Testfire: Ridgeline Evolution AnorakBy Nik Maxwell
- 3rd Sep, 2020 Sep 3, 2020, 3:23 PM
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Ridgeline have upped their game and it’s clear to see, they mean business. With the introduction of a new lineup of quality gear at competitive prices, Ridgeline have built upon their comprehensive, existing range of apparel.
I have had a lot to do Ridgeline over the years and follow with interest their place in the hunting gear market. Ridgeline have been long-time supporters of NZGUNS, and we work closely with their team to actively promote and review their products.
One of the latest garments off the Ridgeline rack is the new Evolution Anorak. A tough, outer-shell anorak specifically designed for the active hunter.
“The Evolution Anorak is an outer-shell garment designed to provide maximum protection from the elements.”
After some correspondence with Sarah Price (Ridgeline Designer), it was arranged that I try out this new anorak (plus some shorts and tees) over the roar period and early winter. However, and at risk of repeating myself here, COVID-19 had other ideas and my pre-conceived hunting plans went out the window!
After all that and fast-forwarding several months, I did manage to get out for quite a few local hunts plus a couple of trips chasing sika. This gave me ample opportunities to give the anorak a thrash in the hills.
The Evolution Anorak is an outer-shell garment designed to provide maximum protection from the elements. It is constructed from Polyester with 3 layers making up the membrane. It is coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) which is a standard coating used on many outer-shell garments.
The first thing I did upon receiving the anorak was to put it on to see how it fitted over my inner layers. I generally wear a t-shirt and my Huntech Silent Stalker fleece jacket. This is my standard setup and gives me a good layering system for typical winter conditions. I will put on a thermal top if the temperatures drop though!
The anorak was (size M) still roomy with all those layers on and didn’t feel tight around the shoulders. Noticeable is the longer length of the jacket with the tail reaching well past your backside. I like this extra length as it allows me to sit down on wet surfaces (the forest floor for example) and keep my butt dry.
A waist height draw cord allows you to nip up the anorak, keeping the torso area warm and dry. Located on the lower half of the left-hand side is a zipper that you can draw up to provide additional movement, potentially used to stop the garment gripping to your thighs when climbing hills.
A large zippered front pocket high up on the chest section spans the full width of the anorak. You can fit a heap of items in there. There are also two zippered hand pockets for keeping small items in and/or your hands on a cold day.
Credit to the design team on the hood. It sits nicely when in place over your head and the small piece of flexible rod in the peak helps maintain the hood shape.
There are draw cords other side and the whole hood can be removed via a rear zipper for stowage. Additionally, the hood has a draw cord on the back of it that I suspect is designed to pull the hood back to improve your peripheral vision.
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The sleeves have recessed neoprene cuffs which I generally loath, the use of neoprene that is. In my experience they trap water and once wet stay wet, and cold! Fortunately, they have been recessed quite a bit back from the end of the sleeve which I hoped would prevent them from getting too wet, too quickly.
Both the inner cuffs and sleeve cuffs have Velcro fasteners you can tighten to reduce moisture intake and windchill. The sleeves also have zippered and Velcro arm pit vents. These work to increase air flow and allow the dumping of both heat and moisture when required.
The jacket and YKK zips are all fully seam sealed. The hand pocket zips, and upper chest zip, utilise a rubber outer that is split along the length of the zip.
It works as a seal from moisture, but water isn’t that easily beaten and if there is any kind of gap or hole, it’ll get in. Adding a storm flap, which the main front pocket has, would go a long way in keeping those areas dry/er.
IN THE FIELD
Local hunts: As soon as we came out of Level 3 lockdown and were once again able to hit the hills, I was straight back into it. I’ve been doing quite a bit of afternoon and night-time pest control which meant I was able to wear the jacket during those missions.
From a shooters perspective, one of the things about pest control is that it provides a lot of shooting opportunities. For this review, it meant I was able wear the jacket while firing my rifles from a variety of different positions.
The upshot of this was that I found that the anorak has a good range of movement around the chest, shoulders and upper sleeves area. This was especially noticeable when bringing the rifle up to the shoulder. In simple terms, the anorak is roomy in relation to the sizing. That’s good design.
The night shoots were all undertaken on foot which meant quite a bit of time either sitting down, shooting over a tripod, or lying prone on wet and/or damp grass.
This is where the extra length of the anorak, particularly in the tail, really came into its own. I was able to comfortably tuck the tail under my rear end when sitting down thus resulting in a dry backside!
The large front chest pocket had ample room for my phone, a box of 22 ammo, knife and rangefinder and with it being more wide than deep, means it doesn’t ride too low over your stomach.
“I was really impressed with the fit of the garment around the chest and arms. The ability to wear a thick layer/s underneath and not feel restricted in my movement is great, particularly when shouldering a rifle or climbing up a steep bank etc.”
While the local hunts enabled me to wear the anorak on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be much of a test without some time in the mountains. Thankfully, I was able to get out for a couple of mid-winter sika hunting trips in both the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges.
A typical sika hunt often includes both open country glassing and beech forest stalking - this way I get the best of both hunting styles and hopefully increase my chances for an encounter.
Kaimanawas: My first trip was a 4-day walk in from the Southern Corridor Access in the Southern Kaimanawas. A brief trip report of that hunt can be found at the bottom of my Mauser M18 review.
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While I didn’t encounter any rain (or sika for that matter…), a southerly that was blowing through brought about some extremely cold winds.
Obviously, the wind/waterproof material stopped any wind chill from getting through but more importantly, it showcased how well the dual fastener cuff system worked keeping the draft and cold out. The high collar and hood design also worked well in this instance.
I spent the morning and evenings glassing from the shadow side of a large clearing and stalking the bush during the day. I found the polyester used on the anorak to be fairly quiet when pushing pass and through scrub. The roomy upper torso area providing a good range of movement when using your arms.
Kawekas: My next major hunting trip was a 4-day fly in mission to Manson Hut in the Kaweka Ranges with a couple of mates. For the most part, we experienced decent weather with intermittent periods of light rain.
Wind was prevalent throughout the trip, the only variable being how strong it blew! We spent time hunting the open tops and bush and secured a sika yearling on day two of the trip.
Throughout both of these trips the anorak performed great, its wind proofing abilities and design keeping the drafts at bay. Again, the hood design also working well here - the ability to increase my range of vision by pulling in the hood’s rear draw cord is an excellent feature.
Combining all this hill time has allowed me to gain a general overview of the anorak’s performance. However, as I state in almost all of my gear reviews, the true test is in the durability. I’ll look to provide an update on the Evolution at a later time.
The Evolution Anorak is both well designed and well constructed. It is obvious that Ridgeline have put some real thought into what feature combinations work best on an outer-shell garment.
I was really impressed with the fit of the garment around the chest and arms. The ability to wear a thick layer/s underneath and not feel restricted in my movement is great, particularly when shouldering a rifle or climbing up a steep bank etc.
“The Evolution Anorak is both well designed and well constructed. It is obvious that Ridgeline have put some real thought into what feature combinations work best on an outer-shell garment.”
I’d like to see storm flaps added to the hand pockets and on the front side of the chest and collar zip in a future iteration to minimise any moisture getting through.
The major function of an outer shell jacket/anorak is how well it keeps you dry. As it stands, I have yet to fully test the Evolution over an extended period of heavy rain (apart from a few light downpours), though I do suspect it’ll perform adequately. The DWR waterproofing is a widely used water repellent and a proven performer.
Overall, a great jacket and my current go-to outer shell garment.
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