A well-built mountain shell for the hardest winter conditions, the Extrem 8000 Pro is Berghaus' top-end waterproof, and includes a number of funky design features you probably won't find elsewhere. I've given it a good run for its money over autumn and early winter, and when crap weather hits the fan I've found it to be among the best performing and most protective jackets in the UKH/UKC gear stash. Its price tag is on a par with top-spec shells from other brands, which is to say very high. So do the benefits justify the cost?
"The 'XpanseBack system' is a pleat of the type you sometimes see on men's shirts, but not one I've encountered before in a waterproof. This extra fabric gives you a 20% increase in freedom of movement, say Berghaus."
"Magnetic pads have been taped inside the hood. When you add a helmet underneath, these pop apart to expand it; when you're bare-headed, the magnets simply snap back together to collapse the volume. It really works!"
In the Extrem 8000 Pro, Berghaus have gone with three-layer Gore-Tex Pro, which pretty much leads the field in terms of durable, breathable waterproof membranes. This is made specifically for the rigours of winter and alpine climbing, and as a result Gore say it's their toughest fabric to date. But it is also highly breathable - as much as 28% more so than the previous generation of the same fabric. That's according to their lab tests; and having used a number of Gore Pro winter shells over the last couple of years all I can say anecdotally is that in the real world I've found it performs brilliantly across a full range of seasonal conditions, scoring top marks for breathability. The Extrem 8000 Pro is no exception, and in the winter conditions in which it has predominantly been worn I've yet to notice any sweat build-up even when working hard.
Berghaus have paired the Gore-Tex membrane with a face fabric in two different weights, 40 denier in most of the body combined with large strategic panels of tougher 70 denier at the areas of highest wear - over the hood, across the shoulders, around the waist and down at the forearms. Zoning the thicker stuff where most needed is a good idea, but I might prefer it had been used throughout. Using lighter fabric where possible is clearly intended to save weight, but 40 denier is pretty thin for a mountain shell and I think it's right to at least ask the question how durable that may prove in the long run. So far, so good: but I must stress that my Scottish winter climbing season has yet to kick off properly, so the roughest action that the Extrem 8000 Pro has yet seen is grade I mountaineering - scarcely the toughest test of a fabric. I'll report back when the jacket has done a few mixed routes.
One of the first things you notice is the Extrem 8000 Pro's unusual tailoring, in the form of a pronounced expanding pleat running the full length of the back. The 'XpanseBack system' is a feature you sometimes see on men's shirts, but not one I've encountered before in a waterproof. This extra fabric gives you a 20% increase in freedom of movement, say Berghaus. I'm not sure how they've measured that percentage, but experienced as a wearer it does seem to help, and when reaching up or forwards the arms and shoulders feel completely unrestricted. On the inside this pleat is backed with a stretchy mesh panel which effectively creates a large air gap in the small of your back. In theory this helps with ventilation in the sweaty under-rucksack area: in practise I suspect that's only going to be noticeable if your rucksack is similarly well vented.
This jacket is fairly long in the body, with a hem that scoops lower still at the rear to offer full buttock coverage. In wet or stormy weather the extra protection that this affords is really welcome, and it helps the shell stay put under a harness rather than riding up annoyingly. At the front the hem sits an inch or two higher than the back, so as not to interfere with leg lift, though it's still longer, and thus more protective, than many another technical shell. Personally I would have welcomed a couple of extra centimetres of length at the front nonetheless. The elastic drawcord in the hem only extends around the rear half; toggles are held fast within the the hem to make them totally uncluttered and easy to use with gloves - top marks there. Without any internal elastic, the front hem is as simple and low-profile as possible, which seems pretty sensible too.
The body overall is cut very much on the roomy side. This gives you plenty of space for warm layers beneath but does mean a slightly boxy feel when you're lightly dressed. The arms are very generously cut too, and lift freely without pulling up the hem. For a climbing shell you might think this is a basic minimum requirement, but it's surprising how many jackets do give you hem lift. Again, kudos to Berghaus on that score.
The roominess is particularly noticeable at the wrist, which is possibly the widest of any jacket I've ever worn. As a result there's loads of room for layers underneath without compressing arm insulation (think down jacket), and no issue whatsoever sliding the sleeves over bulky glove cuffs - often a struggle with tighter shells. A chunky tab with plenty of velcro gives you loads of scope to fine tune the fit. Examine it closely and you'll discover that the tab even has a subtle bit of stretch, which really seems to help with a close yet unrestrictive fit around the wrist. In addition, the sleeve is slightly longer at the back of the hand, which makes sense from a weather proofing perspective. Overall the sleeves are superb - and particularly the cuff, which is one of the most effective we've seen.
