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Photo credit: Berghaus.com, Arcteryx.com and Paramo-clothing.com.

Lightweight insulated jackets

22-Nov-16

By Fiona Outdoors

I rarely go anywhere without a lightweight insulated jacket. I wear one before and after training and races. If it’s summer, I wear the jacket on its own and in autumn or winter I use the jacket as a mid-layer underneath a waterproof jacket or another insulated jacket.

I also carry a light insulated jacket in a rucksack when heading out for extended training runs and longer races. The jacket can be worn when you feel cooler while running in cold weather, such as at higher altitude, or when stopping for a bite to eat/refuelling.

I have tested these insulated jackets in a range of conditions in the Scottish hills and mountains and on trail runs.

Berghaus Reversa Jacket

Buy Berghaus Reversa Jacket (women)

Buy Berghaus Reversa Jacket (men)

Buy Berghaus Reversa Jacket (women)

The Reversa, in designs for men and women, is a lightweight and reversible insulated hoody jacket.

It has been created for people who want to move fast in the hills and therefore features “highly breathable 80g Hydroloft Elite Pro insulation”. It’s claimed this will keep you warm even when it’s wet.

There are two sides to the jacket: A windproof side (warmer) and a more breathable side (cooler).

Features

  • Berghaus Hydroloft Elite Pro, which is a weather-resistant synthetic insulation, Pertex Microlight fabric hood.
  • Weight(approx.): Women’s: 321g; Men’s: 357g.
  • RRP £170

The jacket is a great fit and looks smart yet functional. It would work well as a jacket that you could wear while away for a weekend or week of a running holiday or race.

I have worn it with success for a variety of situations including hill walking/running, as a just-in-case layer in my rucksack and also to the pub for a meal in the evenings.

The two sides to the jacket are a great idea and they both do as they suggest. I had thought it would make no difference which side I had to the outside but I found there is a difference.

The wind-resistant side keeps you warmer and the more breathable side allows more air to circulate and this is a bonus when you are working harder, such as walking or running at higher altitude.

Even in quite chilly Scottish conditions in autumn, this jacket kept me warm over a long-sleeved baselayer. Considering it’s so lightweight I was surprised by how effective it is.

When the rain became heavier I simply added a waterproof jacket for water-resistance and warmth.

It would be great if the jacket had a bit more give in the fabric or some stretch for better freedom of movement.

I tested the jacket for warmth when damp by wearing it while sweating hard. It still kept me remarkably warm. The only problem is that after a while the sweat dries into the jacket and becomes a bit whiffy. That means you need to wash the jacket. I did this with an outdoor clothing specific wash and then tumble-dried the jacket. It came out almost brand new.

There are zipped pockets on only one side, the windproof side, which is a bit annoying as I’d prefer them on both sides. A two-way zip would be a good addition, instead of the one-way zip.

PROS: Great fit; clever reversible design; nice colours; versatile; useful hood.

CONS: Bit pricey; sleeves a bit short; needs a bit more stretch; pockets only on one side.

Score  
Design 9/10
Features 8/10
Performance 9/10
Value 7/10
Total 8/10

 

Buy Berghaus Reversa jacket (women)

Buy Berghaus Reversa jacket (men)

Buy Berghaus Reversa jacket (women)

Photo credit: Arcteryx.com.

Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody jacket

Arc’teryx sell a range of lightweight insulated jackets for both men and women. The fit is usually athletic and trim.

The Atom LT is made with synthetic Coreloft insulation for lightweight (LT) warmth.

Features

I have owned several versions of the Arc’teryx Atom jacket and it’s the LT Hoody that I like the most. It’s easy to wear thanks to the stretch side panels that give great freedom of movement.

I like that the wrist hems are made of stretch fabric for extra comfort.

The insulation is lightweight but warming, so warmth-to-weight ratio is excellent. It’s perfect as an outer layer for cool autumn and summer weather and as a mid-layer for the winter cold. I have worn this jacket in very windy conditions and it works a treat to keep me warm.

The DWR is helpful although when caught in a downpour you will want to wear a fully waterproof jacket over the top.

