The Craghoppers Voyager is a hybrid jacket with a…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Craghoppers for testing and review)
The Craghoppers Voyager is a hybrid jacket with a combination of a soft-shell (with Gore-Tex Windstopper membrane) and Thermo Elite synthetic insulation across the front of the body. I found the fit (too short in the hem and sleeve length) and lack of stretch to be the biggest negatives, while the breathability and layering were the biggest pluses. In my opinion it would best suited to someone with a smaller frame looking for a jacket built to transition from the city to light hiking.
- No sweaty back with a pack on
- Stylish enough to wear in the city
- Fit (short in both hem and sleeve length)
- No stretch
- No adjustability
I found the fit of this jacket to be very European influenced. It is significantly shorter in the hem length than I would like and tight across the shoulders. For reference I am 6 foot and about 175 pounds, average (to athletic) build with broad shoulders. I received a size large and would definitely recommend sizing up for more room to move.
The (less than ideal) fit is further complicated by the fact that the soft shell used has zero stretch to it. I was unable to cross my arms as the fabric across the back wouldn’t allow it, and forget lifting your arms up, the shoulder area is too tight and cuts into the armpits. Besides the awkward fit and lack of stretch there is no adjustments to be made anywhere on the jacket. No wrist velcro, no hem cinch, so if it doesn’t fit you well then there isn’t much you can do about it.
I’d love to see an area from the underarm running down to the side hem of a hyper stretchy/breathable fabric, both to further enhance a product that works well with a pack on (no overheating) and to increase the range of movement.
I also found it difficult to seal off the cold at the wrists when wearing gloves, as there is no hook and loop or adjustment, just elastic with a very small amount of stretch. It can be hard if the gauntlet on your mitt is thick to tuck it in under the sleeve.
The Voyager utilizes a Gore Windstopper membrane as well as has a quality DWR coating applied, so while not completely waterproof it is more than adequate for any light showers, wet snow is the same. It also (as you’d imagine) is completely windproof. I’ve been in winds up to about 30 kms an hour without any noticeable air movement coming in.
Why I was initially so excited to test this product was that I’ve wondered for a long time why no one has designed a jacket with no insulation along the back. Enter the Voyager. The synthetic insulation runs exclusively across the front of the body, think vest with no back. For any activity where your wearing a backpack this can be incredibly convenient to have as little extra warmth as possible there.
My timeframe for testing this jacket overlapped with another product I was testing, the Fjallraven Bergtagen base layer top, which basically has mesh across the back. These two combined made the most breathable/least sweaty back I’ve ever had when backpacking. Even with heavier loads (I tested this jacket over the fall and winter where my pack weight would average around 35 lbs), I would remain (relatively) dry. I say relatively because I sweat no matter the temperature; it’s just a case of how much.
(You can see here the sweat was able to escape the jacket and froze on the outside. I was wearing it under a shell prior to this pic, otherwise the sweat would've just evaporated. It was the shell that trapped it in.)
(The offending shell—see my review of The North Face Uno, nothing new)
Another big advantage to this zonal insulation is how well it layers with other pieces. Most of the Voyager is very low bulk. The sleeves, back and sides are all just soft-shell, which is in my opinion, the best option for layering because the fabric is so slick. It slides nicely under a shell for moderate conditions or can be treated as a mid-layer and paired with another insulation piece over it without stacking up two bulky layers.
I also think because it’s so fitted to me, and while that's a negative for movement, it certainly helps it in layering. As a general suggestion I treat this almost as I would a vest—it can work on its own in mild temps as a standalone piece or it can be supplemented with another layer for colder temps.
Craghoppers is vague about the target market for this product on their website saying “Give yourself a head start this season with Voyager” and “hybrid softshell jacket is a thoroughbred performer”, what, or where, we’re going with the jacket is up to your imagination. To further complicate things there is an RFID pocket on the inside to prevent theft of your personal info. I personally thought this was meant to be a more backcountry inspired jacket but features like this, and an iPod/iphone pocket with headphone port all point to more urban uses.
In the jacket's defense it is quite nice looking—plain black, minimal branding, rather inconspicuous. It leads me to think it was aimed more at the travel crowd, those who might like to do some city exploring, or a light day hike and then to the local pub. Otherwise I’ve never seen a bear walking around trying to steal my identity. There’s also a variety of pockets, pockets within pockets, to keep everything organized, which again leads back to the more city uses.
This jacket does a lot of things fairly well, while not excelling at any. It’s not exceptionally packable, or light, or durable, warm, or weather proof, but it does do all those things at a marginally above passing grade (much like my high school marks). I absolutely love the idea of the front insulation of this jacket. I just think it needs some further refinement, mostly in fit, but also in the fabrics used.
I’ve had the chance to test this jacket out now for over four months (October-January) through the winter. I’ve used it mainly as a mid-layer throughout these colder months and as a standalone piece on milder fall weather days.