Review – Berghaus Faroe Softshell Jacket

Posted by @ 1:56 pm on Monday 13th May, 2013.
Categories: My reviews, Shiny new kit

This item has been supplied on a "review-and-keep" basis by an agent representing Berghaus.

The jacket being reviewed is the Men's Faroe WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket, the relevant Berghaus web-page is currently here, and here's a screenshot of that web-page:

 

 

This jacket was billed by Berghaus as "a perfect lightweight barrier for those cool, breezy, summer trails" and they claimed that "The WINDSTOPPER® Softshell fabric will stop wind chill in its tracks and the 4-waystretch AF softshell fabric allows you to stay mobile". Well, now I've had time to test the thing and to see how it stood up to expectations.

Let's start with the general fit. I'm a medium bloke, that's the size of jacket that I tested and yes, the jacket did fit. It's not a what you'd call a "technical" or a "sporty" fit, it's straight up-and-down and relies on stretch to go around my middle-age curves even when the only garment under it is a lightweight baselayer. Basically it's fine on the shoulders, chest, belly and waist but it's tight around the arse, making the hem draw-cord system redundant:

 

 

As you can see, the jacket's arms are long enough for the cuffs to stay put during extension and there's a bit of a back-end drop-tail that doesn't ride up more than an inch. The light-blue "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels are responsible for that, they stretch really well. There is a downside to that fabric but I'll come to that later. In short, wherever you put your arms, the rest of the jacket stays where it should be. Ideal for dodgy folk with dodgy armpits:

 

 

Now, let's look at some of the details. Pockets, zips, cuffs and that sort of thing. Here's a full-frontal:

 

 

What juicy bits can we see here?

  • A one-way front zip with an anti-snag strip and a puller-garage thing at the top end but no beard-guard. The zip's nice and smooth as you'd expect from YKK.
  • Hem draw-cords: Two off, single-handed, externally-adjustable.
  • Collar: Comfy when up, won't stay folded down. A snug fit around a 15" neck when fully zipped up: 

     

  • Cuffs: These are a bit cheap and naff. They're ever-so-slightly elasticated and there are no adjusters. This means that they're too slack (and hence not windproof) on the wrist but don't allow the sleeves to be pulled or rolled up over the forearm: 

    Cuff detail

     

     Too slack

     

     Too tight

 

  • The two pockets are zipped (again with smooth YKKs and puller-garage things at the top ends). The zips don't chafe wrists and the pockets are roomy and well-placed for casual hands-in-pockets walking (but a tad too low if you're carrying a pack with a hip-belt). With hands in pockets the "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side-panels stretch forwards to give some volume to the pocket area: 

     

     

    The pocket inners are mesh which means lightweight but also draughty when open. If you're using this jacket as a windproof and you're using the pockets to keep your hands out of the wind, you get a draught around the torso. That said, the mesh inners are sewn in on three sides so they form pockets that can be accessed internally. As you can see, they're plenty big enough for a folded OS map:

     

     

  • Those "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels... they both make and break this jacket. As I've stated, they allow a full range of arm-movement and they stretch forward to allow the pocket area to expand... but they're NOT windproof at all! Stand in a wind and you get cold armpits and more torso draughts. In short, they work wonders for achieving fit and flex, but they completely ruin the windproof potential of this garment:

     

     

     

Overall, the construction is sound - the fabric panels are overlocked and then stitched through, it's generally neat stitch-work and there were no dangly threads to snip off before use.

So, is it really a softshell? Well, no. It is soft but it isn't a shell. There's no working DWR and the main fabric (WINDSTOPPER® Softshell) is windproof but isn't showerproof. The "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" is so permeable that it leaks air and water like a sieve. To be fair, if it had been promoted as a general lightweight summer jacket then I would have been OK with it.

Would it have been worth the £110 RRP? No, because it doesn't do what it says in the advertising blurb.

I suppose a lot depends on what you're used to. Rab make excellent softshells and Montane make excellent windproofs. This garment tries to compete but doesn't really cut the mustard in either category. Mind you, this jacket was part of the Berghaus Spring/Summer 2011 range. The 2013 range may well be a lot better - the Men’s Cadence WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket seems to be the current equivalent (and a tenner cheaper) but for that outlay you could have the Men’s Pordoi Softshell Jacket with a hood and more (and better-placed) pockets, and which looks to be an altogether-better bit of kit.

Details of the current range of Berghaus softshell jackets can be found at http://store.berghaus.com/c/jackets/mens/softshell-jackets

Anyway, I'll continue to use it and I'll try to like it. If my opinions change I'll let you know.

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