I’ve reviewed a lot of apparel for kayak fishing applications over the years and admittedly been rather excited about some it along the way. However I was really taken with Kokatat’s Tempest pants, which were recommended to me by Scott Lovig, who as a Victorian based kayak dealership, knows a thing or two about staying warm and dry in cold climates. Now that I’m living in Victoria again (woe is me) I’m glad he introduced me to them – they are far and away the best things I’ve found for keeping legs and feet dry, warm and comfortable on the yak. So it should come as no surprise that I’d look towards Kokatat for an equally suitable drytop, and I found it in the Tropos Tempest jacket. But if you think I was excited about the pants, brace yourself; this jacket isn’t just superior for cold and wet weather kayak fishing – it saunters up to the front door of everything else, backs one out, pours petrol on it, lights it up, knocks on the door and runs away laughing!
Really, I absolutely love this product and have no idea how it slipped under my radar till now. My adoration is so great that I barely know where to start, so I’ll just start ranting.
As an advocate of the Adventure Island (AI) trimaran sailing kayak, I’m obviously well aware of how wet a ride it can often prove to be. This is an issue compounded by the fact that it is typically used in windy conditions. Wet and wind make for a terrible combination and very few jackets I’ve seen offer suitable protection against this problem. I have a particular quibble with the new model AIs, which is that the molded recess for the handles act as a funnel for water to gush up over the gunwales, directly over the steering tiller and right up into the sleeve of your arm. This means that any outer shell with a less than perfect wrist seal is going to result in a drenched mid and or base layer, resulting in a wet and cold arm for the rest of the day. The Tempest jacket gets around this by offering an inner rubberized wrist seal, which is further enhanced with an outer cuff with a velcro tab to cover it. This is so effective that even when I place my hand underwater and point it forwards while sailing at high speed (by AI standard) water still won’t penetrate the rubber seal. Winner! But I’m just getting started!
There is also a very effective seal for the neck, which is made of 1.5mm neoprene. While not as waterproof as the wrist seals, it does prevent water from splashing down your neck, and certainly a more comfortable alternative than a rubber seal (which would probably otherwise be a bit much around the neck during a long days kayak fishing). This seal is protected by the outer fabric which prevents most splashing water from even making contact with it. As testimony to how much Kokatat really thought the design through to the end, there is a small draining vent in this outer panel to prevent any water from pooling up inside of it. Kudos!
The hood is one of the best hoods I’ve seen on a waterproof jacket, of any kind, ever. It features a thin bungee cord lock at both front and rear, which allows the user to achieve a neat fit at both sides – the front of which preventing most wind and water from getting in and the rear of which cinching the hood tight so as to achieve a proper fit that moves with your head as you look around. The hood has a small peak with a thin foam core that maintains shape and sheds water away from the face.
Designed to work in conjunction with the Tempest pants, this jacket has two waist cuffs: one single layer designed to tuck in underneath the neoprene hip of the pants and one two-layer outer to secure over the top. Combined, these have the effect of creating what I’d call a semi-drysuit. You’d have to submerge yourself to get wet through the waist wearing this combo.
I should also add here that the fit of the jacket is superb. Its easy to tell that it was designed with paddling in mind. It has plenty of room for shoulder movement and sleeve length is just right – long enough without being too long, but never threatening to creep up your arms.
Last but not least, while I would have liked to see this jacket made from Kokatat’s 3-layer Hydrus fabric (as used in their Tempest pants), I have to admit to being more impressed than I was expecting to be with their 2-layer Tropos fabric. It is both wind and waterproof, as well as being nicely breathable, reasonably light and comfortably flexible. Out of the packet it’s durable water repellancy is 100%, shedding water like a ducks back.
If they were to offer the same jacket made from a 3-layer fabric, I’d buy it immediately, though I’d be expecting to pay more for it. At AUD$240(ish) Kokatat’s Tropos Tempest jacket is very reasonably priced and offers performance I’d expect from a $400 garment.
Had I not stumbled across this jacket I’m not sure how I’d have faired facing a cold Victorian winter of kayak fishing, but with this combined with the Tempest pants (plus my merino wool base-layers and thermalite mid-layers) I’m pretty much good to go. Kokatat, you’ve done it again!