The Kinder Smock will be fondly remembered by climbers and boulderers of a certain vintage. Such was the popularity of this duvet in the 1990s that seemingly every climber was wearing one, and rare were the days that you would go out into the Peak and not see one. They were rugged, built to last and yet typically adorned with duct tape patches, worn like badges of honour. The baffles seemed full to bursting, and then there was that funny kangaroo style hand warmer pocket on the front… So here we are again, the Kinder Smock is back - but let's set aside the rose tinted goggles of nostalgia, and check out what's new with this old jacket.
"Outwardly it looks the same as it always did, but the new Kinder Smock has one key upgrade from the classic original: it now features Nikwax Hydrophobic Down"
In overall design the Kinder Smock has been kept very much the same as it always was, maintaining what I would refer to as a 'relaxed fit' so that it's nice and easy to get on over multiple layers. This is further aided by its quarter-zip up the side, which can be undone to make more room (or provide a bit of space for the belay device to move around if required). The zip is coupled with the original (now distinctly old-school) poppers, which ensure that little bit less heat loss.
I always have a love/hate relationship with smocks. On the one hand I love the weight saving, and the fact that they are warmer than a full-zip jacket of equal weight. I also love the look. On the other hand there's no denying they are a little awkward to get on at times. That said, this is more of an issue for technical use in the alpine or high mountain environment, and that's not really what this jacket is designed for. For warming up between the action while bouldering, sport climbing or single pitch trad climbing, this is clearly less of a problem. Ditto for hanging out at a chilly camp or walking the dog on a cold day. In fact, in all these cases I'd probably opt for a pull-over rather than a jacket due to the benefits listed previously. The extra warmth is definitely noticeable.
The Kinder Smock - as more observant readers will no doubt have noticed - comes without a hood. This will clearly divide opinion: some people like them, others don't. Whilst it isn't designed to be a lightweight duvet, the inclusion of a hood would no doubt have made it even heavier. Also, being a smock it kind of seems logical to omit the hood (although don't ask me why, because that doesn't make sense). In short: if you're after a hood buy another jacket from Rab's range - there are plenty.
As per the original, Pertex Classic has been used on the outer, while on the inside Rab have opted instead for the more modern, lighter weight Pertex Quantum fabric. For a jacket of this kind (i.e. a robust workhorse) this is a good combination, giving you durability where you need it and saving weight where you don't.
We asked Pertex to tell us more about the fabric. Here's what they said:
"The development of the original Kinder Smock was extremely important for Pertex®. It was constructed from 'Pertex 4' - named for its thickness in thousands of an inch - the first downproof by construction, lightweight and packable fabric to be used in this type of garment."
"Whilst fabric technology has moved on since then, the 70-denier Pertex Classic used on the outer of the new Kinder Smock retains the look, feel and lasting durability of the original. A much lighter 20-denier Pertex Quantum lining helps the down to fully loft and is incredibly soft and comfortable."
On the subject of durability, this is a jacket much like the original: robust and built to last. Mine is yet to show any signs of wear and tear, but the duct tape is ready and waiting for that classic look*.
*actually, this is a lie as the Tenacious Tape is actually ready and waiting - it's much more subtle, much more sticky, and actually a much longer term solution than Duct Tape.
It seems a bit superficial to mention colour options, but I always like to summarise the choices available. In this case it's: red, a real crowd pleaser and one for the discerning user in search of that retro look; blue, a good option for those who have a friend who already owns the red (it also has a nice yellow lining); and black, which is only best for someone who really doesn't like to stand out in photographs…
The Kinder Smock contains 270g (size Large) of 650 fill power duck down, which is a respectable quantity in a jacket of this size (remember there is no hood, so all this weight is focussed in the body). Outwardly it looks the same as it always did, but the new Kinder Smock has one key upgrade from the classic original: it now features Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. This has swiftly become the gold standard in water resistant down, being more environmentally friendly - not to mention more effective - than any other product currently available. For the British user this is something of a boon, because let's face it - those cold/dry days are few and far between. The warm/wet ones, like it or loathe it, are far more common!
In light of all the above, where do I envisage the Kinder Smock being used? Well this isn't a jacket for the high mountains, it is - much like its namesake mountain/fell/molehill - designed for lower level use. At 650g on my kitchen scales (size Med) it is neither the lightest jacket, nor the most featured, but it does absolutely everything you need it to for bouldering and shorter single pitch trad or sport climbs during the colder months of the year. It also ticks the boxes for cold weather camping, winter walks and general outdoor use - particularly if you suffer from numb hands, when that kangaroo pocket will really come in handy. It's unlikely to be your first Scottish Winter or Alpine jacket of choice partly because lighter alternatives would be more attractive, and partly because you'd probably want a hood.
A quality remake of an old-school favourite, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser for anyone after that cool heritage look, the re-issued Rab Kinder hides some up to date down technology beneath its vintage exterior. Built to last, and offering a lot of warmth, it's ideally suited towards cold days of winter bouldering, but would be equally at home hanging out at a cold campsite or walking the dog. The addition of hydrophobic down has made it all the more appealing, as the extra resilience to the damp will no doubt be welcome whatevever you're up to in rainy old Britain.
Paying homage to the much loved original, our classic Kinder Smock is back.
First manufactured over 30 years ago, the Kinder Smock quickly became a favourite on the Sheffield climbing scene. Easily picked out against the dark gritstone, its iconic shape meant it could be worn without interfering with a harness or belay device.
An unbroken link from past to present, the Kinder is as rugged and hard-wearing as before, still made from the classic Pertex fabric. Not ashamed to be neither fast nor light, there is nothing like the warm, reassuring feeling of throwing on your Kinder at a cold belay. Sometimes the old way is the best way.
- Price: £160
- Weight: 650g (size M - our measure)
- Sizes: S - XXL (men's version only)
- Pertex® Classic outer fabric with Pertex Quantum® lining
- 650FP European Duck Down (270g in size L)
- Rab® Fluorocarbon free Hydrophobic Down developed in conjunction with Nikwax®
- Stitch through construction
- YKK®VISLON® front zip with insulated zip baffle, chin guard, and high down collar
- Insulated front placket with metal logo snaps
- YKK®VISLON® side zip opening with insulated zip baffle
- Large kangaroo patch pocket with tricot lining
- YKK® zipped security pocket
- Part-elasticated cuffs with anti-snag velcro adjustment and 1 sided hem drawcord
- Regular fit
For more info see rab-equipment