My First Anorak Review: Tilak Odin Ventile Jacket

Overview

What’s your favorite do-anything jacket? Is it a trusty Gore-Tex Pro-Shell? Or maybe one made out of those newer membranes like Eco-Shell or eVent, or maybe even a NeoShell? To be perfectly honest I don’t really have one. I love waterproof-breathable fabrics because they are just that: waterproof and breathable. I hate them because they are relatively fragile compared to non-waterproofs, and because even the most breathable hardshell out there has its limits in terms of ventilation. I own two proper waterproofs at the moment: a Fjällräven Eco-Tour Jacket, and an Arc’teryx Alpha FL. Both have their qualities and when Thor drops the hammer (figuratively) they do come out of my rucksack. But I like softshell materials a lot more, because they are more pliant, much more breathable and much tougher than any waterproof out there. One downside: water will seep through eventually…

Enter a much older player in the ‘technical fabric’ game: Ventile.

Ventile is a fabric first developed during WW2 for military applications. Up to that time there was really only one way to make a garment actually waterproof: rubber. This approach has some merit: it is super durable. Hence, you can still see these ‘rain slickers’ in use with fishermen as salt water tends to ruin everything else pretty quickly, and they even had somewhat of a fashion revival in recent years. As a technical performance fabric though, it is downright horrible. They’re extremely heavy and terribly sweaty, so that rules them out immediately.

Another way of making stuff at least water repellent is waxing it. Some brands, in various ways, still make extensive use of this technique: Barbour, for example, uses a fatty and heavy wax to make their fabrics highly water resistant. Fjällräven uses a blend of paraffin and beeswax to make their polycotton blends water resistant while keeping weight down so it is still usable for outdoor pursuits. It’s a relatively simple process, and wax is easy and environmentally friendly to produce and use.

Ventile takes a different, and very unusual approach. At its core, it is a tight-weave fabric made from the top two per cent of the world’s cotton crop. The material swells up when water hits the surface and that makes it highly water resistant. This ensures that, when the material is dry, it has the comfortable and soft feel of cotton, but when wet it has the performance of a waxed jacket. In double layer garments it can even be completely waterproof – all without a layer of wax or a technical membrane.

Tilak Odin Ventile Wet.jpg

The downside is that the material is pretty hard to make. It requires a high-quality cotton crop and a fine weaving process. Therefore, clothing made from Ventile can be relatively expensive. However, when you realize what it can do compared to pretty much anything else out there, you definitely get your money’s worth!

Okay, that introduction was longer than I wanted it to be, but whatever. The reason I’m writing this review is because a few months ago I wanted to buy a good performance anorak. I like the pullover style they have and the performance feel of many of them. I was also eager to try a new material. In the end I found the Tilak Odin Anorak and fell in love with the look and features immediately. Actually buying one though was harder. In the end I found the brand itself willing to advice on fit and ship one over to me. Good service!

I was unable to find a good English-language review of the garment so I took it upon myself to write one. A word of warning: this will be a long one.

Construction

I hadn’t heard of Tilak before I found this jacket but after doing my research, I knew immediately that they know what they’re doing. It is a Czech performance apparel company mostly geared towards mountaineering pursuits. They still design and produce all of their garments within the Czech Republic, a country known for its high-quality sewing industry.

Tilak Odin Taped Threading.jpg

That knowledge shines through when looking at the Odin Ventile Jacket. I haven’t seen this much attention to detail in anything but Arc’teryx gear. The stitching is superb throughout. I haven’t found a single thread poking out anywhere. High wear areas, such as the cuffs, hem and brim have a double layer of fabric, the second inside layer being a lightweight polyamide. The cuffs and brim have also been laminated, giving them some rigidity so they are easily handled and grabbed. The embroidered logo is a nice touch as well, not only from an aesthetic point of view: it has been laminated on the inside so no water will seep through the stitching! YKK zippers are in use throughout, and the main front zip is an YKK Aquaguard zipper, laminated and taped on the inside to prevent water seeping through. All in all, one of the most well constructed pieces of gear I have ever seen or owned.