The hood includes some excellent details, and bit of cool innovation; however there is also one small but fairly annoying flaw. First the good stuff - and there is plenty. With a collar that rides high enough to cover the chin, and a decent wired-and-laminated brim that resists flapping in the wind, the hood offers plenty of weather protection. There's space to comfortably accommodate a modern high volume climbing helmet, and when fully zipped your head movement is unrestricted - not always the case with climbing shells, by any means. Visibility is good too, so you don't feel blinkered.
Volume control on a climbing hood is always an issue. If you've got enough fabric to fit over a helmet then you're left with the question of what to do with the excess once the helmet is removed. Berghaus have come up with an ingenious answer - magnets. Yes, you read that right. Little magnetic pads have been taped to the inside of the hood: When you add a helmet underneath, these pop apart to expand it; when you're bare-headed, the magnets simply snap back together to collapse the volume. It really works! Long term, my only concern is the potential weak spot they may - and I emphasise may - introduce at the point that the fabric folds.
Here's another nifty touch - down on the collar, a little zipped pleat can be opened to give you some extra ventilation when the hood is fully done up, without exposing your mouth to the icy blast; this 'Xpanse Face Guard' does seem to help a little in clearing the condensation from your breath, and I like the optional extra volume it adds too.
The single rear volume adjuster toggle is a little fiddly with gloves, but the toggles in the side elastic are superb in this respect - held firm inside the seam, they are large enough to operate easily even with cold hands or mitts. However, when it comes to the elastic it's not all good, since the tails hang inside the hood. While this has the obvious advantage of stopping them whipping you in the eye, it also makes it impossible to pull the hood elastic tight without first undoing the main zip, thus exposing yourself to the weather. It would have been better if the tails had been external, but exiting a long way down and safely out of harm's way. This one quibble aside, it's hard to fault the hood in any other respect.
At 587g on my kitchen scales (size L) this shell is hardly lightweight, but for its feature set it does not seem unduly heavy either, and sits roughly on a par with equivalent full-spec mountain jackets from other brands. It's quicker to list what you don't get than what you do: pit zips. I can't say I've noticed, or lamented, their absence.
Aside from surprising features already mentioned, from pleats to magnets, what you do get is pockets - and plenty of them. Four main external pockets, two on each side, give you plenty of storage space - enough for a couple of pairs of insulated gloves (or gloves, hat and buff), OS maps, even a .75ml water bottle should you want to stash it about your person. These big pockets overlay each other, which means you can use both at once (to a point), or just fill the front two and leave the back two mesh lined pockets open for venting - which serves the same function as pit zips would have. These four pockets have water resistant YKK zips, hidden away under large storm flaps which help keep the front of the jacket uncluttered. My one criticism of these flaps is that it's hard to see if you have inadvertently left a pocket unzipped. An additional single sleeve pocket is just big enough for a lift pass or a few Euro notes if you're on a skiing holiday. And inside is one more zipped pocket, a good place (and size) to keep a smartphone. The jacket's main zip is robust and chunky, and backed with an effective storm flap. This occasionally snags a little, though not too badly.
Well made, well cut and fully up to the wildest winter weather, the Extrem 8000 Pro is a serious mountain jacket for serious mountain users. Top notch fabric and ingenious touches set this very covetable shell apart. But perhaps it's not perfect: with that 40 denier fabric, this might not be the first choice for repeated abuse on Cairngorm granite, for instance. It's only available in men's sizes, too. But my biggest niggle is the price: The Extrem 8000 Pro is nearly half a grand, and as with similarly priced high-end shells from other brands, that alone is likely to exclude a lot of climbers. If the cost is an issue, it's worth noting that there are two other shells in the Extrem range: the Extrem 7000 Pro (£350), also in Gore-Tex Pro but with simpler features; and the Hagshu (£260) in Berghaus' own 3-layer Hydroshell.
The Extrem 8000 Pro is the perfect balance of weight, durability and breathability combined with exceptional tailoring. The result is a serious mountain jacket that gives you everything you need, leaving you to work the challenge. Pure performance MtnHaus engineering, the Extrem 8000 Pro is a feature-packed jacket with innovation at its core. The new XpanseBack system uses unique panelling and design to deliver a 20% increase in freedom of movement and an amplified rear-ventilation. The XpanseHood will revolutionise hood management; a magnetic expansion fold contracts when not needed, solving the issue of excess material when using without a helmet. The impressive feature set is matched with the most breathable GORE-TEX Pro available to give extreme levels of moisture management, durability and comfort.
- Price: £450
- Weight: 587g (size L: our weight)
- Sizes: XS - XL (men's only)
- Fabric: GORE-TEX Pro storm-level waterproof protection for great moisture control and high durability: 40D in the body, 70D in key wear areas around the hood, shoulders, waist and forearms
- Xpanse Hood - A helmet compatible, expandable hood that uses magnets to snap back into place when you are not wearing a helmet
- Xpanse Back - A storm-proof box pleat that provides unrivalled freedom of movement across the back and shoulders – perfect for when you are reaching for those hard moves
For more info see berghaus.com
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