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|Category:||Clothing - outdoor gear|
|Product:||Extreme Photographers (EPS) Suit|
Extreme Photographers (EPS) Suit review - David Clapp put on Stealth Gear's Extreme Photographers Suit and headed off outside to put it to the test.
|The Stealth Gear EPS System in use.|
After first discussions about this concept over the telephone with Stealth Gear's (SG) Managing Director, I have to say I was slightly apprehensive. To me, photography suits always mean those geeky beige photo vests for holding everything that's in your camera bag. SG had certainly got my mind whirring as the idea behind the suit was one of simplicity and a straightforward approach.
Whether a landscape or wildlife shooter, if photography in outdoor locations means a regular drenching, crawling over moorland or freezing on some remote hill top vista for an hour before dawn in the name of art, then the Extreme Photographers Suit (EPS) might be just the companion clothing system you've been looking for.
The beauty of the concept is that the outfit is modular. Designed as a three or four piece system, the Full Monty is a jacket, trousers, fleece and photo vest. Each of these items can be bought separately or all together. This system is not lightweight gortex pac-mac style in concept, let's get this sorted right now. Its design has been crafted to be a durable, hard wearing, low key, while still maintaining style and above all plenty of comfort. For those of us who routinely undertake long distance romps across boggy moorland, or spend time lying face down on dead heather stalking wildlife for enviable photos, the idea is to make you stay positive and focused on why you are there, to do the job right.
The Materials and Build
Made from a mix of quality materials, the first thing that strikes you when you take it out of the box is that it's made of suede! Well almost, it's 100% Polyester Microsuede, but what a superb feel. Gortex and other waterproofs almost have a dry, scratchy texture (especially in the cheaper garments), so to pick up something that is so soft and thick it brought a smile to my face immediately. The next thing to notice is that the grey patches that add on pressure points and areas of high wear are coated in Teflon which is a great idea. Photographers are always kneeling, carrying bags over shoulders and abusing their clothes, so all these areas have been coated to minimise wear and ensure longevity. Quality zippers from YKK and the brass studded poppers keep pockets firmly closed. Cuffs and collars are smooth with tabs and poppers to keep the wind from whistling up the wrong way.
|Teflon is used a substantial amount on all the clothing options.||Airflow Max System - traps warmth, let's moisture escape and keeps you protected from the elements.|
Warmth without Overheating
I want a thick warm coat that is waterproof and can wick the heat from me and I have never found one. I want it to keep me warm when I stop walking, feel cosy and then work with me when I do, not against me. This is where the EPS fills that category. It is entirely breathable using Airflow Max material to keep the moisture from building up without letting the heat out, while repelling water at the same time. This concept is something I have longed for, because as the seasons get colder I want to rely on one coat to keep me warm at all times than messing around about with layers.
|The Stealth Gear EPS Jacket - stylish and cut with a professional and low key look. It says it on the tin, Stealth.|
The EPS Jacket
Right, lets have a look at the jacket away from the website images and show you my actual jacket. Stylish isn't it? A professional cut that looks the business. Soft, warm and covered in pockets and a few surprises to boot.
Note the positioning of the Teflon pads on the arms and shoulders. Not some tiny area, but two thirds of the entire elbow range is covered in Teflon so as you drag yourself over gorse in pursuit of that dotterel, you wont have to worry about weak points.
The shoulder Teflon also goes right across the back. As individuals we wear clothes in different ways, so rather than mess about with trying to find the best place to reinforce, Stealth Gear have coated the whole area in the stuff - that's great thinking.
Straight Forward Pockets
Some simple straightforward features of any jacket, with a buttoned flap that fastens shut and opens quicker than any zipper. It's a system used all over the jacket and it works well.
