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Berghaus Carnot and Fourier Hooded Fleeces Review

© Dan Bailey

The Carnot (men's) and Fourier (women's) are full-zip hooded fleeces in the versatile midweight bracket. Both made from the same Polartec Power Stretch fabric - an old favourite and still one of the best fleece materials for warmth, stretchiness, and quick-drying breathability - the two models share a similar design and feature set, and are identically priced. There's nothing flash about them, but this is traditional midlayer fleece we're talking about, so there's really no need to reinvent the wheel. If you just want something unfussy, that does the job it's made for, then why not keep things simple?

I've been using the Carnot, while my wife Pegs has a Fourier.

Carnot Hooded Jacket - men's

Though clearly not designed with technical climbing in mind, the Carnot and Fourier will still be OK as a winter climbing midlayer so long as you make allowances for the lack of techy details such as harness-compatible pockets and helmet-fitting hood. These tops are better considered all-rounders for general outdoor use, and they're more than fine for hillwalking. As you'd hope from a midweight fleece, they work well in a layering system, whether worn on top in cool weather or under a shell or insulated jacket in the cold, so they're useful year-round.

It's a good layer for hillwalking in a variety of conditions  © Dan Bailey
It's a good layer for hillwalking in a variety of conditions
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 498g in size Large, the Carnot is on a par with other similar hooded Power Stretch fleeces in my cupboard (I have a couple of them). For the warmth on offer, I don't think it's at all heavy. Berghaus quote 520g for size Large, and it's nice to see a brand over-estimating a product weight.

Fit

I tend to wear a size Large in outdoor clothing, and that's what I went for here. If anything the Carnot in size L is too big on me, with more space in the body than really needed in a midlayer, and sleeves a fraction too long. This does also mean it has plenty of length in the hem, something I always like (and invariably moan about when it's lacking). The long body makes for a warm midriff and pretty much full bum coverage, so I'll forgive the baggy fit. If you're a larger chap who sometimes struggles to find clothing to fit, then the Carnot may be worth a look: I'm not small (1.83m and pretty thickset these days) and could probably have got away with a Medium here: the range goes up to a presumably huge XXL.

In size L the fit is quite roomy and long on me  © Dan Bailey
In size L the fit is quite roomy and long on me
© Dan Bailey

However, despite its long hem, the lack of an articulated cut in the sleeves does mean I get some hem lift in the Carnot when my arms are raised. That's usually a red flag for climbing or scrambling, though thanks to the stretchy fabric I find it stays tucked under a harness when I'm hanging off a fingerboard - a home test I've tried in lieu of going winter climbing in it.

Fabric

The fabric is probably the best thing about the Carnot and Fourier fleeces. While textile companies will continue to innovate new fleecy stuff, for a simple midweight, midlayer fleece, I'd say Polartec Power Stretch is already pretty much ideal.

Having used various midweight Power Stretch fleeces over the years, I've always found this fabric warm for its weight. With its soft brushed inner face it's both comfy and snug to wear, while the smooth outer side slides easily under a jacket. It's really stretchy, too, so movement is unhindered.

Keeping me comfy on a chilly early morning ascent  © Dan Bailey
Keeping me comfy on a chilly early morning ascent
© Dan Bailey

Of course this stuff is not remotely weather resistant. The outer face wets out at the first brush of moisture, while a cold wind just cuts right through. If you wanted something to function as a softshell with a degree of top-layer performance, then you wouldn't make it out of Power Stretch, but for a fleece that you intend to pair with a shell, it's actually ideal. I find Power Stretch wicks sweat away from your body very effectively, and dries quickly, so it works really well as an insulating layer for aerobic activity. In terms of breathability and comfort on the move, the low wind resistance is a benefit since a less air permeable fabric would inevitably feel more stuffy.

