Friday, 3 May 2013

Bergans of Norway Sauda Down Jacket

If there's a country who knows about the cold and the requirement for warm clothes it's Norway! I have been there a couple of times and as well as it being a beautiful country it can be bitterly cold. Bergans Of Norway holds a heavy tradition of quality outdoor clothing and gear. They are now heading full steam towards the UK and I can't think of a better brand to have available to outdoor folks.
I've been using this Sauda down jacket over the winter and with the sub zero temperatures it has come in very handy. It arrived just before I went on a summit wild camp. It was the most welcome piece of kit I could of asked for. The summit of Stuc a Chroin was a very cold and windy evening. When I was out wandering taking in the sunset dropping and the sunrise emerging the next morning all I wore was a base layer and I felt no effects of cold on my upper half. If I could of squeezed my legs in it would of.
It has a 90/10 fill and a Pertex Shield outer. The box construction means that theres no issues with wind penetrating the seams. With the hood up and the zip done up to the chin it is the warmest jacket I have ever had the pleasure to experience. Using the single males hot drinks previous marketing line, it is like a big warm hug! I just doesn't come from a mug.
When you put it on, personally, I feels like it's a bit of a blimp. I'm not really into puffa type jackets. Although, I very quickly got used to it and as I mentioned the warmth is exceptional. People have commented, when I mentioned the blimp comparison, that it doesn't look massive when worn.
This is also the most technical down jacket I think I've ever seen. The hood has drawcords around the face and a cinch cord at the rear, it will swallow up a climbing helmet although I don't think that it's the jacket to be hauling up on to a belay. If you did though, you would "feel the benefit" as Peter Kay would say.
There are even pit zips! I have never felt the need to use them but I can imagine them being useful for preventing overheating if there was a small increase in temperature. I preferred to keep the heat in.
There are 2 chest pockets, one of which has an eyelet to feed through earphones to the inside. 
There are 2 hand pockets which have a layer of insulation on the inside and the outside layer making for a warm nook for each of the front paws. There are a couple of things that might improve the hand pockets. There is a potential cold spot at the bottom of the pocket where the bottom baffle on the outside has a lesser amount of insulation and cold wind highlights this. The other thing is to keep the Sauda's furnace mantel to its maximum would be to fleece line the pockets, that would be bliss!

There is another small pocket near the cuff of the left sleeve. Maybe for ski lift passes or a little stock of snacks? I have never felt the need to use it.
The highlight of all the features on the Sauda is the thumb loop/hand warmers. They are basically a mini Buff for the wrist and palm of the hand. They are great for doing things in the cold without gloves and the overlap when gloves go back on eradicates any heat loss at the wrist. When you don't want them they just push back in behind the elastic cuff and go unnoticed. In my opinion every jacket should have these.
The large inside pocket doubles as a compression pouch. This is where the size of the jacket starts to highlight itself. Trying to find a corner of a pack big enough to accommodate this on a wild camp can be challenging. I have put it in a different stuff sack and it will go slightly smaller. When it comes out to play it lofts quickly, can be used immediately and warmth is instantaneous.
Compared against a 1 litre Sigg bottle
This is a very high specced jacket, all its features amount to a technical, warm and well constructed garment. I have been trying to balance up the 1035g weight penalty against how good an insulating layer it is. It definitely has a place in extreme cold weather environments where weight can be dragged in a sled or as a luxury item on a camp where carting it across hilltops isn't an issue.
If this jacket was streamlined sacrificing some of the insulation qualities, reducing its weight, it would be a very attractive jacket for back packers and climbers a like. For now, until the winter comes back in a couple of months the Sauda has been shelved. It will see next winter, in what guise I'm not sure but I am looking at more Bergans of Norway gear for next year from Nordic Life. The build quality is first class!
Picture courtesy of Michael Thomson