The big test: Insulated jackets reviewed (2018)

If you want to stop on a mountain to drink in the view, an insulated jacket will take away the chill – but should you choose a fleece jacket, a down jacket or a synthetic insulated jacket? Trail headed to the hills to find out...

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The runners up


Haglofs Heron Hood £100

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Material Pontetorto Technostretch fleece

  • Men’s S-XL

  • Women’s XS-XL

  • Weight 425g (men’s XL)

The fleece fabric on this jacket has a good abrasion-resistant finish on the outside, while on the inside it’s quite fluffy to add more warmth. The hood was the best fitting out of the fleece jackets that I have used too, and so overall it feels very comfortable and ideal to wear as part of a layering system. However it is quite a lightweight fleece, so its use is limited to that of a mid layer in warmer weather. On cold days or for winter in Scotland I’d need either a thicker main insulation layer or an additional insulation layer to stay warm. I also noticed the wind driving through this layer easily. The price makes it feel like a luxury for something that won’t keep you warm year-round. But this lightweight fleece is ideal for walking in the UK from late spring through to early autumn.

Pros

Price, weight, packed size, great hood, works well as a warm-weather mid layer.

Cons

Not warm enough for colder spring or autumn days and so extra layers will be needed regularly and more so in winter.

Buy it if

You want an excellent fleece jacket for walking in warmer conditions.


Rab Alpha Flux £140

Tester: Jon Bennett

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  • Materials Polartec Alpha synthetic insulation

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16

  • Weight 328g (M)

Polartec Alpha insulation has a core of lofted knit fibres, so it traps more air than fleece, and offers far more insulation, which makes it ideal as an additional layer to throw on over other layers when the temperature dips. It’s also exceptionally breathable, therefore it works well under waterproof layers. This jacket also gets stretch side panels, giving it a closer fit than other jackets and again making it ideal as part of a layering system. I also liked the way the hood fitted and moved with my head. It’s not the warmest option though. Yes it is great as an additional layer when moving, which is what it is designed for, but when sitting around I’d need extra insulation on colder days. It’s not that windproof either, so expect to need a wind or waterproof shell over the top to stay warm.

Pros

Weight and packed size, price, great hood, works well as part of a layering system when moving.

Cons

Warmer than fleece, but you’ll need extra insulation in cold weather, especially if not moving.

Buy it if

You want extra insulation to wear as part of a layering system while moving.


Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoody £270

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Materials 850 fill power down, Coreloft synthetic insulation on shoulders and cuffs

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s XS-L

  • Weight 236g (men’s L)

A new jacket using very efficient 850 fill power down, which ensures you get an extremely low weight. But importantly you also get synthetic Coreloft insulation in areas that may collect moisture, which would impact on the down performance, so this is placed on the cuffs and shoulders and also at the top of the front zip. Another huge benefit of this jacket is that you get rear cord volume adjustment on the hood, so it fits really well and moves effortlessly with the head. There is a hem drawcord too – a feature many jackets lack. You also get two main pockets. The main drawbacks are the price and it’s not quite the warmest option. But if you can afford it (and another jacket for colder winter days) this is a great jacket for year-round use.

Pros

Weight and packed size, warm enough for mild conditions, great hood, additional synthetic insulation.

Cons

Price, not quite warm enough in winter, no cuff adjustment, slightly short body compared to others.

Buy it if

You want a very lightweight insulated jacket for spring to autumn and on the mildest winter days.



The top three


Berghaus Privitale 2.0 Extrem Fleece Hoodie £90

Tester: Tim Butcher

This is a modern, practical fleece jacket, but is it warm enough to beat the chill you’ll experience at the lofty heights of a mountaintop lookout?

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  • Material Stretch polyester fleece

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 593g (XL)

It’s good

The Privitale is an immensely comfortable and warm jacket at a great price for what you get. Its stretch polyester fleece fabric has a tight knit on the outside to improve wear, while inside the looser knit increases warmth and comfort. The fit is close but as the fleece is very stretchy it does not restrict movement. The hood is particularly well-designed with a close fit, and turns with the head easily. The baffle behind the zip, long sleeves with thumb loops and generous back length protected my 6ft 2in body well to keep out draughts and retain body warmth. A great benefit over many jackets is that the pockets are large and easily accessed while wearing a rucksack. Also as fleece is very breathable this works great under a waterproof jacket as part of a layering system. The Privitale is versatile enough to be worn over a base layer and under a waterproof jacket, so it can be used as your main insulated layer or as back-up insulation.

