We've been a little quiet on the blog lately, but that doesn't mean that there is not plenty going on with Target Dry! We are feverishly working away on the new website that we hope to launch soon - It'll feature studio photography, and new product video for some of our headline products from each collection. Oh, and we had a GoPro Camera setup for the most recent shoot... just to show you how hard models have to work :)
In the meantime, we thought we'd post an in-depth review of some products from our Xtreme Series collection rigorously tested by Ed Docwra from Mountain Munchkins. It's a "no holes barred", "warts and all" article... and if you don't have time to read the whole thing, jump to a section with the product links below:
We've had some Target Dry kit on review over the past 6 months and have been getting it out on the hills and mountains of the UK to put it through its paces while guiding, during mountain rescue training sessions and during day to day use off the mountain.
The Summit is an outdoor jacket that is both waterproof and insulated, something often found in ski jackets but less so in general outdoors jackets where layers are normally used consisting of a hardshell waterproof and various insulating layers underneath. At an RRP of £94.50 it could certainly be cheaper than buying a waterproof and an insulating layer and with fully taped seams and a hydrostatic head of 5000mm it should keep the water out. So how did it perform?
First thoughts out of the box where that considering this is an insulated jacket it isn't too thick, though there is definitely some insulation in the quilted lining. While we're very familiar with how two way zips work we've seen others struggle with them before so the little instruction card on how to use them was a nice addition. The dobby weave nylon appeared tough and as though it would stand up to some abuse meaning the jacket would be good for hard wearing environments.
On putting the jacket on for the first time inside the office I quickly warmed up and had to take it off, straight away I thought it would be good for standing around watching the boys play rugby where the combination of insulation and waterproofness would be a bonus and mean I'd only need to pick up one jacket.
Out on the hill it was hard to find the right conditions for the jacket. I do tend to run quite hot, especially when ascending and herein lay my major issue with the jacket, it's warm. I mean ascending a slope hot, sweaty warm. Unfortunately in the frequent UK hill scenario where there is a little rain not being able to take off an insulating layer is a drawback and venting had to be used to try and cool the body. This of course meant opening the front zip which naturally then lets in rain. On one occasion I was so hot I had to take it off completely. This means stuffing the jacket into your rucksack, which is a bit of a struggle as it's not a jacket designed to pack up small, it's far better for those days when you know you will be wearing it from start to finish.
In colder conditions, unsurprisingly, the jacket performed better. While still hot on ascents and not being of a size that I wanted to put into my rucksack, over sweating was less of a problem and could be controlled by venting and speed regulation, going at that pace just below the point where you begin to sweat. In these cases not having to put on an extra layer was useful as I crested ridges and got hit by the full force of wind and spindrift that I had been protected from in the lee of slopes. A quick pull up on the zip and donning of the hood meant I was snug and warm and didn't need to stop feeling cocooned from the elements.
In terms of features of the jacket these did let it down a little. I quickly became frustrated with the pockets that were conveniently located directly underneath the hip belt of my rucksack meaning the only one I could access with any ease was the chest pocket which was far too small to store a map in and still fiddly just to access a compass. My other major issue was the pack-away hood. Target Dry have chosen to use a pack-away style hood like on the highly successful Mac in a Sac range of jackets. On these this hood works perfectly as it is more of a lightweight jacket where the hood doesn't need to be able to perform as well. The Summit however is designed for cold conditions, which are often windy and by their nature often lead you to need to use a hood. A pack-away is a compromise though. The hood doesn't fit or adjust well when in use and there is certainly no ability for it to move with your head as you turn to look in different directions, instead acting like a set of blinkers on a horse. Packed away it is far too bulky due to the insulation and results in the collar of what is otherwise quite a smart jacket that could easily be worn over a shirt and tie if the situation required it into a smart jacket with an odd shaped, bulky collar, this despite numerous attempts to repack it and make it look better. If anything needs adjusting on the jacket it is the hood and I would far prefer to see a fixed hood instead of the current compromise which fails to be a decent pack-away and a decent hood.
The Summit is built of strong stuff and the tough fabric performed well against rough rock surfaces during scrambling sections on routes and never gave me cause for concern in the materials used unlike the zip which unfortunately fell off the female version when our female gear tester put it on, though I should point out that this would be covered in the Target Dry 2 year guarantee and the jacket could have been easily swapped it's not the sort of thing you want to happen on a hill when it's blowing a hooley, fortunate then that it occurred in the testing environment of the office.
Overall the Summit is a good jacket if you are using it for the appropriate activity. I think that will generally be something a little more static or with bursts of movement between locations, activities like outdoor photography, bird watching or field work where the ability to stay warm and dry is paramount but the chance of sweating isn't too great are where I see its strengths lie. For general hill walking and mountaineering the lack of flexibility means that unless you particularly feel the cold or are going out in constantly very low temperatures where it performed far better it's probably not the right jacket for you. This coupled with the hood and pocket issues mean that another of the Target Dry range like the Element jacket is more likely to fit your requirements. If you are going out to do something where you require good weather protection, don't want to be having to change layers all the time and are unlikely to be doing any activity that will cause you to generate much of your own body heat however then it could be ideal, though I would like to see a redesign of the hood!
