Alex Roddie reviews a softshell jacket for general mountain use.
The Palmer is a lightweight softshell jacket from Sprayway. It’s made from TecWEAVE, a stretch PU-laminated fabric with a DWR coating. Design features are fairly minimal, which helps to keep the overall weight down. There’s a full-length zip, a single zipped chest pocket, Velcro-adjustable cuffs, and a drawcord adjustable hem. The hood has a small wired peak and is fully adjustable, including a volume-reducing drawcord on the rear.
The fit of the Palmer Jacket is on the baggy side. My Medium sample fits well around the arms and shoulders, but there’s a lot of loose material elsewhere – this is useful for layering over a fleece or insulated jacket, but less good if you’re wearing it over a base layer. The hood is also an odd size, and feels very tight, even before adjustment (although it does move well with the head). Most users won’t be able to comfortably fit a hat beneath it. On the plus side, the fabric has just the right amount of stretch; this makes it a decent option for scrambling, as there’s no resistance to making high reaches with your arms.
The chest vent tab is a nice touch. This is a simple poppered tab at upper chest height that lets you unzip the jacket without it billowing or falling off your shoulders. This really helps with venting – and is sometimes necessary given the lack of other venting options.
How about fabric performance? Over the last few weeks I’ve put this TecWEAVE garment through a typical range of three-season conditions, from warm sunshine to heavy rain, and have found performance adequate but not spectacular. Like most softshells, it will hold up well to moderate rain when the DWR coating is fresh – it’s only really limited by the lack of taped seams. However, I found that the DWR was already past its best after a couple of weeks (maybe 40-50 hours of time under a rucksack). You’ll need to wash and reproof regularly to get the best out of it, just like you would with any shell jacket.
Breathability is quite good but not best in class. When working hard uphill it isn’t too difficult to get some clamminess on the inside, but venting with the chest zip largely eliminated this in my testing. Like any other membrane, breathability deteriorates after the outer fabric has wetted out. Although Sprayway don’t advertise the Palmer as windproof, it is highly wind resistant, and adds a bit of warmth too as it’s thicker than a superlight windproof top.
The hood looks good on paper but ultimately I found it frustrating. The wired peak, while minimal, is a welcome addition, as are the adjustment options – but it’s just too tight to be comfortable, which means there’s little leeway to batten down the hatches against harsher weather.
Overall, the Palmer Jacket is a good softshell option for walking at an attractive weight and decent price, with some nice features. However, it’s let down by a poor fit and hood, and the fabric could be more breathable.