The Vault Regulars

Monday, July 9, 2012

OMM Cypher smock.

 I wrote a post a few weeks ago, here. It was referring to the latest expensive waterproofs that have exposed weather resistant zips and no storm flaps. It generated quite a few comments which was very pleasing and i thank you all for them.

 Ironically, a few days later and whilst the comments were still being passed, my OMM Cyphur Jacket started leaking in the zip area. My inner layers were wet, in a circle shape about the size of a saucer.
I checked the jacket and i found 2 areas where there was no stitching and i wondered if this was the cause rather than the obvious zip.

 I emailed Pete Bland Sports , a fantastic retailer btw, and sent a photograph to see what they thought.

By return they asked me to send them the jacket and they would look into the leak problem.

 As it turned out the missed stitching shown in the photo above is part of the design of the jacket. It is on both RH and LH sides of the zip. It is there to allow water out that has ingressed by the hood pull chords.
There is a double layer of eVent here and water cannot get into the jacket.
 I accept this. So that only leaves the zip to allow water inside.

I spoke to Jon Broxap at PBS and he suggested that the jacket should go back to OMM to be checked out.
 Today i received the jacket back from them with the following report:-
Pete Bland Sports - They (OMM) did not find it faulty. Maybe a heavier duty top is needed for fell race marshalling.

OMM - There is no evidence of any damage or fault. You (PBS), described your customer was marshalling at the time of the issue. One possible explanation is that the YKK weather resistant zip is not a totally waterproof solution and water can travel down the zip to collect at the bottom.
The “well” at the bottom of the zip can be overwhelmed if too much water is travelling down the zip.

Me - So there you have it. These weather proof zips are not a totally waterproof solution. If the rain is too heavy you are going to get wet.

  Does this mean the jacket is not fit for purpose?, or does it mean that our purpose is not fit for the jacket? I would be interested to know what readers think.

 You have paid your £150 - £300 for a jacket (depending on manufacturer), that you expect to keep you dry in the mountains and as long as the zip doesn’t get overwhelmed, it will. Unfortunately rain in the mountains is usually very heavy and can be prolonged, so i think the chances of the zip becoming overwhelmed will be great indeed.

 Now this wasn’t the first time i had worn this jacket and also it wasn’t the first time i had been out in the rain with it. But it was a day where the rain was coming horizontal and i was in the rain for about 4 hours. The remainder of the time, a further 3 hours, the day was misty and drizzly.

 The guys and gals at PBS and OMM may be right and that i should have had a heavier duty jacket on.
Take notice of the words "heavier duty”.
 But in fact the jacket, on the day was actually fine, it didn’t leak, so i disagree with this point.
It was the zip that caused the leakage.
Also, we cannot predict how much or how heavy the rain is going to be on any given day, you can’t have 2 jackets just in case the rain gets a bit heavier.

 What’s wrong with putting a flap over the zip to aid protection and actually make the jacket fit for purpose.
On a jacket costing so much and the testing they get from people supposedly in the know, i am at a loss to understand the logic when they have put a double skin of eVent in the area of the hood pull cords. These cords will only allow the minutest bit of water in at best. But they realised the problem and dealt with it correctly.

 But it’s not just OMM that have this design, most outdoor gear manufacturers have gone in this direction. Why compromise a good product for the sake of a few grams or a £1 or 2.
I really might as well wear a £0.25 pence bin bag.

I’m glad to see that Rab have gone back to storm flaps on the Latok and the Bergan/Vidda jackets.
My next jacket will be one of these unless there is a change in design from other eVent manufacturers.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I've always been slightly sceptical about these zips. I have several jackets with them including a Cypher Smock. The Cypher performed really well on Stormy Sunday on the TGO Challenge, but I wasn't walking into the driving rain. My old Berghause Extrem smock has a prover zip guard (but is Paclite) and my Quickfire Jacket (eVent but poor hood) also has a flap. If the Cypher had a proper flap it would be ideal. I think waterproof zips are also a fashion choice as they look smarter and cleaner. Back to the drawing board!

