Now we are in the deep mid-winter, I thought it about time I brought to your attention a select bunch of outer shell jackets that are currently available in store.

There is something vaguely comforting about a Berghaus jacket. Comforting, not simply from a comfort perspective, but in the fact that when you wear the branded garment, you just know that you are going to be fully protected from the elements. And there is no truer a comment to make than with the Extrem 5000, a bombproof jacket which has been manufactured to last, no matter what the weather may try and sling at it. If truth be known, Berghaus have a well-deserved reputation for knowing the British weather inside out. As a consequence, the design team manufacture product to cope with it. The robust, waterproof Extrem 5000 should be your number one choice, should you be exercising your skills on the winter mountaineering front, whether it be in Snowdonia, the Lake District or the chilling and hauntingly beautiful Highlands… and especially so during the bleak mid-winter. Don’t get me wrong, the Extrem 5000 is just as suitable for walking or exercising the dog, it is just that should you be tempted to try something extreme, then the Extrem will happily come into its own. The jacket benefits from a reinforced 3-layer GTX fabric, fully taped seams and YKK AquaGuard protected zips with water-resistant seals. You will also find the same zips appearing on the humungous Napolean pocket and the well-positioned handwarmer pockets, which do not get in the way should you be either carrying a rucksack or sporting a harness. You can add to that reinforced areas which may otherwise be prone to rock and rucksack abrasion. I was also impressed with the considerable thought that had gone into the three-way adjustable hood design, which will easily accommodate a climbing helmet. At first I thought the sleeves were somewhat wide, but then I realised that those clever chaps at Berghaus were catering for the mountain glove wearer, with Velcro tabs positioned for easy closure. For a technical jacket, the fit is superb, with plenty of freedom of movement. Given the nature of the jacket, the branding is particularly understated, with just the Berghaus logo in situ on the left breast, and a small black ‘X’ on the centre back. It is hard to find fault with this jacket, so I won’t. Actually, more to the point, I can’t, so there you have it. In fact, I like the Extrem 5000 that much, I am actually wearing it whilst I formulate this critique, sad person that I am. £300,


Like the Berghaus Extrem 5000, the Travis has also been manufactured in such a way as to withstand harsh weather conditions. In fact, Didriksons claim, or rather, guarantee, 100 per cent waterproofness, thanks to the STORMsystem, which locks in a good ten years of weather protection expertise. My first thought was that I would be testing a standard shell, but no, the functional Travis is lightly padded, and therefore slightly heavier than I expected. The fabric itself is breathable, as well as being wind and waterproof, thanks to taped seams and an AquaGuard water-repellent YKK zipper with a Polyurethane laminate on the zipper tape. I have been impressed by the jacket’s functional design,  with its perfectly placed, zipped sleeve pocket for a ski pass, and the adjustable sleeve ends with inside elastic cuffs with thumbhole, so the sleeves won’t slide up as you slide down a slippery snow slope. I would go so far as to say that the Travis is an excellent everyday jacket, with features including two large handwarmer pockets and zipped inner stash pocket, 3-directional adjustable hood with an extra protective hood peak to help block out unwanted cold, adjustable hem, chin guard, oh yes, and there is an additional Napoleon storage pocket with cord opening for use with your phone, MP3 player or other gizmo. Comprehensive indeed; neat padding; cosy… there is not much else you would want for a wintry walk or snow-biased activity. £200,


Let’s not beat about the bush. You are heading to Val d’Isere or the Stubai Valley, with nothing but snow on your mind. You want a jacket which places a premium on comfort, performance and style. After all, darling, the last thing you want to be seen in is last season’s design, or colour. Heaven forbid. Step up Columbia. Powder Keg. The name says it all. So let’s start from the top, and the removable hood, which has been specifically engineered to be worn over any standard size mountaineering or snow sports helmet. Next check out the light rail zipper, a patent-pending closure system which resists water and creates a clean, seamless design to the jacket. Boasting a waterproof and breathable, 4-way comfort stretch design with adjustable sleeve cuffs and hem, the Powder Keg features an inner zipper pocket, a large zipped Napoleon pocket, sleeve ski pass pocket, handwarmer pockets that are big enough to lose a snowmobile in each, pit zips, which always come in handy when you feel yourself overheating, and a snow skirt with trouser connector, should you fancy going all-in-one. Most impressive of all, however, is the Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining, which helps keep you warmer by reflecting back body heat, as well as regulating body temperature by allowing any excess heat and moisture to escape. Time for those Arctic chills to step aside, because they have met there match with the Powder Keg. £320, 