However

Whilst I’d be happy with this as my only mid-layer on most hill days, I’d still want something a little warmer and with more wind resistance, such as a down or synthetic insulated jacket, for back-up in autumn or winter, particularly for camping on the hill or for bothy nights or for really snowy Scottish mountains days. While I like the price tag, I’d be happy to pay a few extra pounds for a hem drawcord to lock out drafts and retain the great fit if I was lucky enough to lose a few pounds in weight on a trip. But the main drawback here is the weight and bulk of this jacket compared to warmer jackets, as any back-up jacket that is spending much of the day in the rucksack needs to be as light and compact as possible, and others are better in this department. Sadly there is no women’s option either.

Verdict

For me it’s the perfect mid layer, providing reassuring warmth and ease of movement at a great price, but others are lighter and offer more weather resistance.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 3/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%


Montane Icarus / Phoenix £150 

Tester: Jon Bennett

Does the latest Primaloft Thermoplume insulation make this jacket ideal for taking on the hill when extra warmth is needed at a reasonable price?

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  • Material Primaloft Thermoplume

  • Men’s S-XXL (Icarus)

  • Women’s 8-16 (Phoenix)

  • Weight 605g (M)

It’s good

New for 2018 and made from the latest Primaloft Plume insulation, which is said to offer similar levels of performance to 550 fill power down. Not surprisingly perhaps, this was very warm – in fact the warmest jacket we tested. The outer Pertex Quantum Eco nylon shell fends off wind and moisture well, and is also reasonably breathable so you don’t get sweaty. This jacket feels pretty warm and cosy, with a good length, well-insulated hood, and elasticated cuffs and hem to lock out draughts. The two main handwarmer pockets are well placed to allow access even when a rucksack is worn, and there’s a third useful GPS receiver-sized zipped chest pocket. So this jacket is ideal for stopping for a brew on the hill or sitting around a bothy or campsite, with the added bonus that the synthetic insulation won’t be impacted by dampness as much as a down jacket. It’s as warm as a down jacket too, but with a far less chilling price.

However

It costs more than a fleece and is quite heavy and bulky too. So while great in terms of warmth, you may think twice about carrying it regularly in your rucksack. It’s not as breathable as a more open-knit fleece either, so isn’t so great for walking with. Also, while the fit was good, the hood doesn’t move quite as well with my head as the hoods on some other jackets, and the cuffs didn’t fit as neatly as they could. As there is no Velcro adjustment on the cuffs there is no way of tightening or loosening the fit here to allow the cuff to fit over gloves. The hem is elasticated, but again has no additional adjustment. This jacket is great in terms of warmth but it could be too warm for mild autumn days, so with its extra weight and bulk this is one for colder days only.

Verdict

Great for stopping out on a cold, British winter mountain, with a price that’s more attractive than a down equivalent. But the weight and packed size are drawbacks.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Mountain Equipment Arete Hooded £160  

Tester: Graham Thompson

Down insulation is extremely efficient, so is this lightweight jacket the best option for stashing in your rucksack as a back-up jacket?

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  • Material 700 fill power down

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16 

  • Weight 370g (M)

It’s good

The use of 700 fill power down inside this jacket ensures that it is very lightweight. It also packs down small, and both of these features make it great for stashing in a rucksack just in case you need it on the top of the mountain. The level of insulation is less than the heavier, synthetic Montane jacket featured here, but more than fleece, making this a great general-purpose jacket for autumn and spring. And for me it is just about warm enough for mild winter conditions too. The outer is a lightweight Helium 20 nylon which fends off wind better than fleece and keeps some moisture away from the down. The hood and cuffs are only elasticated, but you do get a hem drawcord so you can fine-tune the fit more easily than some others. There are just two main pockets and these are placed low to make them good for hand-warming. The price is also more attractive than some other down jackets you could consider!

However

For the depths of winter you may need something even warmer if camping in snow or sitting around for long periods high on a snowy mountain. As the Arete uses down, lots more care is needed to ensure this jacket stays dry, as its insulating performance drops off dramatically if it does get wet. Also, of course, this is not as breathable as a more open knit fleece, so it’s not one for wearing while walking. While the fit is okay, the hood disappoints in this area and did not turn easily with my head. Also some adjustment on the hood and cuffs would be a real benefit. The pockets are okay, but again on other jackets these are placed higher or are bigger or there is a third chest pocket. There are some niggles with this jacket and you can get lower-priced fleece or synthetic jackets if cash is tight. 

Verdict

Ideal for stowing in a pack year-round just in case it gets chilly, but some lower-priced jackets are warmer or perform better if damp.  