Now what you wouldn't expect: An extending pocket that's unfastened with a zipper around the rim will give a simply enormous amount of space. No more putting cameras on the ground when you need your hands free.
|Jacket Pocket - large and substantial with an over flap fastened with two buttons, a simple feature used all over the jacket.||Chest Pocket - it's two in one with an upper zip inside and a flapped outer pocket.||Jacket Pocket - not big enough for a map, but just about everything else. Soft inner lining as well.|
|The large lower pocket unzips to give an enormous amount of extension.||You can fit a camera with lens attached completely inside.||Or even two yellow pages! It's really that big.|
It's the sheer volume you get from this pocket that makes it so utterly useful. Yes you are seeing straight, that's two Yellow Pages inside one pocket. The buttoned over flap has an extender to give the pocket extra reach to keep that compelling text nice and try. It's nice touches like this that make the EPS such a user friendly garment.
Inside the Jacket
The inner lining and additional pockets are well thought out again. With pockets specifically for accessories, phones, credit cards, pens and perhaps a satnav or PDA, there is masses of space to take all you need and more.
The EPS Jacket also comes with a spacious and snug hood that is detachable by the usual popper system. Just pull the collars up and snap the hood into place. Again there is Teflon coating on the tops of the hood material to stop it snagging on branches. A wire peak keep the rain out of your eyes.
|Collar up.....||Snap the hood into place.||Stowaway in the lower mesh pocket when not it use.|
More of what you wouldn't expect:
Ever frozen your bum to the rocks or got wet pants sitting on something you didn't expect? Well, just fold down the 'Sit Anywhere Seat' by unzipping the back panel on the rear of the jacket and it provides another layer of comfort. It also doubles up a huge pocket should you need it.
|Unzip each flap from the side of the jacket and it extends downwards to make things a little easier on the rear!|
Here's another great feature, zips that open to allow greater comfort when crouching down. They open up on the sides meaning the front section of the coat now has greater freedom, so you can shoot without agitation.
Under Arm Vents and Collar
It can be rather irritating to be uncomfortable and sweaty, so an underarm ventilation has been added. It's a common design in outdoor jackets and softshells, welcomed here also.
The Collar pulls up nice and high to keep whistling winds from getting inside. Its got a good size that means your face drops into it easily when fully zipped up, unlike many modern Gortex waterproofs that can feel like they're strangling you.
|Army pants? I don't think so...far more comfort and a better cut with all the padding and pockets you'll ever need.|
The trousers are designed for walking, hiking and crawling with the same design features accredited to them as the jacket.
Ample Teflon coatings on all the points of wear, knees, bum and also on the inner parts of the legs where surfaces scrape and knock together, especially when wearing boots or other outdoor footwear.
There are also handy tabs and ties that help tailor the trousers to suit all shapes and sizes.
More pockets to stash gear, makes you think that with some thought you might be able to eliminate the whole backpack concept. Put soft items in here, gloves and no breakable items like this indestructible lens.
No need for an uncomfortable belt.
Leave the belt at home, you won't need it with these handy Velcro tabs, these stop builders bum and also stop the material in the crutch from chaffing the inner legs. It works simply and very effectively and eliminates the need for an elasticated waist that can also get irritating as you walk. The trousers stay at the correct height and position.
|Pull the Velcro tab back and then...||...fix it back (one on each side) to replace your belt.|
Getting a little warm?
Beside the back pocket is a small zip that once open acts as a vent. As heat rises up the leg it can escape to keep you much cooler. Does it work? It's one of the best design features I have seen on a pair of outdoor trousers and it can suddenly make you feel quite relieved, especially if you have been pushing it up some steeper slopes.
Yet again the hardest wearing areas have Teflon coating. Notice the belt loops should you require one. These also work nicely to allow items such as keys to be clipped on.
|The EPS Vest, a stylish and practical cut that boasts many of the features of the full jacket.|
|Great lightweight stylish fleece.|
The EPS Vest
The vest is exactly what it appears to be, the photo jacket without arms.
Although it has the pockets on the outside that are the same, it has removed some of the key features of the jacket to keep the cost lower and make the design simpler.
The pockets are extendible, the basic design is exactly the same but it feels more open and cooler, making it the ideal utility jacket for Spring/Summer months without compromising the design.