The breathability of the insulation is aided by the stretch side panels. It’s not as breathable as the Berghaus Reversa when turned to the more breathable side but it’s still good.

The jacket packs into a fairly small space in a rucksack although it would be good to have a stuff bag with the jacket.

Arc’teryx jackets fit me really well. They are made for slim, athletic people and so the small size always fits my UK10 physique really well. The arm and back length are usually good, although I have noticed that these seem a bit shorter with the newest/updated jacket version.

The hood is a great fit too and works well in high winds, especially when zipped up. It would be nice to have a softer fabric at the zip top and inside the jacket where it touches the skin.

The colour range is also awesome, for both men and women. There are lots of bright colours as well as black and blue.

Photo credit: Arcteryx.com.

PROS: Fit, freedom of movement; colour range; performance; looks.

CONS: Price; shorter length.

Score  
Design 8.5/10
Features 8/10
Performance 8/10
Value 6.5/10
Total 7.5/10

 

Photo credit: Paramo-clothing.com.

Páramo Torres Medio Jacket

The Torres is made specifically for women. It is slightly heavier than those above but it's still easy to stow in a rucksack and throw on when needed. It is meant to be an insulating over-layer jacket for a more versatile use.

What marks Páramo out from many other brands is the ethical values. The company is consistently rated as the best worldwide for its commitment to using products and manufacturing methods that are less damaging to the environment.

For example, Páramo have their own system of waterproofing that does not utilise PFCs (perfluorinated compounds). PFCs, such as those used in most DWR treatments, have been found to be hazardous to the environment and human health. 

All Páramo garments are covered by the Páramo Recycling Scheme, which helps to save garments from landfill and rewards the owner with up to £50.

The Torres jacket, like the vast majority of the Páramo range, is made from 100% polyester fabric. This means that unlike other fabrics made from mixed materials, the jacket can be broken back down to its basic chemical building blocks and reformed into new high quality fibre.

Features

  • Nikwax Analogy 130g Insulator for weather protection and warmth
  • Insulated hood
  • Two large insulated zipped hand-warming pockets.
  • Internal secure chest pocket
  • Full front opening with two-way zip, internal storm flap and chin guard.
  • Adjustable hem to retain body heat and scooped tail to protect lower back.
  • Easy adjust hook and loop cuffs.
  • Weight: 540g.
  • Paramo Torres Medio jacket
  • RRP £160
  • Similar Páramo Torres Alturo jacket with a few more features for men priced at £170.

The jacket is very easy to wear and offers a high level of warmth-to-weight. I stuff it into a small dry bag and then pop it in my rucksack. When I need it, such as when taking a breather from running, or at a food station, or after a race/training it’s easy pull out and put it on.

The fabric is a bit of a love-hate thing in my opinion. It feels silky against the skin, so that’s good. But it also tends to collect electricity, rather like nylon fabrics, and this can feel a bit odd. It’s not a problem, just a strange feeling.

The features are good, for example the hand-warming pockets, pockets, two-way zip and easy to adjust hooks and cuffs.

I am not so keen on the shape and fit of the jacket. It’s less flattering than the other two on review here and I suggest you go down a size. I found the size small too big and re-ordered an XS. I am usually always a small. The sizings are very much on the generous side.

The hood is not as fitted as the other two jackets but it is a lot warmer.

PROS: Warm and cosy to wear; generous fit; great environmental ethics.

CONS: Sizes are big compared to other brands; heavier than other jackets; no water repellency.

Score  
Design 7/10
Features 8/10
Performance 8/10
Value 7/10
Total 7.5/10


Conclusion

I do think that lightweight insulated jackets are generally over-priced and Arc’teryx in particular have high prices. For a more basic but slightly heavier jacket that ticks the most boxes for environmental friendliness, Paramo is a good choice. Berghaus and Arc’teryx have my vote for great fitting jackets that are nicely lightweight. Berghaus offers excellent versatility in terms with a reversible option for windy and less windy conditions.

 

Fiona is a keen runner, preferring off-road and hilly to flat and road. She lives in Scotland where the weather is fickle so needs to be prepared for all conditions.

All images Fiona Outdoors except when stated.

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