Features

The Tilak Odin Ventile Jacket is a clean looking jacket but it sure is feature-packed! The hood is fully adjustable, with a Velcro tab and one-hand pull cord on the back, and the usual two pull cords on the front. Its brim is laminated to keep rain and wind off your face. The hood is also completely helmet compatible (tested with a Black Diamond Half-Dome, not exactly the smallest one out there…).

Tilak Odin Kangaroo Pouch Inside.jpg

Pockets-wise, you won’t be disappointed. Aside from the large kangaroo pouch, which has a nice divider inside as well, you get a left-arm pocket, a small pocket in front of the kangaroo pouch, and two zippers to enter the large hand warmer pocket on the lower front. The main kangaroo pouch has a hole for comms cords or headphone cables and there’s a loop for the cables in the hood. A nice touch, and I especially like the contrasting color on the cord loop in the hood.

Tilak Odin Inside Hood.jpg

The two side zips serve as ventilation ports, and one can be opened fully to help donning and doffing. These zips are also slightly placed forward to ensure comfort while wearing a pack. The fully open zip is secured with a single button on the left lower side so you can open the zip completely without your jacket flapping about like a flag in the wind.

Tilak Odin Side Zip.jpg

The hem is adjustable through a single one-hand draw cord at the right inside. The draw cords throughout are worth a mention in their own right. I really like the one-hand design and the way they are there when you need them, but unassuming when you don’t. Only the one at the hem could have been smaller in length, but that is something a small knot can solve.

Tilak Odin Hem Drawcord.jpg

The cuffs are nice as well. They are laminated and long, so they’re easy to grab and adjust, with Velcro of course. They also have a slightly different color from the rest of the jacket so they are noticeable. They are eccentric though: most jackets have their cuffs running inside-to-outside. These are the other way around. It’s weird at first but once you’re used to it, it actually makes a lot of sense. It makes adjusting them on the fly much easier, especially while wearing gloves.

Tilak Odin Cuff Adjuster.jpg

Fit

I would say the Tilak Odin Jacket is generous in cut. I have a size Medium and at 71kg and 1,78m with an athletic build I have enough room to layer warm winter stuff (down jackets) comfortably underneath. It is not so big that it becomes completely unusable in the summer though, although you will have some extra room of course. Due to the cut it is a very good year-round jacket when you wear the appropriate stuff underneath. It does, however, present some problems when taking part in more technical activities such as mountaineering, especially in summer. Due to the generous cut, it can be hard to see your harness sometimes, so attaching and detaching gear can be an issue. This is mostly a problem while wearing thin layers underneath, but it did lead me to decide not to take it on an alpine route this summer, opting for my Arc’teryx Acto MX instead.

Details

Most functional details have already been mentioned but I also like the aesthetic ones. All the logos are embroidered, and laminated. There is the brand logo on the front, the red Tilak dot on the back of the hood, and then there is the black-on-blue Odin Ventile on the left sleeve. All of these give the jacket a sleek look, all while remaining performance-based in DNA. It’s a really well done combination.

Tilak Odin Outside Hood.JPG

Usage

To be perfectly honest, the Tilak Odin Jacket is not going to be the do-all jacket I thought it would, but that is only because it is slightly too bulky to wear during climbing to use safely – at least for me. Other than that, it is perfect. Trekking, hiking, cycling, everyday use… This jacket does it all. And the Ventile material works wonders, without any need to regularly reproof or wash. It withstands so much water that it makes my waterproofs almost unnecessary. I say almost because at a very persistently rainy day water will eventually start to leak through the breathability-improving but seeping stitches. Another point worth mentioning is that soaked Ventile becomes heavier and a lot denser than dry Ventile. It can almost feel like cardboard. If you’ve ever worn a thoroughly waxed Fjällräven jacket, you know the feeling. This is not much of an issue for me but I imagine that it might be for somebody else.

