During the winter, I tend to carry a lightweight down jacket for long excursions in cold weather to act as an insurance policy incase I somehow get stuck in a remote location. I have a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer which is excellent for this purpose but it’s completely over-kill for milder conditions or to wear when I am actually running. For quite a while now, I’ve been looking for something that is even lighter and smaller with less insulation to use when I am on-the-move in the cold and wind or to stow in my bag just incase.
Extra base layers or Fleece mid layers can provide reasonable levels of insulation but don’t tend to be that great in terms of their weight and packability. Synthetic mid layers like the Primaloft-filled OMM Rotor Smock and Montane Fireball are a bit closer to what I’m after in terms of insulation but they weigh almost 100g more than my Ghost Whisperer so they don’t quite fit the bill as a more minimal alternative.
The Berghaus Vapourlight Hypertherm caught my attention as it is ridiculously light at 165g and provides an innovative solution for optimizing insulation levels thanks to the clever reversible design. When worn with the blue side out, the AF™ shell provides a wind-proof layer for use in colder conditions whilst the red side is more permeable and allows air to flow through the insulation in milder temperatures or to provide greater breathability when you are working hard.
As with the Vapourlight waterproof jacket, the thing that first struck me about Hypertherm is the focused, uncompromising design which is centred on maximum performance for minimal weight. The combination of featherweight packability is unrivalled and really needs to be seen to be believed but this comes at the expense of other features as there are no hood, pockets or drawcords. The elasticated cuffs and hem help keep things snug and the lack of a hood doesn’t really bother me as I always carry a hat when it’s cold but I would be happy to sacrifice a little bit of weight for some simple, reversible pockets. Whilst you obviously can’t put your hands in them whilst you are running, I personally feel that pockets are a key feature of an insulated jacket as I have poor circulation and numb hands can make important tasks like navigation, eating and re-tying of shoe laces very difficult.
The fit of the jacket is meant to be snug and I found the the size-small was just right for my 38″ chest and 30″ waist. The collar fits me nicely, providing additional insulation around the neck and not unlike a cycling jacket, the long-ish sleeves and low cut hem at the back work well if you need to reach or bend.
Whilst the insulation levels of the Hypertherm are obviously not comparable with something like a proper down jacket, the synthetic lining provides impressive levels of warmth for the weight. The Hypertherm’s party-trick of reversing from the windproof blue-side-out to the red-side-out to adjust the warmth is most noticeable in cold, blustery conditions when the wind can flow through the permeable red material for reduced insulation. The difference is less noticeable in still conditions where the air does not flow through the shell as freely.
I’ve worn the Hypertherm over a simple base-layer throughout the test period and I’ve found that the jacket is comfortable to use when running in temperatures of up to around zero degrees-celsius (depending on how hard you are working) but it gets a bit warm above this, especially if the air is still. The Hypertherm is most effective when conditions are both windy AND cold where the reversible design comes into its own and the jacket is very comfortable indeed (obviously a regular occurrence on UK mountains). Breathability is excellent with minimal condensation and the synthetic lining offers the added bonus that it should maintain much of it’s it’s warmth if it gets wet. Whilst the insulation provided by the jacket is highly impressive for the weight, it should be noted that it’s not up to the task of keeping you cosy for extended periods of inactivity in cold conditions, i.e sitting around on frosty campsites or exposed, wintery mountaintops (that’s not what it’s designed for).
The lightweight nature of the jacket and the tissue-thin materials left me with inevitable concerns about the durability and I expected it to show signs of wear quite quickly. The Hypertherm is so comfortable that I’ve found myself using it for day-to-day wear over the past 2-3 months and I am therefore almost surprised to report that it’s still as good as new. However, I should add the caveat that I’ve been quite careful with it over that time period and I still suspect it will be quite vulnerable to snagging on sharp objects etc but mine is still going strong so-far.
For me, the Vapourlight Hypertherm fills a rather unique gap in the market for insulated jackets in that it is warm enough to keep you toasty when running in sub-zero, windy conditions but not so warm that you will end up faffing around and taking it off after two minutes every time you wear it. The jacket is less-suited to low intensity activities where you may find yourself needing more insulation but then that isn’t really the point. Pockets would be a welcome addition but that aside, I’ve worn the jacket almost constantly since I received it and have no complaints whatsoever about the performance. I’m impressed with the quality of the construction and I would have no hesitation in recommending giving it a try, so long as you appreciate what it is and isn’t designed to do.
This product was purchased for testing by the author. For more information, see my gear review and advertising policy.
The Berghaus Vapourlight Hypertherm is available from Amazon (link below) They can be quite tricky to get hold of and tend to go out of stock quickly so you may need to hunt around a bit.
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Got any questions? Have you used the Vapourlight hypertherm? If so, I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts below.