Last week I was fortunate enough to take delivery of a Hillman XPR coat, (available in Oak or Camo) supplied by Venator Pro Ltd in the U.K. Requiring a new coat for stalking and training I have been looking for quite some while to find a coat that ticks all my boxes, but to my disappointment the ones I find that come close either aren't as waterproof as promised, lack the vital features that I require or are just far too expensive for what I am getting. As I had never seen the XPR in the flesh I was a little apprehensive when unpackaging and even more cautious about the fit. However I need not have worried, the jacket was a pleasant surprise, especially with its water repellent fabric and waterproof and breathable membrane.
First off was the quality of this garment. The fabric, stitching and attention to detail was very impressive and on par, if not better than some of the other leading brands out there. There are so many features forgive me if I miss any whilst going through them. Starting at the top and on the outside, there is a detachable peaked hood that is fully adjustable. This is great for me a being a wearer of glasses there is nothing worse than being out on a rainy day requiring windscreen wipers, but with the fit of this hood it is not quite such a problem. I mentioned that it was detachable, but the other great thing is that it also rolls up into its own collar, this way it's always there when you need it.
Moving down the back is a zip just about half way down, which is a small pocket that conceals a pull out blaze signal vest that comes up the back, over the shoulders and is held in place by a natty magnet system. This would be a great plus for those of us going to abroad to hunt where Hi-Viz is a requirement. Just under this zip is a large 'game pocket', which again is zipped in such a way that it can be dropped down to sit on in a high seat when wet or any surface you need to plant your bum on. This pocket is easy to get to and just about big enough for a harness and leash or deer cleaves and blood bottles when training dogs
Moving around the front and starting at the top is a radio pocket on the left hand side. This in itself if an essential item for me but the down side is that being left handed the radio can sometimes foul the mounting of my rifle in a hurry - Please Hillman, think of us lefties and stick one on the other side as well. Down on the chest area are two very nicely lined hand warmer pockets and a nice bonus in the right hand one is a lens cleaning cloth, secured by a piece of elastic. This is great no only for cleanings your scope or binoculars but also for those of us that need to wear glasses! Below the hand warmer pockets are two very large storage pockets, big enough to hold a box of shotgun cartridges. Inside each pocket is also an elasticated 'shell' holder, which have cleverly been stitched to cater for centrefire ammunition as well as shotgun. The other thing I am getting to like about these pockets is the flaps. Initially I thought they were too short but now realise that they are nicely designed that they can be tucked inside to allow for fast access!
The front of the jacket is securely fastened in three ways. Firstly there is a strong two way zip, secondly strong pop studs but thirdly if you can't be bothered to do up the stud the front flap can be held in place by a magnetic system which is very quite in use. Lastly (I think), the cuffs are fully adjustable and held in place by velcro. Oops I forgot a couple of things. Under each arm is a waterproof zip that allows for ventilation when the going gets really hot and another waterproof zip on the left hand forearm that reveals a pocket designed for a mobile phone.
So that's the outside. Moving inside, we have a zipped pocket either side at chest level big enough for a mobile phone or wallet/firearms certificate, then below these each side are meshed pockets big enough to hold maps that have a zip designed so that it can easily be opened with a gloved hand. Also inside is a special pocket running down the middle of the back which is designed to take the Hillman Heatmax heating system, (ideal for when sitting in a high seat or on a driven stand!). One other feature that has proved useful is that both shoulders have slim memory foam inserts, that not only give the jacket shape but prove really useful when carrying a rifle on you shoulder for long periods or a heavy Roe sack
Perfection as we know is hard to find and if this jacket had a radio pocket on the right hand side, a fitting to clip a G.P.S. device onto and a slightly quieter membrane it would be perfect for me, but as it stands this is about as good as it gets and is a truly great jacket available. In fact I like it so much I'm thinking of investing in the matching trousers. If you're interested check out www.venatorpro.com or visit their Facebook Page: Venator Pro Limited.