Pros

Clean look

Functional details

Ventile is virtually waterproof

Fully windproof

Relatively maintenance free

Hardwearing

Great construction

Roomy fit but clean cut

Cons

Only one draw cord at the hem

Too roomy for technical climbing

Ventile becomes stiff when soaked

Overall

For most purposes, this is a great jacket. The Tilak Odin Ventile Jacket looks clean enough to use as an everyday jacket, but it offers enough functionality and weather protection to take it on almost any trip on almost any day. It looks cool, it feels super comfortable and is highly durable. It makes your waterproofs last a lot longer because you will barely have to or want to wear them any more so in the long run it will save you a ton of money as well.

Tilak Odin Kangaroo Pouch Outside.jpg

Just don’t have an elaborate hair-do though – or take care products wherever you go. The choice is yours…

Further reading

http://www.tilak.cz/en/odin-jacket

Edit: I received a request for a picture while wearing it. This is me, 1,78 at 72kg wearing a size medium:

IMG_4483.jpg

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “My First Anorak Review: Tilak Odin Ventile Jacket

  1. Great review, thanks! Is it possible to see a picture of how the anorak fits you? Having a hard time deciding what size to purchase, I want a quite roomy fit.
    Best regards

    Mikael

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  2. Wondering if they tape the seams if that will largely remove the need for a double layer. There’s another company making Ventile anoraks and they are single with taped seams. I’m looking at an Ebbelsen, but I am wondering if they are too warm for warmer climates due to the double layer

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    1. Aside from warmth, double layers also add an enormous amount of bulk. I wouldn’t consider it for hiking and mountaineering as it would be superheavy in the pack when not worn, but maybe for survival/bushcraft double layer is preferable because it makes fragile hardshell materials more or less unneccessary.

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  3. I endes up not getting the Odin or the Ebbelsen. The Ebbelsen, I finally saw, has no hand pockets. Maybe one can shove the hands in through the top. Also still not convinced about the double layer. Ebbelsen wouldn’t give a weight, claimed no availability, but other than that point, their CS was stellar and they answeres my questions perfectly. I almost bought one today until I saw no hand pockets.

    I also decided to nix Tilak. Whoever they had answering customers via email is not doing thr company any favors. Real questions, specific ones, and reasonable ones (same ones Ebbelsen answered, no issues) and the guy got all pissy, yammering about bizarre nonsense that Ventile is not for me and he doesn’t want a reclamation in 3 months or whatever. I was about to place the order and then received some reply that made me think Tilak intended these for hipsters (note the lack of technical use reviews for Jago and Ebbelsen, with the former just being fashion stores faking reviews and the latter having one non-technical review). Most of the people making Ventile are doing it for fashion, not technical use. Anyhow, got an Amundsen Vidda for a steal. It’s the real-deal. Short on reviews, but beyond obvious that it is a purely technical and verifiably tested garment (the company’s owners and ambassadors use them for their trips that they post online). So far, love how it feels and breathes. It might not be a daily-use item due to the intended design, but will work for my trips to Iceland and while working. Got poured on last night, walked with it for two hours, and I didn’t get wet, nor sweaty. It’s too bad with Tilak, but if they rub me the wrong way before purchase, then it would be my own fault if I need help after and have those same issues.

    So how has it been for you over the last year?

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    1. Interesting, when I was having contact with them their reactions were swift and to the point. Maybe they have a new rep or something. I’m not sure if I agree with you in terms of hipster use. Yes, there are not that many technical reviews of the Odin, but I have used it on hiking trips myself and it performs well enough for any non-waterproof jacket – better than any softshell jacket with a similar weight I have ever used actually. It does become less water-repellent over time but them they Ventile still blocks most water. I have only ever experienced water going through on pressure point such as elbows and shoulders. I would use it on hiking trips again, not so much high-alpine environments due to the fit and the hood limitations with a helmet, but other than that I still quite like it.

