Keela's Saxon Waterproof Jacket
As always, we're looking at the Keela Saxon from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: Chest 42", Waist 33", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: Colour = Black, Size = Large
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer (multiple)
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Flylite Aqua 59gsm (Nylon / Polyurethane Coating)||54% / 46%|
|Hydrostatic Head Rating:||10000 mm|
|Weight (Size Large)||255g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest (for layering) =||Large|
Introduction: Keela's Strong Suit
Scottish company Keela are one of those manufacturers that seem to enjoy their underdog status, as we've stated previously, "it's almost as if they're afraid of perfection". The Keela Saxon Jacket however, we're pleased to say, shows no such quirks of the self-sabotaging kind.
Scotland is an ideal place to design and test waterproof clothing, and so perhaps it's not surprising that Keela do best with apparel suited to their dreich home conditions; if it's wet or if it's cold, Keela may have something to offer. If it's cold and wet, all the better.
Waterproofs are one of those annoying insurance items that you have to pack, but if you're lucky, may not need. If you're trekking for multiple days and weeks, the weight of such items is a major factor. At Scramble we'll happily sacrifice bells and whistles and a degree of performance for weight, but there are limits.
For us, a lightweight waterproof jacket must:
- be breathable yet wind resistant
- have a protective fitted hood with a peak of some kind and adjustments to ensure it moves with the head so visibility is not compromised
- have adjustable cuffs to seal the wrists and accommodate winter gloves
- be large enough to cover ones full cold weather insulation pieces, yet not be a billowing sail when worn over a single baselayer
Further, it should:
- have hand pockets, not so much for storage (there are other better options) but for ones hands, as when trekking through persistant rain (especially when cold and windy) it's helpful to plant ones hands (gloved or not) in pockets, get the head down and plough on. For us, hand pockets on a rain jacket are more a resting place. Items you need to hand should not be at the whim of available pockets: a) because a change of jackets requires decanting stuff from one piece to another, but also because sometimes (e.g. in hot weather) you might not have any pockets. Far better to use belt bags and freestanding pockets (like those made by Granite Gear) for things like maps, hats, gloves, snacks etc.
Keela's Saxon Jacket fulfills all the above criteria and impressively does so at a very respectable 255g (size large). It's not perfect, and I'm certain there are better waterproof jackets out there, but I'm also certain that they either weigh more, or they cost more. Will they deal with condensation better? Possibly. Do they have "features" I've yet to realise I can't do without. Unlikely.
Let's see what the Saxon Jacket has to offer.
A polythene bag will keep out the rain, but as you move you'll get soaked from the inside from condensation. Allowing warm vapour to escape from the inside, while keeping precipitation on the outside is the imperfect balancing act performed by waterproof clothing. Believing all the claims of most waterproof fabrics will generally lead to disappointment as those claims bump into the real world where, in persistent wet weather, one must accept a certain degree of dampness in exchange for not getting absolutely soaked.
Waterproof fabrics use a membrane sandwiched between a protective outer face (keeping water out) and a wicking inner layer (that transports condensation away from the body to the outside face of the fabric). The nature of the inner layer determines whether a fabric is 3, 2.5 or 2 layer.
- 3 Layer: the outer, membrane and inner are bonded together into a single flexible material
- 2.5 Layer: the outer and membrane are bonded together and given a very thin internal carbon or texturised so called "half layer"
- 2 Layer: the outer and membrane are bonded together, but the internal lining is a loose-hanging fabric or mesh
The Saxon uses Keela's Flylite Aqua fabric, a lightweight 2.5 layer material. What this means in practice is that one is accepting a small degree of additional condensation and reduced toughness for a major reduction in weight. A sacrifice I'd make every time for the sake of a lighter pack.
Advertised as a "highly technical lightweight waterproof for cyclists and runners"; we'd suggest trekkers too, but add the caveat that one needs to be sensible and not ask too much of the Saxon, using tougher layers to protect it when required. For general trekking, the Saxon is tough enough, but I've found that if forced to scramble in heavy rain, I'll sacrifice the dryness of my softshell, and wear it over the Saxon, to protect it from the rock. I stay dry, the Saxon isn't wrecked and the softshell dries out to fight another day. Something I've only had to do once or twice in the 3 years of use. So, a case of look after the Saxon and the Saxon will look after you.
