Softshell: Berghaus GTX Thaw
Soft Shell is one of those terms that is used to describe a wide variety of garments, typically it describes outer layers which are comfortable next to the skin, highly breathable and fast drying, but not resistant to rain. These are great when there is the occasional shower and you are producing plenty of heat to dry yourself out, but as critics have pointed out, in a downpour you want something that quite simply keeps the rain out.
In response to this, Berghaus have taken the soft shell concept and made it palatable to a market all too aware of the demands of the British winter weather. Essentially, this is a fully taped mountain jacket made from Gore-Tex Soft Shell II, which incorporates a soft fleecy inner later providing the equivalent warmth of wearing a 100 weight fleece. The result is a highly functional jacket that keeps the rain out, has a soft lining, and comes with the full range of features you might expect: all zips are water repellent, there are two large hand-warmer pockets, a chest pocket, and a sleeve pocket designed with a ski pass in mind.
In use, the first thing you notice is that, in most instances, this is a more practical jacket than a pure shell. You can wear it without a heavy fleece jacket, and the fact that the fleece is, in effect, built-in, means that the underarm ventilation works extremely well, cutting through two layers at once. The underarm ventilation is operated by two zips, meaning you can position the vent wherever you like, and you have full control over how much venting you get. Whilst we’re on features, the hood is fully wired, and there’s plenty of space for a helmet, and if you’re not using it, it folds away neatly giving the jacket a far sleeker appearance.
Of course, the downside of having a mid-layer and a shell integrated into one jacket is the fact that if it gets warm, there is less flexibility, and breathability is not going to be one of the big selling points.
In summary, I think Berghaus have come up with the goods with this jacket. Whilst it stretches the term ‘soft shell’, the result is an immensely practical garment for wet, cool-to-cold conditions, and it just feels right.
Reviewed by Adrian Berry on behalf of planetFear