Snugpak Venture ML6 Softie Smock Review
A thermal overlayer from a British manfacturer
I’m always a little wary over equipment marketed for ‘outdoor professionals’. It is normally shorthand for “here is something we already sell, but with patches on the knees and oh, it’s also now 20% more expensive”. Snugpak, best known for sleeping bags and the classic Softie jacket, offer the Mountain Leader range – with the ML3, ML6 and ML9 variants. I received one as a review item at the beginning of autumn 2016 and used it over the winter in the mountains, forests and on various adventures for work.
Snugpak promise that this smock was developed with “input from professional navigators, mountain leaders, climbing instructors, meteorological staff, and military personnel”. I work with clients who tick all of those boxes and more, so let’s see how it performs…
A few days after this jacket arrived I packed it into a rucksack for a trip to Scotland – partly for working with a client and partly for a bit of exploration and outdoor leisure. My first thought was about how much room it took up in the bag. It’s not the smallest of jackets, and I went for the XXL size to make sure that it would fit over pretty much everything else I own, but I was still slightly surprised how bulky it was.
The first time I wore it in anger was actually on the summit of Ben Nevis – windy and cool but still above freezing. It slipped on nicely and was easily warm enough (I should hope so – it has a comfort rating of -5°C and an extreme rating of -10°C), and did the job nicely. The ML6 uses the Snugpak Paratex Micro fabric and is certainly windproof and breathable, but has virtually no water-resistance. That said, I’ve worn it as an outer layer in damp Welsh weather plenty of times and it still kept me warm and dried out in a reasonable time.
The hem and collar have adjustable drawcords and there are thumbloops on the sleeves. A small storage pocket-thing is on the rear of the collar, apparently for storage of a thin hat or gloves.
The pockets are both plentiful and well-placed, with large pockets on the chest and stomach, plus smaller pockets on the very front. The zips pull freely and without snags and can be used even with mitts, and the big pockets are more than ample for burying a map, binoculars or even a small camera in. The hand-warmer pockets are lined with something nice and fleecy, and there are internal and external D-rings for attaching compass, torch or just car keys.
One of the more obvious design features are the large, black velcro patches on the arms, front and also the rear of the collar. I’ve sewn badges of one type or another to outdoor kit for years so it’s nice to actually have a home for them already on the jacket. The velcro patches are also a clear sign of where Snugpak can see this jacket being worn – on Mountain Rescue team members or outdoor professionals. The colour scheme doesn’t exactly match with tactical or military use – but I do note that the Snugpak MML6, aimed at the military market, has the same patch placement.
The weight isn’t too bad – around 550g – but that’s to be expected for a synthetic fill.
As with a lot of the Snugpak range there seems to be an emphasis on practicality and purpose. The front pockets are just crying out to be filled with a compass, or a phone or an LED torch. The few times I used this working with military or SAR clients I used them like a mini chest-rig with lots of useful kept kept to hand for easy access.
The outer fabric is just about tough enough for heavy outdoor use, but I wouldn’t want to scrape it over rough rocky ground too often. It did survive falling off the roofrack of my truck when somebody left it on there and drove off… Well, it was me – but that’s still a good test of the build quality.
The thumb loops are comfortable and can be worn all of the time and do stop the sleeves from riding up when moving about.
There have been times when wearing this where I wanted a hood, but I complained earlier on about the packed size and an insulated hood isn’t exactly going to help with that.
It looks like the current version comes with the AAPLS light patch, but it wsn’t included in my review item.
It has taken me several months to actually finish this review, but to be perfectly honest I knew I would like this smock as soon as I pulled it on. It’s a little bright for my usual taste, and it takes up a lot of room but I have used it pretty much every time I have been out in cold weather.
If you work in the outdoors, spend a lot of time standing around in colder weather or just need a solid, thermal outerlayer with a practical design then I can happily steer you towards this smock with a clear conscience.