Keela – Zenith Softshell Jacket

I’ve been familiar with, but not tested, this particular jacket for a couple of years now. Some of my colleagues in Lowland Rescue swear by it as an ‘everything but rain’ jacket, and the more hardy of them wear it year round as an outer layer. So, when Keela sent one down for testing a while back I was eager to see what all the fuss was about.keela-zenith

First thing’s first, it’s not a rainproof jacket, and rather than have a DWR treatment so rain beads up, it just soaks in, so let’s put that aside for good. It seems to hold off drizzle for a while, so let’s call it weather-resistant rather than waterproof.

Second thing is that it’s quite stiff. That takes a little getting used to after wearing soft garments for ages, but it has the effect of looking smart – almost pressed – and makes you want to stand up straight and present yourself. It uses Keela’s own AirXtream fabric, which is a windproof layer. It is completely windproof and you won’t feel a thing from a cold breeze when it’s all done up. But it’s also breathable, which takes the edge off the heat that can build up inside, allowing mild perspiration to be managed out of the Zenith OK.

And you may well get hot if you wear this year-round because it’s pretty warm. It has a fleecy lining, which is really comfortable on bare arms and necks, and keeps a nice layer of warmth against the body.

The Zenith has two large hand-warmer pockets, which work well because they’re windproof too. And there’s a chest pocket for phones and other bits and bobs which sits above a harness if you’re ever wearing one.

The neck of the Zenith is fairly high, with a chin-guard over the zipper to stop it catching in your manly beard. And the tail of the jacket is slightly scooped to help keep out those cold breezes if you’re bending over or lifting your arms a lot.

But perhaps the Zenith’s piece-de-resistance is it’s ruggedness. I’ve seen people fight through brambles and holly bushes over months and the jacket not develop telltale snags.

The Keela AireXtream fabric is a proper outdoorsy gnarly fabric and means that you won’t be spending money on replacing the Zenith any time soon. But even if you did suffer a catastrophic rip, at under £80 the Zenith is a good price, and a good investment.

5-hammers Price: £79
More: Keela

Note: There’s a ladies’ version called the Zenita. Same material and build quality