At GearLimits we are very familiar with the British outdoor brand Berghaus. We have already been able to review many of their products and we have also had the pleasure of doing some nice projects with them, in which through funding from Berghaus we have been able to do some amazing stuff and make great films.
We fully understand that some people may think that our opinion is colored, but we can sincerely say that Berghaus has always asked us not to make concessions on an honest and as objective as possible look at products. Which is one of our basic principles seeing as our own credibility depends entirely on it.
The cool thing about our relationship with the brand is that Berghaus has always left us completely free to form our own opinions about the products we are reviewing and make our content the way we think it should be made. They obviously have great confidence in their own products and in I am happy to say, also in our capacity to look at those products with an open, honest and critical mind. So we have the best of both worlds (business wise and editorial) actually: Berghaus helps us do the work we love to do, and we can view their products in the same way as in all other reviews.
So that as an introduction to our review of the Berghaus Aonach Down jacket. When Berghaus told us about this jacket and about the TinDown sheets used as insulation, we were very enthusiastic. Because it is very innovative and we always get excited with things get innovative.
The promised advantages of ThinDown
The sweet spot of outdoor gear is that you are always exactly warm, and by extension, cool enough. It’s a never-ending search for garments that will maximize the quality of the microclimate of your body and can adapt to different circumstances and levels of intensity. A garment, therefore, needs to be warm and breathable and combines those as good as possible. Now natural down is still the best at providing warmth and insulation, but it is not at all that good at breathability. All those little feathers hold on to warm air like no other.
So how do you make a down garment breathe? By actually compressing down into fairly thin panels. This so-called ThinDown material (Italian made) comes from the fashion industry and produces a thinner and therefore more breathable material. In combination with the highly breathable outer fabric, it promises to enable a better “Air Flow” around and away from your body. ThinDown also says that the material provides up to 170% more heat than traditional down. There is no necessity of stuffing the feathers in stitched through baffles, which has well-known weight and insulation consistency challenges. In addition, the down in the panels stays much better than with regular use. You can also wash ThinDown well. Also quite an advantage.
This down mid-layer jacket is, therefore “world first” and we got the opportunity to test it in the beautiful Stubaital where you can just do some many different activities, it’s wonderful. We had 2.5 days, the first day we did a snowshoe and winter hike, which started at the middle station of the Stubaier Glacier, and led to a cold and quite windy Egesengipfel summit (around -5 degrees Celsius). The second day we had a technical hike to the Burgstall which led over a southern slope with particularly nice and warm weather (around 10-15 degrees Celsius). The last morning we spent a few hours on the snowboard on the Stubaier Glacier. Temperatures around freezing. We were with a group of six people, Jimmy, Hayco and myself from GearLimits, Rik and Floor, two of our Facebook followers who won our online contest to join us, and Angela, our contact from Berghaus who was eager to see how the Aonach would fare during our field test.
So we did some fairly high-intensity activities in warmer and cold weather with strong winds and high wind chill factor. So how did the Aonach perform?
Warmth and Insulation
f anything the Aonach is warm, in a very pleasant way. I myself wore the Aonach on the day of the winter hike from the beginning to the end of the day, without any outer shell. During the snowshoe hiking as well as the technical hiking ascent to the top that day. I wore it on the top with really strong winds blowing and a lot of wind chill because of it, and during the long descent, the wind still battering us with very irregular deep snow which made for difficult and intensive descent. I never, during all these moments felt too hot or too cold. Which is in itself quite an achievement. As for the rest of the group: Hayco also wore only the Aonach, Rik as well after the first 30 minutes with a shell jacket. Floor, Angela, and Jimmy switched between wearing the Aonach solo or with a shell jacket over it, depending on the conditions.
The next day it was much warmer and during the ascent to the top of the Burgstal the Aonach it was just too warm to wear the Aonach. It was also really around 10 maybe 15 degrees Celsius so not really too surprising that you wouldn’t need to wear a down jacket. While resting at the Starkenbürgerhütte midway and on the Burgstall summit itself, the Aonachs were put on again, to good use. And on the trip down, with a lower sun and along the north side with slightly less intensive activity it was all about the Aonach.
So various circumstances, various intensities. As far as I am concerned, the Aonach delivers solidly on the promise of heat and insulation.
When you exercise, your body temperature rises. Your body will sweat (that’s just physiology) but you don’t want to sweat excessively and you want the warm moisture-laden air around your body to be transported away from your body as soon and quickly as possible. When moisture gets into your garment you want it to be wicked away from your skin. As said, down in the traditional down jackets is not good at that. The Aonach does breathe significantly better. During the ascent on the first day I noticed that I do not get too hot, did not sweat excessively, my layers did not get or feel wet and also with the descents, even on the second warmer day there wasn’t that clammy feeling on my body you can sometimes get.
We were all very surprised at how windproof the Aonach was. Especially because the outer material is an extra breathable material. But nothing came through the jacket on those cold tops with strong winds. I had the sleeves of my baselayer rolled up, with the sleeves of the Aonach rolled down all the way to the wrists, (so I actually only wore the Aonach directly against my arms) and I still felt no wind on my skin. Really quite amazing.
As mentioned, the outer material is made of a breathable material and is not super strong. Before saying more though, I have to emphasize that the Aonach is made as a mid layer, not as an outer layer. But because it works so well as an outer layer, you will also wear the jacket as such. I have not damaged it so far, but I can imagine if you are going to climb in colder conditions, (which, looking at the previous review points it is extremely suitable for) the material could have a bit of a difficult time when coming up against sharp rocks and so on. Having said that, the advantage, again compared to traditional down jackets is that, if you have a tear in the outer material, the down will not “leak” out.
In that respect, the Aonach feels, despite being a very light and quite thin, less vulnerable than other down jackets I have worn and reviewed. I myself have one other really good down jacket with a tear I duct tape (I know, the most durable fix) up after having lost quite a lot of down there. The down panels themselves offer a certain degree of firmness to the jacket.
Fit and looks
The fit of the jacket is good. Not a super fitted cut but not baggy or wide either. Around the sleeves, around the hood and at the bottom you have stretch cuffs that make sure the jacket hugs your body well. The Aonach simply fits and wears well, the hood fits, the pockets are zipped, so checking the boxes there.
It is a jacket that has the look of a technical jacket, a good looking technical jacket at that. But it is not super fashionable (as you see nowadays more and more often in the outdoor industry). For men, the jacket in Deep Water is blue and black, for ladies in a beautiful aubergine color.
The Berghaus Aonach is a product that really works well. Warm, for a down jacket very breathable; … in dry weather a mid layer that you can also wear as an outer layer. We would not be surprised if you will see more and more applications from ThinDown in the coming years.