AlanR said...

Couldn’t agree more Robin.
The Cypher is a fantastic smock. The hood is second to none. The best i have ever used. I’m not sure how long the material, especially around the shoulder areas would last with regular backpacking but that’s another story. I read that Bob Cartwright praised it on last years TGO Challenge.
If only they would put a zip flap on, then this jacket would be perfect.

Anonymous said...

Suggesting somebody wear a heavier duty jacket is missing the point, or at least partly missing it. We often get heavy (and sustained) rain on days which are still relatively warm, particularly when you're on the move; a heavy duty jacket would be equally uncomfortable but for different reasons.

As you say, Alan, the materials are there to provide complete water protection, it's just a design trend that's the problem.

AlanR said...

The trouble is, we are being led up the garden path. We presume the latest designs are best when obviously they are not. But the cost of a failure in these garments is prohibitive. Well in my case anyway.
I cannot change my jacket every year because the zips leaking. That's why i want to make other people aware before they buy.

Anonymous said...

It does seem that the comments we receive once a purchase has been made don't quite match up to the optimistic claims of some of the promotional material.

'Capable of withstanding anything the British climate can throw at you' seems to be quickly replaced by 'If you intended to go walking in the rain then you really needed to get something from our bombproof range'.

I'm still wearing an old Sprayway Commanche on the wetter days; it's very watertight, which I suppose is its primary function, but not exactly lightweight and too warm on all but the coldest winter days. I suppose there's always some compromise.

AlanR said...

As you will have read somewhere up above, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this OMMtop. Thats what makes it all the more galling.
It’s a fantastic waterproof but for the zip. With a storm flap you are looking at as near perfect as i have used.
The trouble with older jackets and i still have 4 which i return to occasionally (like yesterday for example), is that you cannot replace the DWR as good as new and then they tend to take longer to dry out and also get a tad heavier when it’s pouring down. They are like comfort blankets thought.
If your old Comanche is still fully functional then you are indeed lucky.

Anonymous said...

When I first had it (The Commanche), I treated it with great care - it was the most I'd ever paid for a jacket and I wasn't about to throw it in the mud and sit on it, like I had with my old Wynnster.

For a while I carried on using the old jacket as often as the new one, which was just plain daft as it was worn, the lining was detached in places and I now had a much more capable jacket for the really bad weather days. I'm not sure if its sheltered early life has anything to do with the longevity. I tend to think it's more that it was built to be rugged rather than technically sophisticated.

I should really be wearing something about half the weight for most of the year but my wife would probably point out that I already have a perfectly good waterproof and then give me one of those looks when I protested that it was a bit on the heavy side.

AlanR said...

There's always room for another jacket in my wardrobe. I do agree with you, 650gr - 700gr is a bit heavy for most of the year.
My first waterproof was a winter one. The Sprayway Yeti. I don't think i could fit it in my rucksack now. Technology has mad good inroads in outdoor gear. Even zips.

Martin Carpenter said...

There are actually now seemingly fully waterproof zips - YKK's aquaseals which PHD and Norrona are using. PHD are dedicated about this - they were using storm flaps over RIRI zips for a bit....

I'd presume that there's a monetary/weight cost to using them, so I wouldn't hold your breath.

Of course the exposed zips don't mean that these things are going to leak as soon as the zips do - they've (nearly!) all got internal storm flaps to help out.

The designs used in these do seem to vary substantially mind, but I can't think why the bigger ones with poppers to fix them at the top/bottom in place shouldn't work perfectly reasonably. Not something you often see remarked on in reviews though.

AlanR said...

