First impressions of new, winter-weight, Gore-Windstopper soft shell jacket from Berghaus.
New for winter 2012 is the Berghaus Cristallo Soft Shell Jacket, an all-round winter soft shell with light fleece insulation and a longer cut than most similar jackets and a comprehensive spec.
The jacket uses Gore's Windstopper Soft Shell fabric which is both windproof and highly water resistant - Gore doesn't shout about it, but the fabric is, effectively, waterproof, but untaped seams mean that it will still ship water in heavy rain.
It also has a lightweight, micro-gridded, fleece liner for a bit of extra wamth in winter conditions. We've used very similar fabrics before and they work well when things gets really cold adding some welcome snugness, though they do mean the jacket is effectively only really suitable for cold weather use. In warmer conditions, most folk will broil gently...
Berghaus certainly hasn't stinted on the feature front, this jacket has pretty everything you can think of: a fully-adjustable (non-helmet) mountain hood, long, two-way pit-zips for extra venting and cooling, stretchy inner cuffs that incorporate thumb-loops for added warmth, captive hem-cord adjusters for neatness and a soft, velvety chin-guard that could double for Black Beauty's nose.
All of which is impressive but does, together with the lined fabric, mean the jacket in a medium weighs in at a relatively hefty 720g. Not ridiculously heavy, but not particularly light either.
That said, it's not really a jacket aimed at weight weenies, more of an all-day, all-rounder for winter mountain walking. That's reflected in the cut. Most technical mountain soft shells are aimed at climbers and tend to be quite short as a result, the Cristallo, on the other hand, is slightly longer for a little added crotch protection, which we - understandably - welcome.
It's also nicely pitched somewhere between 'too loose' and 'too tight', a sort of 'Three Bears' just right for most users in fact. Finally, although the fabric itself has a nice, soft feel to it, there's also a nice air of protective solidity to the jacket. You could, you imagine, batten down the hatches in a storm and be happily snug inside.
We've already noticed a couple of things that may or may not worry you. First, while the two main chest pockets - they double as vents - are well placed and clear of a pack belt, or a harness if you find yourself needing one, they're not large enough for an OS map. Next, the hood feels protective and fits nicely, but the peak isn't stiffened, which could be an issue in some conditions. And finally, the zips are conventional rather than water-resistant items.
That shouldn't be an issue with snow, but we'll be keeping an eye on them if we get caught out in the rain on one of those classic UK winter mountain days when it's snowing up top, but raining in the valley.
From past experience we know that the lightly-insulated Windstopper fabric works really well in proper, sub-zero winter conditions. It's completely windproof, very water resistant and adds welcome warmth, but what we really like about the Cristallo, is the longer cut, that should make it suitable for general walking use and the all-singing, all-dancing feature list. There's no restriction from the articulated sleeves or shoulder cut either so the jacket should work well for scrambling and mountaineering moves.
Those pit-zips may not be an essential, but we suspect they'll be handy for dumping excess heat on harder uphill stretches of trail, likewise you may not need the inner cuffs and thumb-loops, the outer cuffs seal perfectly well, but it's nice to have the option.
We'll be keeping an eye on the hood peak and those conventional zips, but overall the Berghaus Cristallo has a nice mix of cosy comfort and smug protection that looks promising for those sub-zero winter hill days.
Price of the jacket is £160, which is in the ball-park for jackets of this type.
More information at www.berghaus.com.