New Gore-Tex Active Shell Jackets – are they only suitable for alpine use?

Yesterday I had to do a presentation to one of my customers at a hotel on the Cotswold Water Park complex.   Next door was the original Cotswolds Outdoor store, so with a bit of spare time before my drive back home, I had a look around the store.

Nearly all my purchases of outdoor gear is on line, mainly because most mainstream stores like Cotswolds Outdoor don’t generally stock the products I am looking for.  One disadvantage in buying on line  is that you cannot see and feel the product prior to purchase, so I thought I would have a quick around see if there was anything interesting .  As I suspected there was not that much to interest me.  I did however look at two jackets which are made from Gore’s new fabric called Active Shell.  One jacket was from Berghaus and the other from Mountain Equipment and are claimed to be worldwide exclusives to Cotswolds Outdoor stores.

First a bit about Active Shell. According to Gore, this is a brand new lighter, thinner Gore-Tex membrane with a 3 layer construction.  A proprietary lamination process integrates the backer textile directly into the Gore-Tex membrane.  The benefits being extreme breathability and next to the skin comfort.

First the Berghaus Velum Jacket (I apologise for the poor quality of the photographs – taken inside with an iPhone).

Berghaus Velum jacket

I tried this on, a medium for my size, it fitted very well and has a water resistant zip, adjustable cuffs and water resistant pocket zips.  The website suggests that the jacket weighs 360g for a medium size. Now to the hood, this is adjusted by 2 sets of draw cords by the chin guard. There is no adjustment at the back of the hood. A helpful assistant come along as I was trying to tighten the hood to fit my head and she said you won’t get it any tighter as it was a helmet compatible hood.  With this in mind, unless you are using a helmet, the hood is pretty useless for activities claimed, i.e. running and other high aerobic activities.  She did not recommend it for backpacking as she felt that the fabric around the shoulders would quickly wear.  So I was left wondering if the only real use for this jacket was for quick alpine uses or cycling with a helmet on  or  running along if you have a really big head or if you run with a climbing helmet on when its raining 🙂

Mountain Equipment Firefox Jacket

Mountain Equipment FireFox

We moved over to the Mountain Equipment Firefox which weighs 320g for a medium.  This jacket in medium did not fit quite as well in the body but had a toggle adjustment at the back of the hood so that it did fit my head correctly. On this point alone, it would win hands down in my view.  The Firefox has water resistant zips, including pit zips; articulated sleeves and the two pockets are ventilated.  The cuffs and hem are adjustable as well.  Again the sales assistant did not recommend the jacket for backpacking.

So there you have it, a rather brief look non scientific look at the Gore-Tex Active Shell.   The ME Firefox has a good adjustable hood, articulated sleeves and has good ventilation options.   The adjustable hood allows for running, cycling and I guess alpine use. The Berghaus seems to be rather niche in its uses. However none seem to be useful for backpacking, because of the wear issues.

Looking at some initial reviews it seems that the fabric is very breathable, but maybe the jackets are not for us backpackers.

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8 Responses to New Gore-Tex Active Shell Jackets – are they only suitable for alpine use?

  1. Martin Rye says:

    NeoShell will wipe the floor with it anyway so who cares if it wears fast. Something better is just around the corner.

  2. AlanR says:

    Hi Mark,
    A few weeks ago i was in Manchester and waited for the Cotswold shop to open. They open an hour later than everyone else for some stupid reason. I wanted to see what waterproof pouches they had for the Satmap.
    When i got in the shop the whole “Team” was sat on or adjacent to the stairs having a pow wow about these jackets, blaa blaa blaa.
    I could hear every word good and bad. Now from a customer point of view i would have thought that that was not good for business.
    I wandered around the shop passing said meeting twice. Not one of them asked me if i was ok or if i needed any help or that the meeting would be over in just a minute or two..
    I stood around the desk for about 1 minute after wandering the shop for about 10 minutes. I thought that because i was in clear visual contact that it would spark some interest. It didn’t, so i left.
    I have in the past congratulated Cotswold on the service provided but not this time. Oh and the jackets mustn’t have more than 11 metres of seam tape for some reason, that was quite emphasised and you are correct they are no good with a heavy pack either.

    • Hi Alan, customers are just about the most vital aspect of business. It would not take much, for someone to come over and say we are just finishing a product briefing and someone will be with to assistant you shortly . Ideally the product briefing should take place outside of normal shop hours. I must say that the girl who assisted me at Cotswolds was knowledgeable and pleasant.

  3. Robin says:

    My Montane Quickfire (eVent) is 328g so I can’t see any advantage in either of these. My only quibble with the Quickfire is the volume adjuster which is a velcro tab, which is OK but I’d rather have a cord adjuster.

    • Hi Robin, I doubt whether these jackets will make the grade in our part of the market in their present formats. eVent still has the advantage but there are several new fabric offerings such as Neoshell and the new Pertex product which will challenge eVent’s position.

  4. AlanR says:

    Robin, Don’t knock the velcro, i think its a good idea. I have had bad times with cord hood adjusters soaking up water and transferring it down into the hood. Especially on Berghaus jackets.

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