You may recently have cast your eyes over my review of Sprayway’s Orsk 3-in-1 jacket, which retails at £180. The jacket proved a revelation. In previous years I had been quite dismissive of interactive jackets, more often than not finding them to be too bulky, too heavy and too costly. As a result, I found it far easier to wear a padded insulating layer and a separate outer shell. The Orsk turned the corner, prompting me to re-think 3-in-1s. Which is why I was happy to check out Mountain Warehouse’s Zenith II and include it here. With a retail value of a tad under £220, you could quite easily still argue that it would be cheaper to buy a fleece or down insulating jacket and combine that with a lightweight shell, with all the convenience that affords. But then, you could just as easily argue that a 3-in-1 affords the same flexibility, and if you are intent on wearing an insulating layer with a shell, then an interactive jacket makes sense. With the Zenith II, the interactive zip is simple enough. However, in order to release the sleeves from each other, you have to pull back the sleeve of the outer shell before releasing the popper stud, which loops around a small elasticated cord on the inner layer. A bit of a fad, but it makes sense, as it stops the layer from disappearing up your arm when you put it on. (The neckline is also held in place by a similar system.) The shell benefits from an Isodry waterproof fabric and taped seams, and has a detachable hood with s stiffened peak, two chest and two hand pockets, and pit zips. The lightweight, padded inner has two hand pockets. Taking all of that into account, the Zenith II is a high performance waterproof 3-in-1 that will certainly keep you warm and protected. £219.99,


We all have our limits, especially when it comes to the size of our wallets, and therefore how much we would wish to splash out on a shell. There is, however, always a happy medium. Sprayway’s excellent Naxos is a case in point. Retailing at £110, I can assure you that you get an awful lot of jacket for your money. The lightweight, 2-layer Hydro/Dry fabric offers waterproof, windproof, breathable technology, so translate that as dry, warm and comfortable. The all-weather protection comes from the water-resistant and durable Nylon outer and a soft single jersey inner, backed with a PU Hydrophilic laminate. The four pockets comprise of two zipped hand pockets, a zipped chest map pocket and an internal zipped pocket. Other features include a grown on, two-way adjustable hood with a wired peak, and a drawcord adjustable hem. I nice jacket to have in your winter arsenal. £110,


What struck me immediately about the Alkin was the petrol blue reflective print – a neat touch indeed. The jacket is constructed with a durable, water repellent and breathable Isotex 5000 fabric outer, complete with those strategically positioned stretch inserts with the highly reflective print found around the shoulders, chest and top of the arms, which help maximise visibility under torchlight, or car beams, should you be out walking the dog at night along a dark country lane. The full zip fastening benefits from an inner storm flap, and other features include an adjustable single-pull hood with chin guard, two zipped hand pockets, touch and close fastening adjustable straps on the sleeves,  toggle adjustable hem, two zip pockets, and a mesh lining.  Neat, and perfectly formed. £90.


Diane, Essential Journeys’s female tester, had been complaining of late at the lack of product passing through her hands, so before she accused me of male chauvinism on these pages, I thought I had better ask her to check out the Bracken. It was to prove a wise move, and a wise choice, come to that, because she continues to wax lyrical about this 3-in-1, fully waterproof and breathable jacket. Arriving with the Zenith, when first unveiled, she opted to unpackage the red jacket, only to find that the black one held the female swing tag and was therefore heading her way. She was soon appeased by the attractive pink coloured additions to the zippers on the pockets. In fact, the Bracken boasts pockets galore, the outer having two zipped front pockets, one zipped chest pocket, one internal zipped pocket and an Mp3/mobile phone pocket. The detachable softshell inner has two zipped side pockets. Diane found the combination to be ideal for both travelling and everyday wear, and complimented the features, including the taped seams, double storm flap, mesh lining, which not only allowed for the air to circulate and therefore function better, but also allowed for extra ventilation. The adjustable hood easily detaches from the main body, and the cuffs and hem adjust for a perfect fit. All in all, then, a heads up for the Bracken. £199.99,

Reviewer: Michael Cowton