Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

GEAR REVIEW: Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0

By Will Rietveld

This hyperlight smock is the lightest rain top in the world, it’s flawless, and lands on my list of favorite gear for ultralight backpacking.

This is the lightest rain jacket in the world. It’s even lighter than a breathable Cuben Fiber rain jacket, which weighs around 6 ounces (and costs twice as much).

The new Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0, at 2.65 ounces for size men's medium, is the lightest rain top in the world. Its available in men's and women's versions. (Berghaus photo)

 The original VapourLight Hyper Smock, a pullover style, came out in 2014. Only a year later it was replaced with the Hyper Smock 2.0 in 2015. Berghaus redesigned it and made it lighter yet. According to Berghaus, the weight dropped from 100 grams to 75 grams (3.5 ounces to 2.65 ounces for a size Medium).

Now it is also available as a jacket (with a full height front zipper) weighing 3.5 ounces (size Large).

Obviously the fabric on this rain jacket is very thin, so the key questions to address in this review are whether this jacket provides sufficient rain protection, breathability, and durability.

Specifications and Features

Berghaus (http://usa.berghaus.com/)
VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0 (men’s and women’s versions)
Hydroshell™ Hyper; 10,000 MVTR, 15,000 mm waterproofness
Manufacturer spec 2.65 oz (men’s Medium; measured weight 3.2 oz (men’s XL)
Attached fitted hood; elastic binding on hood, cuffs, and hem; tie-back on hood; 16 in front zipper; 1 front pocket; dropped tail; stuff sack included
$150 (pullover style), $155 (jacket style)


I had the opportunity to test both the original Hyper Smock and the latest version 2.0, and I definitely prefer version 2.0. The most obvious difference is the location of the pocket; it was on the left sleeve on the original, and now it is just below the front zipper. Berghaus cleverly uses one zipper with two pulls and added a bar tack to create two openings: one for the pullover entry and one for the pocket. The lower pocket is more convenient and larger than the original sleeve pocket. It's 9.5 inches deep at the top tapering to 7.5 inches deep at the bottom, which is large enough for small clothing items or a camera.

However, the weight savings goes deeper than the pocket. Version 2.0 drops two mini-cordlock hood adjusters, uses thinner seam tape, uses a different panel design to reduce seams, uses lighter weight elastic bindings, and shortened the zipper one inch – a lot of subtle changes throughout the garment.

An important detail that you need to know about the Hyper Smock is that it runs about one size small. I tested the original in size Large (my usual size) and found it fit more like a Medium – the body is a trim fit that barely layers over an ultralight down jacket, but the sleeves are adequately long. So, I got version 2.0 in size XL and I am much happier with the fit – it is easier to donn and layers nicely over a lightweight down jacket. Bottom line, you need to go up one size for a good fit. If you do that, the pullover style is not that hard to put on.

In version 2.0 a drawcord on the front of the hood and two adjusters were dropped in favor of a fitted hood and simple elastic binding. I prefer to wear the hood over a billed cap so it doesn't block my vision.

 Some hikers will prefer the jacket version of the VapourLight (with a full-height front zipper) because it’s easier to put on and provides more ventilation by adjusting the zipper. However, note that the jacket version does not have a pocket.

Field Testing

I tested the two versions of the Hyper Smock on 15 backpacking trips in mountain and canyon terrains and wore it in different ways on every trip: in the rain as needed, as a windshirt while hiking, and as an outer shell layer in camp and in my sleeping bag.

 Berghaus’s Hydroshell™ Hyper waterproof-breathable fabric technology was developed in their own Mountain House Design and Development Center. Its waterproofness rating of 15,000 mm is adequate. The breathability rating of 10,000 MVTR is at the lower end for a waterproof-breathable rain jacket, equivalent to a typical polyurethane laminate rain jacket. What is remarkable is that they achieved these properties in a very thin nylon fabric construction.

As rainwear, its intended use, the Hyper Smock does the job just fine. I live in the Southwestern US, where rain usually comes as showers rather than an all-day rain. The longest I wore it in the rain was a steady drizzle for a half day in the Grand Canyon, and it kept me dry.

The Hyper Smock is thin enough that it performs quite well as a windshirt. Because it’s coated on the inside, it’s not as comfortable as a dedicated windshirt, but it suffices as long as it’s cool and windy.

