Our Explorer Jannico spends most of his free time in the outdoors searching for rare and threatened wildlife to photograph, so if anyone needs a sturdy raincoat, it’s him. Luckily he got to test out The North Face Dryzzle jacket and found out it’s up to the task.
The North Face Dryzzle Jacket
Over the last few weeks I’ve been in the wet tropics working with a conservation project in Sumatra during the wet season.
The work involved hiking through the lowland forest of Way Kambas National Park during the monsoon, building wildlife ladders in water channels around the park and building a food farm for Sumatran elephants in the rehabilitation centre.
It seemed like the perfect place to test out the Dryzzle Jacket by The North Face.
As a wildlife photographer I’ve learnt that a good raincoat keeps you comfortable (well as comfortable as you can get). And being comfortable provides the conditions for creating your best work.
In the past I’ve used raincoats with a Gore-Tex® lining — a waterproof and windproof lining commonly used in camping equipment. The biggest issue I’ve had with Gore-Tex® raincoats is breathability. The jackets are extremely waterproof but you often end up dripping wet from sweat anyway.
A decent raincoat is robust, resistant to tearing, doesn’t hamper movability, breathes and most importantly, keeps you and your personal items dry and safe from the elements.
I noticed a few features on the Dryzzle Jacket that should improve breathability, which I was quite excited to test in the field. I also noticed that it was much lighter than previous jackets I’ve owned, which had me concerned in respect to how resistant it would be to wear and tear!
Well it’s a waterproof and windproof jacket and as per usual the Gore-tex lining certainly did its job. For nearly 2 weeks I walked in heavy downpours for several hours each day and for nearly 2 weeks of walking in heavy downpours for several hours not one drop of water penetrated the jacket lining or made it past the hood, zips or sleeves onto my body. One thing I did notice was moisture gathering in the waist pockets. Which unlike the chest pocket lacked a polyurethane (waterproof) zip. This is in the product description but nonetheless it can be annoying when trying to keep personal items (phone, wallet, passport etc) dry. If it wasn’t for that I would give it a perfect 100%.
The Dryzzle Jacket includes a simple zip in each armpit, which acts as a venting system. These make a huge difference in breathability. My past Gore-Tex jackets never had this feature and I always ended up so wet from sweating that there was no point to wearing a waterproof jacket. Even when the sleeves, hood and waist are fully cinched up, the armpit zips when opened allow for the jacket to breathe keeping you dry, happy and less smelly.
I found the Dryzzle Jacket by The North Face was lighter and thinner than all my previous jackets. Whilst this was great for movability and travelling on a shoestring budget, I was concerned how it would react to the inhospitality of the Sumatran rainforest, where being tangled in vines, caught on needle-sharp palms or copping the odd branch in the face is a daily occurrence.
To top it off I spent my days hiking in the forest with a bag full of equipment or jumping into trenches building wildlife ladders. Despite this, the jacket looked brand new time and time again. Well, apart from the mud.
By happenchance a friend of mine bought a new jacket that used a waterproof coating. Once covered in mud the coating quickly came off, rendering her jacket useless. The Dryzzle uses Gore-Tex membrane which won’t wash off and the jacket itself seems fairly resistant to wear and tear!
Working in the tropics isn’t at all comfortable but wearing the right clothing does help. The Dryzzle allowed me to actively hike through the muddy forest and climb up trenches whilst never hampering my movements, plus I was dry from the rain without sweating profusely. Both of these made working in the tropics that tiny bit easier.
Small features for me are the things that make or break a product. Normally they’re found after getting to know the product over time. Whilst I’ve only had the Dryzzle for a short period of time I have noticed several things I love and a few things I don’t.
Features I love…
- A hood that sits past the head. This kept me dry even when the rain was coming down sideways. It also kept my headtorch from getting soaked. So for you night hikers, wildlife spotters and night owls this is a huge plus.
- Cinches and straps everywhere. The ability to cinch or strap the hood, waist and sleeves really does make a difference to how weatherproof a jacket is. The real challenge is to make the straps and cinches become unnoticeable when you’re hiking so they don’t get caught on a stray branch or hamper your movement in any way. Which the Dryzzle nails entirely!
- Lightweight – I know I’ve said this a few times, but when you’re travelling on a budget every gram really does count.
Features I’m not fond of…
- No self-contained pouch. Other outdoor/traveling products I’ve used have an inbuilt pouch you can fold the item away into when you’re not using it. This keeps your product safe and compact during travel. It’s a small feature that cost a fraction to produce and I do find it odd that The North Face haven’t included this feature on the Dryzzle.
- Not enough polyurethane zips! As I mentioned before only the chest pocket has a polyurethane zip (waterproof zip) which is a real drag as I normally put my phone in the waist pockets. Again, this is stated on The North Face website, but it would be an easy adjustment to manufacturing I would be more than willing to pay extra for.
So Is The North Face Dryzzle Worth It?
For nearly 2 weeks I walked in heavy downpours for several hours each day in the Sumatran rainforest and jumped into trenches full of storm run-off. Each day I wore the Dryzzle and each day I came back to camp bone dry and slightly happier than everyone else.
An RRP of $400 may seem expensive if you’ve never bought a weatherproof jacket before, but they’re definitely an investment worthy of your purchase if you’re serious about the great outdoors.
Get clear about your gear…