The Pioneer and Odyssey are the men’s and women's over-trousers from the Target Dry Xtreme Series range. Both have what appears to be roughly the same cut and features but the women's version conveniently comes in two leg lengths to ensure a good fit can be found particularly for women of a shorter stature. With a waterproof hydrostatic head (the measurement of waterproofness, the higher the number the more waterproof) of 8000mm and a breathability rating of 4000gsm they are reasonable on paper, so how did they do?
Out of the packet it was obvious that these were a fairly robust trouser for what is in effect a reasonably lightweight item. Somehow they manage to breach the middle ground between a lightweight waterproof and a full on heavy duty over-trouser quite nicely. I think this is largely due to the tough material but with the absence of any real frills and using only knee high zips meaning that a lot of the extra weight that can be added on by having these features was non-existent. I wasn't best pleased to see that the waist was of the elastic draw cord variety as I've had problems with this form of closure on over-trousers before but in action the toggle and elastic used along with the internal elastication in the waistband worked well and I didn't experience the slippage that has occurred on other models.
Out on the hills the trouser was pretty easy to get on and off over boots due in a large part to the rather roomy fit and the knee zips. Often trousers can be a struggle to get on with only half zips but the Pioneer's generous proportions actually made this a doddle. This fit is both a plus and a minus point. The shape and sizing makes for easily putting them on and off and I am informed that the ladies fitted much better than many for a female without a model sized bum, the converse however is that there is a bit of excess fabric when worn. If you're not doing anything too gnarly this really isn't a problem as the loose fit was rather comfortable and let air circulate a little more helping to reduce internal moisture from sweat and aid the breathability. If you are heading onto more technical terrain the slightly baggy nature around the knee and in the lower leg may be a nuisance and the design could probably be tweaked a little to taper the knee and below without impacting upon the ease of putting on and off and the freedom of movement for squatting and high knee lifts that the sizing gives in the upper section. Certainly for winter I'd be concerned about catching a crampon in the excess fabric leading to a trip or fall.
In terms of waterproofness my legs remained dry throughout and I didn't really notice any particular sweat build up either. There was excellent beading of water on the fabric surface though I don't know how long the DWR finish would last before needing reproofing, but it hasn't as yet.
If you're after a basic waterproof trouser that will stand a bit of abuse and is without all the bells and whistles that can be found on more expensive offerings, and the subsequent increase in weight that would bring, all for under £50 with change to spare for the pub then these would be a good choice. I've found them to work well on the hill and great for kneeling around in mud when delivering Forest School sessions. If most of your activities involve heading onto more technical ground though you will probably want a more tailored cut that allows more precise footwork and less chance of catching the fabric on rock or boot.
I was intrigued when I was told I was going to be sent one of the Titanium Xtreme Series Men’s Waterproof Fleeces to test. A waterproof fleece I thought, not a softshell which many will be familiar with but a membraned 5000mm hydrostatic head fleece, why? Target Dry have certainly been bold trying to create a different type of top layer and this was nothing like I'd really seen before. A thick (300gsm) full zip fleece with the added addition of a PU membrane to keep the rain off you. Not having taped seams the waterproof label is a little dubious and this it reflected in the marketing material where it is referred variously as waterproof fleece, waterproof fabric and water resistant, but the general idea is that with that membrane it should be stopping you getting wet! Certainly a departure from the usual scenario of having to carry a fleece and a waterproof to put on over the top, but would being able to only take one garment have any benefits over taking two?
Trying on the fleece I was instantly struck that it looks quite smart and could easily be worn with a shirt and tie if the situation dictated however this look was let down by the collar and hood which look awkward, even on Target Dry's own publicity shots. In fact the collar and hood was probably my biggest gripe with the jacket. I can see the point in having a hood, after all what is the point in having a waterproof jacket only to get a wet head and have rain run down the back of your neck due to the lack of a hood? The current solution isn't one though and it made the collar stiff and uncomfortable despite repacking and ruined the look of the jacket. I resorted to having the hood out all the time. This improved the comfort but doesn't do a lot for the look as the hood is a different fabric and has no real structure meaning that even when used apart from keeping a shower off the head in low wind it's really not very good. I'd much rather see a redesigned fixed hood of the same fleece material. This would be comfy and warm and I could even reduce the need to take a separate warm hat, I've even contemplated taking scissors to the existing hood to get rid of it but thought I'd wait until the end of the test.
