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Product Review: MPX Offshore Race Smock

There’s a great, extensive review of the MUSTO MPX Offshore Race Smock by the editor of trekandrun.com:

‘THEY SAY: Re-styled for 2011 this new design is for offshore racers looking for a light weight jacket with reduced bulk.  It utilizes Gore-Tex Pro Shell which provides levels of durability and breathability unmatched by non Gore-Tex products.’

‘FEATURES:

Gore-Tex Pro Shell laminate for superior breathability and durability
Roll-away fluorescent hood with width & height adjustment for the best protection in really wet conditions
Recycled fleece lined collar and inside of hood for warmth and comfort
Articulated elbows & underarms to maximise freedom of movement
Inner and outer adjustable cuff design giving virtual drysuit cuff protection
Handwarmer tunnel lined with recycled fleece to keep hands warm and dry
Large cargo pocket with mesh drainage allowing easy access to necessary equipment
Lifejacket attachment points allow lifejacket and HPX jacket to be taken off and put on as one
Musto Red Boat branded prismatic reflectors for high levels of visibility in poor light conditions.’

WE SAY: I’m a canoeist, not a sailor as such, so this review is written from the point of view of somebody paddling around an estuary, and occasionally the open ocean, in a small craft, in reasonable weather. What I mean by ‘reasonable weather’ is, I’m never bothered if it’s raining, but if the wind forecast is for 40mph or above with unpredictable white water to match I’ll stay on dry land. The water that the smock has been seeing most action on over the past 3 months is the Medway estuary in south-east England, which is over 5 miles wide at points and opens out onto the North Sea.’ 

‘Luckily (for the purpose of testing the smock) the first estuary trip I made was a 3 day tour (there are a few islands out there on the estuary that are perfect for wild camping) during which the weather threw everything at us. Rain, hail, thunder, lightening, and most of it whilst we were on the water far from the shelter of our tents. The smock held up just fine to all of this, as it has done on subsequent trips (it’s been a pretty wet/chilly summer and the smock has been called into use on most of my 30-odd excursions). It kept me totally dry, warm (and thus my spirits up when the hail was hitting me full on in the face) and there was plenty of space across the back and under the arms to paddle fiercely, freely (which I need to do in order to steer the canoe when the waves get up) and also to move about whilst back in camp.’

‘I wear the smock often in camp. You could say I’ve practially lived in it over the last 3 months, for 2 or 3 days per week. It feels robust enough to handle the stuff I do whilst there, like moving kit up the beach from canoe to camp, collecting wood for the campfire, scrambling over wrecks and generally exploring the surrounding terrain, such as the fort you can see in the background of the photograph below right. The photograph bottom right is of me canoeing into the flooded lower entrance of the fort. The water reaches almost 2 metres up to near the top of the entrance, so it’s a very tight squeeze to canoe in. The smock got scraped and pulled about by the bricks on that journey but never snagged, and it kept me warm in that chilly interior as well.

The warmth and space of the smock has to be commented upon. It’s perfectly fine for a chilly spring/summers day if worn just on its own over a t-shirt, and that’s how I’ve worn it mostly. But for colder days it’s got enough room in it to wear another base layer plus a gilet, and still leave space to enable me to paddle comfortably. This isn’t just a sizing issue, the smock isn’t too large for me, it’s just how it’s made. It fits and feels as it should do, whatever and however thick (within reason) the base layers I put under it.’

‘There’s a large pocket at the front which stretches across the chest that has two functions. The first is as a traditional zipped pocket which is large enough to hold a phone, a map and a knife (I always carry a knife in there in case of capsize, there’s a little loop of material inside to tie it to as well) and keep it all waterproofed and safe. The second function is that there are openings at both horizontal ends into which gloves can be stuffed or cold hands can be thrust between outer pocket and body. The endings have velco to keep them closed tight against the smock to stop the gloves falling out, and the lining is fleece so gives a comforting, warm feeling to cold hands.

