Home Gear Review: ThruDark Engage Jacket
Feature type Review
Read time 6 mins
Published Apr 27, 2023
Author Nick O’Meally
The ThruDark Engage jacket is tough, lightweight and dependable with a subtle, stealthy aesthetic.
|Features||Primaloft® Gold Active+ insulation, Pertex® Quantum diamond fused shell, adjustable storm hood, 2 x internal mesh pockets, velcro arm patches for reflectors|
I’m an adventure film and TV director and producer for BASE Films, so I spend a lot of time outdoors chasing down content on really varied terrain and all kinds of weather conditions.
Accessing great locations takes a fair bit of legwork and often some rope work too. While I’m definitely not a technical climber, my gear still needs to be tough enough to tackle a rock face or two. Warmth is also important as I can be out on location for long days, stood around in all kinds of weather, waiting for something awesome to happen.
Put simply, I need a tough jacket that I can take refuge in and that allows me to concentrate on whatever the job chucks at me. It’s a bonus if it’s lightweight and packs down well – I’ve got enough heavy gear to carry around as it is!
Accessing great locations takes a fair bit of legwork and often some rope work too
With its military inspired ‘stealthy’ design and the shiny black outer shell, I was a tad nervous that this jacket might be a little too Gucci to perform well when it really counted. Trying it on for the first time, I was actually immediately impressed by how lightweight and fluid it felt, like a much thinner jacket but with the warmth of a bulkier standard down. The fit was great (I’m normally a medium) and I wore it with a long sleeve sweat top but you could easily pair it with a standard fleece on colder days and it not feel too cumbersome.
I hate weak hoods that are baggy around the neck or hard to pull up, but the cut of this one was spot on. It’s confident and chunky with just the right fit to give you that scarf like neck protection and with its cap-like peak, paired with an elastic brim, it stayed in place when the wind and rain kicked up.
I was also pleasantly surprised at how simple and paired-back its design and features were for such an expensive jacket. Basically, it’s not packed with loads of gimmicky zips and pockets, which I prefer. Simple is better in my books.
I was a tad nervous that this jacket might be a little too Gucci to perform well when it really counted
The main and most rigorous testing for the Engage jacket was on a shoot at Cheddar Gorge in the south of England in the late winter. To get to the location we had to hike to the top of the gorge, then climb and scramble to the summit where we would rig a huge highline that was strung between two peaks.
Getting there wasn’t too challenging, but the weather was miserable. A big front came in across the downs and enveloped the entire gorge in thick rain clouds that hung around all day. Up on the summit it was particularly exposed and in the low cloud we got caught in the worst kind of drizzle that soaks everything and spells disaster for camera kit and drones (ours got a hammering, as did we) and leaves you feeling chilled to the bone.
5 hours in and we were still fighting the relentless drizzle, but the jacket stood its ground against the moisture. I was really surprised to find that my inner layers remained largely dry. The Pertex material is classed as water resistant, but I’d say it performed pretty well as a waterproof shell. That said, with the outer shell getting a soaking, the jacket did start to lose some of its warmth by around lunchtime as the damp crept into the Primaloft insulation. Overall, I maintained a comfortable temperature until nightfall, so I’d say the synthetic fibres did the job of trapping my body heat, despite the wet.
We didn’t have car access to the summit, so the day also involved hauling a load of heavy bags, camera gear, rigging and ropes up and down the cliffs on our backs, so the jacket – especially the shoulders – got a good hammering. Ultra-lightweight down jackets tend to get ripped or snagged the minute you start hauling gear, especially spiky camera tripods, but the Pertex shell really held up and remained rip-free.
The big hit for me was the hood. In the miserable conditions it made me feel safe and gave me just enough protection to keep the rain out of my eyes. Overall, it made for a great little refuge that allowed me to keep my mind on the job of filming an epic gorge crossing.
If you want a tough jacket that packs down well but is lightweight and will protect you from most of the elements this might be the go-to jacket for you. In constant rain you’ll need to eventually pair it with a proper waterproof outer shell, but if this is the only jacket you can fit into your kit bag, you’ll be in safe hands.
Additionally, if you don’t want to stand out like a distress beacon in the wild, the Engage jacket is about as subtle as they come. A cardinal sin of any director is to pop up in the back of the camera shot, but ThruDark prides itself on a military heritage, adding a touch of stealth to all their deigns, which worked perfectly for me. If however, a distress beacon becomes a necessity (hopefully not) the jacket also features velcro patches on the arms for attaching reflectors, strobes and lighting systems for use in emergencies!
I must admit to secretly feeling rather covert with the black shell and camo inlay as I stalked around the mountain top. When I’d completed my ‘fantasy mission’ the paired-back, non-technical design was good enough to allow me to transition seamlessly to my next mission – a pint down the pub.
if this is the only jacket you can fit into your kit bag, you’ll be in safe hands
Snug and supportive and with a great high neck and little peak for extra protection.
The Pertex outer shell and synthetic Primaloft insulation is a great combo that makes for a very lightweight jacket.
Packs down well and unlike some standard bigger down jackets, it bounces back to full shape in no time when you grab it out of your pack.
The Pertex stood up to constant rain and drizzle out on the mountain for a good 7 hours.
The cuffs are different to any jacket I’ve had before. Despite being a little thinner than standard they seem to grip well around your wrists and keep the warmth in and rain out as you move around and reach up.
I’m sure you could get something similar for around £350. However, because on the day it stood up to such nasty weather and more than earned my trust, I’d definitely consider stretching my budget to add this to my must-have kit. If you’re a particular fan of ThruDark’s tactical-looking and military-strength kit, you’ll probably feel the spend is well justified too.
If you’re after a tough shell to protect you against cold, wet weather and windy conditions with a sleek, unfussy and premium aesthetic, this might well be the jacket for you. In my humble opinion, it also looks cool and makes you feel more special ops than rambler, which is a nice bonus for a working outdoor jacket!
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