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ThruDark SF Raid waterproof jacket review: a seriously classy shell with a military background

An extremely robust waterproof shell, the ThruDark SF Raid combines superlative build quality with premium fabrics and top-quality components

ThruDark SF Raid Jacket
(Image: © ThruDark)

Our Verdict

A rough and tough three-layer waterproof shell designed around Schoeller’s innovative temperature-regulating c_change membrane, the SF Raid is an impressively protective jacket armed with rugged looks, top-quality fabrics and premium components, ready to do battle with the elements no matter how bad it gets out there.

For

  • Superb build quality
  • Rugged and robust
  • Highly protective
  • Very comfortable
  • Bluesign-approved, PFC-free fabric

Against

  • Not the lightest
  • Fit a little boxy
  • Some extraneous features
  • Expensive

ThruDark SF Raid: first impressions

ThruDark SF Raid Jacket

The ThruDark SF Raid has military influences (Image credit: ThruDark)

The ThruDark SF Raid is the brand’s flagship waterproof shell – designed for sustained use in arduous conditions, including technical mountaineering in snowy and icy terrain. Established in 2018, ThruDark is an outdoor brand set up by two former British Special Forces operatives, with years of field and combat experience between them. It’s serious kit with a military design influence and that design ethos helps make the SF Raid one of the best waterproof jackets out there.

The immediate impression of this jacket is that it is exceptionally well built. It’s crafted in Italy, and in military speak, this is Gucci kit. Let’s be clear though: this is no “fast and light” rain shell – it’s a big and burly jacket designed for the harshest environments. It’s windproof, waterproof and highly breathable (with lab tested figures of 20,000mm Hydrostatic Head and breathability of <2 RET – see breathability ratings explained for more on the subject).

It’s also well equipped for technical mountain use. The oversized hood is designed to be compatible with a rock climbing helmet, and has a stiffened peak to deflect wind, rain and other precipitation. Cuffs have Velcro adjustment, and the hem has dual drawcords to cinch in the jacket at the waist. All the drawcord locks utilize Cohæsive components, which are integrated into the fabric of the jacket itself. This reduces bulk without impairing usability. The hood also has some hidden technology, in the form of a two-part RECCO avalanche reflector concealed in the brim. 

YKK AquaSeal pit zips are located under the arms to aid ventilation. Rounding out the comprehensive feature set, you get two zipped chest pockets and two zipped hand pockets, all fitted with highly water-resistant YKK AquaGuard zips. For added storage, a smaller security pocket and stow pouch are located inside the jacket.

All in all, it’s an impressive package and a jacket that compares favorably to premium offerings from other top-end outdoor brands, both on paper and in person. As the serious price point suggests, ThruDark are positioning themselves to trade punches with Arc’teryx and the other heavy hitters of the outdoor gear world. This jacket looks and feels just as well-made as anything from those brands, and it’s even supplied with a waterproof roll-top dry bag to store it in – a nice touch. At this level, it’s all about going the extra mile to create a high-performance product that feels genuinely special, and here, ThruDark delivers.

Specifications

• RRP: $700 (US) / £545 (UK)
• Size: Men’s S / M / L / XL / XXL Women’s S / M / L / XL
• Weight (men's medium): 780g / 28oz
• Colors: Olive Green / Obsidian Black / Dynamite Red

ThruDark SF Raid: on the trails

ThruDark SF Raid Jacket

The ThruDark SF Raid is made from a waterproof breathable fabric that’s less stiff and rustly than Gore-Tex, and a little more stretchy, too (Image credit: ThruDark)

This is a slightly unusual waterproof jacket in that it uses a lesser-known waterproof technology that is an interesting alternative to the ubiquitous Gore-Tex. The foundation of the Raid is Swiss textile brand Schoeller’s temperature-regulating c_change membrane – a PU-based membrane that differs from ePTFE-based membranes (like Gore-Tex) in that it reacts dynamically to different conditions. This should result in superior breathability across a wider temperature and humidity range. 

According to Schoeller, the “polymer structure of the c_change membrane opens in response to correspondingly intense moisture development. In the cold, or at times of low activity, the membrane remains closed. As a result of lower moisture development, the polymer structure contracts and keeps heat close to the body.”

Sounds ideal for strenuous, high-output activity in cold and wet conditions. We tested the jacket in the first snows of late November and early December in Snowdonia, North Wales. We were impressed with its performance. Despite being thicker and heavier than most rival membrane-based shells, it seemed to feel noticeably less clammy, even when working hard. But what we liked most about this fabric is that unlike most other high-performance waterproof-breathable shells – Gore-Tex Pro being the worst offender – this jacket does not feel stiff or crinkly. The fabric is far more supple and moves silently, with minimal audible swish or rustle. It even has a little stretch. As such, it’s far nicer to wear. 

ThruDark SF Raid

A peek inside the ThruDark SF Raid (Image credit: ThruDark)

The features all work faultlessly, from the sturdy cuff tabs through to the waterproof zips, which never seem to stick or snag. This jacket could save a little weight and bulk by eliminating or reducing the large Velcro patches that adorn both arms and the hood. Apparently, these are there to affix unit insignia or other elements for emergency use, like reflective elements, LED strobes or the like. So, yes, while there is a use case, it seems fairly niche.

This is also a jacket you really want to be wearing rather than carrying, as it’s a bit of a lump if it’s stashed in a pack. At 800g, it’s no featherweight. Then again, it’s designed for cold and wet conditions when you’ll doubtless have it on for most, if not all, of the day – and when you do have it on, you won’t notice the weight. It is also far more comfortable than most other waterproof shells we’ve tested.

Our only caveat to that would be a slight niggle with the fit. Generally, most mountain or Alpine-focused shells seem to be built with rangy climbers in mind, so when it comes to patterning you get plenty of length in the arms and torso, with a slightly extended hemline to tuck under a harness and ensure good coverage even when stretching or reaching upwards. It’s a cut that suits us – but conversely, the Raid is a little broader in areas like the chest and upper arms, without giving us the length in the limbs and torso that we’re used to. Basically, it’s built for brawny, stocky Ant Middleton types rather than your typical climber’s physique. Obviously, this is personal preference, so while it maybe wasn’t the optimum cut for us, it might suit you perfectly.

If it seems like we’re nit-picking, we are – but you have to, in order to find fault with what is indisputably a seriously classy shell.

An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.