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 4/5

  • Weatherproofness 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

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Berghaus Winter Valparola (2015)

Features

Gore Windstopper soft shell fabric makes the Berghaus Winter Valparola durable and very water-resistant with a micro-grid polyester lining for extra warmth, but the drawback is the weight of 774g. There are four chest pockets, however, plus pit zips for ventilation and a hood with a peak, so you’re really getting a lot of features. Definitely built for the mountains in winter. 5/5

Fit

There is no women’s version of this jacket; it is just available in S-XXL for men. The fit is close but I could wear a thin fleece underneath. The body is very long and covered my bum better than many waterproof jackets. The helmet-compatible hood fits and moves with the head really well, the only niggle being the sleeves, which tend to ride up when reaching up. 4/5

Comfort

Apart from having sleeves that can ride up, the Berghaus Winter Valparola is very comfortable and warm. It does feel heavy, though, and as it has a membrane in the Gore Windstopper fabric, breathability is not as good as open-weave soft shell options. But you do get pit zips to prevent overheating. It is warm and will keep you dry in all but heavy rain, though. 4/5

In use

In damp but not winter conditions this would be a great jacket. The four chest pockets are all quite large, so you can warm hands easily or stuff a GPS receiver or maps and guidebooks inside them. The hood is very good, but the peak isn’t wired and there’s a lot of fabric that may soak up water rather than shed it. The body length is a real bonus, but the extra weight is a drawback. 4/5

Value

Considering all the features it boasts and the material used, the Winter Valparola’s price is acceptable. 4/5

Verdict

The Berghaus Winter Valparola is built for winter mountain adventures in cold, snowy and icy conditions, but it is heavy and too warm outside those conditions. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

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Berghaus Pravatile Hooded Jacket (2014)

There are a lot of hooded fleece jackets available but not that many under £100, so at £75 the Berghaus Pravatile Hooded Jacket does have some appeal. It is made from an attractive stretch fleece that offers a good level of insulation for general hillwalking. It is not very wind-resistant, which makes it ideal for wearing under a waterproof because this allows better airflow to control condensation. Put it on and the cut on the body is reasonably close, which is what you want. The sleeves are looser though and as there is no adjustment at the cuffs I found this area quite chilly, in part as the elasticated cuffs just did not block any air movement. The cuffs were also particularly baggy. The hood did move okay with my head, but the fit around the face was poor in comparison with others, as, like the cuffs, it was just a little baggy and would benefit from a closer fit. There are two hip pockets and these extend to the hem, which means if you put anything in them while wearing a rucksack with a hipbelt it is a challenge to get those items out. Also the location of the zips to these pockets is easily obscured with rucksack belts. There is a very small pocket on the sleeve but it is too small to be of any real use. The price of the Berghaus Pravatile Hooded Jacket is appealing, but you only need to pay a few pounds more and you can get a much better design of product.

Material AT Stretch fleece
Men’s/unisex sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Weight 520g (size L)
Hood yes
External pockets 3
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

The price of the Berghaus Pravatile Hooded Jacket is appealing but the fit was not ideal and its features could be better designed.

Review by Graham Thompson
Just missed out on being in Trail magazine March 2014

 


Berghaus Saltoro Jacket (2013)

A very lightweight jacket made with supple, four-way stretch soft shell. The flattering, figure-hugging design traps warmth really well and breathes brilliantly, and there’s a lovely high collar which locks in warmth. There are really versatile, stretch cuffs which fit nicely around the wrists yet pull up easily too – really welcome when the going gets warm. It performs brilliantly, blocking out wind and staving off light rain, with plenty of options for spilling heat, including two mesh-lined handwarmer pockets. There’s a small zipped sleeve pocket for valuables too. All the zips have pulls which are easy to use with gloves on. 

Sizes: 8-18
Fabric: Berghaus AF soft shell
Weight: 275g
Men’s version: No
Contact: 0845 607 2477; www.berghaus.com

Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2013


Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt (2013)

As far as general-purpose base layers go, the Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt ticks all the boxes. It’s a good price, it’s reasonably light and, because it’s synthetic rather than merino wool, it’s relatively low-maintenance. The long sleeves and high collar keep the breeze at bay on a cold day, and the long chest zip allows the wearer to cool things down should the temperature rise. Like all man-made fabrics it will start to smell a little after continuous use, although the use of Polygiene silver-ion technology in the material makes it more antibacterial than some. With its loose fit and flat seams, it’s comfortable enough for even the longest hill days, while the close knit of the fabric offers sun protection equivalent to UPF 30+ so you’ll save money on sunscreen, too.

