The Berghaus Extrem series is the brand’s premium range of outdoor kit: true ‘top of the mountain’ apparel designed for technical outdoor use in the most demanding conditions. First conceived and launched back in 1986, Extrem clothing and equipment went on to kit out a number of expeditions in the world’s great ranges, from the Alps to the Himalayas. In recent years however, it hasn’t always been a constant in the Berghaus line-up, appearing and disappearing from the British brand’s extensive range as they have seemingly focused on more accessible ‘entry level’ gear intended for casual or weekend outdoor use.
In fact, the last dedicated Berghaus Extrem collection was released back in 2016. Meticulously devised by the brand’s elite in-house MTNHaus design team, it showcased a number of technologies and approaches that went on to become widespread throughout the outdoor industry – like body-mapped insulation and moisture-resistant ‘hydrophobic’ down fill. For Autumn/Winter 2022/2023, however, Berghaus has revived the Extrem brand and produced a capsule collection of clothing and equipment. A welcome addition to the brand’s outdoor offerings, it’s designed to prove that Berghaus is still very much one of the big-name heavyweights when it comes to manufacturing elite mountain gear. And arguably the most exciting of the several flagship releases in the line-up is this burly winter-ready hard shell, the MTN Guide GTX Pro jacket. Is this one of the best waterproof jackets on the market today? Read on to find out our thoughts.
Berghaus Extrem MTN Guide Pro jacket: specifications
- RRP: €550 (EUR)/ £500 (UK)
- Weight: 660g/23.3oz
- Materials used: Main fabric: 70D 3L Gore-Tex Pro Most Rugged (100% nylon face with ePTFE membrane and tricot knit backer), Zoned panels: 70D 3L Gore-Tex Pro Stretch
- Sizes: Men’s XS-XL, Women’s UK 8-16
Berghaus Extrem MTN Guide Pro jacket: Design and features
This shell offers a protective, full coverage fit. It’s generously sized to accommodate plenty of insulating layers beneath – as well as a winter-weight baselayer, you can easily get a midlayer and a puffy underneath it. There’s also plenty of length in the arms and torso, with a slight scooped tail for extra coverage at the rear. The cuffs also have a contoured cut that extends across the back of the hands. They have generous Velcro tabs to fit over bulky winter gloves, but cinch in tightly to ensure a weatherproof seal, even when reaching up. In fact, patterning and articulation of the jacket is very good indeed, allowing for a full range of mobility – ideal for dynamic activity.
Up top, the Mtn Guide Pro has a voluminous hood that is designed to accommodate a climbing helmet. It features a wired peak to deflect wind, rain and snow, while the grown-on hood and collar give excellent protection for the neck and lower half of the face. The hood has three-point adjustment to allow you to cinch it in over a bare head, enabling a fairly close fit, though in all honesty it still works better with a helmet on than without one. Elastic drawcords are designed to sit inside the jacket rather than dangling down outside, meaning they don’t whip you in the face unexpectedly. The hood adjusters are a little bulky though, as this jacket frustratingly lacks the embedded Cohaesive components of some rivals.
Otherwise though, this is a very well specced shell. The main zip is a chunky YKK Vislon component with two-way zippers. It has the nearly ubiquitous internal storm flap, with a microfibre chin guard at the top. In addition though, there’s an outer storm flap, which closes at the bottom with a press stud and fastens with Velcro flaps, spaced every couple of inches all the way up to the chin. It’s a bit of a throwback feature, somewhat reminiscent of Berghaus’ circa-1990s shells like the iconic Trango jacket. But it certainly helps to fend off sideways rain and spindrift, giving you an extra barrier of protection from precipitation.
The jacket also has a profusion of pockets – seven in total. These include two Napoleon-style chest pockets, which from our perspective is the ideal configuration for mountaineering and climbing use. They are deep but somewhat narrow, able to take big gloves, but a tight fit for maps and topo guides. The left-hand one has an internal D-ring to secure the lanyard of a compass, phone or GPS unit. Then there are two large hand pockets, which are well positioned so as to sit clear of a climbing harness or rucksack hip-belt. Inside the jacket, there are two stretch mesh pockets that are perfect for temporarily stashing gloves or even a flask when stationary. Unusually, there’s also a side access internal zippered pocket, which is padded with synthetic insulation. Designed to house a smartphone, it should help to prolong battery life in cold conditions. It’s a great feature for those of us who like to keep a phone handy to capture photos or for use as a nav device.
