potentially chasing prey. If you are wearing much underneath the jacket, you are soon going to be overheating.
The zip helps in regulating temperature, and I can’t really say I have really had any major issues with overheating in the jacket – you just need to be aware that it is going to have it’s own insulation properties – you can probably leave the fleece layer in the pack.
On saying that the jacket layered on top of my Icebreaker Hoody and another merino base layer kept me toasty warm while tramping through the snow during a trip above the bushline with the MSC. As the sun started heating up the land, the insulation came off, but during that cold morning – it was nice to have the extra heat retention going on.
Talking to the guys at Ridgeline – there is the possibility that the next version will have pit zips as well – which would be a welcome addition. Pit Zips are a great manual way of regulating heat – and means you don’t have to rely so much on the ‘breathability’ of a material – which I personally find gets over hyped by most manufacturers.
Wetting out – and getting wet wrists
The one issue I have with the jacket is at it’s wrists – specifically, the way that water seems to get drawn back up inside the cuffs of the jacket.
The cuffs are a dual layer design – the quiet material on top of a neoprene inner cuff – the inner cuff provides a wind tight seal on the sleeves, and theoretically stops water getting up onto your clothing underneath. However, I have found that wearing it out in the rain will result in the cuffs tracking water up onto your wrists and in several cases, down into the inside of my gloves, essentially rendering my waterproof gloves pointless.
This is likely also due to the fact that the jacket does wet out fairly quickly – this is the result of me owning it for a little while (jackets do need regular retreatment to stay waterproof, btw) and I believe partially due to the ‘quiet’ material that is used on the outside. It takes a fair bit of water, but will eventually wet out. I am looking at treating it shortly with a waterproofing system, something from the Nikwax range – this will reduce the cuff issue for me – as if the water is tracking off, rather than soaking in, it won’t be heading back up and giving my the feeling of permanently wet hands.
It’s not a show stopper for me – as I really like the Ridgeline Monsoon II Jacket beside this – the waterproofing treatment will reduce the amount of water that heads back up the cuffs. I have ended up with particularly cold hands on more than one occasion – and handling things (think rifle/knife) can become a little harder than needed if you have wet hands.
Variations on the theme
There is actually be three versions of the Monsoon Jacket out there. The first version, which had exposed neoprene cuffs (and real issues with wet wrists) the ‘II’ Version that has the extra material over the cuffs (what I have), and also a Euro edition, which adds hand warmers to the sides of the jacket. I don’t really miss the hand warmers myself – as they would be covered over by my waist belt or pack anyhow. Too be fair, our winters aren’t as cold as some of Europe’s either.