Gear Test: Foulies

We had the opportunity to test top-of-the-line foul weather gear from Musto and Gill HPX Ocean and Gill Atlantic gear on a Southern Ocean sailing expedition to South Georgia,” writes our man in te field, Hamish Laird, skipper of the high-latitudes charter boat Seal.. “The Musto HPX Ocean and Gill Atlantic suits have now done over 5000 miles on the boat in cold, wet
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We had the opportunity to test top-of-the-line foul weather gear from Musto and Gill HPX Ocean and Gill Atlantic gear on a Southern Ocean sailing expedition to South Georgia,” writes our man in te field, Hamish Laird, skipper of the high-latitudes charter boat Seal.. “The Musto HPX Ocean and Gill Atlantic suits have now done over 5000 miles on the boat in cold, wet coastal, and offshore environments.”

Since we haven’t used either set in the tropics, we can’t say how they perform in hot environments – we do test the breathability during sail changes, but our comments are better aimed at people sailing in mid to high latitudes. This clothing is not cheap – you’d look at paying around $900 (jacket) and $600 (trousers) for the Musto suit, and $400 (jacket) and $275 (trousers) for the Gill gear.

Working on deck: The Gill gear has the advantage of being a bit lighter and more flexible. (We measured the trousers at a pound lighter than the Musto version; the jackets were closer but the Gill was a bit lighter.) The Musto tested was the “stretch” version … it stretched, but it does not bend as well as the Gill.

Getting Dressed and General Fit: The Musto came out well ahead here. The trousers have wide gussets at the ankle and chest, so it’s much easier to pull them on and off and to get the trousers over seaboots. The ankle Velcro on the Musto is a good third wider and extremely secure.

The Musto gear is much roomier, which is a boon when putting three layers of thermals underneath. Once you’ve put on thermals, salopettes, a heavy fleece jacket and maybe a vest too, it’s nice to have a lot of extra space in the chest. In really cold weather, the Gill trousers can feel constricted, even for a thin person. Both manufacturers have figured out how to keep the trouser straps from falling off the shoulders, which is an enormous improvement over a few years ago.

Zips: Musto has gone over to RiRi zips; we’ve had two fail (one on a Musto jacket) in the last 5000 miles. By contrast, the YKK zip on Kate’s ancient 1989 Musto inner jacket is going strong after who knows how many miles. Gill still has the YKKs, and although they seem marginally more difficult to start, we have never had a zip fail before the fabric with YKK.



Hoods: No one has figured out how to make a hood like Musto. They’ve had the best hoods for at least the last 20 years, and they keep improving the design. The hood on the latest model has an articulated nose patch, a huge chin cover to keep out Southern Ocean waves, and (because it doesn’t have a “zip away” feature for the hood), it is a cleaner fit and has a broader neck base. Both brands have the pull ties for the hood leading down to the chest, so you can actually see them and they’re easy to pull even when wearing enormous mittens.

Pockets: The Musto jacket has a zipped secure pocket and a separate handwarmer pocket. The Gill has a double pocket with the fleece lined handwarmer pocket and a top entry Velcro sealed pocket. The zipped pocket would be better for some things, but since I rarely put anything in foul weather pockets besides old candy wrappers, it wasn’t a major factor in jacket choice. The drain on the Musto pockets is vastly superior. But, since I don’t really care whether my used candy wrappers get wet, it is not a disqualifier for the Gill gear. Both jackets have zip chest pockets (for wallets or whatever) although only Gill’s is accessible without opening the main zip.

Musto trousers have a knife scabbard for a Leatherman or rigging knife (knives kept in a pocket – particularly a thigh pocket - will severely wear the fabric over time). Both have thigh pockets; neither with drains, although Musto’s has a “water deflecting inner lip.” Both trousers have hand warmer pockets, but only Musto’s has a drain.

Color: Gill is the clear winner here. The trousers, which are exposed to muddy anchor chains and dirty shore lines, are grey, and the jackets are a bright high visibility red with grey arms and butt – exactly the places where the white Musto gear is filthiest. Both sets of gear have had roughly the same treatment – offshore sailing and coastal sailing with lots of anchoring in Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. The Gill gear looks like new after a wash and the Musto gear shows every bit of ingrained dirt, even after a thorough washing. White is also nearly invisible against a rocky shore or in the water.

Material: Musto is HPX Ocean GoreTex, Gill is a proprietary 5Dot 3 layer fabric. A key test would be to compare breathability in the tropics, which we haven’t done. But in moderate to cold weather, they seem roughly similar in breathability (although the Gill feels lighter) and so far, they have proved similarly waterproof. Both manufacturers have done away with the linings that most foulweather gear sported a few years ago, which is a big improvement. The Musto gear can be “restored” after time with a waterproofing treatment; Gill offers “repair kits” to extend the life of their kit. Another unknown is which will be more waterproof in a few years’ time. We are very kind to our gear (apart from leaving the trousers over the boots “fireman style” when we are offshore) – we don’t wear it ashore, and we use PVC fisherman’s trousers for rough work. Even so, we have been disappointed by the longevity of breathable foul weather gear in the past.

Harnesses: The Musto jacket has straps to fit a lifejacket/harness, presumably Musto’s own brand. It is an attractive feature to be able to leave the lifejacket/harness permanently attached to the jacket, but our brand does not fit the Musto jacket.

Bottom Line: For someone working full time in the Southern Ocean, or making an extended high latitude voyage, Musto comes out ahead for its hood, fit, and design features. But for someone spending most of their time in mid latitudes or coming on a shorter trip in high latitudes, Gill is an economical, solid choice.

Kate & Hamish Laird mix chartering and family cruising on their 56’ sailboat SEAL in Antarctica, South Georgia, and Cape Horn regions. www.expeditionsail.com

Two side comments:

Women’s Gear: All the major brands of foul weather gear now offer women’s foul weather gear, writes Kate Laird. While I haven’t made a thorough test of the various brands, I find that men’s foul weather gear is less fussy and easier to get on and off. Women’s gear is more attractive and shapely, but once in three layers of thermals, there’s no shape left anyway, so I’d much rather have offshore gear that was easy to get on and off than one that looks good. A guest came on board with a “drop seat” version of foul weather trousers, but since it wasn’t possible to access the drop seat with a jacket and harness on, the men's version was actually faster and easier to use.

Boots: There is still only one boot for cold, rough oceans: the leather lined Le Chameau Neptune. They last better, have better ankle support, are easier to put on (because they’re stiff), better grip, and have thicker (ie insulating) soles than any of the competition. They are impossibly hot in the tropics, and you’ll need a second pair of rubber boots for going ashore, as the tread, perfect for the deck, picks up every stone on the beach and hangs on tight.

For more information, check out:

www.musto.com

www.gillna.com

Posted: August 5, 2008 by DS

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