I was invited to review this jacket (FOC), by BERGHAUS .
The list price of the Berghaus Ardennes soft shell jacket is RRP £90 but, it can be found cheaper with a Google search. The jacket was first launched in Autumn 2011 and its Made in Indonesia.
Now soft shell is a strange beast, it has never truly found it’s niche. It also comes in numerous guises. Some quite tough and not very flexible, some soft and very flexible, some with a membrane inner and some without. It’s not definitive.
Some soft shells are so waterproof that you don’t need any other protective layers whilst others are barely water resistant. And then you come to how warm they are, how wind resistant they are, etc etc. It’s no wonder a niche is hard to define.
The first thing you notice about this jacket is just how tactile the material is, soft and malleable. The outer is made from 86% polyester and 14% elastine. The inner face being 100% polyester micro fleece. It feels more fleece like than soft shell.
It has no membrane though.
Design and Test
As is usual with my reviews, the jacket is weighed and my Medium sized jacket weighs 560grams whereas the attached label suggests it weighs 607grams.
I was surprised that Berghaus was specifying such a large discrepancy. I can only guess that the 607gr is an average weight through the sizes. Which would be totally meaningless.
Weight is such a big issue today that customers could be put off buying, just from the weight specified on the label.
If this is just an average, then that needs making clearer or put a size next to the weight so we all know exactly.
Coincidentally it's same weight as my Rab Cioch soft shell but, whereas my Rab has no DWR* this one has a pretty good DWR* finish and a wind resistance of ‹25cfm.
The AF or active fit is the cut of the material, which Berghaus states is not body conscious, not baggy. Just a streamlined cut for every kind of activity. This description is an accurate one.
I find the fit, excellent, perfect even. I'm 5ft 8" tall, and 39" chest.
Having no membrane, it breaths well and wicks moisture away from the body therefore is more suited to high activity sports when it gets a bit chilly, just as long as you are not wearing a rucksack which would cause this and any jacket to feel clammy. But the penalty of good breatheability is poor waterproofing.
On a very rainy day, i decided to walk from home just to see just how it performed in the wet and if i could risk doing a longer walk without taking a waterproof. The answer, most definitely is no.
The water beaded well initially but the rain was heavy and within 10 minutes i felt the cold slow flow of water running across my shoulders and down my back. The outer started getting swamped after 20 minutes. Half an hour in to the walk i was wet through. I headed for home and i was glad to be getting the wet clothes off.
From taking off the jacket it took 12 hours to dry, and that was indoors. If i had been backpacking then i can say it would still be wet in the morning after an overnight stop.
The outer is two tone black and grey colour and has contrasting light grey YKK nylon zips to both the hand pockets and central zips, which i quite like.
The non water resistant zips are robust and operate very well although they do let a lot of water in. Each zip has a toggle zip pull for use when wearing gloves. The back has an excellent drop tail and a hem with draw cord and 2 toggle restraints.
For some reason Berghaus hasn't incorporated a chest pocket on this jacket which i would have liked to have.
The two front hand pockets are also quite strange. Not very wide and not a great shape either. Certainly not a comfortable shape for your hands. They are mesh and assist with breathabilty if left unzipped. The bottom section of the pockets gets covered by your rucksack waist belt and if you decide to use them for a small camera or a phone then there is no space for your hands.
The collar is excellent and the inside of the collar uses the same material as the outer. I like this. Many jackets use the same material for the inside of the collar as what's used for the inside of the jacket. This is wrong in my opinion because it soaks up water. I think Berghaus have got this right.
Collar and inner fleece facing.
The collar is deep and a snug fit when fully zipped up and it has a zip garage or chin guard.
Inside the jacket, the material is micro fleece which traps the air and keeps the wearer warm. I am quite used to wearing this now and i have appreciated the warmth and wind resistance offered. Even when my hands and face have been bitterly cold my body has stayed warm without an outer shell.
There are two good deep mesh pockets inside but unfortunately they are tapered and just not wide enough to take an OS map. Such a shame and a missed opportunity.
The sleeve length is not overly long and i could just about pull them over my cold hands. The cuff tension is elasticated without adjustment, but it worked ok for me.
The jacket, when rolled up, is a decent size if it’s needed to be stored in a day pack or backpack when it’s not being worn.
Renewal of the DWR finish.
Wash the jacket in Nikwax Tech wash. Not everyday detergents.
Then either by hand or machine use TX Direct or Nikwax Soft Shell as directed.
The jacket can also be zipped into a Berghaus shell jacket if it is compatible as part of the Interactive layering system.
It's been a pleasure to test this jacket. Although finding out it's true waterproofing capability was a bit damp to say the least. It has many good points and can be used in all but the warmest of weather. It can be used as part of a layering system, even on very cold days. Just with a thin base layer this jacket is ideal for high ground due to the good resistance to wind but a waterproof shell layer is required for use when the weather turns wet. Some damp will occur in the region of the back when wearing a rucksack, but this can be expected.
The pockets let down what is otherwise a fine piece of kit.
It's niche is still to be decided.
Pro's and Cons of the Ardennes Jacket.
- Good design and fit
- Smart for everyday use
- Excellent collar
- Wind resistant
- Not as light as other soft shells
- Poor pockets inside and out
- No chest pocket
- Expensive at RRP
Similar products on offer . Rab Baltoro lite. Mountain Equipment Spartan. Haglof’s Fuse.
My Thanks to Gareth Evans for the chance to review it.
*DWR - Durable water repellent.