This jacket has been the staple part of my winter climbing wardrobe for several years now. It has a simple tactel outer which keeps off a reasonable amount of rain, and an equally simple lightweight fleece lining. It has enough features to make it work – hand warmer pockets that don’t interfere with a harness, and a front pocket to keep hat/spare liners/knife etc...- without overdoing it. I think that this is what makes this jacket quite such a sound bit of kit; it does what you want it to, but doesn’t have any of those ‘possibly useful’ extras. The fit is particularly good, with sleeves that are slightly longer than usual, and therefore suit the slightly gangly user well. Hence the reason I like the fit…
I use it when climbing as a stand-alone piece of kit, which works very well as a Buffalo-type alternative. The front zip and pockets allow you to dump heat quickly, and the neck is nice and snug for when you stop moving and want to warm up a bit. This jacket has also seen service as insulation when powerboating, sailing, and that most technical of all applications – wandering to the pub.
Any half decent review has to have some downsides, and in my mind, one of the downsides of the epic are that you have to buy the hood separately. Because it is only a Velcro attachment, it tends to get caught on slings and rucksack straps. Best idea is to sew it on, as you don’t gain a great deal by taking it off.
Secondly, as with all these bits of ‘single layer’ kit, there is quite a narrow range of conditions in which it can be worn if you have no option to take it off (ie. no base layer underneath). I tend to get a bit on the warm side when active, so I find it best when there is snow on the ground – anything less, and you end up tromping around with the front unzipped to the navel, scaring innocent dog-walkers and the like. Therefore, to avoid ending up spending a night in the cells for exposing yourself to passers-by, it’s best to wear this in winter, or have a base-layer in your bag to stuff on if it gets warm. Or just put up with it.
If you compare it to the other buffalo offerings, and the various jackets with ‘soft shell’ emblazoned all over them, you’ll find the Epic a slightly heavier weight (and hence warmer) piece of kit, that errs towards the lower-tech end of the marketm -no fancy 'second-skin fabrics here. Plus sides are that I bought mine for 80 quid, making it cheaper than most.
So, to recap, a well-made jacket that is nothing special, has nothing special about it, and therefore does lots quite well.
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