Hot on the heals of my few months trying out the Target Dry Origin Thermalite Insulated Jacket, I was approached as to whether I wanted to try out the Berghaus Akka Mens Down Jacket. I was really impressed with the warmth of Target Dry’s jacket and I thought it would be interesting to compare it with a (almost double the price) down jacket. Unfortunately none of the sizes available fitted me so, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I managed to conscript Tim Cooper (@ukjeeper on Twitter) to try out the jacket on my behalf. Tim, whilst not a blogger himself, is a regular on several walking forums and social media sites across the internet, and he is as a regular sharer on Social Hiking (he was in fact the first user other than me!). There is hardly a footpath in Essex he has not walked (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at his map of his Essex walks 2009-2013) and he can be found by his fire pit most evenings whatever the weather!
[Disclosure – The Berghaus Akka Mens Down Jacket was provided on behalf of Berghaus for free, and I have passed it onto Tim to keep in return for him giving his own personal opinions on it based on his outdoor activities. Neither Berhaus, nor their agents, have any influence on his views or any editorial control]
Over to you Tim:
‘Down Jackets. To me they have always meant Puffa, Pony Club, Sloane Rangers, and the Michelin Man (yes I’m of a certain age). So when the opportunity to have and use one was offered recently, I was of two minds as to whether I should accept.
However, I had been finding that the winter months (and more importantly the wind chill) were defeating my trusty Craghopper 3 in 1 jacket. I was either sweltering inside the thick, not very breathable fleece and coat, or freezing the moment I unzipped and the sweat evaporated. (To be fair, this may also be attributed to my still wearing cotton t-shirts at the time. I told you I was of a certain age!)
So I put my 1970’s fashion concerns aside and accepted the offer. While waiting patiently for the postman to arrive, I looked into down jackets and found they have actually been around for much longer than I thought.
People have been employing duck and goose down for bedding and other pieces of clothing for centuries. How many of us sleep almost every night under a down quilt? The down vest and outerwear had been manufactured and distributed in the United States from 1911. But Eddie Bauer (he of the clothing label) was the first person to make a goose down quilted jacket back in 1940. He came up with this idea when he was out catching hypothermia on a fishing trip. He was contacted by the Army Air Corps to create more of these jackets for pilots to be able to defend them from the chilly weather in high altitudes. Following the war, down jackets and coats were adopted with a passion by the outdoor community for their heat trapping, wind stopping, lightweight advantages.
The postman finally dropped off a package and I happily opened it up to see what down jackets in the 21st century had to offer… and found myself straight back in the 1970’s! It was brown, a chocolate brown! I could quite see Jack Nicholson wearing this between takes on ‘Easy Rider’.
However, and much to my surprise, the colour has grown on me in the month and a bit since it arrived. It’s not a colour I would have chosen, but it does actually work.
The important part is under the outer shell anyway. The Akka jacket has an “80/20” fill, this means it is 80% down and 20% feathers. This appears to be toward the higher of the scale when comparing the mix available which can start as low as “50/50” (50% down, 50% feathers), up to “90/10”. 100% down jackets are not possible as down cannot be sorted that effectively (there will always be some feathers).
The Akka also is rated as a “600 fill power”. The Fill Power is most basically the size of the down clusters and ability of the down to loft (fluff up). The higher the number, the better quality the down is, and the warmer the jacket will be. The range is from 500-750, so a 600 loft is…average. However, bear in mind that anything over a 700 is made from an exclusive and expensive process involving hand harvesting particular geese bred specifically for the purpose. So a 600 is actually toward the higher end of the main stream.
But what does this mean to someone wearing an Akka Jacket? It’s warm. OMG it’s WARM! After wearing a few times I actually toyed with the idea of hatching eggs in the pockets to see if it could be done. I stopped wearing gloves as much; I found I just didn’t need them. If my hands got cold, I simply put them in the pockets and they were instantly warm. Inside the jacket it was the same. Once zipped in I found I just did not get cold. No matter the outside weather or wind chill, I found myself at a comfortable temperature, often with just a base layer underneath. A fleece was too much, except in minus degree weather, and seemed to prohibit the natural temperature regulation.
I have stood on hilltops in blowing gales in the Akka, and conducted very unscientific experiments (driving home from work at A road speeds with all the windows open. In January), and have yet to be bothered by windchill. You can feel the wind pressing on the jacket, but it does not seem (to me) to wick the heat away. This is a big deal to me as I’ve always been one of the types that don’t mind how cold it gets, but one puff of wind chill and I’m shivering.
I also like the weight, or the lack of it. At 645g it feels like you’re putting on air (which in a sense, you are). It is so much lighter than my previous jackets. For instance my Craghopper Kiwi Jacket is 1459g, over twice the weight!
And it’s comfortable, very comfortable. Putting it on feels like slipping into that old pair of walking boots that you’ve taken years of wearing to shape into that perfect fit. I have the large Akka, and at 5’9” and 200lbs I find it to be a good fit. Hugging enough to keep the chills out, but with just enough room to be able wear a fleece when the temperature truly plummets. I have found no draughts down the neck or up the back when zipped in. The cuffs also seal well, even over gloves, and the collar zips up tightly enough without that ‘strangled’ feeling I’ve had with other jackets.
I have not gone out in heavy rain in the Akka, but it seemed to fare just fine in light rain. Water seemed to soak into the polyester, but not affect the down within.
The Akka has become the jacket I reach for since I received it. Whether it’s going to work, walking the dogs, offroading, or outside by the firepit till 2am, it’s the jacket I want to be keeping me warm. Though to be fair, the Akka is not often by the firepit. I have a ‘sacrificial’ old coat I wear for that due the all too often flying ember damage risk.
Which brings me to a downside I have found with the Akka. I worry about it. I worry about how easily it may be damaged. I worry about what is around me and if it might tear the jacket. Not a concern I’ve had with previous outdoor jackets. It’s just that the Akka is too ‘lightweight’. The polyester feels so flimsy, so thin. I have, unfortunately, brushed against thorns while out walking the dogs (they were hanging out from the hedge I was trying to avoid) , and now have 3 small tears in the right sleeve. On the bright side, they are not growing so perhaps the polyester is some form of ‘ripstop’.
Something else that bothered me a bit was the tiny inside pocket. Tiny to me anyway. I use a Galaxy Note loaded with Viewranger (digital OS maps) as my primary navigation when out walking/hiking, and traditionally keep it in my inside jacket pocket so I can pull it out quickly for a location update. In the Craghoppers I’ve previously worn, it’s not been a problem due to the large map pocket found in the jacket, but it doesn’t quite fit in the Akka jacket inside pocket. It’s not really an issue as I have plenty of pockets in my hiking trousers, but I do now find myself having to think which pocket I use instead.
The final minus for me, at least until later in the year, is that, as I mentioned at the beginning, the Akka is warm. OMG it’s WARM! This has been a huge plus until recently, but with the change in the weather the outside temperature is now often above 5c. This is making the jacket too hot for me, even unzipped. I would consider the AKKA to be strictly a one season jacket, and the season appears to be over.
But when the temperature drops again and the icy North winds return, the Akka will be the first jacket I reach for.
A massive thanks to Tim for putting together the post and for agreeing for me to publish photos of him (sadly he refused to provide any photos of eggs hatching in the pockets!).