Every once in a while a piece of kit catches me unaware and leaves me wondering how and why it can be so much better than anything similar I have used before. The Ramche jacket is one such piece.
My challenge to the Mtnhaus design team at Berghaus was to produce the best warmth for weight jacket on the market. And when Dave Turnbull and I used the first prototypes back in 2011 it was immediately clear that they had come up with something very special.
Dave Turnbull testing an original prototype. Bivouac 3 on the first ascent of Mugu Chuli (West Nepal) in 2011.
A combination of high quality down and clever baffle design had led to a product which was amazingly light and yet felt remarkably warm. And then we had a grim bivouac during which my Ramche and my down sleeping bag got wet. The sleeping bag turned into a ball of ice whereas the Ramche was back to its best the following morning. Dave and I couldn’t understand it. It was only when we got back to the UK that I understood that the sneaky design team at Mtnhaus had added a ‘little extra’ and introduced us to the breakthrough qualities of waterproof down.
Mick Fowler testing improvements during the first ascent of the Prow of Shiva (Indian Himalaya) in 2012.
Ramche 1.0 was launched and since then I have worked closely with the Mtnhaus team in the quest for perfection. Heat sensors and thermal imaging equipment were used at the Keswick ice climbing wall and increasingly refined versions road tested on successful Himalayan trips in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Mick testing further improvements during the first ascent of Kishtwar Kailash (Indian Himalaya) in 2013.
By the time Paul Ramsden and I wore prototypes of the latest Ramche on Gave Ding in October 2015 improvements that I wouldn’t have believed possible had been made.
The baffle design and down distribution had been further improved, the addition of a reflective internal layer had added extra warmth and the shell fabric was both stronger and lighter than on earlier versions.
Mick testing yet more improvements on the first ascent of the NE Face of Hagshu (Indian Himalaya) in 2014.
Gave Ding was probably the coldest climb I have ever done. Being a very true north face we were almost completely out of the sun for five days. The temperature on the upper section was perhaps minus 30 degrees Celsius. The summit day was the only day ever that Paul (who appears immune to the cold) has worn a down jacket to climb in. And throughout the Ramches kept us safe, warm and cosy. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Mick pulling over the summit cornice of Gave Ding (West Nepal) in October 2015 while giving the Ramche 2.0 a final pre-launch test.
And then on the descent I got the shell fabric caught in my abseil device. I couldn’t get it out and having abseiled like that for at least 10 metres I was left to contemplate that not only is the new Ramche 2.0 lighter and warmer but it is stronger too.
Perfection is a big word but this jacket is certainly going to be difficult to beat.
When not researching, organising and fretting over his annual Himalayan trip Mick can be found collecting awards and indulging in a variety of adventurous outdoor activities linked with designing, testing and talking about Berghaus prototypes.