I got an invite down to Berghaus HQ to meet the folk behind the new MtnHaus gear, and having tested some recent kit and seen the press-release with some of the new models on there, they didn’t have to ask me twice.
The first highlight of the day was seeing the Angel of the North as I drove down. Never seen it before, it’s a brilliant big thing too. I arrived at their business park office block to meet Chris (to the right above, he his company handles the media for Berghaus) “late morning” as advertised, not often I manage to do that.
At first the offices are like any other, it could be the home of an insurance company, a call centre, a washing machine manufacturer, but once I clipped my badge to my jacket and headed inwards I saw the pictures on the walls, and up the staircase, years of heritage and achievement, mostly subtly but still proudly displayed.
Through the inner doors you start to see the kit, it’s lying around or hanging up, from samples for a year or more away to dogeared old timers. I felt reassured, it is a mountain company right enough.
Above you’ll see James to the left, the MtnHaus designer, then Julie who is the fabric wizard. Together they are the Batman and Robin of MtnHaus, a rogue element within the mighty Berghaus corporation, loose cannons taking potshots at mediocrity and dogwalking gear… Aye well, lets say they operate independently with the MtnHaus collection, not being constrained by season or commercial concerns, the remit is to make the best gear.
Jeez, that’s just like the old days then. The question is, does the gear deliver on the promises.
I’m demonstrating the perfect articulation on the Asgard Smock above. It’s a 280g Gore-Tex ProShell pull-on with purely function features.
Since I came back from this visit I’ve had one sent for test, so I’ll talk about it in more detail soon, and there’s a wealth of detail to talk about. The front zip’s clever drain, the mountain hood with all the adjustment, including the rear volume, accessible from the front, the fact that it’s a trim cut with amazing body movement? The Asgard could well be upping the ante when it comes to lightweight shell.
It comes in a waterproof stuffsack as Julie models below, which is a nice wee touch, especially for multi day trips. It and its name comes from the Asgard Project and Leo Houlding’s desire to whittle down a shell to the perfect balance of usability and functionality at the lightest weight.
It feels user driven, if feels tested and tweaked. I know this often takes kit into the dead-end of a specific user, but here it’s just cut the crap. More soon.
Here’s the jacket version of the Asgard, still light but maybe with more all-round appeal. Same hood, same adjustments, and you’ll notice the other MtnHaus colourway of black and red. I like the boldness of that, “This is the colour of the kit, not this season’s colour”.
Check out the zip below, the top has a garage of sorts that hides the zip-pull and a gusset. When the zip is pulled down the gusset opens and the pocket opens like a funnel, when you walk it pumps air out from around your body. Tried it, it works. It looks weatherproof in the closed position, and as it’s quite a noticeable feature on the front I think it helps edge the jacket firmly into the used-as-intended customer bracket. Folk can be funny with unusual features, it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is.
That same venting pocket design appears on the Baffin Island softshell jacket. It’s cut from a supple Windstopper fabric and the fit is long and slim. The cuffs have stretch panels and the collar had a secret weapon, a hideaway Powerstretch hood. You can use it as a hat, face warmer or balaclava, or take it off altogether. The hood makes the outside of the collar fat when it’s stowed, not the inside, so you don’t feel it when you zip the jacket right up. I liked this a lot, the fit was perfect on me.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s a proper old-school race pack. Above is the Octans 28 and below is the 40L version. I’ve just got a 40L in for test, so I’ll do a detailed look soon.
They’re light packs, but as they’re for racing they’re not just nylon bin liners, the harness is low-profile and feels secure, there’s pockets where you want them and just enough features to get the job done.
I mostly use race-derived packs, so this already feels familiar. Orion Health, the adventure racing team whose input has helped bring this pack to life, have asked for the features they’ve used before and know that work, and along with a little fresh thinking, it’s all been molded into a Berghaus shaped chassis. I’ve got high hopes for the 40L, it’ll be going on the next overnighter.
Yeah, that’s a mini-chestpouch below.
The Yeti gaiter has had the Mtn Haus treatment. The upper is ProShell, the lower half is badass nylon and the rubber is a new finger friendly variety. So they say.
The Yeti is a good idea, and as so many of us piss and moan when the liner goes in our lightweight footwear, I hope to see the MtnHaus team come up with a version that’ll fit trail shoes and mids.
All the gear above is due is due in the shops in March 2011. I’ll have long-term tests ready for then.
Julie and I both agreed that the colourways for the wummins gear totally rocks.
The Elite Half-Zip above is just under 200g and comes in Berghaus’s own AQ 2.5 fabric. The only pocket is a little one on the arm, and look at that hood. That’s what I’m talking about.
The baselayer range is, well the length of the showroom. The fabric is Argentium (get it? There’s silver in there) in different weights, and there’s a variety of fits from slim to relaxed and all varieties from vest to long sleeve. the colours bring me joy, and as I no longer fear synthetic base layers, they’re definitely worth a look.
Had a brief look at the footwear, there’s some good looking models in there, light with grippy soles. Will we see these in the shops?
The Freeflow packs have been popular, and the endless arguments on the forums about air space backs have been a delight. Berghaus have revamped the back system, the air gap is less, bringing the load closer to your back for better stability. James genuinely tried to destroy the frame for me below and the reshaped rods just revolved and popped back into place. I was impressed by this, especially having seen the rods from another manufacturers pack be so immovable that they tore through the pack and made a start on the wearers trousers.
I was amazed to find a wee cutting and sewing room. I watched a sample being made up (this is where some of the kit was made for the Into the Void movie), and I found it all very reassuring, production quality kit made right in middle of the HQ.
Also good to see was the in-house testing lab below. Components, fabrics, materials, all get a kicking in here before they get the okay for going onto or into something we get to buy.
Just behind Chris is a (I really want to say “fish”) tank where boot liners are tested, in fact there was a pile of boots with reported burst membranes under scrutiny.
I hope MtnHaus is a success, I hope the early focus and enthusiasm shown to me carries through. There’s a couple of secret pieces in the works (I have photies, when Berghaus go public I’ll post the details) that are another little step away from the norm, it’s looking good.
Berghaus are huge, but that gives them the opportunity to do this specialist kit well if that’s what they want to do. They can get the best fabrics, best production and best prices, bundle that up with no-compromise design and we could have a winner here.