Tuesday, 31 March 2015

North Ridge Onyx Smock: A Review


When I bought this smock, it was with reservations. I had been looking at picking up a Montane Fireball, but felt hat the pricing was a bit high. Looking at the Go Outdoors website I spotted the North Ridge Onyx Smock. My requirements for the top were pretty specific. Most of my insulated jackets have been purchased to be worn over the top of other layers on a stop/break or if the weather turns particularly cold. My mid-layer insulation pieces are generally fleece in nature, something I find only useful as a mid-layer. Fleeces let the wind through unless they are extremely thick, and I wanted something that was light and could be compressed to a small size. I required something quite close fitting, to be used as a mid-layer in the winter, and an outer layer in the summer. This is were the Onyx comes in because it uses Primaloft Infinity (Black Series) as it’s insulation.
 
 

 
First Impressions

I’ve owned a pair of North Ridge walking boots for about three years and to be honest, they have been quite good. They are now retired as they are not ageing well. They are quite fragile boots that do well in the summer, but as boots for colder, muddier conditions, they are better left at home. But these boots were very cheap at the time of purchasing them, and so was the Onyx Smock. I nipped to my nearest outlet, near Wakefield, and gave the jacket a try. I was quite surprised at the sizing. If you plan to try this jacket out, you definitely need to try it in-store. The sizing is up a full size, resulting in me fitting nicely in a size smaller than usual. I know for certain that a would have had to purchase a Fireball a size larger than the Onyx.
 
 
 
Features

Although not as compressible as Primalof One (now Primaloft Gold), Primaloft Infinity as featured in the Onyx is claimed by Primaloft to be harder wearing and very efficient at lofting. The continuous filament that makes up Infinity is less liable to migrate within the garment and therefore reduce the chances of cold spots. The following tables compare three Primaloft products.
 
 
 
 


Primaloft One(Now Gold)

Thermal Efficiency

*CLO/G/M2

*CLO/G/M2
 

DRY

WET
Percentage of Dry Efficiency Once Wet

0.027*

0.026*

96.30%

 

 

Primaloft Eco

Thermal Efficiency

*CLO/G/M2

*CLO/G/M2
 

DRY

WET
Percentage of Dry Efficiency Once Wet

0.02*

0.017*

85.00%


Primaloft Infinity

Thermal Efficiency

*CLO/G/M2

*CLO/G/M2
 

DRY

WET
Percentage of Dry Efficiency Once Wet

0.017*

0.014*

82.36%


 
 
Looking at the tables, it would appear that Infinity is the least efficient of the insulation. However, it’s longer lifespan and resilience to migration may make up for it’s lack of efficiency.

The jacket has an advertised weight of 328g (around 11.71 oz) for a size large. My particular smock comes in at 326g, so very close. The materials, both inside and ouside are 100% nylon. I have no idea what company supplied them, but they seem like other makes. The nylon is quite soft and reasonably breathable. Having worn it a few times I would say it is a little more breathable than my Keela Belay jacket. There is a square stitched through pattern on the smock I resume to reduce migration of the insulation even further.

The front main zip of the smock is quite deep and comes down to just below my sternum. Next to the main zip is a fairly large zippered pocket. The size and the small loop of cord inside give away the pockets other purpose, as a stuff sack for the smock. The jackets outer material is black with the interior of the pocket matching the inner material of the smock, a fairly muted orange colour.






The cuffs of the smock are elasticated and offer what I think is almost the perfect level of grip. They aren’t tight, nor are they too loose, they seem just right. They will go over thin gloves, but would have to go under thicker gloves. The bottom hem of the smock is adjusted using a toggle on each side allowing the smock to be closed right down to cut out drafts.





The outer material of the smock has a pretty reasonable DWR on it that I would compare to that of something like Pertex Microlight. It won’t hold of a sustained downpour of rain, but it will keep off light showers and probably light snow.
 
In Use

I am quite surprised at the weight, it is very light for how warm it is. I’ve warn the smock in some of the colder, recent weather, and found it to be really nice. There are no cold spots, due to the Infinity insulation and I suspect, all the stitching of the stitched through panels. Secondly, compressing the smock, it fits into it’s own pocket and compresses down to a very small volume. But this is were I find the only niggle with the top. The pocket on the top suffers from the same design flaw as my Keela Belay jacket. The pocket on the Onyx has a small baffle over the zip which has been poorly designed and so annoyingly snags on the zip every time you open or close the pocket unless you very specifically open and close it slowly while moving the baffle out of the way. This is great until that one time when you are in a rush and you forget to move the baffle out of the way and it snags..argghhhh! I’ve found a very light stuff sack just the right size to put the smock in for now. But this defeats the object of using the pocket. But this is how annoying the zip on the pocket can be.

The fit is almost spot on. I bought the smock with the intention of using it as either a winter mid-layer or very lightweight summer ‘outer layer/belay jacket’. So the fit I aimed for was closer than something like my Rab Photon, which I bought a size up to put over everything in the winter. So the close fit allows a full range of arm movement with a little lift of the hem if I raise my arms up. The cuffs come to the wrist just as they should, but I wouldn’t want them any shorter. The hem comes down to the bottom of my posterior, just. If I was to be picky, another inch or so would have been nice. But it is the right length to remain under my waterproof layers. The other thing that may have made the smock a little more perfect might have been a cord and toggle adjustment for the neck baffle so it can be cinched down a little closer to the neck. Luckily, the fit around my neck is not too bad, but worth checking before you buy.
 
Conclusion

The North Ridge Onyx may not carry the prestigious name of other outdoor equipment producers, but it is worth a serious look. It’s lighter than a Rab Xenon Pull-on, a little heavier than the Montane Fireball and Mountain Equipment Compressor Pullover. But I think for the price it punches a little above it’s weight. The Primaloft Infinity works well with the smocks construction offering a warm, fairly reasonably breathable for what it is smock. If money is no object then there are better options. But if you need to watch the spending a little then the North Ridge Onyx might be worth a look.