I dubbed this my Superman Jacket due to the bold blue and red colors, the sturdy construction, and the flying-like pose necessary to don this pullover.
Two years ago, UK-based Berghaus formed a special cross-departmental R&D team called MtnHaus. The group’s mission was to focus on creating a few extraordinary products without deadlines, marketing guidelines, or seasonal goals. Basically, MtnHaus was told to throw out the usual rules, think big, and go for it.
One of the first products to come out of the Berghaus brain trust is the Mount Asgard Smock, which weighs a mere 9.7 ounces (276 g). This waterproof/breathable pullover has all of the features necessary for mountaineering – tough fabric, unrestricted movement, helmet-friendly hood – and nothing more. In sports where speed is safety and every gram is important, the Mount Asgard Smock provides maximum protection for minimum weight.
I was comfortable wearing a pack and a harness thanks to the pullover style (low bulk, few seams, no zippers) and long torso.
The Mount Asgard Smock is a minimalist mountaineering shell meant to withstand hard use and bad weather. To start with, the smock is made of Gore-Tex’s most durable fabric, Pro Shell with micro-grid backing. The shell has passed W.L. Gore’s Extreme Wet Weather Test and therefore carries their Storm rating. The Asgard hood is crafted so that it fits snugly over any helmet with a simple one-handed tug on a pair of well-located straps. The wired hood and high collar offer substantial face protection.
The minimalist aspect is defined by the pullover-style. Compared to a jacket, the smock has fewer seams and a shorter front zipper, both of which save weight and bulk while increasing breathability. The shell has only one pocket and no pit zips, which further lightens it. The entire jacket is constructed with micro stitching and mini-seam tape to save weight over standard-sized tape, yet still provide the same waterproofing.
The Mount Asgard Smock has a 7.9-inch (20-cm) long chest pocket zipper and an 18-inch (46-cm) front zipper. The water-resistant zippers are backed by a protective storm flap that is 1.2 inches (3 cm) wide in the face and neck area, but widens to 2 inches (5 cm) at the chest, where the front zip and pocket zip run parallel. If water was to penetrate the zippers, it would be stopped by the internal storm flap. The bottom of the front zipper has five perforated holes that reroutes water to the outside of the shell so that it does not drip down the interior of the jacket.
The Asgard Hood: it swallows helmets with ease (left); is comfortable untightened and without any head gear (center); and tightens efficiently and intuitively with a tug on the pair of elastic cords (right).
Details: Drainage holes at the bottom of the water resistant front zip (top left); close-up of the two zippers and the pocket zipper garage (top right); hood-tightening pull tabs, located at the neck line (bottom left); non-elastic Velcro cuffs (bottom right).
More details: Located low on the left hip, the twisted gear loop is a smart solution for climbers who want to clip their jacket to their harness – it is difficult to clip into accidentally, but easy to intentionally do so (left); The zipper pull of the front pocket hangs below a pack’s sternum strap, allowing unfettered access (center); the hem tightening tab, on the right hip, is minimal and unobtrusive (right).
This is the first size-medium jacket with a hood that fits over my giant noggin and XL ski helmet (left). The collar is very tall and provides full facial coverage when needed (right).
The Mount Asgard Smock is cut for climbing and mountaineering. As such, the torso is long and tapered towards the hips. The sleeves are very long, and combined with the diamond-shaped gusset, enable unrestricted arm and shoulder movement. My wrists were never exposed while backcountry skiing, even during some fantastic falls into the snow. This is very impressive for such a snug fitting jacket without stretch fabric. The jacket is not tight on my frame of 6’0”/1.83 m and 170 lbs/77 kg. I was able to wear a wool baselayer, MontBell Thermawrap Parka and avalanche transceiver underneath the shell with room to spare.
The red diamond-shaped gusset allows great upward arm mobility. This creative design element maintains the athletic cut and does not add bulk.
The feature set of this pullover is minimal for a shell, but still substantial enough for mountaineering use. The wrist cuffs are large enough to be adjusted while wearing gloves and long enough (3 in/7.5 cm) to hold tightly to the Velcro. The hood’s pull-tabs are a cinch to cinch in a pinch. I prefer storing smalls things in my hipbelt pocket, so I don’t mind that the jacket only has one pocket on the left breast. The interior fabric of the chest pocket is stretchy mesh, which helps when storing oddly shaped objects like sunglasses. The water-resistant zippers worked flawlessly, even during bouts of freezing rain or sleet. Water never penetrated the zippers, so I did not observe the zipper drainage holes actually working.
I don’t mind the pullover-style of the jacket as the front zip is large enough to accommodate my head in an XL ski helmet.
The Mount Asgard Smock is so minimalistic that even this ultralighter couldn’t find ways to save more than few grams. I found the twisted gear loop to be unnecessary, though cutting it off would only shave off a gram or two. The manufacturing labels were sewn into the mesh pocket and were easy to remove. These are extremely minor weight savings and can easily be done by the user.
I didn’t go out of my way to abuse the jacket, but I wanted to see if it is as tough as Berghaus claims. I did not ever use the supplied stuff sack when I crammed the jacket into my ski pack, against my aluminum shovel. I often carried my skis on my shoulder. I sat on my jacket in the snow or on my skis. None of my rough treatment damaged it, and after months of use, the jacket looks and performs as good as new.
