on 29 June 2013
First, an admission. I bought my Rover direct from Country Innovation not Amazon but I buy quite a lot of other stuff from them so I'm sure they won't object if I share my impressions of this product.
I had a bit of a journey before finding this jacket. Looking for a replacement (or at least a supplement) to an ageing Berghaus aquafoil coat that's well over ten years old, I felt that I needed a change from synthetic technical clothing. Certainly man made fibres have their place and if I was shopping for kit to wear while hiking across the hills in foul weather and an ultra light waterproof was indicated, then I would give them serious consideration. For the moment I wanted something more traditional, in short a jacket that could stand up to the rigours of a British summer but would with a bit of layering serve through the winter quite happily as well.
My original requirement was fairly straightforward, a durable cotton or ripstop unlined (or at least uninsulated) windproof jacket with double ended zip, decent sized pockets, waist and hem drawstrings and either a roll away or detachable hood. This sounded a lot like my old Combat 95 smock except that in this case what I did not want was any sort of camouflage which proved to be a sticking point. In fact my perfect jacket based on this requirement would probably have been a 1960 pattern British army smock, the last type to be issued plain green but apart from a few eBay originals, no one seems to make a modern reproduction of this particular garment. I think that this is a bit of a missed opportunity since in my opinion it is far superior to the M65 which I find deficient in the pockets department (hence I discounted one of those quite early on) but for which you cannot move should you do a web search on "field jacket"!
Trawling for ideas through various outdoor forums on the net I found that I was not alone in seeking what essentially was a non combat jacket. A number of companies make plain green smocks, Mil-tec for example, but my wife was adamant that she would not be seen in public with anyone wearing a jacket that had loops for attaching vegetation; also the pockets on the upper arms were in my opinion excessive. Arktis make a waterproof smock available in plain green but I found this a bit stiff, the hood is permanently on show and the lining is synthetic.
I have owned several Barbour thornproofs in my time and they have certainly proven durable, windproof and water resistant with the added benefit that they don't look out of place on the moors, in the woods or taking the kids round Bluewater. Ideally I wanted something lighter weight and looking at their current range they now offer a number of non waxed styles but being entirely subjective, none of them were quite what I was after. The lack of a full compliment of draw strings was the commonest glitch, it's a shame that their Ventile Endurance jacket has been discontinued for some years.
Rohan offer a lightweight field jacket but it only has a one way zip and Paramo have a similar product, the Traveller which unfortunately lacks a hem drawstring - yes, I know I'm starting to get fussy but by this time my search for the "perfect" jacket was becoming a little obsessive! I tried the Paramo Halcon and was impressed but a couple of factors counted it out, namely it was synthetic and very warm - not really for summer wear even in Britain!
All this brought me by a round about route to Country Innovation. There are arguments for and against Ventile, most commonly that once it gets thoroughly soaked it goes very stiff and takes ages to dry - not always practical if you are outdoors for extended periods but as I mentioned earlier, I am not after something to wear in the Brecons in mid-winter. Against that, the likes of Gore-tex have only a limited life and even then, do not fully retain their waterproof and breathable characteristics under all conditions.
Initially I was drawn to Country Innovation by their Ventile clothing but first tried their less expensive offerings. I'd discounted the Traveller purely because I thought that the chest pockets were a bit prominent, opting instead for the Innovation which I felt had a cleaner look. By this time I had cottoned on to the problems of buying untried clothes online and tended to order both a medium and large size. With Paramo for example, I take a Halcon medium and a Traveller large but with Barbour I'm medium across the board. I duly ordered two Innovations (which arrived the following day by standard delivery) and found that I was lost in the large but the medium (contrary to the sizing guide) was a perfect fit! You know when something is right, it was beautifully light, the styling was spot and I had no doubts that this was exactly what I had spent the last year or so looking for except...
not massively but enough to be noticeable, comparing it to the jacket that it was to replace, it was indeed noisier. It may be a minor gripe but I know that this was going to grate and I would forever have that nagging doubt... should I have paid extra for the natural fibre? In the past I have compromised against my better judgement and the items in question have been relegated to the back of the wardrobe or shed! I agonised but eventually ordered the Rover sending the others back.
The Rover jacket is pretty much a Innovation but in double layered Ventile. It is substantially more expensive not to mention heavier but to a great extent, the cotton material feels more comfortable and mitigates the extra weight. It's almost certainly overkill when considering my original requirement, I can't see myself wearing it in high summer but for the other 364 days of the year I think that it will be more than adequate. The build quality is excellent and the fit (definitely order a size down) is comfortable; there's space for a few extra winter layers but in warmer weather it is adjustable enough to be able to wear nothing more than a T-shirt but to avoid that baggy "sack tied up in the middle" look. I made a slight modification in that I replaced the neck and hem draw strings with shock cord and would have done the same for the waist but it is fixed in place. I noticed that with the hem string tightened it both restricted my movements and made getting at my trouser pockets awkward; not so with shock cord.
The pockets are good sized, the chest ones are more akin to hand warmers, they don't fasten but there is a further zip up pocket behind the main button down waist pocket on each side. Should you need to get at your cartridges or bino's in a hurry, there are retaining straps in the chest pockets that clip, by the press studs, onto the waist pocket flaps to hold them open.
I haven't had the opportunity to test the Rover out in real weather as yet but I'm not expecting any major issues. It's natural fibre, if I get really soaked, it will take time to dry, that's one of the compromises that I have made. I don't expect to regularly get into that situation and if the worst comes to the worst there's always the old emergency pocket poncho. For what I need I'm happy to put the comfort of natural fibre against the perceived advantages of techno clothing.
If anything, my admittedly obsessive search for the "perfect" jacket (like my similarly obsessive search for the perfect multi-tool) has taught me that there ain't no such animal. The Rover I feel, for me at least, has come close.
Edit - after two years of use.
It's still going strong, wears well with little if any noticeable deterioration. It had been comfortable for autumn, winter and spring wear but I did get a Paramo Halcon Traveller for the occasional fortnight of British Summer.