Our latest shopping savvy guide tells you how to try on a shell jacket and make sure it works for you.
The latest in our series of Shopping Tips is a low down in
how to buy a mountain shell jacket. You can find detailed
information on technical features and more in our Buyers
Guides series, but these tips should give you an easy hit
list of when it comes to making sure the jacket does what it needs
Get The Fit Right
Just because a magazine gives a particular jacket high marks,
doesn't necessarily mean it will suit you. It sounds obvious but try
it on - make sure there's enough space for an extra fleece or
microfleece if you use one, but not so much space that it flaps
around causing internal air current, really. Make sure it's not too
short or too long - for harness use, short is fine, but not too
At The Front
If you intend to climb in the jacket, make sure that you can
adjust waist and hem cords so the front of the jacket is flat enough
for you to look down and see your feet - otherwise you'll forever be
You don't want the jacket pulling up when you reach upwards or
outwards for holds, so pretend you're reaching up for holds above you
and to the side and front. Make sure the hem of the jacket doesn't
pull up and the sleeves don't pull down.
The hood is one of the most important bits of the jacket so test
it properly. First cinch everything up without a helmet and make sure
that the chin piece is comfortable and protective - it shouldn't
press painfully on your face - that you have some facial protection
from sidewinds and importantly that the hood moves with your head
when you turn it from side to side. Play with the tensioners, it
sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to get the fit right.
Helmet Hood Good?
Next, if you intend to climb in the jacket, make sure it will
accommodate your own helmet comfortably. In reality very few hoods
work well with a helmet underneath, so you may need to supplement it
with a balaclava or face mask, but again it should feel comfortable
and move with your head.
In winter you need to be able to adjust zips, pockets and
tensioners using gloved hands, so make sure you can. In some cases an
extra tag may solve a problem, but some pit-zip openings - for
example - can be almost impossible to use in real life. Ideally we
like double-ended pit-zips too. Make sure they're useable with a pack
Uncovering your forearms is a great way of venting effectively. If
it's something you do, make sure the cuffs will clear your muscly
climber's forearms plus will sit at your elbows easily.
Pockets are a personal sort of thing, but make sure you have
enough and they're where you want them. If you climb, make sure you
can still access them with a harness on. If you like handwarmer
pockets, make sure you can get your hands in them comfortably. And if
you don't really use pockets, why buy a jacket with loads of them?
The Golden Rule - If There's One Thing...
A bad hood is a recipe for winter misery but very few buyers try
hoods properly, so the first time they realise they've bought a pup
is when driven sleet tries to blast their nose off or they find that
their helmet doesn't fit right. It's basic and well worth checking