Berghaus Extrem MTN Guide Pro jacket: Performance and comfort
In terms of construction, the jacket uses zoned panels of two different 70-denier Gore-Tex fabrics: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Most Rugged and Gore Pro Stretch. The former, as its name suggests, is built for maximum durability, offering superior abrasion resistance compared to Gore’s other offering in this class, Gore-Tex Pro Most Breathable. The flipside, of course, is that the Most Rugged variant isn’t as good at moving moisture its stablemate. Then again, for a winter shell designed to be used in cold conditions and tough terrain, opting for the more robust fabric makes sense. The jacket is also fitted with extensive two-way pit zips to help you dump some heat quickly if you do start to work up a fug.
It's the Gore-Tex Pro Stretch panels that are the really innovative fabric choice though. For years, one of Gore-Tex Pro’s major downsides has been its stiff, crinkly feel and especially its lack of mechanical stretch. It is notoriously difficult to make ePTFE membranes stretchy, since they are so thin (only about 0.01mm thick). That’s why, up to now, most stretch hard shells have used PU-based membranes. With this new development, however, Gore have clearly listened to outdoor users and tried to create a waterproof-breathable fabric with more give, more flexibility and a softer handle. Does it work? Yes – it is far less rigid and restrictive than GTX Pro shells that don’t use the stretch fabric panels. On the other hand, don’t expect miracles. It’s still not as stretchy or as comfortable as many rival non-Gore-Tex shells (Rab’s excellent Kinetic range and Mountain Hardwear’s Stretch Ozonic jackets all spring to mind). But in terms of balancing outright protection from the elements with freedom of movement, it’s a decent compromise.
Of course, the result of the use of hefty 70D fabrics, in addition to a full complement of features, is that the jacket weighs 660g in total (tester’s size men’s large). That’s certainly no featherweight, and there are stripped back, Alpine-style Gore-Tex Pro shells that are significantly lighter. But then, the Mtn Guide Pro is unapologetically sturdy and robust, basically because its intended use is for gnarly Scottish winter epics rather than ‘done in a day’ alpine ascents. As such, it’s the sort of shell you’ll be wearing rather than carrying, in which case, you’ll appreciate its sturdiness and armour-like feel.
There’s no denying that it provides a superb level of all-round protection from wind, rain and snow. We wore this shell throughout December and January in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales – when sustained rainy spells were interspersed with regular dumps of the white stuff. In all weathers, it did its job admirably. It also feels extremely well built, and other than some abrasion to a couple of the reflective trims, showed no signs of wear after a couple of months’ hard use, despite being subjected to inevitable scuffs and scrapes against rock, snow and ice.
Berghaus Extrem MTN Guide Pro jacket: Alternatives to consider
In terms of the competition, it also holds its own. We think the MTN Guide Pro easily trades punches with similar top-end mountaineering shells from rivals like Arc’teryx, Rab, Mountain Hardwear, Montane and Mountain Equipment. It actually has more features than many of the so-called flagship jackets from these brands, and the 70D GTX Pro ‘Most Rugged’ fabric is almost as tough as it gets – only Mountain Equipment’s 80D Changabang and Tupilak jackets, or Arc’teryx’s 100D Alpha SV shell, spring to mind as being even more bombproof.
Berghaus Extrem MTN Guide Pro jacket: final verdict
We’re definitely convinced by the latest generation of Gore fabrics, so much so that if you’re in the market for a Gore-Tex Pro shell, we’d say it’s worth making sure it also has those new Pro Stretch panels – it makes a significant difference to overall comfort. And this is undoubtedly one of the best examples out there. On the other hand, if you don’t need or want a fully featured waterproof (and let’s face it, not everyone does, since we’re not all braving Cairngorms blizzards on a regular basis), or if your priorities are low weight and packability, then save yourself some cash and look elsewhere.
Still, this is the best waterproof jacket Berghaus have made since 2016, when they released the Extrem 8000 Pro. That shell was designed with the input of Berghaus athletes like Leo Houlding and Mick Fowler, and featured some really interesting details, including a nifty magnetic volume-reducing Xpanse hood that meant the hood fitted brilliantly over both a climbing helmet and a bare head or beanie. The MTN Guide Pro would have benefitted from some similarly innovative touches, and as such we don’t think it quite hits the heights that Berghaus did back in 2016. But it’s still a top-notch effort.
Overall then, this is a solid technical shell that offers superb all-round protection combined with excellent durability and a great fit for technical use (i.e. mountain pursuits with helmet, harness, ice axe and crampons). For anything less, it’s arguably overkill – unless you really relish being out in the rough stuff.