Berghaus Spectrum IA fleece jacket: first look

The nice folk at Berghaus have sent me a Spectrum IA fleece jacket for review. This represents a neat bit of outdoor gear resonance. A Berghaus fleece (an Activity IA, if memory serves) was the first piece of dedicated outdoor kit I purchased a little over 20 years ago.

Berghaus Specturm IA on the hillFleece appears to have become a bit of an also-ran in the insulation stakes these days. Super-light down, synthetic fills and softshell have found favour, in many cases for good reason.

But fleece clothing still has a key role to play in my layering system, even in winter when I add another insulating layer as and when required. While not as light as modern variants, fleece is hardwearing, is not so susceptible to damp as other insulating layers, dries quickly, and can make a decent pillow when you’re wild camping.  Berghaus seems to share this view as numerous fleece jackets of varying weights can be found in its range.

Fabric

This new fleece can be categorised as a ‘micro’. Berghaus’s own AWL fabric is roughly equivalent to that used in my North Face TKA 100, although the pile may be a little denser. It is thinner than Malden Mills original Polartec 200, which my old Activity IA was made from.

AWL is soft to the touch in common with most fleeces when new. I imagine it will lose some of this characteristic when worn and washed, although Berghaus claims this fabric has improved anti-pilling properties. Time will tell.

Features

The jacket has a simple yet functional design. A full length, two-way YKK zip leads to a high, but not too snug collar, while two single-handed draw cord fittings keep the hem in check. A pair of hand warmer pockets is located at the front of the jacket. At first, I thought these were too low (a gripe with my old Activty IA), but were just accessible above the waist belt of my pack when on the hill. They will swallow GPS devices, smart phones, a small camera and plenty of trail snacks. For the ‘old skool’ folks out there (like me), the pockets will just about accommodate an OS map minus case. Fans of Harvey maps will have no problems.

The cuffs on this jacket are now ‘self fabric’ rather than spandex-hemmed on my old Berghaus. They are satisfactory and a no doubt easier and cheaper to manufacture than the original design.

The jacket weighs 400g on the kitchen scales.

Fit

My test jacket is a large and it fits my 6’6″ very well, bearing in mind I would generally wear this item over a base layer and build layers on top. It is, perhaps, a wee bit too short on the sleeve, although this is a common complaint with other manufacturers. While I like the height of the collar on this jacket, I found it too loose for my taste.

Interactive

A feature common to old and new Berghaus fleeces is the ‘Interactive’ design which means the fleece zips into a compatible Berghaus shell. In addition to the full-length zip, the Spectrum features fabric loops on the sleeves, which attach to corresponding fittings in the waterproof. I’ve never been convinced benefits of this feature after eventually investing in a compatible Gore-Tex shell for my Activty IA. I zipped the item together once and realised, pretty quickly, that I preferred to keep the flexibility of two separate garments in layering system when on the hill. However, I have friends who really like this feature.

Conclusion

I was pleased with my original Activity IA fleece – affectionately known as the ‘Bergie’ – and it served me well outdoors and through my years at college. I recycled it only recently, as it had become too large. That said, it was still in good shape. I’m confident the Spectrum IA will provide similar, sterling service. I’ll wear it anger for a while, wash it a few times and let you know.

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