Material 100% polyester
Colours black, grey, blue (men’s); pink, purple, blue (women’s)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); 8-18 (women’s)
Weight 161g (size L)
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt is the best for general walking.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Berghaus Ignite Hoody (2013)

Probably the best-featured jacket in our test, the Berghaus Ignite Hoody offers great value for money considering what you get. It’s the only option with a two-way zip – important if considering using it with a harness, or as a belay jacket – and it also has a soft chinguard, a fully adjustable hood, premium Primaloft One insulation, a water-resistant Pertex Microlight outer, and soft, fitted cuffs. The jacket also feels extremely durable, and it’s warm too; not the warmest here, but certainly comparable – which, when you consider the price and features, is pretty impressive. It also comes with a stuffsack for easy packing. I found the fit – which also comes in women’s sizes – a bit hit and miss; tight around the throat and shoulders when zipped up while remaining generous in the midriff – so it’s difficult to say if this is as suitable as a throw-on over layer as it is as a mid or outer layer. While you get four zipped pockets (three on the outside and a lined stash pocket inside) none of them can take an OS map, and the hood adjustment sliders are perilously close to the eyes. But overall, for what you’re getting, the Berghaus Ignite Hoody is exceptionally good value.

Weight 421g (size S)
Outer fabric Pertex Microlight
Insulation Primaloft One (100% polyester)
Stuffsack/packable? stuffsack (+12g)
Adjustable hood? Yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-18
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

The Berghaus Ignite Hoody is an excellently featured insulated jacket that – while imperfect – is well-equipped to warm up the UK hillwalker.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine March 2013


Berghaus Ramche/Ilam (2013)

At this price you would expect the Berghaus Ramche (men’s) / Ilam (women’s) to be pretty special – and it is. It is one of the MtnHaus products designed by a crack team that includes renowned mountaineer Mick Fowler. The jacket features hydrophobic down, which resists ‘wetting out’ (saturation) better than normal down, meaning this keeps you warm even when it gets damp, say from condensation or melting snow. There is plenty of down used in the jacket too, so it feels really warm. The shell is made from Pertex Quantum GL, which is extremely light but also durable. The hood is very large so it can fit over a helmet easily, but it can also be adjusted to head size with an extremely impressive fit. The sleeves are also very well-profiled to give an exceptionally good fit. There are two huge pockets and two internal pockets. The cuffs get tab adjusters too. All that for just 516g (men’s L) is stunning. The only niggles are that the fabric is very shiny and the price tag is very high if you don’t need its impressive performance levels. But for serious winter use when weight and performance are number one priorities the Berghaus Ramche/Ilam is the best product in our test.

Price Ramche/Ilam £300/240
Outer Pertex Quantum GL
Insulation 850+ fill power 90/10 hydrophobic down
Weight 516g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL (Ramche)
Women’s sizes 8-18 (Ilam)
Website www.berghaus.com

Verdict

The Berghaus Ramche/Ilam is an outstanding down jacket for regular use in the most demanding situations but less frequent users can save lots of cash and stay warm with other very good jackets. It won the ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Berghaus Parione (2012)

The lowest in price and also the lightest top in our test (306g size UK 12), the Berghaus Parione proves that you don’t have to pay a fortune for a top-quality, well-fitting fleece suitable for walking, scrambling and mountaineering. Berghaus has cleverly combined light but warm Polartec Classic Micro fabric on the main body and arms of this jacket with AT Stretch material on the hood, at the sides, under the arms and over the hands with thumb loops – so you have great freedom of movement reaching for holds. The two side zip pockets open and close easily with one gloved hand, but the arm pocket could do with a zip pull cord for easier glove-handed opening. There is no hem drawcord, but it doesn’t feel necessary as the fit and drop tail are spot on. The Berghaus Parione’s stretch fabric thumb loops are very comfy, and the arms are made suitably longer to prevent the sleeves being overstretched when the thumb loops are in use. The hood fits the head snugly enough without a drawcord, but it could do with coming a little lower down the forehead for more protection. The top of the zip would also be better with slightly more protection from a larger inner flap to make it more comfy on the chin.

Weight 306g
Pockets 2 side, 1 arm
Material Polartec Classic Micro and AT Stretch
Thumb loops yes
Hood yes
Men’s version yes
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

The Berghaus Parione is a great budget option (it won our ‘Best Value’ award) for walking and scrambling with great freedom of movement, and a good level of warmth for its light weight.

Review by Claire Maxted
First published in Trail magazine October 2012


Berghaus Ignite Hoody (2012)

On the surface, the Berghaus Ignite Hoody is very similar to the Montane Flux; however it is slightly heavier (20g more) but feels a little warmer. Like others on test it’s wind- and water-resistant, filled with PrimaLoft insulation and also boasts an adjustable hem cord to get a snug fit around your waist.

