At last, we had the opportunity to test the 2 prototype jackets in snow and blizzard conditions out back of Mount Hotham Victoria. Here's a video we made on phones, from the 2 days
So what did we learn?
We first pulled one of the jackets out of the bag when we stopped to put chains on the car. Yep, being canvas we could confidently chuck the jacket down in the mud and rocks, and not worry about pressing a hole in it.
Our first day was spent resort skiing. We're happy to confirm both prototypes kept us warm, dry and protected, including on the slow lift rides over the ridge and into the howling southerly that blew all day.
The unworn surface of the oiled canvas seemed to catch and hold the needle and stella snow flakes a bit, compared to the plastic jackets around us, but we suspect that's because the jacket was new, with the surface being kinda furry. By the end of the second day, we noticed the surface was starting to get that signature shine of a worn oilskin, and snow fell away.
The Riri Aqua zips worked beautifully! They set, glide and unset effortlessly. Easily the best waterproof zip out there. We'll change the placement of the zip though. We thought to end the front zip at the neckline, leaving the studs and plackets to close the neck, and keep it free and flexible. We wanted to avoid that slight stiffness that a zip can bring to the neck, but we concede this is not a big enough problem to warrant loosing the ease of the zip. In future makes, for the jackets that have the Riri Aqua zips, we'll place them up over the neck, and leave off the plackets and studs.
The difference between the Peak Oil Jacket prototype 2 and 3 is in the sleeve. On the 2 we set the sleeve in, meaning a seam runs over the shoulder and under the arm. On the 3 we used a raglan sleeve, where the seams run up to the neckline. We think the raglan fits better and offers more freedom of movement, but we'd like to work a bit more on the set-in sleeve, and experiment with a removable sleeve design.
The pockets. We reckon 4 pockets on the front is overkill. We didn't use the 2 lower pockets at all, and the vertical zip was difficult to manage. Either we'll leave off the lower pockets, or rethink their placement to reflect the rarity of their use. The two breast pockets where very useful though, and the vertical Aqua zips made them easy to access with a pack on.
The hoods covered well, and in these conditions they're a must have - both fully on, or half up the back of the head with the collar all done up. We're looking for a better way to do hoods though, that fits them to all different head and neck sizes, that blocks all wind, and keeps fitted on a moving head. We're also conscious that some people like to remove the hood, we've got a few ideas...
We're not sure the Ventile lining needs to be sewn in. We're thinking to try a removable lining so to make it washable and replaceable, plus the added versatility of using the liner alone, or swapping it for insulation.
Finally, the weight question. These jackets are heavier than their plastic counterparts, but we honestly didn't notice a difference. We spent a day resort skiing, followed by a pretty big day back country, which had us wearing them in a full range of situations and body temperatures. They packed down into our bags no trouble, and seemed to feel nicer than the plastics when we wore them climbing out of a valley.
All up, we're stoked the prototypes worked in the conditions we're designing for. They're confidently tough, perform well in snow conditions, feel good when active, and the weight didn't bother us on these extended day trips. This first test has shown us we're on the right track, and with a few minor tweaks we'll have a jacket we're proud to put out to market.