Maximum breathability: mini-seam tape (top left); one mesh chest pocket (top right); clean construction with absolute minimal seams – as shown on the front (bottom left) and back (bottom right) of the jacket, turned inside-out.
Gore-Tex Pro is not the most breathable waterproof fabric available, but Berghaus does an admirable job of maximizing the moisture transport by limiting physical impediments. For example, the entire torso is composed of only two pieces of fabric. As a result, the seams only run vertically along the sides of torso, as well as in the articulated arms and sculpted hood. The micro-stitching and mini-seam tape reduce areas that are not breathable. The single chest pocket is made of mesh on the inside, thereby eliminating double shell layers.
It is highly unusual that the Mount Asgard Smock does not have pit zips. This is a rare thing for Gore-Tex, though quite common on lightweight eVent jackets. The difference is that eVent transports moisture at relatively the same rate at all humidity levels, but Gore-Tex needs the higher humidity level to perform well. Therefore, the absence of pit zips might actually help in the transport of moisture. The user would quickly reach a high humidity level, where Gore-Tex most effectively works, and moisture transport is maximized.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Mount Asgard transported moisture – breathability was the best I’ve yet experienced in a Gore-Tex shell. Still, it was not quite as good as eVent, and I don’t have experience with any of the new waterproof/breathable fabrics on the market. The large front zip helped in venting heat, but this was not enough to overcome the fabric’s limitations. I found the shell to be too warm/sweaty for skiing uphill. Therefore, I preferred to wear the smock when my primary concern was not getting cold and wet, which was when the shell really shined.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many users report that eVent fabric can be too breathable, in the sense that the wind cuts through the shell. Clearly that would not be a positive attribute for a shell, like the Asgard, that is designed to withstand the most extreme weather.
The emphasis with the Mount Asgard Smock is more waterproof and weatherproof than breathable. As such, I was more likely to wear this jacket when I needed protection from the wind, cold, and precipitation (rain or snow). When it was just cold, I could add another insulating layer or exert more energy to produce more heat. If it was simply windy outside, I much preferred a good wind shell. But when all three weather factors combine, this jacket was crucial in keeping me warm, dry, and safe.
Millet’s LTK Shadow (10.6 oz/300 g) is a Gore-Tex Pro Shell pullover with many of the same features as the Mount Asgard Smock, but it won’t be available until the summer of 2012 (see Winter ISPO 2011 Day 3). Several companies manufacture Pro Shell jackets and Active Shell smocks, but no other Pro Shell smocks are currently on the market.
The Rab Demand Pull-on (10 oz/280 g) is a similarly spec’d pullover that uses three-layer eVent fabric. It, however, uses the lightweight fabric, not the medium weight eVent that is used on Rab’s more robust mountaineering jackets. This fact, plus my personal experience, makes me think that the Gore-Tex Pro fabric is more durable than lightweight eVent.
Staying protected in the Italian Dolomites.
Simply put, the Mount Asgard Smock is a very well-designed mountaineering shell that offers significant weather protection at a very low weight. It is trim fitting yet not restrictive. The helmet-compatible hood is the best I have ever used – it is simple to tighten and protects without getting in the way. The breathability of Gore-Tex Pro is maximized, and waterproofness is not compromised. The shell is durable, the features are spot-on for mountaineering use, and weight was saved where appropriate.
There are only two things I would change about the jacket. First, the collar is so tall that my breath fogged up my protective eyewear. A few perforated holes in the mouth area of the collar would allow some moisture and hot air out without compromising the weather protection. Berghaus already has the capacity to do this as evidenced by the holes below the front zip. I would also like to see a two-way zipper used on the front zip. This would enable access to things under the jacket, like an avalanche beacon or items in a base or midlayer chest pocket. Additionally, this would allow venting of the chest area without exposing the face, which typically doesn’t have any other layers of protection.
There are many excellent mountaineering jackets like the Mount Asgard Smock, but none that combine this level of durability and feature set for such a low weight. Some ultralight waterproof/breathable shells are as much as three ounces lighter, but they could not withstand the abuse of alpine sports. Lightweight eVent jackets have better breathability, but don’t protect from the wind as well and likely aren’t as durable. This smock is ideal for the outdoor enthusiast who needs this combination of extreme-weather protection, climber-friendly innovations, streamlined design, light weight, and excellent durability. For general backpacking or high intensity sports, other jackets may offer more appropriate features, better breathability, greater comfort, and/or lighter weight.
Specifications and Features
|Year/Model||2011 Mount Asgard Smock|
|Fabric||Gore-Tex Pro Shell with micro-grid ripstop backing|
|Features||Helmet-compatible hood, wire brim, one chest pocket with water resistant zipper, adjustable elastic hem drawcord, Velcro cuffs, articulated sleeves, diamond underarm gussets, stuff sack included – an additional 0.7 oz (20 g)|
Manufacturer Weight: 9.9 oz (280 g)
Measured Weight: 9.7 oz (276 g)
|MSRP||$350 (available in the US through www.backcountry.com and www.thetannery.com)|
Also available as a jacket with full front zip and two chest pockets – MSRP $400, 12.3 oz (350 g) (only available in the US through www.thetannery.com).
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product under the terms of this agreement.