Friday, 6 January 2012

Gear Review - Berghaus Men's Elite Half Zip Jacket

It became apparent during a very wet SusSAR training weekend last July that my 10-year-old Technicals (Blacks own brand) waterproof no longer qualified for the title. It had served me well; it had come with the thickest fleece Ive ever seen as a removable liner and Id used both parts in Norway as supplemental layers. The one issue Id always had with the coat was that even the shell on its own weighed a bleeding tonne (well 980g, anyway) and wasnt very packable, add in the fleece and the weight trebled and it would easily fill a daypack. Id binned the fleece a couple of years ago following a bonfire incident and now the shell was about as waterproof as a sieve. I tried reproofing it with a spray on Nikwax product but all that achieved was a bad smell, so when I finished a search exercise on the aforementioned training weekend completely soaked through I realised it was time to start looking for a replacement.

I decided on three criteria -
1. It had to be waterproof, windproof and breathable (very breathable, I sweat like a fat lass)
2. It had to be lightweight and packable; I wanted it to hide away in my pack until I needed it.
3. It had to be reasonably priced - I didnt have £400 lying around to splash out on kit.

The Berghaus Men's Elite Half Zip
I finally (after a few more soakings) got around to buying a Berghaus Elite Half Zip in Size FatBlokeoops, I mean XXL. It cost me £65 from Cotswold Outdoor, on sale from the RRP of £90. Its advertised on the Berghaus website as Fast and Light and it comes in one colour (Black with Orange zips and draw cords). If you want a different colour then you need to be a girl, as the feminine version comes in a fetching shade of brown theyve called Pumice. As the name suggests its a smock design and only has one pocket on the left sleeve. Its made from Berghaus own AQ2.5 material, which I imagine is one of the contributing factors to its low price.

My initial reaction when it arrived (very promptly a day later, well done Cotswold) was that it was incredibly light, so light I felt compelled to weigh it (yes, I know, geek) and it came in at 199g, it was also very packable - compressing down to approximately the size of a can of beer. The material feels quite soft but retains a feeling of quality and strength being ripstop. The jacket has a scooped rear hem and the hood is big enough to get a helmet under but can be reduced in volume to hug the head and move with it instead of staying put and blocking your vision when you turn. The hood has a stiffened rather than wired peak but this doesnt seem to be a disadvantage, its also permanent rather than roll away. The half zip is just that making the jacket very easy to get on and off and zips right up to the chin, when done right up with the hood down it nicely pulls the hood in and stops it flapping about. Berghaus describe it as "active fit" so even the XXL doesn't feel like a tent.

As an emergency waterproof, packed away in a work bag or in my search kit the jacket is barely noticeable, the only complaint being that it doesnt come with its own stuff sack. Ive had it for about three months now and for the first month due to the unseasonably warm dry weather thats where it stayed. Then when the mornings became chilly, I used it as an extra layer and recently when it's been both wet and windy its been of put to the test. It's passed that test with flying colours, it is both windproof and extremely waterproof, with water beading and running off. This waterproofing is maintained even at pressure points where the straps of a rucksack sit, nor is there any water ingress at either zip.  The lightness, softness and breathability of the material is such that I barely notice I'm wearing it and the drop rear hem seems to prevent it riding up under a pack.  

The Berghaus Elite Half Zip is a great jacket and incredible value even at the full RRP of £90.... now, I'm just off to do a rain dance so I've an excuse to wear it, anyone care to join me?

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