– MOST RUGGED –
ThruDark SF Raid Jacket
– fabric: 3L Schoeller C-Change
– weight: 820g
– MSRP $749 (production: Italy)
Another digression… now about Schoeller’s newest variant of the C-Change membrane. It works in a different way than Gore-Tex Pro as it can actively open or close the pores depending on temperature. In warm conditions, it opens pores and vapors sweat away from the body. When it cools down it starts to close the pores to protect the wearer from the elements even more. So it can adapt to conditions outside to breathe well, but in extreme cold it loses some of its maximum breathability. Also, C-Change works differently vs Gore-Tex Pro as it has to build up and absorb moisture first, and only then can it transfer it to the outside. So it doesn’t allow for vapor permeability when the pores are closed from cold. In theory, this membrane could breathe better in valleys and forests than up in open snowy mountains… so I’ll check that too.
Construction and Materials
Now, THIS is an interesting jacket! The ThruDark brand isn’t yet as recognized as the previous two but this will change quickly. Founded by two ex-military Special Forces operators from the UK, it features clear military trim in gear design. But is it any good? Well, it was good enough to help Nims Purja to climb all 14 of the 8,000m-plus peaks within 189 days in 2020. Not enough? So what about climbing with a team of other Sherpa (also using ThruDark clothes) the K2 summit in winter for the first time in history, which took place just a couple of weeks ago. If something works on K2 in the winter then it must be pretty darn good quality.
Anyway, the ThruDark SF Raid Jacket is a 3L heavy weather protective hardshell armor. It’s built like a tank. The outer fabric is tough, heavy, kind of meaty, and features a fine rip-stop grid, but still has a nice four-way stretch. The Schoeller C-Change adaptive membrane makes the jacket fully waterproof but still breathable.
All zippers are watertight, of course. Stitching is perfectly executed, seams are flawless (but a good bit thicker at 15mm everywhere) and generally all materials are top-tier. There was no corner cutting when this jacket was designed and you can see that immediately at first glance (and notice at online check-out too). The SF Raid must be the toughest of all jackets tested by me – overall, not just here and now. But it doesn’t come without a penalty… 820 grams makes it the heaviest one too, almost twice as heavy as the Mammut and +60% vs the Arc’teryx. Military personnel and survivalists will love that toughness, but real climbers and ultralight mountaineers can view that differently. BTW, it’s made in the EU (Italy) with full quality control.
The SF Raid Jacket has tons of features. Starting with the pockets… there are six of them. Two hand-warmer low pockets and two cross-reach chest pockets compatible with a backpack. An internal chest pocket (of course) and also an open-top dump pocket inside, great for a beanie, buff, etc. Pit-zippers? Yeah, of course. Cohaesive cord management? You bet! This jacket has it all including as many as three big Velcro panels for patches and identification… or even a small Velcro-backed pocket for a ski-pass if you want. I’m a patch junkie so for me it’s fine. But of course, every next feature adds weight and bulk, so this is not the most packable jacket. Velcro on cuffs is a standard feature, a helmet-compatible hood as well. And last but not least, there’s a Recco reflector built in, always good for extra protection in snowy conditions.
Considering the temperature of a frosty morning in the mountains I was glad I had the SF Raid on me from the start. This thing is a beast and fully protects from even the most severe weather attacks. Wind, snow, frost… it can take it all, and the meaty material also adds some insulation to the total thermal balance equation. The DWR works great and sheds snow and water perfectly. Breathability was actually good. No severe overheating occurred during a couple of hours in the High Tatra mountains in -10°C and severe wind (pit-zips helped with that).
The stretchy material perfectly followed every move of the body. The cut is regular, not extra roomy, but I could easily change my PDW Kepler Down Cardigan for something even thicker if I had to. The SF Raid cut fits somewhere between Mammut and Arc’teryx. The hood is really generous and works with bigger helmets without any issue.
As I said, it’s a versatile adventure shell. So I used it also in the thick forest quite a lot for winter bushcrafting, hiking, and even for shooting practice. It kept me warm and dry in conditions where I’d avoid using a thinner and lighter technical climbing shell.
When protection and toughness are the goal there’s no better shell than the mighty SF Raid. The ThruDark founders used their Special Forces expertise to create a tank-like shell jacket with some tactical features built into it. However, it’s not really a technical fast and light climbing jacket due to its rather heavyweight nature. Still, for general mountaineering, especially for people whose physique can easily handle an additional 300-400 grams, it’s a very solid option.
The SF Raid is more than a mountaineering jacket. It’s good for anything like winter bushcrafting, hiking, and camping in snow-covered forest, even for some tactical applications – and it won’t fail, no matter what. So if you (just like me) enjoy a slight tactical flair to your gear… it could be your favorite hardshell of all time. If your drawer (and wallet) can accept multiple shells, just keep it for anything but vertical climbing. Actually, I will do just that.
– extreme toughness of the thick and stretchy rip-stop fabric, good also for heavy-duty stuff including forest use and tactical applications.
– multi-mission, multi-environment capability for the cold season
– superb protection, especially from severe cold and snow (plus has Recco)