The last few weeks have been the perfect time for testing of Berghaus’s new Ilam jacket. It’s an 850+ fill goose-down jacket, so it’s very warm indeed, but unlike other down jackets won’t die a horrible drowned-rat death when it gets wet because Berghaus have used a specially treated, water-resistant down. Could this be the best down jacket for the UK’s moist weather?
The first thing that struck me when I opened the box from Berghaus was just how blue this jacket is. It’s so blue that people comment on it and stare at you in the street. This jacket (in blue) is a look-at-me piece of fashion as much as it is a functional design. But, I suppose, that’s a good thing: cyan blue is the easiest colour for us to see in poor light, and this jacket seems to glow when it’s that twilight time which it seems to be for so long each day during winter.
The colour is enhanced by the outer shell fabric, which is Pertex Quantum GL. Pertex is a material manufacturer, and their Quantum GL fabric is their lightest weight material, made from sub 10-denier threads woven in an incredibly close weave so that whilst the finished fabric is so thin and light that you worry about every thorn and branch, it’s actually quite tough and resists the push of the down feathers which want to force their way out of the jacket. It’s a futuristic, sci-fi fabric which The Wife describes as Japanese in style, and coupled with the colour and the hydrophobic down it’s easy to see why one could assume this jacket comes from the land of robots and precision engineering.
The design of the Ilam is quite innovative too. The whole thing is sewn in to pockets of different shapes which are designed to hold the down in the key places of your body which require the most insulation, and to keep it in thinner, smaller bunches in those areas that you need to move more often and keep flexible. Inside the arms and up your flanks are where these smaller pockets are deployed, and they’re given a darker blue fabric for styling purposes.
The second thing you notice about the Ilam is that there’s not much to it. Picking it up, it weighs sod all. Under 300g, which for a jacket which I’m fine with wearing over a T-shirt on days when the temperature is hovering around 4C is extraordinary. More sci-fi.
This is indeed a jacket for keeping you warm whenever you need it. Scrunched up in to its own stuff sack, it will live in your pack quite happily until you finish that climb or hike, and then seal in the warmth even when the wind is gusting. I wore it on a hilly hike on a day where it was T-shirt weather for the sticky, sweaty uphills but definitely jacket weather at the summits and it was perfect.
Sticking it on over a very sweaty body wasn’t a problem either. I got build-up of moisture on my wrists and forearms, which seemed to linger on the inner surface of the Ilam, but was comfortable everywhere else.
The Ilam features generous hand pockets on both sides, which are inside the down insulation, so will warm up your hands in no time. There’s a single inside chest pocket which features a key-loop and is ideal for housing the stuff-sack.
The wrists and hood of the Ilam are not adjustable, but are elasticated at the hems for a little ‘give’. The hood is noisy and rustly, but very warm. It’s an isolating place to be – a good thing if you’re wanting solace from the weather but not so good if you’re trying to chat.
So far the Ilam has been tested in prolonged drizzle, low cloud and a short-sharp shower. The DWR (waterproofing) treatment has done a good job of shedding most of the damp, and there hasn’t been any noticeable loss of warmth when it’s been really moist. The down doesn’t appear to have suffered any loss of loft, or leached any oils into the outer fabrics and made it look like wee stains.
SUMMARY: A very warm, very light down jacket which behaves itself when the weather is damp. No substitute for a waterproof, but definitely a great replacement for that aging down jacket which you need to hide away when the heavens open. Priced high, but it’s an innovative garment which will appeal to the leading edge of outdoorsmen. Despite it being very BLUE it’s become a firm favourite this winter.
Also available for women (not tested)