Not many gear reviews on this blog so far, but afraid this is one I just have to write. And, while I wish it related to a positive experience, I’m afraid the reverse is true with a tale of initial satisfaction followed by such disappointment, frustration and ultimate letdown that I’ve resolved not to buy from the manufacturer concerned again…
So I needed a top quality lightweight waterproof top for hill running/adventure racing, spent my usual hours and days conducting exhaustive online research and concluded that the OMM Cypher smock looked perfect for my needs. So I bought one (at the end of March), tried it out briefly in April and was impressed enough to write this:
which finally got christened on Cam Chreag after spending most of the day in my sack and looks like a great lightweight shell top. Quite snug (but not tight) in a ‘large’ size (specified for height 5’10” to 6’2″ and chest up to 43″ when I’m 5’11” and would normally buy 42″ for 40″ chest), with a nice ‘drop tail’ and truly excellent hood which somehow manages to provide good protection while overcoming my normal dislike of hoods as making me feel ‘blinkered’.
But then it remained unused for a month with April’s increasingly arid course (only sustained dry spell of the year so far up here!) leaving little need for a top quality lightweight waterproof top until the normally pleasant month of May started drowning under increasingly biblical downpours. And here it really started to show its worth, with a delighted user on the point of telling everyone how good it was until (just seven outings into its life with a maximum of 16 hours’ wear) suddenly discovering it wasn’t nearly robust enough (see photos) for a careful user who’d been treating it with kid gloves because it was new and he loved it…
So it got discussed with/sent back to the supplier, who sent it back to the manufacturer, who (instead of the requested refund) simply returned it to me via the supplier with a letter stating that, despite the ‘inner scrim’ and ‘outer rip-stop material’ being damaged, the ‘laminate shows no damage’… and continuing to ‘suggest that the condition of the jacket is due to something the wearer has subjected it to’ (his further suggestion of ‘a trouser buckle with a prominent prong and under a rucksack harness’ being completely unfair).
Now, while I’d already conceded the possibility of a rucksack (made by OMM!) being involved, this smock had never been near a trouser belt or buckle in its life as my subsequent email to the manufacturer (name of supplier removed) will show:
Peter Duggan wrote (2011-06-11 12:03):
> Tried to ring you yesterday to discuss my Cypher Smock recently returned
> to ********, but was told you were in a meeting, said I had to get back
> to work myself and understood you’d try to ring me back after 4:00pm.
> Would still like (far prefer!) to discuss this with you by phone but,
> given that it may not be easy for either of us to catch you during
> working hours, covering my main points here first (starting with the
> history of the garment’s usage emailed to **** at ********, which I
> hope you’ve already seen)…
> Peter Duggan wrote (2011-05-23 22:10):
>> It was ordered from you on 27 March 2011 (for the Highlander Mountain
>> Marathon in April, but not used there in fine weather), tested once
>> briefly on 2 April then not used again till 10 May. Since then it’s been
>> used another six times (four of them in conjunction with an almost empty
>> OMM Adventure Light 20 sack) for trail/hill running in this wet May
>> weather, totaling max. 16 hours wear, so not washed yet but simply hung
>> up to dry after each run.
>> The delamination (photographs attached) to the front panel was
>> discovered yesterday and assumed to be fresh because I’d have noticed it
>> before. While it has occurred to me that this could be in the area of
>> the rucksack belt, both smock and sack are of OMM manufacture, intended
>> to be used together for adventure racing etc. and there are no
>> comparable marks in the areas of shoulder or sternum straps.
> So, to comment on your letter to **** re. the damage, which I received
> on Friday with the returned smock, you say that the ‘laminate shows no
> damage’ and this may well be true depending on how you define laminate.
> But I’m sure you can see why I’ve called it laminate when what we’ve got
> is essentially a puckered-up outer ripstop layer separating from some
> kind of inner layer whether or not this constitutes the core eVent
> laminate in technical terms.
> Might also point out that I’d already acknowledged the possibility of a
> rucksack belt being involved (see my quoted remarks above), but here I
> must take issue with your suggestion of a ‘trouser buckle with a
> prominent prong’ to state categorically that:
> 1. The smock has never been worn over any belt or such buckle, but only
> with lightweight running gear, all having drawstring or elasticated
> waists with the sole exception of my Montane Atomic DT pants (ironically
> bought from ******** at the same time) which have two *tiny* spring
> toggles on the waist cord.