Hi Martin, Thanks for your comment. The zips on the Cyphur are YKK aquaseals and well, they get overwhelmed and can then leak. The jacket has a flap behind the zip but it's not a gutter type. It wouldn't stop any water passing onto your base layers.So it doesn't matter what manufacturer uses them they are all going to get worse as wear and tear proliferates.
They really do need an external storm flap on these zips. It makes sense. And if they don't, then perfectly good jackets will be rendered useless.

Martin Carpenter said...

No, the aquaseals are something quite different to the norm, cf:


From what PHD say they're basically wet suit zips migrating downwards.

I do think that a 'proper' internal storm flap might well be enough in practice. Being invisible though.....

AlanR said...

Sorry, the zip on my Cyphur is Aquaguard Coil. Slip of the brand name there from me.
They (YKK) state it is only water resistant.

But, also if you look at the bottom of the page (Link below) you will see that YKK themselves state that the Aquaseal is still only water resistant. Maybe more water resistant than the Aquaguard but still water resistant (Their words). I would go off what YKK state than any body else, as much as i like PHD.

I think a proper external flap is best. Once rain is onto the inner flap you want stop it migrating onto your base layers. But if you also read the spec. YKK say that the zip should be stored flat without bending. Now then that speaks volumes to me.

markswalkingblog said...

Alan, thanks for the heads up on this. I was looking to replace my Montane Atomic Jacket which I have given to my son. Not as breathable as eVent but does have a storm flap! Looking at the OMM Cypher - not so sure now. Still using my Paramo through this so called summer and has been fine if some what heavy. Need to have a re-think !

Martin Carpenter said...

I dunno - PHD are pretty explicit about it all here: You'd sort of expect a dry suit zip to be pretty good!

They did also put storm flaps over RIRI zips when they were using them, so are clearly rather cautious about such matters.

Not that I don't agree about external storm flaps in general :)

AlanR said...

I read that Martin and like i have said i am a fan of PHD. There is nothing i can say that will prove either way.
The fact is my zip leaked and OMM said that it is possible. So those companies that use Aquaseal like PHD might have a better product over the Aquaguard Coil. I havn’t had experience of the Aquaseal zip, i can only express what the manufacturer of the zip has quoted on the web pages i highlighted. If a retailer/user wants to add further tests and declare a better spec then that is up to them and on their reputation be it.
But still my thought come back to, i think the zips will aid waterproofing on mountain jackets but i still want a storm flap for when the zip wears.

AlanR said...

Hi Mark,
For people on a budget it is a bold decision to buy without a storm flap. Martin has raised good points about the Aquaseal zip and i would choose this over the Aquaguard Coil.
One of the bad points, for me on the Cypher Smock is that they have used a 2 way zip and so the lower zip pull is in stomach area. If any water gets in here due to movement of the zip pull then its going to penetrate the outer shell.
The Cypher is a great bit of kit but i think the Jacket version will be better than the smock when it comes to rain run off.

afootinthehills said...

For me it's very simple: no storm flap means no purchase. I think this fashion trend will pass - especially if we all just say 'No'!

AlanR said...

These zips, especially what i have now seen and read of the Aquaseal zip are without doubt the way to go on outdoor jackets but i agree with you. I want a storm flap too.

Jules said...

I must admit I'm with you on this, Alan.

Even from the perspective of someone with lesser experience of such things (ie: me) it seems likely that a waterresistant zip (which is how most of them are described) will only be so up to a point. Water has a habit of being able to get into most places, and the obvious weakness in such zips must be any flex point.

On that basis why not go for the added protection of an outer storm flap, just to be on the safe side? Probably because of the reasons mentioned already. "Lightweight" is a nice concept - until you get to the point where products get worse because of it!

AlanR said...

Hi Jules, Thanks for your comment. Martin points out Norrona gear as an example. These garments are very expensive but the whole range has gone zip only. You don’t have any other choice apart from not to buy. Not that they are alone in this.
I just find it hard to believe that they risk so much on a zip when conditions in the mountains can be atrocious.

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