Again the cut is stylised and looks tailored, to give a smart and low key appearance. This garment would work very well for a nature photographer requiring lots of pocket access in particular without the geeky waistcoat look of a photovest, which often feel tight and are cut quite uncomfortably.
This stylish looking fleece can be worn as a single item or zipped into the jacket as a mid layer.
It is fitted, has three pockets and an arm pocket for a mobile phone which is ok because Stealth Gear have made this fleece not only windproof, but waterproof as well.
Made from 100% polyester laminated with TPU and 100% polyester mesh, the inner lining keeps water out and allows you to breath.
The collar can be zipped fully up and the pockets are a good size to store keys and other essentials.
I started off using the jacket and trousers in July, hardly the best time to try out the Extreme Photographers Suit. Yet one weekend it was a rather unbelievable 11C on Dartmoor so I thought this might be an ideal chance to put the jacket and trousers to the test.
The whole suit was snug and made me feel very comfortable. The trousers were adjusted to suit my stride by pulling them upwards and fastening the Velcro straps and after a few hours they stayed exactly where they should. With some brisk walking over some heavy moor land, the vents on the sides proved to be a godsend. When overheating they were simply undone and the heat dissipated extremely quickly, a feature I wish all my outdoor waterproofs had. The jacket was also extremely comfortable and made you feel very cosy, the only aspect I found became slightly irritating was the elasticised cuffs that tended to be a little attention seeking as I operated camera gear or walked in general.
As far as waterproofing goes, this is a real strength. When hosed in misty rain there is nothing worse than soggy gortex and this is where the jacket excels. Although the outer shell will absorb water and get wet, this didn't stop me from feeling dry and very comfortable on the inside. As the outside doesn’t run water off its skin, I still felt comfortable when damp. The trousers took a severe beating, striding through knee length grass and heavy bog on my way to the open moors. Despite losing resistance at the very bottom of the leg, they stayed waterproof and extremely comfortable.
Standing around cooling off is when you need insulation at its most. Gortex raincoat and inner fleece systems offer good layered warmth and are favoured among walkers and hikers, but I can’t stand it personally as I am always swapping layers, taking things on and off as my temperature changes. The EPS jacket kept me warm without overheating significantly while walking briskly (remember it was July and 11C). As the wind whistled across the hill tops I felt very relaxed and comfortable, hood up and hands in pockets. I can’t wait to try this out in greater extremes because the signs look very positive indeed.
Once in the car, I had all the windows open as the steam was literally pouring out of me. Within a few hours of being home the jacket was semi-dry and the trousers were only damp at the foot. Its high wicking/drying ability is a huge strength here and highly surprising on such a heavy jacket as this. I am yet to wear it in torrential rain or freezing conditions, but I am confident in saying that it won’t be too long as I will be reaching for this outfit (or one of its parts) as my number one choice of winter clothes on every trip.
Sizes are generous, so speak to the team at Stealth Gear when ordering. I found that the suit fitted me perfectly well but the vest was too large. I have been informed this is something being addressed.
If you want a lightweight summer jacket this is not it. If you want a lightweight winter jacket, again this is not it. It’s a clothing system designed for cold and extreme conditions and should be viewed in this way not compared or criticised with waterproofs. In fact it's very hard to compare and criticise it with anything else, because there isn’t anything quite like it on the market that I can think of. If crawling through undergrowth, stomping across moors, standing for hours on end on cold hilltops is what you do, then you can’t get a better product The brilliant thing about the system is not only its ridiculous amount of accessible pocket space, something we photographers badly need as we swap lenses and kit, but the fact that it makes you feel confident and content wearing it for hours on end. The suit's smooth materials and density really do give a sense of joy. Gone are the noisy abrasive sounds of rubbing waterproof materials.
In these days of outdoor products the EPS Suit is sitting confidently in a corner of its own. Stealth Gear have done a brilliant job of this design, which beats the often limiting outdoor clothing options available to photographers hands down. I cant recommend it enough.
For more information about Stealth Gear's Extreme Photographers Suit visit Stealth Gear's website.