Product Review: Braken Wear Roam Fleece Jacket
Category : Gear
If you follow this blog, or the Common Ground Bowhunter Instagram Account, you know that I am a pretty faithful subscriber to the Kuiu system. I have no affiliation with Kuiu, I just like their stuff and I believe in it. Aside from altering my post season scouting, my gear is probably the thing that is most responsible for changing how I hunt. So, all that being said, it takes a lot for me to find something that actually causes me to spend my money elsewhere, at least when it comes to technical hunting apparel. I will concede that there are a few brands in this market that rival Kuiu’s performance and specs, but the price tag is almost always significantly more than Kuiu and so I find myself going back to their direct-to-consumer model price savings. Likewise, if I can find something cheaper or even equal in price, it almost always seems to come with a sacrifice in performance, weight, material technology or innovation. Still, I am constantly looking to improve my layering system and so I try to keep an eye on what is out there.
That’s how I came across the company Braken Wear. I believe I saw a post on social media and so, naturally, I looked into their gear offerings. Although there wasn’t much I needed, I was, at the time, contemplating purchasing another Kuiu Peloton 240 Full Zip Hoodie so that my wife and I would both have this valuable layer in our systems. I have told many people that the Peloton 240 Full Zip Hoodie might be the best piece in the whole Kuiu offering. So, when I browsed Braken’s offerings on their website I looked into their Roam Insulated Fleece Jacket further because it appeared to have some of the features I was looking for, for a fraction of the cost of a Kuiu Peloton 240 Full Zip Hooded Sweatshirt. And, although it is labeled as a jacket, the Roam more resembles a thermal hoodie. After purchasing the garment and using it all season to hunt Whitetails in the Northeast, here is what I found.
Weight- (4.8 Stars)
Garment weight has become one of the most critical deciding factors for me when contemplating the purchase of hunting gear. Even though I am not doing a lot of ‘active’ hunting, aside from occasional still hunts or deer drives, I still need to be able to pack all my gear into my stand location. Sometimes this means hunting a pre-hung set and sometimes it means packing a portable stand, climbing sticks and all my outer layers in to hang the stand and hunt the same day. Throw in the weight of a camera arm and other necessities and ounces begin to matter. When I was looking to buy the Roam jacket, Braken did not list their weights on their website, so I contacted them via messenger to request a garment weight. The salesperson was responsive and helpful and gave me a weight for an XL jacket- 18 ounces. At just over a pound, this was only 3 ounces heavier than a Peloton Hoodie from Kuiu, and truth be told, I am not sure what garment size Kuiu uses to calculate their weights. Once I had determined the other specs were satisfactory, I ordered the jacket; 1 lb+ is within the range of what I am looking for in this type of layer.
Weather resistance/breathability- (4.5 Stars)
I knew going into the purchase that the Roam jacket did not have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the face fabric. Since I was planning on using it as a mid layer I was not too concerned. (I was more concerned with the wind resistance and breathability.) Although the coat got a bit wet during a few light rains when I was walking to my stand without my soft shell layer on, the fabric is extremely fast-drying, and I found it to be mostly a non-issue; but a DWR coating would be nice. The Roam jacket could be used for an outer layer during dry, mid-season conditions. I would be comfortable wearing a 200g/m2 Merino wool base layer and the Roam jacket on evening sits where temperatures would be dropping into the 40’s. The wind resistance of this garment is good, but I would not utilize it as my outer layer in frigid temperatures, but then again, it isn’t designed for that anyway. The best part about this jacket is that is is so highly breathable. It has the perfect combination of weight and breathability for walking to my stand in the morning in sub freezing temperatures. Rarely was I hot or cold, and the thermal regulation of the garment amazed me. It far outperformed my expectations in this area. I quickly became more than willing to give up the DWR feature to have this kind of breathability in the jacket!
