First Test: Berghaus jacket

Fresh out of the box, we re­view the Aonach jacket and its novel in­su­la­tion

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Stay­ing warm in win­ter is easy in prin­ci­ple. You just add loads of ex­tra lay­ers of cloth­ing that trap ex­tra pock­ets of warm air against the body, right? Wrong! If you just add more lay­ers you end up with a bulk of cloth­ing that lim­its easy move­ment and re­duces breatha­bil­ity. Then there is the weight of all those lay­ers and also their fi­nan­cial cost. In­stead what is needed is just one layer that of­fers the right amount of in­su­la­tion in the light­est form, with the most prac­ti­cal de­sign and at the low­est price pos­si­ble. Great in prin­ci­ple.

En­ter Thin­down, the new form of in­su­la­tion from Berghaus that is used in the Aonach jacket. Dur­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing down is fused with polyester to cre­ate an in­ter­locked sta­ble sheet of Thin­down in­su­la­tion. This in­su­la­tion is said to be 30% warmer than polyester in­su­la­tion alone, as well as be­ing more com­press­ible and more durable, while also re­tain­ing its loft and warmth much longer than stan­dard polyester.

As Thin­down is a sta­ble sheet of ma­te­rial it is much eas­ier to hold in place within a jacket, so there is less need for the com­plex ar­ray of stitched baf­fles used on con­ven­tional down jack­ets. Also there’s no need to use fab­rics that are de­signed to pre­vent pieces of down es­cap­ing, such as tightly woven ny­lons, leav­ing the way clear for more open­weave ma­te­ri­als that al­low for far greater lev­els of air­flow and breatha­bil­ity. Berghaus claims the shell ma­te­rial on the Aonach is 50 times more breath­able than a stan­dard down jacket, and de­scribes the Aonach as ‘the world’s first truly breath­able down gar­ment’.

As the Aonach is so breath­able, Berghaus also claims it can be worn un­der a wa­ter­proof hard­shell jacket with­out any build-up of con­den­sa­tion. It’s also warmer than a fleece, while stretch fab­rics have been used to en­hance the fit and free­dom of move­ment. If that wasn’t enough the Aonach also uses 50% re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and over 90% of the ma­te­ri­als are Blue­sign ap­proved for their en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance.

I took the Aonach on the hill at the start of au­tumn, and wore it un­der a wa­ter­proof jacket to block out the wind while head­ing up steep slopes on the Lake­land fells. It was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent the con­den­sa­tion you’d nor­mally ex­pect when wear­ing a syn­thetic or down in­su­la­tion jacket un­der a wa­ter­proof did not ma­te­ri­alise. The tricky part of the equa­tion though, is the Aonach is pretty warm. It feels like you are wear­ing a thick fleece, or even two thin fleeces, so I found the Aonach just too hot for a lot of hill­walks. If you use the Aonach as an ex­tra layer to throw on when you stop walk­ing then its breatha­bil­ity ben­e­fit is less use­ful, as you won’t get con­den­sa­tion when rest­ing any­way. So this means the Aonach is go­ing to be best for re­ally cold weather when you are still mov­ing, mak­ing it more of a go-to jacket for those re­ally cold win­ter days when you want some­thing ex­tra to throw on while walk­ing, such as a sec­ond fleece or thin syn­thetic jacket or gilet.

The Aonach weighs 557g (size L), so is

a sim­i­lar weight to a good gen­eral fleece jacket. There are pure down jack­ets that are lighter though. For a jacket de­signed to keep you warm when be­ing ac­tive, it is sur­pris­ing there is no hem draw­cord, no hood draw­cords and no cuff Vel­cro tabs to lock out draughts, and I def­i­nitely needed a closer fit at the hem. Also, if this is de­signed to be worn while walk­ing then it needs a lay­out of pock­ets that al­low eas­ier ac­cess while wear­ing ruck­sack belts, and other jack­ets are bet­ter in this area.

Fi­nally the thin stretchy polyester outer is not the most durable, so if wear­ing this for rougher move­ment over rock then care is needed to pre­vent it snag­ging. I no­ticed the cuff area is a lit­tle baggy and al­ready start­ing to show signs of abra­sion from the rocks I had scram­bled over.

The Aonach costs £200 but you could buy a good fleece jacket for £100, or a thin syn­thetic in­su­lated jacket or warm down jacket for £150. A re­ally light and warm down jacket, mean­while, would set you back around £270. So you need to be keen on the Aonach’s warmth, weight and breatha­bil­ity ra­tio to war­rant the price tag then.

So is the Aonach right for your needs? For me, its ideal for those re­ally cold hill­walks when a wa­ter­proof jacket, fleece jacket and base layer just aren’t enough, which means Scot­land in win­ter and oc­ca­sional days in Eng­land and Wales when the tem­per­a­ture plum­mets.

But I’d like some de­sign tweaks to make it per­fect for use while walk­ing up­hill, rather than for just sit­ting on the sum­mit and

en­joy­ing the view.

Soft outer ma­te­ri­als around the zip (above) im­prove com­fort un­der the neck. The ex­tra sta­bil­ity and breatha­bil­ity of the Thin­down in­su­la­tion means less stitch­ing for in­creased com­fort (be­low).

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