Initially, I was not supposed to go to this years’ Bergans Freeride Experience (BFE). I had been there in 2017 to make a film about the event and had an incredible time, but this year it did not really fit in my schedule. In the weeks before the event of 2019, however, an unbelievably large amount of snow had already fallen in the Austrian Alps. The village of Baad in Kleinwalsertal had been snowed in from the outside world up to two times. The layer of snow in the mountains, on and off-piste was perfect. Top conditions for freeriding were guaranteed. Powder fever gripped me, I struggled, only to succumb to the sweet silent sirens song of white gold. And from Bergans of Norway, I received the Slingsby 3 layer jacket and trousers. Bergans also has the Stranda ski/snowboard collection but in this case, the Slingsby line fit quite well.
The Slingsby Jacket & Pants
Slingsby is the name of the mountaineering collection this year. In 2017 I had already used a Bergans freeride ser, and actually, I expected something similar again. But when I got the jacket and pants I thought I held a running jacket and matching pants. The fabric, still with the Dermizax membrane (you can read more about that here), was so light, and so supple; it was miles away from the stiff fabric I knew from the previous set, and from other hardshell kits (like Gore-Tex). So I was very curious.
I tested the Slingsby set during the event. According to Bergans of Norway, the Slingsby 3 layer shell is “the most advanced shell jacket we have ever made!” The aim of the collection is to deliver mountaineering products that give a lot of comfort and freedom of movement, besides being water and windproof, and which are highly breathable as well. All of the above is what the Dermizax®NX fabric is supposed to provide. In addition to having a water-tightness of 20,000 water columns, it is also slightly stretchy in two directions, which should provide greater freedom of movement.
Three days of very deep powder snow, with almost only off-piste runs through thick snow, intensive hikes to reach the best lines and a morning of splitboarding. Temperatures between -15 and 0 degrees.
Comfort & Freedom of movement
The first thing you notice is that you hardly really feel the kit. It is really exceptionally light and supple. The lightest and most supple 3-layer hardshell set that I have ever worn. It delivers a lot of freedom of movement. Hiking through snow that varied in depth at every step, splitboarding up a steep incline, with difficult “spitzekehren” moments; my flexibility and the stretch of the clothing were really pushed to the limit. Really very fantastic. An interesting advantage of that very light fabric is that if you do not wear the jacket because it is too hot, for example, the jacket takes up much less space when you pack it away in your backpack than with a normal 3-layer shell.
Wind and waterproof
To start with waterproofness: I tested that by being pretty much up to my waist in deep snow a lot. Either in waiting for my turn for descents, sitting on my knees or backside, or recovering from some epic tumbles. Neither on my knees nor on my bum there was any kind of saturation of the fabric. It is a good test because you actually sit on the fabric for a longer period of time and the pressure on the fabric is high. I easily wiped the snow off my clothes after my rolls in the powder. The only place I noticed something of saturation was the edge of the cuffs. What is interesting is that this also dried very quickly. On day two of the Bergans Freeride Experience it also snowed all morning. That too did not have any effect on the waterproofness of the kit. In terms of windproofness, I did feel a slight chill on my legs from the wind as we traversed to the of the summit we climbed on the third day. But for the rest, it did quite well.
The first day of the BFE it was very cold. Under the jacket and pants, I had a merino baselayer, a thin fleece and the Slingsby Light Down jacket (that jacket will separately). I mention these layers because the breathability of the shell is not a stand-alone thing. The other layers also need to breathe well if you want to feel what the jacket does. (check out the Arty of Layering). Now down is not the most breathable material and yet I did not get too hot on that first day, with lots of intensive descents and trea-runs, but also with hiking through heavy terrain. At the end of the day, I felt my base layer was moist from sweat, and I realized that I probably should have taken off the down jacket in an earlier stage. The following days I did not wear down, the temperatures were higher, and I stayed dry all day. Day 3 brought splitboarding on a south slope with even higher temperatures. I wore the jacket on the route up, and in the end, I was sweating quite intensively. There is always a limit with which your clothing can help you.
The jacket has ventilation zippers under the armpits that work fine, the main zipper at times is a bit heavy on the upzip. The hood, on the other hand, is perfect and fits well over your helmet. The jacket also has two side pockets just below your chest. Both of them run deep down into the jacket, which means that it is much more difficult from items to fall out. In the left pocket, you also have a mesh inner pocket for eg your phone or your ski pass so that it does bounce around through the larger pocket. Smart stuff. I missed a ski pass pocket in the sleeve, although that is not necessarily crucial. As a snowboarder, I prefer a bib when I ride, and at least I always find it nice to be able to attach the jacket to the pants. The Slingsby set does not allow for that unfortunately and there is also no snow skirt in the jacket itself.
The pants do have a higher back, and loops where you can attach Slingsby Suspenders (which were not included with this sample set, unfortunately). The pants have a zipper from ankle to hip, which I zipped open to almost knee height during our splitboarding ascent and gave some extra well needed ventilation. There is a zipped pocket on the right thigh that I consistently did not manage to zip up with one hand. Which was slightly annoying. In the pocket itself, there is a mesh inside pocket again, where you can put your phone or a porto or similar devices. Furthermore, the pants have an internal fixed gaiter that fits well over your ski or snowboard shoe.
Finally, I considered the durability/strength of the fabric. Because it is so light, it also looks pretty fragile. Now, as mentioned earlier, I have fallen a lot though consequently in soft snow and have added to that I also had some scrapes with tree branches. The jacket has remained intact for the time being, though only three days of riding does is too short to really conclude too much on this matter. There is a ripstop pattern in the outer fabric, but it feels somewhat less tough than heavier shell coats. I should also mention that splitboarding did not cause any damage to the underside of the pant legs (which are reinforced of course).
Last but not least, At GearLimits we are looking more and more at the element of sustainability in combination with versatility; because versatility is also a form of sustainability. If you have a jacket that is very versatile, you do not have to buy another one for a different activity. And the Slingsby jacket and trousers are extraordinarily versatile. You can go off-piste with it, as shown, go touring, hit the slopes and also use during other mountain sports. Climbing, hiking, winterhikes, you name it. Even in everyday life, this jacket will certainly fit in nicely.
Although Bergans of Norway considers sustainability to be of paramount importance and, among other things, works with water-saving die techniques and recyclable materials in for example the Stranda collection, I could not find any information on how sustainable fabrication or materials use was in the Slingsby except that the DWR-coating is PFOA free.
All in all, I really liked the Slingsby 3layer jacket and pants. Incomparably light and supple, good wind and waterproofness and quite breathable. What else do you want?