A bit of an update on the Berghaus Vapour Storm Jacket and its extraordinary ability to ward off rain... The jacket, if you've not come across it, is a full-on, wilderness, trail-running waterproof developed with the guys who organised the epic Dragon's Back Race and due to go properly on sale next spring.
It's made from Gore-Tex Active Shell - an impressively breathable waterproof fabric - but also features some cunning gill-like vents which Berghaus says improves comfort and breathability without compromising waterproofing.
And while it's a 'running' jacket, thanks to the mountain-friendly hood and single chest pocket, it would equally well suit minimalist walkers and cyclists with a measured weight of 320g.
Sat On The Fence
When OM regular Nik Cook wrote up a first look back in July, he confessed to sitting on the fence when it came to full-on running use in warm, humid conditions: 'First impressions are that it probably does breathe slightly better than a non-vented equivalent when working hard but I really need to see how it performs in cooler wet conditions to know for sure.'
He reckoned there was 'an occasional noticeable influx of cooler air but any difference in sweaty sogginess is marginal'.
Since then, the jacket has displayed a remarkable talent for repelling rain. Carry it in your pack and no matter how dense the cloud cover, it simply will not rain. If it starts spitting and you don the Vapour Storm, bingo, the rain automatically stops. Leave it at home and you will be deluged, no question.
Biazarre... and it's made the jacket slightly hard to assess. But here's what I reckon. First, for a running-dedicated jacket, it's not ultra fitted. Berghaus's own minimalist Rapide is better in this respect as is the Haglöfs Endo. Nik reckoned this might be a deliberate ploy to help the venting work more efficiently. Don't know if that's true, but anyway, it isn't super fitted. Ironically, that arguably makes it more suitable for more general walking and mountain biking.
Next, Gore-Tex Active Shell is one of the best fabrics of its kind. It's decently breathable and so far, for us, has stayed happily water proof. It's not miraculous however, and if you're hammering yourself, you will still sweat and you will still get soggy.
To Vent Or Not To Vent
Which brings us to the venting. It's a hard one to assess: you find yourself noticing gentle wafts of cooler air within the torso area of the jacket where the vents sit, then wonder if you're just imagining it. As things have cooled down recently the effect has become more pronounced, or maybe my imagination has just become more creative...
My gut feeling is that the vents are doing something - Berghaus reckons it has lab tests that back this up too - but like Nik, I suspec that when you're really going for it, the improvement over a bog-standard Active Shell jacket is marginal and if you're working hard enough to get soggy inside a normal Active Shell, you'll still be a tad moist in the Vapour Storm too.
That said, every little helps and in colder conditions, the impact of the vents may be more pronounced. Oh, and the jacket's stayed waterproof too, no compromise there.
And The Rest
What else? Well, put the vents on one side, and it's a decent bit of kit. The fabric's good, the medium-short cut is versatile, elasticated cuffs still allow you to roll up the sleeves for fore-arm venting and while the hood with its single, concealed drawcord adjustment doesn't look promising, it actually fits pretty well, hugging the head and moving with it. A bit of wire in the peak would be a nice touch.
There's just the one chest pocket, which is fine with me as non-pocket fiend, but may not be everyone's tasse du tee and I like the captive hem-cord arrangement. One thing I wasn't so keen on for running use, was having a hood flapping away behind my head, particularly when the zip's not fully done-up, tad-down arrangement please.
So I guess that's a sort of 'yes, but...' again. I wouldn't categorise it as a pure running jacket, like the Endo, it's a bit of an all-rounder with a slant towards the fast and light. And what would give it a real edge would be if those vents had a really pronounced effect and here, bear with me, we're still not 100 per-cent sure.
Yes, they do seem to do something, but whether they do enough to make a real difference, is still in the balance. Now if it could just rain a bit more, that would be great...