Breathability & Wind resistance
Clearly Keela feel confident about its ability to breathe, since it's aimed at runners and cyclists. Carrying a 40lb pack up mountains in warm / hot weather certainly tests breathability and we've found almost all waterproofs are challenged in such a scenario. The Saxon performs pretty well in this regard, but is not exceptional. In hot weather, I've found myself preferring a little refreshing rain to overheating. In cooler conditions, the Saxon performs very well and I've not found overheating an issue.
Pit zips would be nice, as we've noticed some minor condensation when working up a sweat, but such additions would add weight and undermine one of the Saxon's major pluses.
The Saxon, as one would expect from a waterproof is very wind resistant. I've worn it during intense Winter storms (where I was being frequently blown over) and I never felt I needed additional wind protection.
The Saxon has a superb 3-way-adjustable, helmet-compatible hood which can be cinched up tight around the face, providing superb protection. A volume adjuster at the back provides a clasp around the head and holds the hood in place, so when turning, the hood moves with the head and visibilty is not compromised.
The hood also features a wired peak, though I tend to supplement my rain jackets with a cap (Montane's Pace or Ronhill's Trail Split), since, in driving rain and hail, a cap allows one to dip the head and keep near horizontal precipitation at bay.
The hood can be rolled up and forms a padded collar, which is secured via a vecro backed strap. All very sensible and no fuss.
The Saxon's hood is excellent and I can't fault it. No points docked here.
The velcro adjustable cuffs at the wrist are very well done and work as expected - no issues here.
Packing & Pockets
Perhaps hinting at its intended (cycling) customer base, the Saxon features a deep dropped back (covering much of ones rear) and a large zipped back pocket which can be used to stuff the Saxon into. Surprisingly though, Keela didn't design this pocket to be the jacket's stuff sack, so there's no double sided zip to allow closure when used as such. Half a point docked here.
That said, the jacket does pack away well into its back pocket whereupon it can be rolled up and held with a band (in the picture below, we've rolled it the opposite way from normal, just to show it better. We'd normally stuff and roll it with the outer fabric on the outside, protecting the inner and membrane):
The Keela has two hand pockets and no chest pocket. A very similar jacket (perhaps the Saxon's closest competitor) is Montane's Minimus Jacket (XL is Montane's comparable size and weighs about 10g lighter than the Saxon). We prefer Keela's Saxon precisely because of its pocket configuration. The Minimus has no hand pockets at all, instead offering one large chest pocket. Meaning that if you want to rest your arms / hands you're limited to hanging on to your pack straps. Perhaps this shows Montane's target is the trail runner more than the trekker. The hand pocket issue and the price difference are the two factors that keep us siding with the Saxon.
Some have suggested the pockets aren't pack compatible, but we've never found this an issue with a Karrimor Predator 30, one simply attaches the hip belt under the jacket, letting the Saxon overlap the belt strap, providing access to the hand pockets.
Keela tend to size large, so a medium for me (normally I'd be a large) would have been the obvious fit, but for the Saxon I'd recommend going for your normal size, and this should then be able to layer over insulated jackets.
Conclusion & Rating
One of the impressive features of the Saxon Jacket is its ability to accommodate bulky layers (such as the insulated jackets featured here), yet remain reasonably fitted when worn with just a baselayer. An incredibly light jacket considering all its features, with an excellent 3-way adjustable hood, vecro adjusters at the cuffs and two shock cord cinch adjusters at the hem. The cut is excellent and despite its non-stretch fabric, it doesn't feel constrained when reaching over-head.
As with any truly lightweight item, the Saxon is not designed to be abused; however, if one treats it with a sensible degree of care, it's certainly tough enough for four season mountain use. A great little jacket and Scramble's top pick in the Waterproof Jacket category.
Let's hope Keela can keep a check on their runaway inflation. If they do, they might continue to keep the fierce competition at bay.
Rating (out of 10)
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
Last Updated: 24/04/17