Features

In the Carnot you get three zipped pockets, two for your hands and one on the chest. All are mesh-lined to aid ventilation, and they're all a decent size; you could carry bulky gloves in the hand pockets, for instance, while I invariably use the chest pocket for my phone. However I'm not keen on their position. On me the chest pocket sits too low, coming down to the bottom of my ribcage (believe me, you notice it when your phone is banging about); the hand pockets, meanwhile, drop to the bottom hem, which I'd say is too far down even when putting your hands in them, besides rendering them unusable with either a harness or a rucksack hip belt.

Soft, unstructured hood  © Dan Bailey
Soft, unstructured hood
© Dan Bailey

Single chest pocket  © Dan Bailey
Single chest pocket
© Dan Bailey

Loose mid-height collar  © Dan Bailey
Loose mid-height collar
© Dan Bailey

The main zip is a chunky and reliable YKK Vislon, with a single zipper, while the two hem adjustment toggles are usable one handed, wearing gloves. This design has only a very simple soft hood, with a bit of stretch around the hem but no structure or volume control. For a softshell I'd be criticising this hood as inadequate, but in this case as soon as there's wind or weather then you'll be adding a shell on top, so the hood on your midlayer fleece doesn't need to be substantial. It's too small to fit over a helmet without severely restricting head movement, however, and it doesn't work that well under one either (I'm not convinced many hoods really do). With the hood down, the mid-height collar offers some neck protection, but I've used other designs that give you a bit more.

Ethics

Part of Berghaus' MADEKIND commitment to making more sustainable products, both jackets are made out of Bluesign approved materials. Bluesign acts as an independent observer, tracing each textile's path along the manufacturing process, to help brands make environmental improvements at every stage from factory to finished product.

Fourier Hooded Jacket - women's

The differences between this and the men's version are fairly minor, so we can keep this brief.

The Fourier is a versatile layer for the colder seasons  © Dan Bailey
The Fourier is a versatile layer for the colder seasons
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Our size 14 sample weighs in at a very reasonable 414g; Berghaus quote 390g for size 12.

Fit

The Fourier comes in an admirably wide range of sizes, from 8-20. It's good to see larger sizes getting a look-in since not all women are smaller and slimmer - a fact many outdoor brands seem to forget.

With a more feminine tailored shape than the Carnot, and coming shorter in the hem, the Fourier is a bit closer, more athletic, and less boxy in fit than the men's equivalent. Pegs' women's size 14 (EU L) fits her more closely than my men's L does me, and this plays more to the stretch of the fabric and the midlayer remit of these fleeces.  

Hood and thumb loops are useful on a cold day  © Dan Bailey
Hood and thumb loops are useful on a cold day
© Dan Bailey

Features

Aside from the cut there are subtle differences in design between his and hers. The Fourier's hand pockets are smaller than the men's, and the openings positioned slightly lower on the body. The pocket inner still comes down to the bottom hem, so they are no more usable with a rucksack hip belt or harness. Oddly, the Fourier has no chest pocket, and Pegs agrees this would have been just as useful for women as for men.

Women do get sleeves with thumb loops, while men just have a plain cuff. I generally prefer to go loop-less, while Pegs likes to use them, so if we are in any way representative of men and women on this question then perhaps there was a rationale behind the different cuff design. On the Fourier the thumb hole is very discreet, so you don't notice it if it's not being used.

Berghaus say:

The Berghaus men's Carnot and women's Fourier Hooded jackets are high performance and versatile winter mid-layers. Made out of Polartec® Power Stretch with four-way stretch, they deliver highly effective insulation, combined with outstanding freedom of movement and excellent wicking properties, ideal for winter adventures in the mountains.

  • Sizes Carnot: S-XXL
  • Sizes Fournier: 8-20 
  • Weight Carnot: 498g size L (our weight)
  • Weight Fournier: 414g size 14 (our weight) 
  • Polartec® POWER STRETCH 4-way stretch fabric is abrasion resistant, highly durable and keeps you warm
  • Two handwarmer pockets
  • This is a truly sustainable choice as the fabric's bluesign® approved and MADEKIND
  • For info see berghaus.com


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