Berghaus has announced a new range of own-brand Hydro Shell waterproof jackets which will be available in spring 2015 and includes a revised and even lighter version of the world's lightest waterproof, the Vapour Light Hyper Smock.
The NE-based brand is looking to build on its reputation for innovative, reliable outdoor kit by creating a range of waterproof shell clothing that gives reliable waterproof performance and durability, but at a more affordable price than its top-end Gore-Tex waterproofs, though definitely not a 'budget' buy.
What Is Hydro Shell?
If you want to get technical, it's a PU-based waterproof and breathable membrane technology in different weights and configurations to work for anyone from extreme lightweight running freaks right through to folk who just need something that'll keep them dry out walking the dog.
Lots of consumer research and testing went into the new range - one interesting fact that emerged, apparently courtesy of Leeds University, is that Lake District rain is genuinely 'the most invasive in the world' thanks to the structure of its droplets, bet you didn't know that...
As it happens, Berghaus waterproofs are tested in the Lakes by Ken Ledward and his KLETS testing team, so if they work there, they should work anywhere.
On top of that, some of the fabrics incorporate for the first time ever, a silver-based, anti-odour technology, they use Nylon face fabrics for better durability and a water repellent treatment that's claimed to last longer and so reduce long-term water use through washing.
Finally, Berghaus is going big and up front on what it calls its Adventure Guarantee that's basically a lifetime warranty for the product and its durability in particular. In other words, if it lets you down, send it back and Berghaus will look at repairing or replacing it.
Hydro Shell For Everyone
There's a whole range of Hydro Shell kit aimed at different outdoor folk and each optimised for its intended users and it definitely looks interesting particularly at the more technical end of things. Here's a quick run-through of the kit we saw.
The 'lightest waterproof top in the world' gets a makeover and loses even more weight - see full story - for 2015. Last year's version tipped the scales at just over 100g in a men's large, this year's version the Vapourlight Hyper Smock 2.0 is even lighter at a claimed 76g for a size L in men's version and 67g for the women's equivalent.
Not only is it lighter mostly thanks to exclusive 10mm seam tape, which saves a deceptive number of grammes, it's tougher too thanks to a Nylon face fabric, around twice as waterproof as before, now has a larger pocket on the front of the jacket and a tab-down hood for convenience.
The fabric is filmy and semi-translucent, the whole unit is 23% more packable and finally, as a further bonus, the price is actually set to go down from £120 to £100. Should be some sort of ultimate in lightweight, packable waterproofing.
In the mountaineering loon category better known as Extrem, the Mount Asgard Hydroshell Jacket is a 210g (men's large) minimalist mountaineering shell made from something called Hydroshell Elite Pro, which is a 3-layer fabric with the PU membrane sandwiched between an outer layer of durable Nylon and and odour-resistant treated Polyamide (Nylon) backer.
It's still a lightweight fabric, but tougher than the 10D stuff used for the smock. It also features a full helmet-compatible hood, adjustable hem and cuffs and a single chest pocket that doubles as as stuff-sac. We're struggling to think of a comparably light shell that'll still take a hood, though it'll be interesting to see how durable the fabric is given its weight.
Finally it has a 20,000mm hydrostatic head and, in lab tests, impressive 20,000g/m2 MVT stats, so should also be decently breathable. It's set to retail for £220.
Mountain Walkers And Trekkers
Think normal outdoors folk for the Light Trek Hydroshell Jacket which uses another version of the fabric, this time Hydroshell Elite, which again uses an odour-resistant backer. It's an all-round hill-jacket with twin hand-warmer pockets, Napoleon chest pockets and twin core body vents based on the 3D vents used on some Extrem garments.
There's a redesigned hood too which is fully adjustable and with a wired peak. At a claimed 391g it's decently light for a relaxed-fitting shell jacket and includes nice touches like reflective flashes in carefully-selected, pack-friendly areas and reinforced zones where pack straps and harnesses contact.
It's the jacket we got to try out during a mellow 6-mile amble across the Cumbrian lowlands on a mild, sporadically showery day and first impressions are that the breathability is good, so the jacket stayed mostly comfortable and non-sweaty thanks to that, rolled-up sleeves and those core body vents.
We weren't exactly thrashing it, but it seems like a promising start though we did note that the vents are slightly obstructed by a pack harness making them tricky to open fully on the move and the lower pockets sit below hip-belt level.
Berghaus also has a category called 'Everyday Outdoors' aimed at, well, everyday outdoors use and they too get a Hydroshell jacket in the shape of the Light Hike Hydroshell. It uses the same 2.5-layer fabric as the trekking jacket, but is less featured with a claimed 317g weight.
The hood is fully adjustable and rolls away and it comes complete with a stuff-sac. Not a flashy shell or a super technical one, but Berghaus stresses that it still offers 'Storm level' protection and like the rest of the range has the adventure guarantee. It will sell for £130 again in both men's and women's versions.
There are also matching Light Hike overtrousers at £90.
Over the past few years, own-brand waterproof fabrics like Hydroshell have improved to the point where they're very close to the leading premium fabrics for both waterproofing and comfort - the cheaper AQ fabrics remain in the range too by the way - and it's interesting to see Berghaus launching its own premium fabric.
Why would you buy it rather than an alternative? Berghaus stresses its expertise in the waterproof field backed up by the Adventure Guarantee, but on top of that anyone in the market for either an ultra-lightweight fast-moving waterproof or a minimalist technical mountaineering shell will be hard pushed to find anything lighter out there.
We're going to keep using our test Light Trek Hydroshell jacket over the next few months and see how it goes.
More information on the current Berghaus range at www.berghaus.com.
You might also be interested in: World's Lightest Gear