Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nomad UK Hill Smock Review

Quiet, warm, waterproof, durable, cheap. 4/5 isn't too shabby.

Back in the mists of time, when this blog was young and it actually looked like I might one day bowhunt an Elk, James Marchington wrote a post about buying a fleece jacket made from material so waterproof the company made waders from it. Later James still seemed very happy with it, another blogger of my acquaintance The Bambi Basher called Nomad 'perfect clothes for the hill'. He's worn his set on every trip to Scotland and wouldn't be without them "Tracky for the house and Nomad for the hill, it's all you need to bring".

Nomad UK are one of those companies from a bygone era, they make some very cool products, that not many people have ever heard of.
While every chump with a facebook account and a misplaced belief in their own innate design skill has launched some kind of outdoor crap. Nomad have been making weather-beating clothes for the outdoorsman and keeping the news to themselves. They have a website that can perhaps best be described as 'obscure'. They don't even publish a list of stockists, clear pictures of the clothes, or any but the most cursory details about their fly rods. I know my own photography isn't up to much, but to be fair I don't put a lot of effort into it and I'm not selling clothes.

The jackets Nomad are famous for are cut in the smock style, the front panel coming well below the waist and the back being longer still, available either hooded and openable only to the waist or hoodless and zippered all the way down. A scottish Shalwar Kameez if you like.
The material is a thick fleece with taped seams, non meeting seams are edged in synthetic leather, by reputation they are 100% water and windproof. They are disconcertingly lightweight. It's a bit like you've accidentally gone out in your pajamas, they are really lightweight. The material is thick for fleece, but its still only fleece.
I've worn the Plus4's and smock beating in a thunder storm that got the shoot called off, at the end of the long trudge to the barn I was the only person who was still dry. I still couldn't quite believe it and put off writing this review. A few days ago I pressure-washed a patio in the pissing rain, and still bone dry at the end of the day, turned the pressure-washer on myself. Still dry. The other thing that's great about this 'outdoor jammy's' thing is, they are the quietest clothes this side of cashmere. Even wool hunting coats rustle, and ventile scratches in comparison

When my box arrived in the post I put the coat on. Before I could get to the mirror, or ask for it, Elfa gave me her appraisal  "Whoever made that for you is no taylor, is it even your size?" I've tried to explain to her that the deer don't care, I just want to be dry or at least warm and wet but it seems her dad always cut a dash while slaying partridges in the semi-desert of Spain. All I could think was 'Thank god she isn't Austrian, she'd want me to wear a cape'.

With their obscure website and strangely cut clothes it would be easy to imagine Nomad being seen as deeply unfashionable, but wait. All that is to change!
Last week, 'Hunter' another brand from the hinterland where practicality once ruled over style made their debut at London Fashion week. This would have passed me by but fortunately the keen-eyed Elfa was on hand to offer her incisive commentary.
"Look at disbeach, Joder, she's got your coat on, ess awful! Joder!"
So aside from the reassuring knowledge that, even afield, you are mysteriously at the very cutting edge of fashion, what else do you get for your money?

Very roomy and soft, outdoor pajamas. Andy Kirkpatrick once wrote an interesting piece about the psychological comfort we seek in very solid heavy outdoor clothes. I'd put Nomad in the same class as Kifaru's Packlock Parka - there's something vaguely disturbing about being in the cold, feeling warm, yet strangely underdressed.
 The bum-warmer pocket is a good idea for keeping a foam mat in place while hunting from highseats/treestands, but it would have been more versatile if the zip was horizontal and the pocket a bit bigger.
 The main zip seems fine but the smaller zips aren't really up to the job, this one has broken already.
The binocular pocket on the right is a stroke of genius, so simple and so effective, the document pocket suffers from the same flaws as the bum-warmer pocket and is unfortunately stitched in vertically so its not really useable if you're wearing a pack or harness.
The Binocular pocket is easily big enough as you can see from these super bargain 8x40's from Eden, there's easily enough room for glass in the 50mm class.
The panel under the sleeve is excellent, this smock is a bowhunter's dream so quiet and such good maneuverability, it'd be great for beachcasting too. Personally I'd have given the smock pit-zips as its very warm and not very breathable. They'd have the added advantage that it would be much more comfortable to wear with a pack's waistbelt worn inside the smock.

After so pretty wet and windy real world testing, and being 'pressure tested' with a pressure-washer here are my findings:

Warmth: Excellent can't fault it.

Waterproofness: Wow really really good.

Quietness: Superb. best yet tested.

Design: Functionally perfect, I couldn't help but feel that the Hill Smock is made up of missed chances to design something really fantastic. The money and time that went into the stupid belt loops could have been better deployed on the pockets and 'pit-zips' which could do double duty, making the smock a joy to wear with a pack rather than unnecessarily annoying.

Build Quality: The material is excellent, the seam tape is well bonded, the main zip is ok, the pocket zips are crap.

Style: I'm told I'm not qualified to make a judgement about that, but I have it on good authority that the deer don't care and 9/10 rabbits didn't respond to the survey.

Would I buy another one?
Absolutely. In a heartbeat. Annoyingly imperfect, but really really good.

More soon

PS Nomad also make a very highly regarded wading jacket - but more of that later.