A draught excluder is fitted behind the main zip to help keep you warm, while a soft chinguard extends a fair way down the zip to help make it more comfortable when closed.

In terms of features it does have a good range, and some of the ones it has offer finishing touches that make it a little more appealing than some other jackets in the same price range. For example the pockets are lined on one side with soft material, making them a bit cosier for glove-free hands; and the Velcro adjustable cuffs are more generous, making putting them on over gloves easy.

The Berghaus Ignite Hoody’s hood, although not helmet-compatible, draws in around the face well, keeping the heat in where you need it. The hood also has a stiffened peak – but this is not as rigid as a wired peak and therefore it’s not as effective at keeping its shape.

 

Weight 440g (size 10)

Outer fabric Pertex Microlight

Inner fabric plain weave nylon

Insulation PrimaLoft One

Women’s sizes 8-10

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Website www.berghaus.com

Verdict

Boasting a range of features, the Berghaus Ignite Hoody is a good, lower-cost option – though others at this price offer slightly more for your money.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine March 2012

 


Berghaus Scorch Vest 2011

The women’s Berghaus Scorch Vest is made mainly from Polartec Thermal Pro material, which is fleecy and soft to the touch. This fabric claims to trap body heat using lofted (fluffed-up) fibres, and if it’s ultimate cosiness you’re after, then it certainly feels snug to wear. The great advantage of fleece gilets such as the Scorch is that they’re highly breathable, which means you can wear them as a regular mid layer as well as using them for emergency insulation.
This gilet is designed specifically for women and it is cut to fit a curvier figure. We loved the large handwarmer pockets, which are big enough to fit an OS map each and also add to the overall breathability of the gilet. The soft chinguard should protect the neck from rubbing, although on our sample, we did find that the front zip had a tendency to snag slightly on its way down.
If weight is a priority for you, the Berghaus Scorch Vest is also a bit heavier than some other models we looked at, and will take up more room in your pack. It has no wind-resistant shell, and so really comes into its own as a snug mid layer.

Size 8-18 (women’s)
Weight 315g (size 12)
Outer fabric Polartec
Insulation medium
Water resistance none
Wind resistance low
Pockets 2
www.berghaus.com

The Berghaus Scorch Vest is best for a warm mid layer.

First published in Trail magazine September 2011


Berghaus Faroe

Here’s a very good illustration of what a soft shell should be. Not too bulky, yet with excellent windproofing to help boost warmth that’s further amplified by the slightly velour lining. Tested over some steep contours in an overly wintry Lake District with snow on the ground, it was perfectly at home. As the weather turned wet, using it as a mid-layer worked well too. In fact, its DWR coating helped keep away moisture condensing on the inside of an overwhelmed waterproof. The design is simple enough with just a couple of hip pockets although they are a little low to be used with a pack’s hip belt, and don’t function well as vents. The elasticated style of cuffs, while lacking Velcro adjustment, did keep the worst of the draught out, and pulled up easily on warm climbs.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
S –XXL
Fabric: Windstopper
Weight (tested size): 451g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 0191 516 5700; www.berghaus.com


Berghaus Extrem Duvet 2011

The Berghaus Extrem Duvet is almost the ideal duvet for really cold winter nights on the hills. It comes with good-quality down and is very warm, unlike some of the lighter jackets here. That added insulation does mean this is a little heavier than some at 708g, but I’d rather go for maximum warmth than minimal weight in winter. The outer is Pertex, but not the new superlight 10 denier version, so it feels pretty robust. The jacket has the usual features of two zipped pockets and a front zip with baffle behind. But you also get Velcro-adjustable cuffs and a hood with lots of good adjustment that allows it to fit very closely and move very easily with the head. There’s a small brushed fleece chinguard too for added comfort, and generally this feels ideal for sitting around a winter campsite or watching a sunset from a winter Munro.  But the Berghaus Extrem Duvet’s hood has a huge wired peak, and while I normally love such features this one just obscures vision so much that I had to flip it vertically to get it out of the way. The hood is not removable either, which some may find annoying for off-the-hill use. The main problem though is that there are lower-priced duvets that offer similar performance.

Outer Pertex Microlight nylon
Inner Pertex Microlight nylon
Insulation 700 fill power 90/10 down
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 708g (L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK no info provided

The Berghaus Extrem Duvet is a great duvet for cold winter mountain use, but you can get similar performance at lower prices.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2011