Smock No.1 – A Review.
I am always reluctant to write reviews of kit simply because there is the immediate response of “He’s just trying to sell that”, but in this case I am going to make an exception because this is one of those products that just needs a little explanation as to why you would spend £500 on a jacket.
Lets address the immediate Elephant in the Room here, yes £500. The first response is always that yes, it is not Gore-Tex but now I have used one for 6 months that is actually a positive. When it comes to a product that, on face value, appears expensive I like to address it in a different way – if the jacket lasts you 25 years then it is £20 per year. Believe me, the Smock No.1 has the distinct capability of lasting decades and will likely become a very firm personal favourite of yours.
No synthetic fibre waterproof jacket, with the best will in the World or design, is going to last much more than 5 years, and that is if you look after it. They become old and tired and seams start to de-laminate, the material itself simply can’t cope with the continual wear of a rucksack and they will eventually leak and no amount of washing and re-proofing will make it waterproof again. The other factor is that the more breathable you want a synthetic jacket to be, the lighter and less tough it will be. Believe me after many younger years leading groups around the Mountainous areas of the World I have had jackets suddenly spring a leak after 3 or 4 years of well looked after use.
Fjallravens gear is just different. It requires a different mindset and a different way of thinking when it comes to outdoor gear. It is a more traditional idea that breathability comes from it being a cotton canvas type material and you tailor the level of waterproofing you need by the time of year. This is applied very simply through the use of wax. Believe me it is simple, just lie it on an ironing board, rub the bar of wax over the surface and melt it in with a hot hair dryer. You can also apply more wax to the hood and shoulders to offer more protection.
This allows you to wash the garment as often as you like and simply apply as much wax as you wish. In the Summer I always apply less and with the Smock No.1 you get all the benefits of a “Proper” Military style Smock with none of the downsides.
Many years ago the Military SAS Style Smock was ”The Go To” product when in the great outdoors and we used to live in them and they were also the fashion item of the British Military. This was around the same time Gore-Tex was coming onto the market and proper Smocks were made of Gabadine or Ventile, which gave them some waterproof ability. Even after Gore-Tex made its appearance, Smocks were the only product you could wear for long periods of time, that would stand up to far more punishment , and, if you ever ripped it you simply sewed it up. Gore-Tex style products can also be a real liability around flames and extra caution is required around fires and stoves.
The Smock No.1 has taken all the best aspects of the best “Kit Carry Smocks” and improved it with better materials and features. It has multiple pockets which you can carry a surprisingly large amount of useful kit in, has re-enforcement points in all the places you expect it, a great sized hood, and has a longer cut. They are also generously sized and allow for multiple layers underneath.
I have a habit of adapting or tailoring everything I own for my own purposes and the more something gets adapted the less it was fit for purpose in the first place. Well my Smock No.1 has only had 2 minor tweaks and they are very personal to me (it was what I did with my old smock back in the day). I have changed the drawcords to Paracord/Firecord as you can never have enough usable cordage or tinder and I have had woolly cuffs sewn in. This is an old habit and not always a good one when it rains as they do get wet but I accept the discomfort around the wrists for the 90% of the time they are dry and extremely comfortable. (Of course I have waxed mine as well)
All in all this is an utterly fantastic product and I am very glad that I own one. I HIGHLY recommend it and I am certain you will not regret the price tag, especially when you are still using it for everything outdoors in 10 years time.