If you like your reviews short and plain speaking then I’ll cut to the chase and say the Hydron and Scuffers are fantastic bits of kit. I’ve used them a lot and they do the job well. Simply put, they work, they get used a lot.
Having worked with Mac Wright (AKA The walk Master) and Genghis The Springer on the Cuillin section of their Munro Round, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the custom jackets Keela had provided for this canine superstar.
Years ago working in a centre in North Wales, Keela kit was used extensively. It was tough, lasted for ages despite serious abuse but didn’t have the finesse or Kudos of bigger name designs.
Fast forward more years than I care to recall and Keela seems to be producing some amazing kit. I know it gets used a lot by Mountain Rescue Teams so that in itself speaks volumes. I contacted Keela who were fast to respond and really helpful so a big thanks to April Hazell for organising the gear for review.
The Hydron softshell was the obvious first choice when Keela asked what I was interested in. Softshells are great for the highly variable UK weather. The Scuffer trousers looked hardwearing and I knew friends who have used them for years.
I have now had the Keela gear for three months and the unusually wild weather has meant the Hydron has had a heck of a lot of use, perhaps more than in a usual summer. The Scuffers have similarly be worn a lot. Three months may not sound long but as a mountain guide and photographer, I am out in the hills most days so the tough testing soon adds up. It’s hard to imagine a tougher environment for kit testing.
Extremely abrasive rock such as gabbro and peridotite, endless scree slopes, high winds, heavy rain, hail and sleat combined with long days in the mountain carrying heavily loaded back pack, climbing and scrambling makes for a torture test for clothing.
This summer I’ve been involved in lots of interesting guiding work. Obviously, helping Genghis The Springer and Mac was both unusual and rewarding. Other highlights include Gerry and Andy a 70 year old couple from Cornwall who “compleated” the Munros and Sean Green of Grizzly Munro Diary fame who is summitting all the Munros with a bike. So, lots of varied work and some good opportunities to test the gear. It’s also been useful having other items of gear from major manufacturers to review. Thus the Keela gear was worn extensively whilst reviewing the Tenba Shootout 32L back pack and a range of H & Y magnetic filters.
Adrian testing the Keela gear and Tenba Shootout 32L
Genghis in his custom Keela coat with Adrian high on Sgurr na Bannachdich
What Keela says about the Hydron;
When the weather demands it, our Hydron Softshell offers dynamic protection whether you are high on the hill or trekking in the countryside. Using some of the most advanced technology our Stretchtec Advanced fabric features a matrix inner face which regulates the movement of air and moisture away from the body; this paired with 2-way stretch and high water and wind resistance make the Hydron Softshell perfect for any adventure.
….. and the Scuffers Trousers;
With a durable design featuring reinforced seat area, the Scuffer trousers were created to take a pounding in all types of scenarios.
Bold advertising hype or honest description?
Softshells like the Hydron are perfect for marginal conditions which are so prevalent in the Cuillin where maritime climate meets massive mountains rising straight from the sea. Conditions can change rapidly and be very localized so you’d be forever changing in and out of hardshells as rain came and went. Softshells are renowned for their versatility, an ability to provide shelter from showers and light rain, windproof and warm. Certainly in the summer, I’d often take and wear a softshell with a lightweight waterproof in case conditions worsen. If the forecast was bad then a full bore goretex might be more appropriate.
The Hydron looks good especially in my choice of red and certainly works well in photos. The fabric is slightly stretchy and water readily beads up on the outside. The slighty stretch makes for ease of use and comfort. The cut of the jacket combined with the stretchy fabric make it ideal for climbing and scrambling and backpacking. A long scooped back means it doesn’t ride up and cause discomfort with pack hipbelts or climbing harnesses. Similarly the arms are long enough that they don’t ride up when reaching up for handholds.
The design means there is a lot of scope for adjustment to get a nice snug fit or conversely to open things up and dump heat when engaged in aerobic activity. Thus the elements can be kept out and heat retained or vice versa. Velcro adjustable cuffs are easily altered and at the hem a shock cord is easily adjusted even with one hand so easily done on the move with no need to stop. A storm baffle covers the rear of the front zip providing extra protection from the ingress of water and wind. Not only useful but being inside it keeps the jacket looking neat and tidy.
The hood has a volume adjuster and can also be neatly stowed away with a velco fastened tab to secure the rolled away hood. The hood itself provides a haven of shelter from bad weather and works well with a climbing helmet. A wired peak helps protect from wind and rain and the hood allows freedom of movement (ie turning head) when up.
Zipped side vents below each arm allow heat to escape and have proved useful to regulate heat during exercise without the need to remove the jacket. Pockets are well designed with two zipped hand warmer style and two zipped chest pockets. A big plus point is that all the zips have cord with a grippy plastic bit making them easy to operate in adverse conditions especially if wearing gloves.
The Air Xtreme external fabric is softer than lots of membrane type materials whilst the internal square patterned, air channeled fabric is warm and comfortable and feels nice on the skin. A medim fits me well and allows room both for movement and for additional layers to be worn underneath. It’s warm, relatively weather proof, comfortable and hardwearing.
One downside perhaps for summer use is the weight of 663g which is possibly on the heavy end of things. Given the bad weather it has seen a lot of use but had things been warmer and drier then a slightly lighter alternative may have been better. To be honest, the weight does reflect the tough build, robustness and design and I’d rather have that combination than an ultra light weight garment that wasn’t capable of the rigors of the Cuillin mountains.
If you are going to wear it most of the time then the weight really isn’t a problem. The only time the weight is a real penalty is if the weather improves and you need to carry the softshell. For spring, autumn and winter this is an ideal softshell but maybe overkill for warmer/drier conditions.
Despite a lot of use, the jacket shows no sign of wear or tear. It has become a personal favourite to the extent it is one of those garments that my wife, Bridgette, has to forcibly confiscate for washing!
The Scuffers trousers have similarly been worn a lot but during a more normal summer may have been too warm. They have performed faultlessly as a bombproof pair of tough trousers.
Stretchy, breathable yet wind resistant, they are very comfortable for all day use. The fit is well designed being neither too baggy nor ridiculously tight. Tough patches on the inside of the ankles protect not just from crampons in winter but general abuse and mud year round. Long zips from calf to the hem make for easy on/off and velcro tabs allow for ankle adjustment.
Similarly to the Hydron, the Scuffers have large zipped vents to dump heat during activity. This works surprisingly well and was a feature I made good use of. There are two zipped hand pockets, the right one having an additional zipped internal security pocket suitable for car keys etc.
It may only seem like a small detail but the included belt is really well designed being slim and not prone to digging into you and creating discomfort especially with pack hip belts or climbing harnesses being worn.
To sum up, the Scuffers are tough trews and the material is comfortable over a wide range of temperatures thanks to it’s breathability and the thigh vents. The DWR finish works well with water beading up but the jury’s still out on how long that will last. Robust trousers capable of use in a wide range of conditions, the only downside being they are slightly on the heavy side.
People who know me, will realise the emphasis I place on “usability” as a major usually the most important criteria when I review gear. If it’s usable then it works for me and gets used. Forget pointless bells and whistles, usability rules and the Keela Hydron and Scuffers have usability to spare.
Links below to Keela for more details and specifications;
A big thanks to Andy Cole, the pro photographer on Skye to cover Grizzly Munro’s ascents for taking the high quality photos and allowing me to use them
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