Starlight Summerflage Clothing
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- Last updated: 26/01/2017
Coincidence is a funny thing. I was leafing through the latest BASC magazine when I did a double- take. Only the day before a regular shooting buddy of mine had been complaining that no one made any camo clothing green enough for the English countryside during the months when it is in full leaf, and dismissing my suggestions that Jack Pyke’s English Woodland, Mossy Oak’s old Full Foliage pattern, and even the Danish flecktarn suit I happened to be wearing at the time might fit the bill, yet here was a full-page dvert for just such a pattern: Summerflage, from Starlight NV, the night-vision specialists.
I’ve used Starlight’s Archer NVD and IR laser illuminator for some years, but their latest product was clearly taking them into another dimension of covert activity, so I dropped Starlight’s Julian Marsh a line and he kindly agreed to send me some samples to try out.
Top and Bottom
He also explained that, unlike other patterns which are the same whichever way you look at them, Summerflage is unique in having a top and a bottom. This is because it directly imitates the position of plant species in a typical hedge: with rowans, hazels, sycamores and rosehips at the top, hawthorn and blackberries in the middle,then docks and wild raspberries, and finally grasses and nettles at the bottom. As someone who takes pleasure in identifying
the plants as well as the birds and animals around me, and has a special affection for the countryside varieties I grew up with, I loved the concept, and felt privileged to be one of the first reviewers to try it out.
At the time of writing, the Summerflage clothing line is represented by four items: a lined cotton twill jacket, a pair of jeans-cut trousers, a broad- brimmed hat, and a light-weight, un-lined jacket, but when I contacted Julian only the first two were available, so these form the basis of this review.
In each case, the cut of the garments has been designed to preserve the sweep of the pattern printed onto the fabric as much as possible. So, although the jacket has four spacious pockets at the front, they are internal and have zip closures, instead of the more usual patch pockets with button-down flaps. Similarly, the jeans-cut of the trousers means you only get two front pockets, and no rear patch pockets, let alone any cargo-style pockets on the legs.
Both garments were well put together, the jacket having Velcro closures on its cuffs and storm flap, a double-ended metal zip, internal drawstrings with a toggle fasteners at the waist and hem, and a black cotton lining. There’s no waterproof membrane, but this isn’t usually essential in a summer jacket, and you can always treat it with Nikwax Cotton Proof if you want to cover all eventualities.
A little surprising was the sizing. I have a 40” chest, a 34” waist and a 30” inseam and so usually go for a Medium size in both jacket and trousers, but Julian reckoned I’d need a Large size in both, and so it turned out, and even then, despite needing to turn the trouser bottoms up a couple of inches, I could have done with a bit more room in the seat. In fact, I’d like to see a roomier cut to the trousers all round, for the sake of both ventilation and freedom of movement.
What really stuck me, when I opened the package from Starlight, however, was how bright the Summerflage fabric is, with intense, super- saturated colours, dominated by a vibrant green. I was expecting something special, because Julian had told me that it hadn’t been easy to find a manufacturer who could reproduce on fabric the colours their original photographic research had identified in the hedgerow samples they had taken, but I couldn’t help thinking they’d gone too far!
Out in the field, though, Summerflage was clearly in its element, its formerly unnatural-seeming brightness blending much more closely than I had expected with the natural vegetation, and creating a very effective contrast with the dark black shadows in the pattern, a significant aspect I had previously overlooked. Thanks to the choice of plant species represented, and the resulting size of the leaves and shadows, Summerflage blends better with mixed hedgerows than with the predominantly hawthorn, blackthorn and bramble brakes on much of my ground, but how would it fare in the woods? To be honest, this was where it was most at home. Under the canopy, the sheer greenness that was hard to ignore in the yellower light of the fields came into its own, and the pattern really performed, melting into its surroundings, making it a great choice for the stalker or airgunner.
A Lot To Offer
Summerflage clothing isn’t cheap, mostly because the material costs four times as much as DPM to produce, and because Starlight can’t take advantage of the economies of scale enjoyed by the more familiar global brands, but I think it has a lot to offer for UK shooters whose ground is characterised by mixed deciduous vegetation. Personally, I’d like to see the hue nudged a couple of stops towards yellow, as I think this would make it perform better in more open country without spoiling its impressive effectiveness in woodland – though Julian tells me that the colours are designed to reflect both early and late summer hues, so re-tuning the balance to suit August (when my testing was done), would de- tune it for May. I’ll be interested, too, to see how the colours mellow with prolonged exposure to sunlight, wear and washing. Nevertheless, all credit to Julian and the team at Starlight NV, not just for coming out with an innovative and effective new pattern, but also for making one we can really feel at home in!