FLYKANDY RIDGE DE PRO PILOT JACKET - £300
Each winter I try to avoid using my flying suit for as long as I can - It’s not because I don’t like it or that it isn’t any good - in fact it’s superb - I just don’t like to admit that it’s winter and the days of flying in lighter clothing have gone for another year.
Several years ago, I bought a Montane Prism jacket and its first proper use was when I got to fly from Lake Bochin in the Slovenian Alps, over the peaks, and land near to the border with Italy.The other guys were all in flying suits and I liked the fact that I wasn't. It was a superb flight and I was so impressed with the performance of the Prism, and the fact it was lightweight, that it became my flying jacket of choice for the next few years.
Three years later, I saw all the pre-launch marketing for a new jacket from a start-up called Flykandy. I liked the sound of it but I was happy with the Prism and I'd also missed the first round of jackets which were released. The jacket was well received and feedback from those that got their hands on one led to several improvements in the second version of the jacket.
I was still happily using my Prism jacket when I noticed the offer some of you may remember from a few months ago, where the Ridge DE Pro jacket was available for a limited time for £250. That was it for me, a stupid amount of money for a jacket, even with the discount, but everyone I’d spoken to that owned one had only sung its praises. I also realised that I’d spend that much on my mountain jacket without a second thought, so came to the conclusion that when buying flying clothing I simply slip into tight-fisted PPG pilot mode. So I placed my order.
As the price had been reduced, Flykandy had been inundated with orders but in a reasonable time the jacket was delivered.
My first impressions was of a nicely-made jacket and when I put it on it felt very cosseting without being bulky or heavy. However, I found the compulsory thumb loops/wrist seals slightly clingy and I didn’t feel that the jacket was a very good fit, it seemed to pull back at the neck if I crouched down. I also struggled to open a couple of the arm pockets without holding the jacket with one hand and the zip with another. However, once I began to use the jacket when flying, it all came together.
Background and details
The Ridge DE Pro was designed for free-flight pilots, you can’t just pop into any outdoors shop and pick one up. It was designed by British pilots who wanted to make the jacket they wanted to use themselves. First off, its shoulders and forearms are reinforced with Cordura; the shoulder reinforcement protects the jacket from wear caused by harness shoulder straps and the forearms are protected from riser wear. It has to be said that the reinforcing doesn’t compromise movement or add any real stiffness to the jacket, it remains very easy to wear. My previous experience with Cordura was in a heavy-duty diving drysuit which is nothing like the Cordura used by Flykandy, which is soft and supple.
Pockets are everywhere - but not just for the sake of having pockets; they seem well placed and functional. And they have very usable pull loops on them, each with a reinforcing plastic semi-circlular puller, which are easy to use with gloved hands.
There are two pockets on each arm, one on the forearm and one on the upper arm. Both upper arm pockets zip up to open, whereas the lower arm pockets zip down to open and all have a D-ring attachment point sewn into them. They are a good size for stashing stuff you might want access to during flight, like a munchie bar. There is also a nicely made access point for comms in each pocket.
There are two chest pockets which are of a generous size, big enough for a gloved hand to fit through. Both chest pockets zip down to open and have nice quality Aquaguard zips from YKK. Along with a D-ring attachment point in each pocket, there is, again, an access point for comms.
One thing I had experienced when using a regular jacket, like my Prism, is that in flight the hood could get sucked out of its restraint and into the netting. This happened to me several times, but the Ridge DE Pro has no hood and is all the better for this omission. What it does have is a very high collar which feels luxurious. This, combined with a drawstring, means you can seal yourself from the cold and drafts very effectively without it feeling claustrophobic. I really like this aspect of the jacket, previously I have always had a draft down my neck no matter what I tried, especially once I had raised my arms.
The Ridge DE Pro has another few design features to help here, as it is long in the body so nothing changes when you raise your arms; it also has a ‘wind skirt’ which helps keep heat in the jacket and, as I mentioned at the beginning, thumb-loops. As well as preventing the sleeve from pulling your jacket's wrist away from your gloves when raising your arms, it also helps seal the cuff - and very effective it is.
A few other details about the jacket include the two underarm zips; these are about ten inches long and are useful for ventilation when working up a sweat. The jacket does not use down as an insulation material, which appeals to me a lot. It is also cut closer to the body, so is easy to wear in flight and does not add any unnecessary drag.
Not having worn the Ridge DE Pro in winter yet, I have flown in it at great height over the mountains, cold enough to numb my fingers in flying gloves. And I was toasty - amazingly so. Considering that I had just a t-shirt and a thin old fleece on underneath, I was impressed that the cold never bothered me - no drafts, no cold spots and complete comfort. I’ve made about a dozen flights in the jacket and have fallen in love with its ability to keep me warm and comfortable in the air.
My initial concerns, including not liking the colour combination of grey, black and yellow, have all vanished quickly and I find nothing I can really fault in the Ridge DE Pro … other than a couple of pieces of thread in the stitching that weren’t trimmed … and that the long-awaited Flykandy trousers haven’t materialised yet. If these turn out to be as good as the jacket then it will be an excellent combination.
At £300 it is an expensive buy, but there's nothing like it, especially when you consider that it has been designed specifically for our type of flying - and I like that it’s a UK company. If the Ridge DE Pro stands the test of time, and looking at the quality I see no reason why it shouldn’t, then for something that you know will keep you warm and comfortable throughout the year, it’s a very good buy. Put it on your Christmas list.