A proper peek into the future with a very early look at a radical new Gore-Tex Active Shell running jacket from Berghaus.
We first clapped eyes on the new for 2013 - yes, next year - Berghaus Vapour Storm Jacket a few months ago when we popped up for a quick preview of the latest kit. But we were sworn to secrecy. In fact we actually signed a non-disclosure agreement, so we were legally bound not to mention it.
But now the secret's out. We actually have a pre-production sample of the new Mtn.Haus-designed, Berghaus Gore-Tex Active Shell jacket right here complete with patent-applied for venting features and we can tell you all about it. Well, we can tell you a bit about it to start with anyway.
Gore-Tex Active Shell Fabric
First the obvious stuff. It's made from the impressively light and breathable Gore-Tex Active Shell fabric - giving a decent weight of 330g for a medium - it has a single, minimal chest pocket and it has a hood. In other words it's a proper mountain/off-road running jacket designed for long days in the hills in dire weather.
Appropriately enough, its arrival coincides with the Berghaus sponsorship of the epic Dragon's Back trail-running race down the spine of Wales - see the links below - and the jacket's been used during recces for the race and by Berghaus- supported athletes Helene Whitaker and Stephen Birkinshaw, who'll be competing in the event.
What really makes the Vapour Storm different however, and the reason we signed that non-disclosure form, is that the jacket features an interesting new permanently open venting system. On the sides, front and back of the jacket are a series of 'Storm' vents that look a bit like fish gills.
They're downward opening, sort of fish-scaled, over-lapping flaps with a doubled-back internal lip which the Mtn.Haus team reckons add highly effective venting, without allowing water to find its way inside. There are three of them on each side of the main body under the arms. Plus a couple more at chest level at the front and at the back.
Do They Work?
How well do they work? Right now we don't know. We went for a quick wet walk in the jacket this afternoon - yes, should have run but tapering for a race at the weekend - and despite some brisk climbing stayed resolutely cool and comfortable. And dry.
Subjectively it felt like there was a cool area where the vents sit at the sides, but that might just have been wishful thinking. What we suspect - educated guess time - is that the increased vigour of actually running rather than walking is more likely to generate air movements inside the jacket which, in turn, will tend to force air out of the vents and open and close them with movement, so it may well be that the venting action works best when running and when actually needed.
Which is all a hypothesis. But runners are generally really hard on breathable waterproofs and even though Gore-Tex Active Shell is one of the better fabrics out there for breathability, any sort of improvement will be welcome and useful. Good to see that the cuffs allow you to roll the sleeves up for added cooling too.
What we can tell you for definite is that the rest of the jacket is very neatly designed. It has a trim cut and Berghaus has taken real care to hide away things like hood draw cords and hem adjusters. Even the thumb loops are completely unobtrusive when not in use. Hem and hood are both adjustable, while there are elasticated cuffs and a full water-resistant main zip backed up with a laminated storm flap.
But let's be honest, what it's really all about are those Storm Vents and just how well they work. Watch this space... but for now, it's great to see a British outdoor brand trying new and different stuff.
More Berghaus info at www.berghaus.com.