Black Yak's Bruna UL Waterproof Jacket / HD Wind-Top
Over time we've come across a number items that have really impressed us and we'd like to draw attention to, but ...
- either they don't quite fit into our rather strictly defined / narrow categories, or
- due to their high price-point, they cannot compete with our existing recommendations (mainly on the value score), or
- they will become our top choice, but only if and when our existing recommendation becomes unavailable (i.e. this item is the current heir in waiting but is just marginally edged out by our current recommendation).
So for such items we've created "special mentions" (SM). These "reviews" don't get a rating score and may receive less in-depth coverage and don't feature in our catalogue, instead the SM write-ups fall somewhere between a post and a formal review. They are identified by a blue Scramble mountain logo.
Intros out of the way, we'll proceed with our first such post which looks at Black Yak's Bruna Jacket, and as always, we're looking at the item from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: Chest 42", Waist 33", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: Size = Extra Large, Colour = Phantom Black
Kit Tests: Summer
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Face Fabric & Tricot Backer (PA, Nylon)||100%|
|Proofing: DWR + 13mm Stretch Seam Tape||-|
|Membrane: YAK SKYN™ 3-layer membrane (PU)||100%|
|Laminated Hood Brim, “Welt” Zipper Construction||-|
|Weight (Size Large Stated / Extra Large Measured)||220g / 240g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest (Standard / Roomy) =||L / XL|
|Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£108.50|
- Features: Overview
- Sizing Up For The Long Haul
- Details & Execution
- Any Negatives?
- Conclusion & Product Images
Introduction: A Safe Hedged Bet?
Black Yak are a Seoul-based mountaineering brand who, due to their innovative predisposition, some have poignantly coined "the Arc’teryx of South Korea" (you can find out more about Black Yak on the Altitude Blog).
The Black Yak Bruna is a minimalist, ultralight (one of the lightest around), fully waterproofed jacket, so stripped of features as to be easily mistaken for a high-end, heavy duty wind-top. The fact is, the Bruna functions as both - it's a genuine hybrid: an outstanding, impressively unclammy wind-top with top-class waterproofing built in.
In our view, it's something of a luxury item, in that it can't replace a traditional lightweight waterproof (such as Keela's Saxon) that will better handle severe cold and wet winter conditions (not because of its fabric or membrane, but rather its feature set). But for less harsh climates / seasons, the Bruna may well shave a meaningful number of grams off your rain-gear while simultaneously negating the need for a 100g wind-top.
Why Not 4-Season?
A number of elements we require for a four season waterproof (for multi-day/week ventures) are absent in Black Yak's Bruna:
- A full featured adjustable hood
- Velcro adjustable cuffs at the wrist (to provide a good seal for the gloves)
- Hand pockets (mainly to rest the arms as much as shelter the hands when marching head-down into driving rain or snow on long arduous stretches)
However, the "self-adjusting" hood on the Bruna is so good we can discount #1. But items 2 and 3 are what, for Scramble at least, limit the Bruna to the less punishing seasons.
We've surveyed what's missing, so let's take a good look at this chimera and see what remains:
The Black Yak Bruna's "feature set".
From the front, not much. We've got a laminated brim on the hood, a full length zip and some elastication at the hem and cuffs.
At the back we have an elasticated strip (pic #2 below) which provides us with our "self-adjusting hood" (which actually works really well) and at the bottom (pic #3) we have the jacket's only pocket which is zipped and doubles as the jacket's stuff sack.
Not a great deal on the back either. Stuff pocket and auto-hood adjuster.
Sizing Up For The Long Haul
For those requiring a more "alpine" fit for their hard shell (keeping to your standard size would likely work - I'm normally a size large); personally I prefer my waterproofs to be slightly loose fitting to: a) allow a little air to circulate, and b) so I can fit a "floating map pocket" down its front and access it without too much fuss. So I went for an Extra Large (which would probably handle a max 44" chest) which also offers a little extra drop at the back to cover my arse.
Summer Ensemble: Modelling the Bruna jacket with a pair of extremely unfashionable yet highly practical waterproof shorts over Mountain Equipment's Comici trousers.
Details & Execution
Water & Wind Proofing
The Bruna jacket sandwiches its 3-layer PU membrane (the lightest membrane from Black Yak's recently developed YAK SKYN program) between a polyamide face fabric and a tricot backer. The seam sealing is of a very high standard and uses stretch 13mm tape.
Black Yak don't quote a MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) but stress their focus on "mass transfer" while maintaining good waterproofing. One of the impressive things about the Bruna was its lack of claminess while working hard in wet conditions.
Black Yak's Bruna jacket has a PA tricot backer and 13mm stretch seam taping.
The 2021 Summer Kit Test didn't witness the same extended stormy downpours of its 2020 counterpart, but for the first 10 days it was either raining or threatening to do so. It was unseasonably cold for mid-August (with a max temperature of 20℃ often chilled by a cold wind). The modelled pictures above are pretty much what I lived in when on the move, until it brightened up around day 11.