One thing I noticed is the jacket’s thin fabric is less insulating compared to a heavier rain jacket, so I am more likely to wear a midlayer under it to stay warm. Here I am wearing a microfleece midlayer under the Hyper Smock.

I also wear my rainwear as a shell layer over my insulating layer in camp and in my sleeping bag. Its remarkable how well an outer shell holds the heat in to keep me warm and comfortable with less total weight. The Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock works very well for that purpose, and it doesn’t feel clammy inside in camp or in my sleeping bag because I am inactive.

Because it’s made of very thin fabric, the Hyper Smock can be expected to be less durable than heavier rainwear. However, nylon is very strong and surprisingly resistant to damage. Even so, all ultralight gear requires extra care, and if you treat it right it will last a long time.


There are two contrasting situations requiring different types of rainwear: 1) for wetter climates, choose highly breathable air permeable rainwear for maximum comfort in prolonged rain, and 2) for drier climates, choose the lightest reliable rainwear you can find and wear it as needed. In the former situation, these jackets are heavier, expensive, and require maintenance to sustain their performance. In the latter situation, the rainwear is much lighter weight and less expensive, requires little or no maintenance, and breathability is less of a need because you typically wear the rainwear for a short time.

Besides this, an inconvenient truth about rainwear is that all rainwear will steam up inside if you are hiking uphill carrying a pack in warm temperatures. The difference is that air-permeable rainwear will allow you to hike further before it steams up. The end result in every case is you will gradually get wet from the inside.

The Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock fits in the second situation. It adds very little weight to your pack, and it performs admirably when it’s needed. If you are a lightweight or ultralight backpacker, this is my recommendation for rainwear.

Overall I have nothing but praise for the Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock, meaning it’s all good and I don’t have any reservations at all. It performs just fine as a rain jacket, especially in shorter duration showers, as good as any other polyurethane-laminate rain jacket, and it does it with minimal weight. Its extreme light weight also makes it more versatile – it’s more packable, doubles as a windshirt, and it’s an effective outer shell layer to keep you warm in camp.

In my 12 years of gear testing I have found very few perfect pieces of gear, and this is one of them. I suppose one negative is that it runs one size small, so you need to size up to get a good fit. That adds a smidgeon of weight, but it’s still the lightest rain jacket in the world.


  1. Thanks Will for the review. I am actually looking for a jacket for bikepacking more so than bushwalking now days so curious the length of the jacket. Does it come down more at the back?

  2. The jacket has a dropped tail, and covers the back quite well.

  3. Hi Will,

    Thanks for the great review. Given that this doubles as a wind shirt, will you be leaving your dedicated wind shirt at home for trips going forward? In another BPL article on layering and wind shirts you mention rarely leaving home without one and that its your most used piece of clothing. Will you still bring the wind shirt as part of your layering system in addition to the smock?



  4. Hi Will,

    Thanks for the detailed write-up which I just came upon here rather than in BackpackingLight where I usually read and rely upon your reviews. I live and hike regularly in northern New England where it rains heavily. For the last three years, I've been using a Marmot Super Mica which has worked perfectly except that within the first year, its inner lining began delaminating in multiple places which I glued. I just returned from an easy AT section hike through NY and NJ to the Pennsylvania line and found that the lining had now torn in many places despite the absence of external damage. Given how carefully I've tended this jacket, I've wondered whether the delamination has been the result of my routinely rolling up the jacket tightly and placing it an outer side pocket with my rain pants protecting it. Yesterday, in an effort to determine whether the jacket's inner laminate contained the waterproof layer, I put an ounce of water over an intact exterior aspect of the jacket and in turn over the exterior aspect of an internally delaminated area. The water flowed freely through only the latter area indicating that the jacket is a goner. So, my questions to you are: (1) Do you believe that my tight rolling of the jacket caused the delamination and, if so, is this likely to occur with any ultralight jacket such that I should avoid this practice; (2) Has the Berghaus Vapourlight Hyper Smock 2.0 been able to withstand the friction of backpack straps?; (3) Any reason to await Berghaus's soon-to-be-released but far more costly Hyper 100 jacket. Thanks muchly for your thoughts. David Kern