Finding the right items of clothing for trail and mountain running in the winter can be a tricky business. Garments need to be lightweight, packable and comfortable to wear when working at high intensity whilst also providing sufficient protection to keep us warm and safe if the weather turns nasty. Equipment designed for hill walking or mountaineering tends to be too bulky and warm whereas clothing intended for road running doesn’t provide enough protection to keep you sufficiently safe and comfortable if you find yourself in facing bad weather in a remote area. Fortunately due to the recent explosion of interest in off-road running there is now a much greater selection of equipment that is specifically designed for the purpose.
One of the first items that should be on your list of essentials when putting together a wardrobe of protective clothing for the winter is a waterproof jacket and the Berghaus Vapourlight Hyper Smock is (and I’m pretty sure about this) the lightest, most packable water proof hooded top-cover that is currently on the market.
The Vapourlight Hyper Smock is an incredibly focussed piece of clothing and every effort has been made to ensure that it is as lightweight and packable as possible. The features are pretty minimal as a result and there are no adjustable wrist, waist or neck closures. There are no pockets for your hands or for a map and the material is very thin indeed. If you are familiar with pertex quantum we’re in that kind of territory but in a waterproof guise. There is one very small pocket on the left arm of the jacket which I believe is designed for storing the stuff sack. This all means that the Hyper Smock is best suited for high intensity activities where weight and packability are vital but it’s not terribly practical for activities like walking or for casual use. This is by no means a criticism but it is worth understanding before you buy.
I’ve come across quite a few models of lightweight waterproof over recent years, including models from OMM, Montane, Inov-8 but none of them have matched the Hyper Smock for packability and weight. It’s really quite remarkable how small it compresses when stuffed into it’s handy pouch, which is nicely designed with a belt loop. All of this means that you have the option to carry the smock as an insurance policy against a change in conditions without it causing an inconvenience
I am a 38″ chest and a 30″ waist with relatively broad shoulders and I found that the smock fit me perfectly in a size small allowing room for layering underneath. The wrist closures fit nicely but the sleeves are possibly a bit baggier than I would ideally like. I have a truly massive and weird shaped head so finding hoods that fit me properly can be a nightmare, especially when wearing a head torch. I was therefore overjoyed to find that the generously sized hood of the Vaourlight fitted me nicely. The draw-cord adjustability of the face opening allows you to customise the fit and this worked well enough for me but I would prefer to see an additional draw cord for neck closure as I could imagine that those with smaller heads may struggle to lock it down in high winds. The same goes for the elasticated hem which provides adequate security but a draw cord would provide further scope for refining the fit. Both of these features would add a little bit of weight but I think it’s a worthwhile trade off.
I have no complaints at all about the build quality of the jacket. Inevitably, there is going to be a trade-off in durability when you are using materials that are as light as this but the quality of construction is excellent and mine is good as new after several weeks of regular use.
The Vapourlight Hyper Smock is very comfortable and the cut allows excellent freedom of movement. Water repellency is impressive for the weight and thickness of the material and provides decent protection in moderately strong rain but extremely heavy or sustained rain does result in some ingress of water. This was only really apparent at the end of runs when I noticed a few (non-sweat) patches of water, mostly along the line of the zip at the front of the jacket.
So far, I have used the smock in ambient temperatures of around 2-12 degrees Celsius with a vest or thin base layer underneath. I have found that it works nicely at the lower end of this range but it can get a bit warm in milder temperatures, especially if you are working hard where breathability can become an issue and condensation builds up.
The performance and protection levels are very well suited to winter trail running in the UK for the majority of wet weather conditions. The smock will also work well in the mountains for wet excursions lasting no longer than a couple of hours or as an emergency cover to get you back to civilisation if you unexpectedly encounter a storm. If you are utterly determined to go up onto high ground for extended periods of time, 365 days a year whatever the weather, you are going to need another, more substantial jacket that you save for those ‘special’ days when nature chooses to throw it’s worst at you.
I suspect that many who are looking at this will be considering the Vapourlight for events like mountain marathons where you will be looking to meet the requirements of the kit list whilst minimising weight. This smock would be perfectly suited for this purpose unless sustained rain or bad weather is predicted, in which I would again consider a jacket with hand pockets and additional protection in the interests of safety and comfort. I personally own a second jacket for this reason but I hardly ever use it because it’s over-kill for running 95% of the time whereas I can see myself using the Vapourlight Hypersmock regularly over the winter.
So the Vapourlight smock won’t keep you bone-dry in a hurricane and you are probably going to encounter breathability issues if you wear it in milder conditions. However, in my experience this statement can be levelled at many other super-minimal jackets that are out there but the Vapourlight Hypersmock beats the competition hands-down for weight and packability. To me, this makes it one of the most compelling products currently available in it’s category.
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Got any questions? Have you used the Vapourlight hypersmock? If so, I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts below.