Review - Country Innovation Kestrel Trousers
As a wildlife and landscape photography guide on the Isle of Skye I need trousers that will keep me warm and dry, mostly dry to be honest - there’s a reason it’s called the misty Isle! I also require clothing that is durable; when photographing subjects such as deer and otter I’m often moving over rough, rocky ground and the last thing I need is a nice rip in the trousers as I crawl along (which happened to my last pair of waterproof trousers!).
I’ve tried various types of waterproof clothing over the years in my search for something that works for me. Traditional, run of the mill waterproof trousers are too loud, that rustling noise they produce drives me absolutely bonkers as well as alerting any wildlife to my presence. I’ve known about Country Innovation’s products for some time, but they never really made it on to my radar as a possible alternative until now. The Kestrel trousers are their top of the line ventile trousers and claim to be waterproof, windproof and breathable, along with the ventile fabric being low rustle this made them an appealing prospect. I decided to put a pair through its paces and see if I might have finally found a pair of trousers that can live up to my high expectations.
First impressions are important. It was immediately apparent how well constructed the Kestrel trousers are, they exuded quality. Even the simple addition of a self-branded clip belt showed that they had really focussed on making a great pair of trousers. I was however, slightly surprised at how bulky they are - while the weight is listed under its specifications on the website they felt quite big and would certainly present a challenge if you’re planning on travelling light or are heading abroad with limited luggage.
There was no messing around when I started testing these trousers. Their first outing was out stalking some of my local red deer during the rut, straight into the deep end then. To get close to deer on the Scottish moorlands you need to be quiet and patient, often sitting in one spot for some time until you’re sure it’s safe to venture forward. Crawling over damp, wet bog and through patches of thorny bushes pushed these trousers but I’m glad to say they passed with flying colours. They kept me one hundred percent dry and with the Innovation XL lining I was also nice and warm. This has been further proved over the winter with our usual bad weather and storms battering the North-West of Scotland, my pair of trousers has taken a bit of pounding but even in 60mph winds I was kept nice and toasty.
Further testing however, showed they could keep me a little too warm. Despite being labelled as completely breathable I found my legs actually got quite sweaty under any sort of physical excursion. Now I’m a cold weather person generally, the British summers are normally far too hot for me even here in Scotland so for most people this probably won’t be a problem, for me however I can’t see myself using these trousers outside of the coldest parts of the year unfortunately. They’re described as the perfect hillwalking trouser on Country Innovation’s website but I think I’ll mostly be using them when I know I’ll be sitting in one spot for a long time in the wet and cold.
There is no shortage of storage space in the Kestrel trousers with eight pockets. In reality though it is more like five pockets as the two side pockets have zippered security sections, as does the bellows pocket on the thigh. The zippered security side pockets are really useful for storing keys and a phone, I’m constantly worried about losing car keys while crawling around on top of a mountain so it’s nice to not have to check every 5 minutes they’re still there. Having them zippered also means they stay dry. In the past I’ve had my mobile phone in supposedly waterproof pockets only to find it’s leaked and I’m left with a wet phone. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with these trousers. The bellows thigh pocket is vast and is more than big enough to carry a spare camera lens when I’m on a short walk. It can even fit my Canon 300mm f4. My only gripe is I was always reaching for a second bellows pocket on the left leg which just wasn’t there.
I’ve been living with the Kestrel trousers for some time now. I was sad to see that after a month or so my pair seemed to have suffered a manufacturers defect with tearing on the inside leg seams, but after a quick chat with Country Innovation I had a new pair being custom made and sent out to me - top quality service.
Overall I’ve been impressed with them, they will undoubtedly keep me comfortable, warm and most importantly dry while out in the worst that the Scottish weather can throw at me. It is a shame they’ll be staying in the wardrobe once the temperatures get to double figures but the ventile fabric is fantastic and makes these trousers very comfortable to wear while keeping my sanity intact with no excess rustling. All in all these are a good option for anyone looking for a warm comfortable pair of trousers for cold weather use.