Jack’s a self-confessed weight weeny who needs his gear to perform multiple tasks. We sent him the Icebreaker Merinoloft Hyperia Lite vest to see if it cut the mustard amongst his lightweight and minimal hiking wardrobe.
I never really got the point of a vest as a technical piece of gear. If it’s cold enough, put on a fleece, puffer or skivvy. If it’s warm enough not to need those, wear your usual Dad shirt from the Salvos.
Vests are becoming all the rage at the moment, especially for the ultralight jerks amongst us; I jumped on the bandwagon last year so I’m a full believer. Needless to say, I was keen to get my grubby little mitts on the new Icebreaker Hyperia Lite Vest and put it through its paces.
But first, let’s start off with a confession. I’m a full-blown weight weeny. Yup I know, who would admit to that publicly? Since publication I’ve probably already lost a few friends.
One biggish learning curve for me, apart from the obvious ones like cutting your toothbrush in half and ditching the stove, has been figuring out what bits of gear can have multiple uses. Like using a tyre lever for a spoon, or using your shoe as a tripod.
Enter the Icebreaker Hyperia Vest, an active layer that is also a warmth layer. Could this thing become a trusted companion for my alpine hikes?
I found the Hyperia Vest to be a great layer for core warmth. In nippier conditions, you’ll want to pair it with a long sleeve shirt or fleece. I matched up the vest with my Melanzana MicroGrid Hoodie and was snug in temps that sat between 3-10 degrees centigrade. I did feel like the looser fit meant I was losing warmth out the pits, but this could also be because I have the upper body size of a 14-year-old.
The Hyperia Vest has a Pertex outer. A lot of us are pretty familiar with Pertex now, it’s an alternative to Gore-tex (don’t even get me started on Gore-tex). The Quantum Air thing is basically just fabric that has a more openly woven structure (i.e. better on the breathability, not so crash hot on the water-resistance). The outer will keep out a light shower but it wets out pretty quickly in heavier rain.
In any case, the MerinoLoft has a secret weapon compared to many of its vesty rivals. Unlike a down-filled product, the Hyperia keeps performing even in the wettest of conditions. When wool gets wet, her thermal properties hang around!
Weight and Packability
What is light? There are so many answers to that question I have decided there’s no point in trying to address it objectively or analytically. Light is light. And that can mean a whole bunch of different things to different people.
The size large Hyperia I have been using weighs in at 229 grams. Not too shabby. In the world of super ultralight gear, I have to admit this probably doesn’t quite hit the mark. By comparison, the vest I have been using for a while now, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, weighs in at 138 grams.
There’s still an elephant in the room though: environmental impact. Icebreaker is a company that prides themselves on providing ethical fashion, manufacturing transparency, and worker empowerment. Does it add up?
On the whole, I think Icebreaker is doing a pretty good job.
The company claims to only use wool from non-mulesed sheep and according to their transparency report: ‘Growers must be aware of, and have strategies in place to minimize impacts on the environment.’ Wool is a naturally produced, renewable, and biodegradable fibre, but we do have to remember that any product manufactured from new materials is undoubtedly going to have an effect on the environment.
In my opinion, the best choice you can make as a consumer is to buy used, or better yet repair existing gear. But if you’re in the market for a new vest that is great in the wet and breathable as heck, this one ticks a lot of boxes.
I like that this vest is something I could put on first thing out of camp when it’s cold as heck and keep wearing into the morning without sweating like a pig.
I do like the feel and construction of the vest, but I found the fit a little awkward for me. I think the size large is a bit baggy for me so that could explain it. I found it more comfortable to just wear fully unzipped as the torso is quite long and seemed to scrunch up in a weird way when I had it zipped up.
Perhaps one of the best features of the Hyperia is that it performs in the wet. I’ve been in situations where all my gear is drenched day after day, and I can’t hike in my down puffy, despite being chilled to the bone, because I know it won’t perform as soon as those feathers get wet. With this piece of gear, I would be not only confident but actually feel comfortable heading into less than ideal conditions (i.e. horizontal hail that’s pelting you in the face while your fingers can barely open your Clif bar).
Personally, I’m an advocate of using what you’ve got and only buying new gear if it’s absolutely necessary. I was originally hesitant to review this vest because I didn’t want to get stuck with something I didn’t need. But the Icebreaker Hyperia has fitted right in with my small, but very intentional, closet of hiking gear.
I rate it.
Jack was given this Icebreaker vest for testing and was allowed to keep it afterward. He was allowed to say whatever the heck he liked about it.