In this review Bridget Collier ticks a long-held ambition of completing the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District, but only after a failed attempt due to terrible weather. Both times whilst running this huge circuit she tests out the Berghaus Vapourlite Hyper Smock 2, billed as the world's lightest waterproof jacket.
On the face of it Berghaus’ Vapourlite Hyper Smock 2.0 was the perfect addition to my kit for my Bob Graham round. My supporters won’t object to carrying it at only 67 grams and if it happens to rain then it’s fully waterproof with hood and taped seams. Basically if all that stands true, then it’s the business as a lightweight waterproof jacket; the lightest on the market and designed with running mind, so perfect for the 66 miles, 42 peaks and 9,000m of ascent of the well known challenge of the Lake District.
Here's how it performed on the first round:
Little did I know then that it was to be tested to the extreme. Midnight going into 4th July was my set off time. I had the jacket on from the start at Moot Hall, Keswick. I got warm whilst climbing Skiddaw and Great Calva and coped by pushing up the sleeves (which the fully elasticated cuff allows quite easily) and undoing the ¾ zip. It’s quite a slim fit so a size 10 is good for me with one thin layer underneath (usually I’m a size 10, sometimes 8).
The weather deteriorated, the wind got up and it started to rain heavily around 2 hours in, well before Blencathra (being dedicated to this report I noted the rain nicely beading on the outside of the jacket). Descending Blencathra down Halls Fell Ridge by head torch, with buffeting wind and saturated slippy rock was interesting however we hadn’t lost too much time by Threlkeld we were around 4 hours in and the jacket was working well and no kit change was wanted.
Setting off on leg 2 I popped a packet of Hoola Hoops in the pocket to eat on the way up Clough Head, it was the perfect size. Not all ultra lightweight coats have a chest pocket and I’ve found it so useful. It has to be said that it’s the perfect coat to satisfy FRA fell race requirements with its taped seams and hood and the pocket would fit in your compass and race map (but not an OS size map!).
After Clough Head the weather deteriorated further. The dawn I’d so looked forward to was imperceptible in the low thick cloud, it was still raining in heavy bursts which were now broken with the occasional really stingy hailstone and the head wind was phenomenal. I put the hood up during each shower, its close fit worked well and maintained good visibility when moving my head to check up where my supporters were, lucky as one had been left behind in the clag and needed finding!
I was conscious that whilst looking for Helvellyn’s summit cairn we were running towards the lightning. We discussed our safety but I wasn’t yet ready to give up, it was an agonising decision. Then suddenly another flash and the crack was virtually on top of it. That was it, I knew the drill and we had to get out of danger. Any hesitation was wiped away by a cloud of dark evil before our eyes and basically we ran for it straight down the hillside. And that was it; my Bob was over for that day, I was so angry with the weather. A pretty stiff test for the jacket however. By this stage it wasn’t beading but it remained waterproof and there had been torrential rain for most of the 6 hours I’d been running in it.
The second attempt:
Two weeks later with a 6pm start time on 18th July I’m back at Moot Hall again. It’s raining and the jacket is beading nicely! The cloud is down and this time it’s a bit colder. The jacket performs brilliantly again.
Descending Blencathra was enjoyable and we were ahead of time at Threlkeld, but the weather and visibility significantly deteriorated on leg 2 onwards. The wind really got up and was making the hood crackle loudly around my ears so I tried to roll it up with the tab and press stud but I found that hard to do on the go and just tucked it in instead which worked. Suffice it to say that from putting the jacket on before Keswick I next took it off only 4 miles from the end during leg 5 and about 23 hours later at Newlands church when eventually the weather turned good!
It had been so cold that on leg 2 I had to put winter waterproofs on top of the smock. The slim fit came in handy for layering, and fit nicely under my winter waterproof. I’ll spare you the whole story but the bad weather was legendary again!
I lost significant time overnight on leg 2 when we took a slight detour and then lost further time on leg 3 across the Langdales and Scafell area with the wet rock. It was only on leg 4 that the rain started to stop and I could take my hood down a bit. I owe so much to my team who went out in the horrendous weather and pushed me onwards. My winter jacket came off only during the final section and I made up enough time for a shoe change and a release from full waterproofs 23 hours in at Newlands Church which was good for the 4 mile run in on the road. When I touched the doors again at Keswick’s Moot Hall 23 hours 44 minutes after setting off I realised my dream of many years.
Never when I said I’d test out the Berghaus Vapourlite Hyper Smock did I think it would be tested in such extreme conditions and for so long. It stood up to the wind and rain amazingly, much more than I would expect and there must be considerable technology in the 100% waterproof fabric; it’s brilliant when your kit works as it should.
It’s been part of my kit ever since whether on the hill or even out locally as it packs down so small. At a retail price of £100 it’s well worth the investment as a lightweight jacket.
Weight: 67 grams
What Berghaus Say:
The Women's VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0 is designed specifically with female trail runners in mind, tested by athletes along the Great Himalayan Trail and around the trails of Chamonix. The smock remains the Worlds Lightest Waterproof Jacket weighing just 67g (size 12). Driven by improvements from our athletes, every aspect of design is considered from using exclusive ultra-lightweight seam tape to a closer fitting hood with a tab down feature to reduce weight and eliminate flapping. Not to mention this innovative piece now comes with a chest pocket making it even more useful for every adventure. Whether you're racing ultra-marathons or just after that extremely lightweight trail piece this smock has everything that you need and nothing that you don't. ISPO award winner 2014/2015
Weight (approx.): 67g
- The world’s lightest fully waterproof jacket – driven by improvements from our athletes and through the use of our innovative new super-lightweight fabric Hydroshell™ Hyper
- Additional wet weather protection is achieved with the hood – with binding opening and a tab down feature when not in use
- Essentials can be kept close at hand with the zipped pocket
- A comfortable fit in ensured with the elasticated binding on cuffs and hem
- This extremely packable jacket comes with its own stuff sack so you will never need to leave it behind
MORE INFO: Berghaus Website
Fancy Trying a Bob Graham Round?We've broken it down into five UKH Route Cards:
Stage 1: Keswick to Threlked
Stage 2: Threlkeld to Dunmail
Stage 3: Dunmail to Wasdale
Stage 4: Wasdale to Honister
Stage 5: Honister to Keswick
|£59.00. Last few in size 8 only!|
See this product at the Outside Ltd shop
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