The kit test conditions were ideal for the Bruna jacket; not so cold and not so saturated that you couldn't dry out under shelter (if required) at the end of the day, yet cold and windy enough to warrant a wind / waterproof most of the time.
The hood features a laminated capped brim and elasticated banding across the back. The main zip closes above the chin but below the mouth. Elasticated edging runs from the top-sides of the laminated brim to the zip closure.
The hood on the Bruna is highly protective and works really well against wind and rain.
When zipped up, the hood offers excellent protection and works extremely well over a cap (pictured below is Mountain Equipment's Squall cap). Unlike many waterproofs, the Bruna's "self-adjusting hood" follows the movements of the head with or without the aid of a cap.
The Black Yak Bruna's hood moves with the head with or without the aid of a cap.
Elasticated Hem and Cuffs
There are no cord or velcro adjusters on the Bruna, instead a simple good quality branded elasticated edging runs across 4/5 of the hem and 1/2 of the cuff. The elasticated hem works well and I didn't miss corded hip adjusters and since water abides by the law of gravity you don't need a tight seal at the hip.
The Black Yak Bruna's elasticated banding covers approx. four-fifths of the hem.
The wrists however, are another matter and since this jacket has no pockets, much of the time I spent holding the straps of my pack (cuffs pointing upward). Although I expected to get water pouring down my arm, I actually didn't, but in more severe conditions the lack of a velcro closure at the wrist would likely be an issue. This is one of the main reasons we regard this jacket as a 2 to 3 season hybrid. All ultralight gear involves compromises and it's fair to say that the Bruna has the cuffs of a wind-top.
Minimalism has its price. The Bruna's cuffs are a limiting feature of the jacket (though not something we'd change).
The zip is one of the least snagging zips we've come across and uses a rain resistant welt YKK zipper to "maximise the bend radius" and thus packability of the jacket. The zip is shielded by a storm guard which runs the full length of the jacket. All of which works extremely well and I didn't experience any water ingress via the zip.
The only annoyance (which is something you get used to after a while) is that to slot the zip "pin" (centre of the green box in pic #1 below) into the "slider" you have to peel back the storm flap to expose it. This would be fiddly and potentially annoying with winter gloves. Without gloves it's no problem, you get used to it after a few days.
The Black Yak Bruna has an excellent no-snag zip but it can be fiddly with gloves.
The Bruna packs away into its back pocket (in theory), reversing into a zipped stuff sack of imperfect cylindrical form with attending carabiner loop. It's a tight fit and there's a knack to stuffing this thing. You really need to stuff each end to the max to leave enough room to get the whole jacket in. I'm not sure if the smaller sizes are less crammed, but I found I would only attempt stuffing it properly over lunch or some other static break and while on the move I simply folded it inwards then rolled it up and used an elastic band to keep it tightly packed. That worked fine.
When you do get the sausage made, it's a tidy package measuring approximately 8 x 18 cm:
The Black Yak Bruna: a tidy package.
The "negatives" for the Bruna jacket are, in the main, simply limitations. If one comes to terms with what this jacket truly is (and thus what it isn't), there aren't many out and out negatives to be had. There are however a few gripes and grumbles.
The stuff-sack / back pocket could be a little bigger. The zip storm flap could start a little higher to make accessing the zip pin easier.
The cuffs and lack of hand pockets are the jacket's main limitations, but to be honest, I wouldn't change either. Aside from its overall performance, high quality materials and finish, the Bruna's biggest selling point is its weight and Black Yak have gone for a minimalist cuff, which works well enough and if you start to add zipped pockets and velcro fasteners you've lost all your weight advantage.
In our view the Bruna is first and foremost an outstanding windproof jacket which happens to also be a highly competent, fully seam-taped waterproof. Looking at it this way the jacket makes complete sense. You can have it on in high winds and, if the heavens open and it starts to hammer it down, you put up the hood and just keep going.
Black Yak's Bruna is about as minimalist a fully waterproof jacket can get. It's the kind of versatile unobtrusive item that you want to make space for in your kit bag as you know it's going to get plenty of use. It will block out the wind better (approx. 95% wind resistant) than many lightweight wind-tops and due to its impressive membrane manages moisture vapour extremely well.
The Bruna is unlikely to replace a fully featured waterproof for use in persistent wet and freezing cold conditions largely because it lacks two things: 1) zipped hand pockets and 2) adjustable wrist fasteners. However, what the Bruna does have is executed to a very high standard: the micro ripstop face fabric; the waterproof membrane and seam sealing; and the truly excellent hood, all make this jacket a compelling option for going light on 2 to 3 season treks. Black Yak's Bruna ultralight waterproof is an impressive performer and well worth a special mention.
Last Updated: 10/02/22 (added to conclusion)