> 2. The only sack that’s ever been carried with it is my OMM Adventure
> Light 20, and that always almost empty (carried mainly as somewhere to
> put smock/leggings when not worn + single 500ml bottle and some snacks),
> so never really weighted or ‘loading’ the hip belt area.
> To which I’d like to add the following more detailed breakdown of its
> history to amplify my brief description above and clarify how little
> it’s been worn along with *both* Montane pants (if you’re looking for
> anything that could even possibly have caused rubbing damage) and OMM sack:
> Ordered 27 March 2011 (for the Highlander Mountain Marathon in April,
> but not used there in fine weather).
> Tested once briefly (max. half hour, with OMM Adventure Light 20 sack +
> drawstring leggings) on 2 April then not used again till 10 May.
> Used another six times since then:
> 1. To Blackwater Dam, c.1:50, with Montane pants but no sack.
> 2. WHW to Lairigmor ruin, 11 May, c.1:38 but not worn continuously, no
> sack, can’t remember what leggings (drawstring or elastic).
> 3. Creach Bheinn, 12 May, 2:22, with OMM sack + Montane pants.
> 4. Glencoe Ski Centre/Bridge of Orchy, 15 May, 3:29 but not worn
> continuously, with OMM sack + Montane pants (not worn continuously either).
> 5. Lairig Mor, 20 May, 2:21 but not worn continuously, with OMM sack but
> other (elasticated waist) leggings.
> 6. Glencoe Ski Centre, 21 May, 4:03, with OMM sack + Montane pants.
> NB The ‘max. 16 hours wear’ previously quoted is allowing for periods on
> these runs carried but not worn.
> Now, given everything said above, I’m sure you can see why I’m surprised
> by both the damage itself and the fact that no-one else appears to have
> reported similar problems. Because from my perspective I appear to have
> bought an expensive top that can’t be worn with a natural partner sack
> from the same manufacturer and/or apparently appropriate partner
> leggings from another when nobody’s said, ‘careful… don’t wear your
> OMM Cypher Smock with anything else because it will damage it’ (please,
> I’m being serious here!). So **** tells me she’s never had any OMM
> products returned before and I’m surprised to hear that given my
> experience with this smock, but thought it was genuinely in your
> interests to hear/see what’s happened to this one and disappointed to
> see your letter apparently blaming me for the damage when I’d at least
> be concerned by my story if I was the manufacturer. To wrap this up (for
> now, because I still very much hope to discuss it with you by phone),
> **** tells me it’s a fabulous product (I thought so too!) but I’ve had
> to tell her that in this case you now have one very disappointed
> customer with 100% dissatisfaction with this particular product.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, after several attempts to contact the company director by phone, I finally caught up with him when I was off work with the inflamed tendon sheath in mid-June and had quite a long and civil chat during which he stressed the integrity of his company, restated that my smock had been the only one returned with this problem, said he wasn’t blaming me despite the suggestion of ‘something the wearer has subjected it to’, offered to sell me another for a reduced price (an offer I first turned down, then turned down again after asking what price he had in mind) and finally conceded that he’d be willing to exchange it if examination by a local supplier concluded that faulty materials or workmanship were to blame. And this, with nothing to lose after otherwise getting nowhere, I accepted… except that he didn’t phone back to confirm as promised and I had to email him days later only to be told (after his apologies for that) that he’d talked to them, ‘felt that it was putting then in an unfair position to act as referee when they were there to provide a broader service to you’ and was suggesting another independent referee in Lancashire. At which point, with ‘hiding to nothing’ springing to mind at the thought of sending the thing at my expense to another unsuspecting third party, I’ve finally decided enough is enough when any local shop would simply have replaced it and OMM could surely afford to do so, am just relating the whole story here instead, will be emailing him to tell him so and doubt I’ll ever buy another OMM product (pity, because I like that wee rucksack and thought I liked this smock). Whether or not you do is up to you, but that’s all I’ve got to say here.