Spika is an Australian outdoors brand that’s starting to push its way into the dense hunting clothing market in New Zealand. The brand cut their teeth making gun safes and have been around for a while, yet the clothing sector of the brand is relatively new. With the Vertex jacket being their flagship model at a retail price of $349.95, I had no idea what I was going to be reviewing from a company relatively new to clothing manufacturing.
When I’m looking to buy a rain jacket for hunting, I look for a few different features depending on the style of hunting I intend to do.
If you’re purely hunting in alpine country, then you’ll already be layering with soft shells and thermals and may only need a lightweight outer shell.
If you’re a bush hunter who’s looking for warmth, but also needs their jacket to be rugged and quiet, then you may need a more technical soft shell.
However, most hunters in most hunting situations want a jacket somewhere in between. In my opinion, a good all-round rain jacket needs to be 100% waterproof, fit well, dry quick, hold little water, and be packable, lightweight and durable.
My initial thoughts of the jacket for review were positive. It was the large version I received, and I’m 188cm with medium build; the garment was a bit on the larger side in terms of length and around the chest for me, but arm length was good – I probably would have been better with a medium, but hopefully this gives you an idea of sizing. The material was soft to the touch but thinner than some other soft material rain jackets I’ve handled in the past.
The jacket was lighter than expected, and very long. The main YKK zipper was oversized and felt solid. The product as a whole appeared to be good quality, but time would ultimately tell.
The jacket was very simple but still had all the features we’ve come to expect with modern, technical hunting rain jackets, including hand-warmer chest pockets, a large zipped chest pocket, ergonomic hood, zipped hip pockets, Velcro sleeves, internal waist adjustment, neoprene cuff inners, underarm breathing vents and rubber shoulder dots.
On their website, Spika claims the jacket to be 100% waterproof, using a soft, windproof outer material and a breathable membrane.
The jacket is rated to 15,000mm, which is higher or equivalent to its competitors’ garments, and is coated with a DWR coating which helps it repel water off the soft surface to prevent it from soaking in.
It weighed in at 1110 grams dry and packed into the hood with ease. This is good considering it’s a full-size, fully waterproof, soft material rain jacket. Other technical hunting jackets I’ve experienced in this price range have been significantly heavier and bulkier.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I wasn’t able to test this jacket as extensively as I would’ve liked, but managed to take it on many dry- and wet-weather hunts before and after the Level 4 lockdown period.
Taking a jacket with you on a hunt can often be a chore with the extra bulk and weight proving a burden for the odd occasion of rain; this was not the case here, and overall, the jacket performed very well.
Considering the soft material and raft of technical features, it’s remarkably simple and therefore very packable and lightweight compared to other jackets in this category; with the large chest pocket, warmth, and ability to dump heat through the armpit zippers, it proved to be very versatile. Hunting in this garment in wet weather was very comfortable. Most importantly, it kept me dry and warm, and I didn’t feel it restricted my movement.
Once the jacket was wet, it did hold some water, but this can be expected from the soft material used – consistent applications of a DWR coating can limit this. Although the material used is a softer material, it’s still very thin and didn’t hold as much water as I’d expected. This also helps with drying time. I simply hung it in the garage overnight and found only some dampness around the cuffs the next morning.
However, in this price range, we can expect to see some negatives, and there were some grizzles from me. With a two-way zipper going right to the bottom of the jacket, I found myself always opening the bottom zip up to my waist so I was comfortable walking up steep hills with full leg mobility. This isn’t a problem, as you simply open the bottom zip up, but this could potentially damage the zipper – I’d prefer it to start at waist height.
Neoprene cuff inners have been adopted on many jackets to help prevent water from running into the sleeves, but the execution of them on this jacket is poor – I felt they were comfortable but not necessary … and ineffective at keeping your cuffs dry. In fact, I found they soaked up water, rendering them useless.
I found the cuffs on this jacket to be a bit loose. I like to tighten the cuffs on my jackets to remove any bulk and slack around my wrists but found the Velcro around the cuff was too short to be able to do this without the tab sticking out significantly. I did get used to it, but all it needs is another 20mm of Velcro around the cuffs to fix this issue.
I wouldn’t take this jacket to Fiordland where daily atrocious weather is normal; nor would I take it into the Alps in summer where lightweight is key and rain irregular. But I would use it in most other scenarios.
This jacket does most things well. It doesn’t dry as fast nor is it as light as other jackets, but it’s softer, quieter and warmer. It isn’t as technical or rugged as other jackets, but it’s more compact and lighter. It isn’t as premium or ergonomic as other jackets, but it’s almost half the price. The Spika Vertex provides a good balance in features that makes it a great ‘do-it-all’ jacket suitable for most Kiwi hunters.
At a retail price of $349.95, it provides a great value proposition and has a lot of traits of more expensive jackets. Being a new garment from a brand that’s new to the hunting clothing market, we can expect to see a couple of issues. Usually in this price range, production cost savings come from lower quality materials and lower quality control. However, in this case, Spika seem to have nailed the basics of a good jacket. To be expected, as with the first iteration of any design, there are some small issues that need ironing out; but if you can get past the small niggles of the low zip and problematic cuffs, then the Vertex jacket provides a great option that’s priced very competitively for the NZ market.