After a break of several years from more the techy mountain-savvy end of the market, Berghaus have revived their Extrem range in a big way. Whatever level of mountaineering you're into, there's something here to suit.
Extrem is now split into three sub-categories, each representing a different end use:
- Mtn Seeker: the entry-level all-rounder
- Mtn Arete: a lighter, ski-mountaineering-oriented range
- Mtn Guide: technical stuff built tough for demanding winter climbing and mountaineering
Earlier in the season we looked at the upper end of Extrem, with the Mtn Guide GTX Pro Jacket. A burly and fully-featured mountain shell, this offers top levels of protection and Gore Pro winter performance, but as a result comes at a hefty weight, and a price to match:
But not all users need - or can budget for - a 'hero piece' like that. Here we turn our attention to the MTN Seeker GTX Jacket. Yes it's the entry-level offering in the Extrem range, and more affordable with it, but we'd say this is still a serious winter mountaineering shell.
While it's not quite as highly specced as more premium shell fabrics such as Gore-Tex Pro, the MTN Seeker jacket's Gore-Tex Performance (ie. standrad Gore-Tex) fabric will serve you well for protection against the elements, as well as providing good breathability. Having tested it on some classic Scottish Winter days I'd say the MTN Seeker GTX gives you almost as much as some of the higher-end jackets on the market, for a more modest price. We have a few small issues with it, but the fundamentals all deliver for hard conditions in the winter hills.
Matching trousers are available too, but we've not had those on test.
It's great that, as with all of the Extrem range, the MTN Seeker GTX jacket is available in both male and female fits. I opted for my usual men's medium. As this is a winter mountain shell, it is sized generously to allow for thick insulating layering underneath, and has worked well with my layering system. The body is quite long, which allows the hem to sit well below my waist to provide great midriff protection from a biting cold wind or heavy rain.
There is good articulation in the shoulders and arms to allow for minimal hem lift - particularly important in a winter climbing shell when you will be spending a lot of time with your arms above your head. This together with the long sleeves helps to protect against your cuffs pulling off your gloves when climbing. There is a stepped design at the cuffs to provide added protection to the back of the hand and a nice chunky area of velcro to ensure these are secured tightly (see cuff picture below).
One of the first things you'll notice with the MTN Seeker's hood, is the size - it's big! This is generally a good thing for climbers since it helps provide enough space for use with a helmet. However, it seems like the MTN Seeker has a similar problem, in our opinion, to that of its big brother, the MTN Guide: namely that for use without a helmet, the large hood can seem a bit unwieldy and floppy. I find it needs a serious amount of cinching on my head to get it to sit properly. With the helmet on, I also need to cinch this reasonably well in order to bring the collar in, otherwise I can find it difficult to view gear on my harness when looking down.
A wired brim adds structure to the hood, helping it keep its shape and resist flapping in the wind when you don't have the bulk of a helmet to hold it out. There are three points of adjustment to reduce the volume of the hood, two within the collar and one at the back of the head. The back cinch works perfectly fine, if a little fiddly with thicker gloves. Personally, I'd prefer the side elastic to be external for fast and easy adjustment without having to open my collar in harsh conditions. Others may prefer the clean look you get here, and the fact that long tails aren't whipping you in the face on blustery days.
The fabric consists of a 70 denier, 3-layer Gore-Tex Performance (or standard Gore-Tex as many will know it as) across the entire garment. This feels tough to withstand a good amount of abuse throughout many Scottish Winter seasons, and I'd say it seems sufficiently durable to take a lot of climbing on hard mixed terrain where abrasion is likely. In wet or stormy conditions, it has kept me completely dry and protected from the wind.
When working hard when climbing or walking uphill, the fabric also allows me to breathe and wick away moisture from within. Although this fabric is not as technical as many high-end winter mountaineering jackets (which often use the likes of Gore-Tex Pro), it will still provide more than adequate breathability, protection and durability for most users, without breaking the bank to the extent of a higher-priced shell.
Weight and build quality
My men's size medium comes in at 595g on the home scales (Berghaus say 584g, info it's not easy to find on their website). You can find mountain shells a fair amount thinner and lighter, but that is not the name of the game here, where good build quality, burly fabric and generous sizing are all more important than saving a few grams.
The pockets are primarily designed with climbing and mountaineering in mind and have kept water out thus far, even in stormy conditions. Two large raised hand warmer pockets are accessible with a harness or a rucksack hip belt on, and have additional flap protection over the zips to deter water from getting in. An additional chest pocket is large enough to hold a map. To me three generous external pockets seems a bit like overkill, but I'm sure others will welcome all the storage they can get. An additional internal security pocket allows for carrying the likes of keys, phone or headtorch.
Pit zips on either side work well for dumping heat in wet conditions, and are appropriately sized to give you good airflow. The hem drawcord is easy to use, although for quite a climbing specific jacket, I'd have liked these to be anti-snag non-loop cords to avoid the possibility of accidentally clipping them when fiddling with gear on a harness. There is also the addition of reflective detailing on sleeves and pocket flaps for added visibility in poor conditions.
All main fabrics are Bluesign approved and the garment is supported by Berghaus' Repairhaus, which will fix your garment for free - a laudable service.
The MTN Seeker GTX Jacket offers a great entry-level winter mountaineering shell for those not wanting to break the bank with a premium Gore Pro (or similar) alternative. With appeal to winter hillwalkers and climbing beginners, as well as old hands just after something unfussy, it seems a good example of what Berghaus were trying to achieve with their MTN Seeker range. Although £320 is still a large investment, it won't take much research to see that these days it's actually really good value for a fully featured climbing shell that ought to serve you well season after season. Its Gore-Tex Pro big brother will set you back another £180, for example, and if you're just starting out in mountaineering that's money you might prefer to invest in other things. Despite some problems with the oversized hood, this will be a strong contender for anyone seeking a competent jacket at a reasonable budget.