On the hill the big bonus of this jacket was not having to stop and put extra waterproof layers on. This was great on those days when the fickle weather can't decide if it wants to rain of not and keeps coming on and off with drizzle. In these circumstances the jacket kept me dry (and warm) and quickly dried off in the breeze between showers. This was something I had worried about. With fleece on the outer surface and the membrane within would the fleece get wet and hold water. This wasn't a problem in changeable weather where the treatment given to the outer fleece meant that rain beaded fairly well and then dried off. In more consistent rain however the outer fleece did begin to wet out and while I remained nice and dry inside it was noticeable that the outer fleece of the jacket was holding some water. On a day walk this wasn't too much of a problem as it could be dried once home, though I imagine that it lost some of its insulating properties in use, though I didn't really notice this as I tend to run quite hot and this is a warm fleece. On an extended trip however, particularly if camping overnight I would envisage that there could be issues in drying the fleece out though I haven't yet had the chance to put this to the test.
As already said this is a warm fleece and in quite a few conditions I found it a bit too hot but was glad of the warmth and windproofness when on the tops or standing around. The Velcro cuff tabs have begun to fail now and only stay closed for a few minutes (if any) before popping open so I'd like to see a stronger cuff closure utilised in future versions.
This fleece has become one of my grab jackets for everyday wear now and the warmth, waterproof properties and general look (except that hood/collar combination) make it great to grab when weather conditions are changeable. For on the hill I'm still not convinced though and it comes down to the why question still, which I haven't really managed to answer as yet. While the fleece performs well at what it is supposed to do I've not been won over that it has major advantages compared to a fleece and separate waterproof option. Yes you don't need to put on a waterproof when it starts raining but you also lose some versatility. As I've said before I tend to run quite hot on the hill, particularly when going uphill, and not having the option in the rain of only wearing the cooler configuration of a base layer and waterproof jacket for me wasn't the best fit. That along with the potential problems of drying the fleece out on overnight trips and the traditional version of separate items still wins out for me. If your preferred activity can answer the why though then it could well be the right choice as it does what it says it will and it will continue to be one of the jackets I grab the most for day to day wear, though I think those scissors will be attacking that hood before it's next outing.
The Hike Mid is part of the Target Dry Xtreme Series and is billed as a four season mid-weight sock. Now previously having served in the infantry and therefore having spent plenty of hours on my feet relying on boots and socks I'm pretty fussy when it comes to anything that goes on my feet and what I expect in terms of performance. I was therefore quite interested to see how this sock performed with its blend of Cocona 37.5 and merino wool, a mix I hadn't tried before. Merino is well known for its great properties but I had no idea what the 37.5 indicated but apparently it includes particles from coconut shells. Why 37.5? I don't know as the label stated that the fabric was 27% Cocona Polyester so I'm yet to make the connection. Coconut fibre seems to be having a bit of a surge in the outdoor market as I've also recently been sent coconut boxers to test and have seen coconut fibre t-shirts becoming more common place. The packaging however promised this blend would lead to virtually no odour, great moisture management and importantly no blisters.
First thoughts out of the packet was that it appeared a pretty decent sock though I did note that the sizing for the men’s and women's don't match up so be aware of this when selecting a pair. The men’s medium was a UK 6 - 8.5 whereas the women's pair that was sent to test was a 7 - 8.5 and labelled a large in the women's size range. Not quite sure how both could be up to an 8.5 but one pair have a whole extra size in the range. The sock features obvious extra cushioning around the shin, heel and toe as is now commonplace on most technical socks these days and the height I found to be low to mid-calf providing all the height that is required for most boots.
On test the sock was comfortable to wear and I certainly didn't notice any obvious moisture issues in either a Gore-Tex lined or leather boot and I didn't suffer any blisters. I did find for my liking that the sock was a little thin meaning that my boot felt a touch looser than in my regular sock and there wasn't that extra thickness and padding for really long routes that means even when the sock is compressed after a full day that you still feel that you are getting significant padding. While comfortable and well performing these sock wouldn't be my first choice for in a boot for a long route and I found them better for short routes of a few hours on rolling as opposed to technical ground. Where they did perform excellently however was in an approach shoe. Here they quickly became one of my socks of first choice to slip on inside an approach shoe for a bit of scrambling or just general wear in the outdoors. The slightly thinner design and fairly low cut meant there was no excess material bulking out what can be quite a precise fitting type of shoe and I found that I had good proprioception over rock in the sock while having great comfort in this more lightweight form of footwear.
Overall a good sock that would suit most walkers and was great as a more technical sock in an approach shoe and at an RRP of £14.99 competitively priced within the technical sock market. I would suggest however that if you normally wear a slightly thicker sock that you try them on in the boot you intend to use them with and if you find them too thin causing your boot to feel loose try the Trek Comfort which is the next weight sock up in the series.
Ed is the owner of Mountain Munchkins - helping to equip families with the right kit to have their own outdoor adventures. A Mountain Leader and Forest School Practitioner he enjoys introducing children to the outdoors. When not off playing or leading in the mountains he is often still to be found up a hill or on the crag as a member of Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team or out putting gear through its paces as a gear tester.