Comfort and Fit- (3.9 Stars)
One of the best parts about this jacket is the length. It falls well below the waist when standing and does not drift up your back when sitting in the stand. It has an athletic fit like the apparel in many layering systems. The hip pockets are spacious and the single chest pocket is large enough for a cell phone, license, and even a battery charging cell for your phone if you were so inclined. One of two negatives I found was that the sleeves could be a little longer for my arms, but the cuffs are very comfortable and the taper helps keep the sleeve from riding up, although thumb holes would be an added bonus and make putting on an outer layer over the Roam jacket a bit easier. However, that is something that I’m willing to sacrifice to be able to enjoy a better price point. The second negative I found was that the cut and size of the hood was slightly long and wide for my head. If I put the hood up the whole way with no hat on, it would come down over my forehead further than I preferred. This could affect some of your peripheral view since the cut of the fitted, cordless hood would be slightly off from its intended placement. When wearing a hat or beanie, the hood size and cut is about perfect. The weight of the hood is perfect when walking into your stand in the morning, adding enough warmth, while breathable enough that you don’t sweat. The sizing on this piece seems to run a little small in comparison to typical US sizing. This, coupled with the athletic fit, would cause me to advise to order a size up from what you typically wear. I ordered an XL and it fits me comfortably enough, but there is no room to spare, and if ordering again I would probably purchase a XXL.
Warmth- (4.5 Stars)
This is one of the warmest ‘sweatshirts’ you will wear. The inside has a thick fleece liner that is perfect to wear over your base layer, and provides most of the warmth in the garment. The outer material is a fast drying synthetic with lots of stretch for added comfort. The hood offers a little extra warmth and concealment and is basically an extension of the collar of the jacket. The jacket zips past the chin, and chin guards on the zippers are a nice, added touch. Braken has considered some body mapping in this garment to increase its warmth to weight efficiency and it is evident when wearing it. It is warm in the places you need it and lightweight in the places you don’t.
Noise/Concealment- (5 stars)
This will be one of the quietest garments in your system. The face fabric literally makes ZERO noise. If wearing as an outer layer, you don’t need to worry about getting busted drawing a bow or raising a gun. The zippers Braken uses are high quality YKK and can be operated silently with a minimal amount of care. The proprietary camo pattern has a digital striped look to it with a brown background. I don’t suspect any detection problems as it seems to blend nicely, but I so rarely wear this as my outer layer, the camo pattern in my situation was of little importance. I would have bought this jacket if it was a solid color.
Durability- (4.2 stars)
The quality and feel of the jacket is great. The stitching also seems to be of high quality and the seams are all perfect. After a season of use, aside from some blood, the jacket still looks brand new. It laundered well, and seems to be holding up great. I would not expect to go busting brush or walk through a brier thicket while wearing this jacket and not end up with a few snags. Since its not designed as a primary outer layer, this application is unlikely anyway.
Price- (5 Stars)
The jacket is on the BrakenWear site for $107.24 (plus shipping). However, I hit this when the timing was right and got something around 30% off. The jacket, with shipping, cost me less than $90. If you know anything about technical clothing, you know that is a steal. Considering the Kuiu Peloton 240 Full Zip Hoodie is $149.99 (not on sale) and the (very comparable) Sitka Traverse Hoodie is $199, this is a phenomenal price.
Company and Customer Service- (4.8 Stars)
From what I have been able to find out about the company, they seem like genuinely good people who are passionate hunters. The company is obviously small and still in a growth and developmental stage. I imagine that breaking into the hunting apparel industry is about as hard as it gets. That said, they were extremely responsive to my messages when I had questions about the product and, as I previously mentioned, they even weighed the jacket for me! I received notice that the item was shipped within 12 hours of purchase and it arrived at my front door before the minimum shipping estimate given at purchase. Very impressive, considering I have bought clothing from US based companies and it has arrived days (sometimes weeks) after the last day of their delivery estimate. Braken deserves a lot of credit for this kind of customer service and speedy shipping from overseas.
One thing that I wish they would make more available is some additional details about their company, the sourcing of their materials, and the ingredients and technology in their garments. I found it hard to determine what fabrics were used in the garment and as such it was more difficult than it needed to be to determine if this was indeed what I was looking for. I essentially ended up taking a leap of faith because of the sale price, but if given more details on the website about the fabrics and the technology behind them, this decision process could be made easier. Since I purchased the Roam Insulated Fleece Jacket, Braken has included weights for several of their items on their website. This was a necessary addition and will help their customers to make better informed decisions.
This is a great piece to add to your layering system, especially when considering the price point and customer service you will receive. This jacket has now replaced my Kuiu Peloton 240 Full Zip Hoodie about 90% of the time as a mid layer piece during the second half of the season. And that isn’t because it is cheaper, that’s because it performs that well for me. The performance of this piece is on par with much more expensive technical garments and that makes it a phenomenal value.
Overall Rating- 4.6 (out of 5 stars)