The high collar and hood is also fleece lined, which, when the wind is howling, helps me feel protected, and warm. The only slight down side to this smock actually concerns the high collar/hood. When I’m paddling in high wind, with the waves rolling in behind the canoe, the height and insulation that the collar provides prevents me from hearing things as clearly as I’d like to. I know I’m being overly cautious when I paddle, but I like to hear the waves approaching so I can tell when they’re almost on me and can judge when to make a paddle stroke in order to make minor direction adjustments. This slight hearing impediment might not be a big deal I guess if you were sailing, but when canoeing it’s vital as it makes the difference between surfing along with a wave and being hit by it (and then letting more water in than you’d like). Perhaps a couple of small holes covered with mesh (or a thinner layer of material or fleece, or a slight cutaway) where the ears are would help remedy this?’

‘The Medway estuary is known for it’s black mud. And being out there at least once a week has made sure that the smock has been covered in it’s fair share of it. To get it clean I’ve mostly just sponged it with fresh water. No problem, it sponges down easy and dries quickly. But it can also be machine washed if the mud is particularly thick and ingrained.

After each wash the smock looks as new, with no sign of wear. I think I can say I’ve put it through it’s paces the last few months and can imagine that by the looks and feel of it I’ll be able to do so for several years to come.

The front neck opening can be fastened up tight via a double layer of velco to prevent any weather getting in at all, or opened out a little to let the air in. There’s also a drawstring on the hood that keeps it comfortably in place during high winds, and a rigid peak that takes the water runoff away from your face. You have to get this hood adjusted to your own head shape before the weather hits though, as it’s not easy to do when the canoe is bobbing around.’

‘Finally, the waterproofing qualities. The Gortex covering works fine even after consistent exposure to rain and storms over a period of hours and days, as you’d expect. There are also adjustable cuffs (and an adjustable waistband), which can be tightened up around the wrist (or the elbow if it’s a muggy day and I have the sleeves rolled up). The water that rolls off the paddle when I’m paddling hard can’t get up the sleeves thanks to this feature, which is a very welcome advance on my previous canoeing jacket which promised to do this but never really did. Keeping the water away from you is not just important on the outer, rougher waters on a cold day either. The inland parts of many English rivers have enough yearly cases of Weils Disease (a potentially fatal water-borne disease spread mostly by rats) occuring in them to warrant taking care when making contact with the water; the less of it that reaches any abrasions on my body the better chance I have of staying healthy.

IN SUMMARY:

MUSTO promise that if a garment of theirs fails to meet their exacting standards during a reasonable working life, then they will repair or replace at their discretion, free of charge. They must be pretty confident to say that. Having tested a bit of their kit as well as this MPX smock, I can see why. It all performs superbly. On top of this, the smock also looks great. This is important to me as part of my job is guiding the public on canoe expeditions, so I have to look smart, and the part, and this MUSTO smock doesn’t let me down in that department.

When I leave shore for a few days I need to have confidence that my kit is going to serve me well. I have that confidence in this smock. It delivers when it comes to keeping me warm and dry, and I can’t imagine how a waterproof could serve me better in both canoe and camp (apart from that slight high collar/hearing issue).

The MPX smock would be a pricey addition to any canoeists’ kit, perhaps, but a wise one that would pay you back over time with it’s good looks, solid performance and long life.

Appearance – 10/10

Feel and Fit – 10/10

Performance – 10/10

Overall – 10/10′

Re styled for 2011 this new design is for offshore racers looking for a light weight jacket with reduced bulk will find this the perfect choice, it utilizes Gore Tex Pro Shell which provides levels of durability and breathability unmatched by non Gore-Tex products.

  • £450
  • 89% POLYAMIDE 11% PTFE WL GORE
  • Machine Wash
  • Available in Black, White, Red and Platinum
  • > SHOP ALL MPX SAILING CLOTHING
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