This Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket review will dig into the concepts and thinking behind this award-winning jacket, as well as answer the obvious questions – does it rank among the best waterproof jackets (opens in new tab) currently available, should you buy one, and why?
By way of background, the Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket brings together two high performance fabrics – Hydroshell Elite and Polartec Alpha – into a cutting-edge design that won a 2022 ISPO Award (opens in new tab) in the clothing category. It’s a hybrid, a shell and a pile fleece getting cosy with each other - but does it live up to the hype? Read on to find out…
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket Review: price and release date
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket is available now in the UK, priced at £290.00, or €300.00 for international markets.
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket Review: Specs
- Materials: Hydroshell Elite and Polartec Alpha
- Weight: 268g (men’s size medium)
- Colours: Black / Grey & Black (men’s) / Red & Black (women’s)
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket: Design and build
The design and build of the Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket is arguably the big story here - certainly big enough to snag a well-respected ISPO outdoor industry award. The tale tells of a waterproof jacket that bonds two high-performance materials together: the extremely breathable Hydroshell Elite, and insulative Polartec Alpha.
This does several things: it makes for a very lightweight waterproof jacket, but one that’s also breathable. It’s also lightly insulated as well, which not only makes it look quite unique, but also makes it better able to cope with variations in temperature - something very familiar to hill hikers and mountain peak baggers. Typically you start cold, then warm up during the ascent, before cooling down quickly at the summit. Berghaus are trying to create a single item of clothing to take on this massive temperature swing, as well as fight off the range of weather that can also occur in the hills.
The aim is also to do this at a very low weight too, which means a series of things - the Hydroshell Elite offers ‘6D ripstop durability’ - which is tough but thin. The hood has ‘single point rear hood adjustment’ - which cuts down on adjusters and shock cord, as well as the stitching of the tunnels. Finally, the hunt for low weight means partial stretch bonded cuffs, which are on the minimalist side for real mountain use.
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket: Comfort and fit
As you’d expect for a Guide jacket, the overall cut is athletic, but not wildly outside Berghaus’s usual sizing. The Polartec panels add considerable comfort and warmth to an otherwise quite thin shell jacket, which is welcome. The Hydroshell Elite has a fascinating matt finish that - combined with the ripstop - makes it look much more like Batfleck’s suit than a standard waterproof. In short, it looks and feels far more technical than the stock photos make it seem.
The hood fits well, and although the single adjustment point cuts down your options - especially in high winds - it does the job. However, the peak isn’t really stiffened very much, and this does have an impact on protection. Speaking of protection, the hood isn’t very helmet-friendly either, especially for higher-volume winter numbers, although one will fit at a push.
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket: performance
Performance with this jacket has to be broken down into component parts, as the overall is such an unusual proposition. For starters, this is one of the warmest waterproofs around, and not because it doesn’t breathe (which is normally why a shell might be judged as ‘warm’). The layer of Polartec pile adds the weight of a lightweight fleece to proceedings, but only in specific areas, which has allowed Berghaus to avoid adding too much insulation to warmer areas, a cunning trick. This pile not only traps heat as a pile fleece would, but also keeps the wet jacket from making direct contact in heavier downpours, which is vital, as anyone who’s worn a lightweight shell in heavy rain will tell you.
Needless (perhaps) to say, but the actual waterproofing is excellent, fending off water in all its forms. Berghaus doesn't directly quote a hydrostatic head for this item, but it’s certainly on a par with other waterproof shells - from new, water doesn’t even bead, just flows straight off. Whether that level of hydrophobia will be maintained over several years of use is another question, inevitably.
However, the key here is of course, breathability, which in this case is surprisingly good, the polartec pile wicking away moisture and the Hydroshell Elite performing well, especially in the early-season UK cold snap, when testing was done. Warmer and soggier weather might be a different story, but there’s always something of a balance here. Indeed, the shell and pile setup here isn’t a million miles from the Buffalo system (which uses Pertex), which has many advocates.
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket: Alternatives to consider
The Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket is a bit of a standalone product, a spoonful of marmite in an otherwise relatively conservative market. There are many excellent Gore ProShell mountain waterproof shell jackets, but very few to match this hybrid.
The closest comparable jackets are lightweight running and mountain jackets in Gore-tex Active, such as the Montane Spine Jacket (opens in new tab) and Adidas Terrex Myshelter (opens in new tab), but these run much colder than the Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket, although offer similar levels of packability.
Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket: overall verdict
I’m slightly conflicted about the Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket for several reasons, but think that’s partly due to the marketing of it as a full mountain shell candidate, which it really isn’t.
The unadulterated good news is that this is a technically assured hybrid of a jacket, and secondly it’s a display of Berghaus at its left-field best, listening to real-world mountain botherers and thinking outside the box to solve problems. The result is slightly weird, but good.
The lack of weight and relative warmth make it perfect for mountain marathon and ultra runner-types, while the pack-friendly cut makes it a great option for hill-walkers and alpine trekking, where good weather is likely, but height gain temperature variations are a definite.
The hood is OK for a lightweight shell, but not great for a mountain jacket, but the breathability is excellent, and the waterproofing is as good as you’ll find.
Overall the Berghaus MTN Guide Hyper Alpha jacket is an interesting take on the stock shell, and where weight and temperature flexibility are key, it really punches well above its weight.