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      1. I researched about the ventile offerings for a while and the minority, by a wide margin, are technical garments, while the majority are fashion garments, particularly aimed at hipsters willing to spend extremely high prices for SoHo NYC blazers or raincoats (backed up also with how reddit places Ventile and the Tilak Ventile post bring in the fashion section). Basically, Tilak said if I don’t know about Ventile already and if it’s for me or not…then it’s not for me. How should anyone know if the manufacturer doesn’t? The other problem is Tilak’s documentation throighout the line of what materials are used where (specifically they also have mixed-membrane jackets) is poor, at best. Regardless, I made a nice choice with my Amundsen. Hot rained on for hours this morning, no leaks, no sweat accumulated. For alpine hiking and Iceland, no doubt the jacket was conceived for very technical applications. Maybe in the future Tilak could be an option, but they lost a customer to bizarre answers and rather bizarre, irrelevant reasoning.

        However, I wanted to give you props, since this is likely one of the few tech reviews of any Ventile garment.

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  4. Also one note of something I recently noted: Tilak cheaped out on the zippers. While they are YKK, they are of the cheaper nylon coil types, while pretty much everyone in this area uses Aquaproof or RiRi zippers for the long-term durability since a Ventile piece may be in use for a decade or more. It’s kind of a drag when components like zippers are used that are the kind that won’t last the life of the material and that’s why others are spending more in this area. Not to mention, retailers report (ie: via youtube) that the biggest problems they have with returns are the coiled zippers on technical jackets.

    Ebbelsen uses RiRi, Amundsen uses YKK Aquaguard. My Klättermusen Einride has Aquaguard for the main and for the pockets (a rarity for the latter), Rough Stuff uses a normal zipper, but more heavy duty than the coiled (but appesrs uncoated).

    While some may discount this, the proof is bscked by the industry and those who are makers of Ventile technical wear. Most all are using zippers designed to last the life of this hard-wearing material and not to result in the article in being discarded before the material wears out.

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    1. Wow, ok. To be honest I haven’t noticed any problems with the zippers so far. But then I have more softshells than I need so it doesn’t see as much abuse as some other people might put their Ventile through. I’ll keep it in mind and check how they hold up.

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      1. Yeah, there are lots of discussions on the zippers, lots of stores and manufacturers talk about reclamation on the inverted coil types on technical jackets. New, they won’t be too big of a problem, usually friction is the complaint, but over time, those things wear out. This is why Aquaproof and RiRi have become standard here. Even my 120 Euro Kühl Kollusion has a brass Vislon Aquaguard zipper in this class because, even though it’s not the most tech item out there, it will last a decade or more of 3-4 season use. That’s the whole point of Ventile- to have a jacket that will last many, many years to life (Jago) and not be thrown away (polluting). The Ventile stuff is designed to be 3-4 season usage, so that’s quite a bit of use the jacket will have to endure.

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      2. https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/39730/

        This will lead you into the direction of more info. I think prolite gear or something like that on youtube has discussed how the coates inverted coil zippers are by far their biggest problem. Not only that, the Aquaproof and RiRi are designed for sealing from the ground-up. Thry are expensive and that’s where you will see people cheaping out. It also deserves a mention that Klättermusen used Aquaproof even for the pockets on the Einride.

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      3. Found more:

        Some of their tests and other stuff, particularly of Gore, are dubious, but the zipper debate is solid and supported by the industry and users. This is why it’s a drag to see Tilak cheap out by using a cheap zipper with a long-lasting material. Even if no failure, they won’t last as long as molded. When repair time comes, it can’t possibly be cheap or good-looking.

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      4. I guess I’ll find out eventually. I work in outdoor retail and I have to say that I have seen some solid zipper repairs on highly technical jackets. Obviously not super cheap but not ridicilously expensive either.

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      5. To add: my Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell uses the newer YKK zipper and it is not much newer, so I will have direct comparison between the two styles. Interesting!

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