Friday, 2 December 2011
berghaus ardennes soft shell jacket
It's always nice to be sent kit to try out and you'd think being sent a soft shell in the autumn would be an ideal time to put one through it's paces. But somehow we didn't figure on the unseasonably good weather we've been having.
I've had the jacket three weeks but it's not seen a drop of rain to test it's water resistance, and drying time. So this afternoon I resorted to setting the garden sprinkler up.
The Ardennes soft shell jacket is one of Berghaus's new season outdoor clothing offerings. The one I'm testing is a medium which on my frame is a good fit, the sleeves and length of the garment are spot on. The back has a drop tail which is what you'd expect, and the hem has two cinch pulls that make a very effective seal. The two pockets are set high to clear hip belts and are mesh lined to aid ventilation. One gripe is that the pockets are not very deep nor wide; too small to put my hands in anyway. On the plus side, inside the pockets are stitched on three sides leaving the top open so they create two internal pockets, if you get my drift. In fact as the pockets aren't that deep I've adopted the internal way of using them for house keys and mobile because they're more secure. The jacket on my postal scale weighed in at 550g.
The collar is quite high, and like the sleeves and hem, it makes a good seal. Although at first I thought the material was too stiff making the fit uncomfortable. Maybe it is and I've gotten used to it, or it's softened. The material is stiffer compared to my Marmot ATV jacket or The North Face Apex 3/4 top. And whilst I'm on the subject of comparison, doing a HUR test*, the jacket is more wind resistant than the Apex and comparable to the fabric used by Marmot. I also did a HUR test with Penny's RAB Baltoro Lite and the Polartec fabric is markedly more wind resistant than the AF fabric used by Berghaus.
And it's this balance between water and wind resistance, warmth and breathability that's the issue. For some a soft shell jacket is the bee's knees for others they aren't sum of their parts, being neither windproof nor warm enough. As for water resistance...
Well I chickened out of running around under the garden sprinkler so I put my arm in the jacket and put in under the shower. As you'd expect from a new jacket it beaded well, and when the material wetted out there was penetration through the material. However the seams (of which there are many) started leaking in a very short time.
To recap I love the fit of this jacket, the close fit might not suit all, particularly if you were planning to wear a thin fleece under it to increase the thermal rating. (I tried this and it was uncomfortably tight). The wind resistance is good but personally I prefer better. The water resistance looks comparable with other soft shell tops, and I'm confident that it would hold off a shower. Long term use will determine how durable the DWR finish is, but I expect like other jackets it will need to be washed and reproofed subject to use.
*HUR test; place hand inside jacket and try and blow breath through it. The harder you have to blow the more wind resistant.