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Filed under:Clothing, Gear reviews, Waterproof Jackets, Tested: Berghaus Extrem 8000 Pro Jacket
Berghaus believe the new Extrem 8000 Pro is the ‘most advanced mountaineering jacket’ available – we took it to Nepal to test their claim...
Since the 1980s, Berghaus’ Extrem design teams have been designing state-of-the-art clothing for mountaineers, and 2016 marks the thirtieth anniversary of their first products (which, interestingly, were tested by Simon Yates and Joe Simpson on their ill-fated Siuala Grande expedition). To mark the occasion, the Newcastle-based brand are launching an all-new Extrem collection this autumn, and the 8000 Pro jacket (along with the Ramche 2.0 Down Jacket) is one of the flagship pieces. This jacket is jam-packed full of design ideas that typify the ‘no-stone-unturned’ approach of the Extrem team, and we were lucky enough to be amongst the first to get a chance to test it.
The 8000 Pro is a fully-featured waterproof mountain jacket that has been developed with the Berghaus athlete team, specifically Mick Fowler and Leo Houlding, and is intended to redefine the ‘state-of-the-art’ for a top-end jacket. Designed to operate in the highest, toughest and coldest environments, it can of course be pressed into action on damp British peaks too (or more likely, in winter conditions). But with a £450 pricetag, this is one serious bit of kit, so what makes it so special?
Well aside from using high quality materials and construction (more of which later) the real USP of the 8000 Pro is the incorporation of Berghaus new Xpanse technology, which is intended to give the wearer unparalleled freedom of movement (compared to anything else available now or previously) and comfort. Xpanse is not really one feature as such, but any feature that allows extra movement for the wearer, and there are three areas in the jacket that Xpanse features are incorporated into – the back, the hood and the faceguard. As I said, Xpanse is not one idea, more a concept, and there are different ideas incorporated into different elements of the jacket. The helmet-compatible hood, for example, is fitted with a series of small magnets that take in some of the hood’s volume when not needed, but allow the hood to expand when wearing a helmet. This is certainly a first as far as we’re concerned!
Moving to the back of the jacket, and we find a ‘storm proof box pleat’ running vertically from near the waist up to the shoulders, which expands when the wearer stretches. In the corresponding area on the inside of the jacket, a stretch mesh is sewn in, which means that after the pleat on the outside is expanded when the wearer is stretching, it should return to its original state due to the stretchy mesh retracting. The final Xpanse feature is the faceguard, and again the idea is to give more room and freedom of movement when it is required. To the right of centre is a vertical zip that, when undone, reveals a gusset allowing more space around the face. The gusset has venting holes in it (as found on the Ulvetanna jacket) which helps prevent condensation when the mouth is covered by the jacket. That’s it as far as Xpanse is concerned, so let’s take a look at the rest of the jacket.
The 8000 Pro is made using 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro, with two types of face fabric being employed including a 40D face fabric in the body that Berghaus developed with Gore and is exclusive to them. Berghaus say this fabric is exceptional at shedding water, as well as being extremely tough, so that it doesn’t wet out and compromise weight and breathability. A heavier (70D) fabric is used in high-wear areas such as the shoulders and hood. The focus on quality components continue with the use of YKK Aquaguard Vislon water-resistant zips on all pockets and the main zip, and the use of Cohaesive ‘embedded’ cinchcord adjustors at the hem and on the hood. There are five external pockets – two chest pockets whose zips are tucked neatly beneath the external stormflaps of the main zip, two handwarmer pockets at the sides, and a small arm pocket. The ‘3D’ hand pockets are notable as they can be also be used for ventilation (they are mesh-lined) and they are especially designed to ‘gape’ when moving to achieve maximum airflow.
The hood is a stand-out feature on the 8000 Pro, not least for its aforementioned Xpanse features – the magnets and faceguard – and clearly a lot of thought has gone into its design. The neck area is generous even before the gusset is unzipped, and there are three main adjustors for getting the ideal fit around your head (or helmet) and face – a volume adjustor at the back, and a pullcord on either side of the face, located inside the hood. In addition, the hood has a wired peak.
A jacket of this calibre deserves to be tested in the right environment, and although we couldn’t quite manage an 8,000m peak (as per its name), we did test it during T&M’s recent month-long expedition to Nepal, where it made it to the summits of two 6,000m peaks – Mera Peak and Lobuche East. While rain wasn’t a factor in Nepal, high winds certainly were, and I appreciated the hood on Mera summit day when I could pull it easily over not just my helmet but also two other hoods on the other jackets I was wearing.
Although not listed as an Xpanse feature in Berghaus’ PR material, the arm cuffs could certainly be described in this way. They flare out towards the end of the arms, allowing big gloves to be pulled on easily, but when the extra room is not required they fold over into a pleat and
are secured by a regular Velcro tab at the cuffs. This was fantastic in use, and overcomes one
of the most frustrating problems when mountaineering!
The venting pockets worked well too, and proved a neater alternative to pitzips which are always quite difficult to adjust, especially when on the move. And since you’ve still got two chest pockets at your disposal, using the side pockets in venting mode is no great loss.
Overall I loved using the 8000 Pro. Although I found it to be perfectly at home on cold and windy summit days in the Himalaya, it should also be ideal for brutal winter days in Scotland or rain-soaked days in the Lake District – so it’s certainly not the preserve of the elite mountaineer only. It’s not cheap, admittedly, but you do get a lot for your money.
VERDICT: A top-drawer mountain shell that, with its Xpanse features, raises the bar in terms of comfort and freedom of movement