Well well well all those nice things I've been saying about New Zealand must has brought me some good Kiwi-Karma. Very good Kiwi-Karma. Toby from Bush Buck got in touch about his Big Four jacket. and was kind enough to send one for testing.
The saga of the search for that holy grail of jackets; Lightweight and Cheap and Durable and Quiet and Waterproof has long preoccupied me, and has never been truly achieved. I've fallen in and out of love with Ventile, its wonderfull stuff but its not as waterproof as its champions would have you believe, I've owned and loved some really nice wool hunting jackets from the US and NZ, but the lack of water resistance, its ability to absorb 1.5 times its dry weight in water, and a series of unprovoked Moth attacks left me ready to explore synthetics.
As longterm readers may remember I did try to commission some alterations to a coat I really like, just a few tweeks to my own recipe - a service offered on the companies website, but was thwarted by the brand's angry proprietor. Twice. LINK
Meanwhile down under; New Zealand's hunters have developed their own hunting traditions and clothing to match the climatic conditions. no wooden capes and lederhosen for them, I guess their river fording's are a little deeper than Scotland as they've shortened Breeks (aka Plus Four's - as in four inches bellow the knee) to, well , shorts really and its the home of the hunters smock. I really like the smock concept, they keep the elements at bay in a way waist length jackets can't match. Toby sent me some pictures of his design and he's got most of the things I want a smock/coat to have.
Toby calls his jacket The Big Four. I'd assumed the big four were NZ's famously changeable seasons, but they turn out to to be Fishing, Bird Shooting, Deer Stalking and Pig hunting. My interest was piqued. A coat that will cover all bases, from super active to sedentary is quite a big ask, so I was keen to give it a go.
Fishing; in my experience usually takes place sitting on damp pebbles being lashed by wind and sprayed by surf. The minimum you can expect to get away with is damp buttocks. The longer cut of the Big4 would come into its own.
Bird Shooting; It's a well worn fact that I'm a complete lummox with a shotgun, from a design perspective as swing is the name of the game, any jacket for bird shooting must give a lot of freedom across the shoulders - bodes well for archery and beachcasting.
For Deer Stalking quiet and windproof will be appreciated- first you're sneaking, then you're sitting, sometimes for a long time.
Pigsticking; looks like beating only more so, you've got to follow the dogs wherever they take you, penetrating the briars and brambles. Any jacket that will survive that kind of punishment is tough.
Long enough to sit on.
The hood is more than a nod to fashion, its cut to give cover without compromising peripheral vision, has a wire in the rim which despite being a fairly old idea is still missing from some hoods.
Its made in the same way as a US airforce issue jacket I've got somewhere, the layers of material are bonded together and then the seams are welded. I think its fair to say it will not leak.
Pit-Zips - these are the first thing I'd add to my wish list, when you're active but its pissing down you'll not want to undo the front zip but you do need to regulate your temperature, pit zips are the way to go.
Eden 8x42's (still blown away by these binos 3 years later, best affordable glass by miles)
I'm not a believer in drain holes on packs and rucksacks, but on a jacket that will be worn fording streams they come into their own.
So far I'm very happy with the BigFour, and in a surprising turn up of events both the Ex Mrs SBW and the Evil Elfa have commented favourably on how much smarter I look than usual, which has I suppose been an unintended consequence, but in a good way for a change! I'm not due to get out of town for the next few weekends so so a full foul-weather test will have to wait.
Toby's new website has gone live bushbuckoutdoors.com