This autumn 2013, Berghaus is all about its water-resistant Hydrodown jackets and we have a couple of those on the go right now waiting for a cold damp winter, but the brand still has synthetically-insulated jackets like this PrimaLoft-filled Ignite Hoodie II on its roster.
It's an interesting time for synthetic insuation - the new Polartec Alpha - see our recent reviews - seems to have cornered the market for use on the move and water-resistant down has made real feathers a bit more resilient in damp conditions, so is there still room for bulkier synthetics like PrimaLoft?
Our answer would be yes, if you want a knock-about insulation stand-by garment for cold, damp conditions, synthetic fills like PrimaLoft still, in our experience, out-perform water-resistant down when the going gets wet - we see it as more of an insurance policy than anything else - and Alpha, for all its plus points, isn't that warm, particularly when you factor in more breathable but less wind resistant outer fabrics.
Still Space In The World For Synthetics
So, that's a long-winded way of saying, that we still reckon there's space in the world for conventional synthetic jackets like the Ignite Hoodie and for fills like PrimaLoft, which is arguably the best synthetic out there for a combination of damp resistance - it's hydrophobic - compressibility and warmth.
The stuff in the Ignite is PrimaLoft One with 100g fill in the main body and lighter 60g fill in the sleeves. That, together with highly wind-resistant Pertex Microlite fabrics mean and overall weight of 470g measured for a medium on our digital balance.
That's not super light, but it's not massively heavy either, certainly well within the realms of portability for a winter mountain walker or climber. There's a mesh stuff-sac too and it packs down to a reasonable, medium-ish lump.
Cut is slim rather than belay-jacket voluminous and works just right for us worn over a micro-fleece or PowerStretch mid-layer jacket and we reckon would also fit over a close-cut shell. It's a medium sort of length too in a 'just right' sort of way.
What we do like is the way Berghaus has refined its details over the past few years. The hem is adjustable with captive drawcords held out of the way and the cuffs use an expanding stretch gusset - similar to the one on an Arc'teryx Atom - to give a slim profile and close but expandable fit - and finally, the hood is a proper mountain one.
That means that while it's not helmet compatible - you can wear one over the hood if you choose to though - it has full adjustment with captive face cords and a top cord which grips your head for gaze-ward coordinated movement, plus ther's enough chin and lower face protection to snug things up to at least nose level.
There's a mildly stiffened peak too, that considering its not that stiff, still seems to offer decent resistance to being flipped upwards by the wind. You could, of course, use this sort of jacket on the move, though you can expect to get quite sweaty, but mostly it's intended for static use during stops. And with that in mind, there are two zipped hand-warmer pockets with the insulation on the outside and single zipped chest-pockets inside and out.
In terms of insulation we'd say it's at a sort of 'medium warm' level. Not as cosy as heavier synthetics or fat box-walled down stuff, but about right for general UK winter use. For belay jacket use by the way, we'd suggest you need to go up a size and ideally we'd have preferred an over-the-helmet hood for that application.
Overall the Ignite Hoodie looks like a nicely cut middle-point between warmth and weight. Rab's new Xenon X Hoodie is slightly lighter, though we'd expect it to be a little less warm with 60g insulation throughout, while the Generator Alpine weighs close to 600g. Mountain Equipment's offerings are similarly spaced around it, which puts the Ignite in a sort of interesting middle-ground, warmer than the real lightweights, lighter than the nearest equivalents.
All we need now is winter and some proper testing cold, damp, wet British conditions... The Ignite Hoodie II is priced at £150. More information at www.berghaus.com.