The Berghaus MtnHaus development lab is a wonderful concept – the team have the ability to develop cutting edge products for their sponsored athletes that may not be particularly commercial, but occasionally these high-end products filter through into the shops for the benefit of the rest of us. The VapourLight range is a collection of trail running equipment and apparel, and the HyperSmock (hardshell) and HyperTherm (synthetic insulated) jackets were developed for Berghaus athlete Philippe Gatta for his attempted 1700km, 40 day bimble along the Great Himalayan Trail. Both items are incredibly lightweight – quite probably the lightest in their class – and due out in March 2014.
Berghaus VapourLight HyperSmock
This looks and feels like a windproof shell – the fabric is 7 denier polyamide ripstop which is translucent and feels pretty unsubstantial, coated with PU to provide waterproofing. It’s not the normal membrane laminate found in waterproof breathable hardshells and does rely on the integrity of the PU coating to maintain waterproofing, but this is hardly the kind of thing you’d use for rock climbing or other highly abrasive pursuits. This type of fabric relies on the fibres themselves transmitting moisture through the fabric from the inside rather than the microscopic pores of a membrane, but it’s a considerably lighter option. The stated breathability for the HyperSmock fabric is 8000g/m²/24 hrs, whereas top-of-the range waterproof breathable membrane laminates are quoted as achieving well over 20 000g/m²/24 hrs. Whether this is noticable in a non-lab environment depends very much on weather conditions and workrate, but as a sweaty person I detected noticable clamminess on the inside of the fabric despite venting with the long front zip. The seams are taped – as much to reinforce the stitching through the gossamer-thin fabric as to stop leaks – and allows it to qualify as ‘waterproof’ within the tough rules and kit regulations of adventure races.
As you’d expect, there aren’t a whole load of features here, though I was impressed that there was an adjustable hood included (albeit rather basic). As a smock there’s a deep front zip, reversed with an internal storm flap. the single pocket on the upper arm is a bit superfluous but might be useful for holding keys or something. The cuffs are finished with simple elastication and the hem has a drop cut at the rear with a slightly-elasticated band sewn into the rear section. The hood has a simple length of shockcord around the opening with two cordlocks above the secured, non-flappy, ends. The brim is slightly stiffened, and the whole set up works surprisingly well. All zip pulls are fitted with a small length of cord to aid operation with cold and/or gloved hands. Logos are kept to a minimum and screen printed onto the fabric.
Numbers and Conclusion
The weight of 114g for my size large is superb – I have heavier windproofs – but it’s not something I’d want to use in serious bad weather. Designed for trail running, where getting wet and muddy is par for the course and exertion levels generally keep you warm, this simply isn’t the need for a full-specification mountain hardshell. The smock packs down into a fist-sized stuffsack which can be clipped to a belt or carried in a bum-bag and makes an ideal ‘just-in-case’ waterproof for the summer hillwalker that doesn’t want to lug around a heavy hardshell on the off-chance that it rains.
Compare the Berghaus VapourLight HyperSmock to other lightweight jackets in our comparison review.
Berghaus VapourLight HyperTherm FZ
This is a reversible jacket – the blue side is weather-resistant Berghaus AF fabric, and the red side a less windproof fabric that allows more air to enter the jacket to prevent overheating. The blue AF fabric has a stated wind permeability rating of 15 cfm (cubic feet per minute) and the red fabric is greater than 50 cfm (essentially allowing more air into the jacket per minute). The red face also has rows of stitching – a bit like baffles – which further aid ventilation. Within the shell is a layer of proprietary Hydroloft synthetic insulation with a thickness of 40g/m². It’s a non-migratory insulation so doesn’t need through-stitching or baffles to keep it in place. The idea behind the reversible concept is flexibility – on cold mornings the jacket can function like a ‘traditional’ belay jacket, with the blue side facing out to keep warm while stationary, then reversed so the red side is out to keep cooler when active. The benefit of the insulation is still felt, but there’s less chance of clamminess inside.
Again, this is a minimalist jacket, so features are limited. The full front zip is chunky and has a tiny flap on the red side which keeps the worst of the draught out, and the collar is high enough to protect the neck. The hem and cuffs are bound with stretch Lycra, and the zip pulls are as small as they can be while still remaining functional. There’s no pocket – just a small ‘tunnel’ in the side seam which conceals the care labels and can also be used to house the stuffsack when not in use. That’s it. It’s a close fit to prevent dead air spots and allow it to be easily layered, but not excessively-so. Each side has a printed logo and it’s such a minimalist design that the hanging loop on the blue side elicits a mention!
Numbers and Conclusion
A weight of 178g for my size large makes the HyperTherm a viable alternative to a microfleece top as a midlayer. But unlike fleece it’s both wind and water repellent so can be worn as an outer layer without being frozen by the wind. Like the HyperSmock it’s a brilliant garment to carry in the summer months for use at rest stops, but also has potential for use in the shoulder seasons as well – the kind of situations that would see me hillwalking in a microfleece and windproof rather than just a baselayer. The packed size is tiny and the flexiblity is such that I’ve found this in my rucksack far more than I predicted.
Compare the Berghaus VapourLight HyperTherm to other midlayers in our comparison review.
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