When the guys at Jöttnar asked us to review their new range of technical alpine clothing we obviously jumped at the chance, especially as it gave us an excuse to go play in the cold!
For those of you that are into alpine sports, Jöttnar will probably need no introduction. However, for those of you that aren’t (or have just had their heads buried in the snow), they provide top quality, high performance, technical clothing that has been tried and tested in the playgrounds of the Norwegian mountains.
Our initial dilemma came with deciding where to we take the gear and how best to test it? Well, as luck would have it, the receipt of the Bergelmir Jacket and the Vanir Salopettes lined up perfectly with a training expedition to the Cordillera Blanca! This meant that the gear would be subjected to conditions half a world away from the ‘comfort’ of Norway, but also that we would have to opportunity to see how it performed during a number of different activities.
Unfortunately, our sea-level seasoned bodies meant, before trotting up to the dizzy heights of the Peruvian mountains where we could really put the gear through its paces, we had to acclimatise. With that in mind, we decided what better way to do that then by visiting the highest wonder of the world?
OK, so this wasn’t the environment that Jöttnar intended for the clothing but the conditions gave us out first insight into just how waterproof and breathable the Bergelmir Jacket was (the Vanir Salopettes laid dormant, reserved for the more challenging conditions ahead). The varying weather also helped us assess the general fit, comfort and ease of the jacket, as well as providing us an opportunity to use some of its other features.
Not only did the combo continue perform when faced with a new challenge every day, they produced the only dry souls on the mountain (not excluding the guide, with his top end, sponsored alpine clothing).
Jöttnar Bergelmir Jacket & Vanir Salopette © 2014 Jöttnar
So after adjusting to the lack of air on the tourist trials to Machu Picchu, it was time to venture northwards and upwards to the mountains of the Huarscaran Park, where the gear would really be put to test. What followed was six days of multi activities in a wide range of weather conditions, from climbing on beautiful sunny days on solid ice to trudging around in white out conditions and knee deep melted sludge. Although this certainly wasn’t the most relaxing equipment review we’ve conducted, it was effective in giving us an understanding of capabilities of this clothing. Anyway, enough of the South American holiday stories, here’s how the gear performed in the following key areas:
Kicking off with probably one of the most important qualities, and in our opinion, an area where this equipment really excels. Having worn both the Bergelmir Jacket and the Vanir Salopettes in various amounts and types of precipitation, we can honestly say that, when worn as a pair, they are truly a force to be reckoned with. In fact, we had nearly given up hope in the search for a set of waterproof clothing that could stand up to laying in wet snow all day, but Jöttnar have managed to give us a new ray of hope!
Not only did the combo continue perform when faced with a new challenge every day, they produced the only dry souls on the mountain (not excluding the guide, with his top end, sponsored alpine clothing). This impressive result was not only achieved by the use of the latest three layer Polartech Neoshell material, which has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm, but also by protecting the vulnerable areas with taped seams and YKK Aquaguard protected zips. In addition to these common attributes, the Vanir Salopettes also incorporate removable internal gaiters with their own boot clasps.
Admittedly, we still used some Goretex outer gaiters when the weather turned particularly bad, however they do deserve sufficient credit for helping keep our feet dry and warm. All this said, out of the several days spent in the mountains, we did experience slightly damp wrists during one of them, however we’ve put that down to inadequate gloves rather than a failing of the jacket.
In our opinion, the ability for outerwear to breathe comes a close second to its waterproofness. Ultimately, what’s the point in keeping water out if you are just end up drenching yourself from the inside? Even when unpacking the Bergelmir Jacket, one of the first things we notice was the surprising fact that it doesn’t have pit zips like the majority of its equivalents.
This is definitely a benefit when fighting against fluid ingress (two less holes to worry about), however it did make us question the trade off when considering its potential for venting. Likewise, the removable gaiters of the Vanir Sallopettes provided another layer of water defence, but what affect would these have on a sweaty foot incased in a plastic boot?
It turned out that neither of these concerns were justified as the internal moisture control of the Polartech Neoshell proved to be as effective as its external control. Even on some of the warmer days during some of the more strenuous activities we managed to keep our cool!
The fit of the Bergelmir Jacket was perfect for us, it was tight enough to keep us warm but loose enough to breath and allow for extra layers when needed (although this was a rarity). The Vanir Salopettes also fitted well, however we found that the range of the mid strap did not really account for our fragile frames. That being said, the front zip/popper combination provided ample security and we managed to compensate for any slack by adjusting the braces accordingly.
The natural stretch and feel of the material coupled with the ergonomics of design, has resulted in clothing that is comfortable for most activities, on either single or multi-day expeditions. We trialed the medium sizes of each and these weigh in at 510g for the jacket and 690g for the sallopettes. This does not make them the lightest or most packable outerwear on the market, but when you consider the above benefits, those extra few grams are more than worth it.
It is widely known that standard Polartech material has an amazing degree of heat retention, and we can now say the same about the Polartech Neoshell. We found that, even on the coldest of the active days, just a single base layer under the jacket and sallopettes was sufficient. When the activities stopped and the temperature dropped even further, additional mid layers were necessary but the Jöttnar gear maintained its insulating properties without ever compromising its ability to breath.
There is little to be said about the ability to don a jacket, particularly when it is equipped with a full length front zip, however the same cannot be said about sallopettes. If you then throw a pair of alpine boots into the mix, things can get pretty arduous, but the Vanir’s ¾ length side zips and full length front zip definitely ease this process. One further benefit of this front zip is that, because it runs all the way to the crotch, it allows access to relieve oneself even when strapped into a harness (although we suspect this only applies from a male perspective)!
Now we know we’ve mentioned the Polartech Neoshell a couple of times already, but is really is an all rounder, so deserves a mention in each of these categories. In this respect, it is surprising how robust and hard wearing it feels, even though it still provides a suitable degree of stretch. This results in the Jöttnar gear allowing plenty of movement, as well as a feeling of comfort, but without that feeling like one snag is going to leave them in shreds.
Certainly one feature that emphasises the ruggedness of this clothing line is the Kevlar instep patches of the Sallopettes which are a necessity for people whose crampon technique is as good as ours (too many years of wearing dainty rock shoes)! In addition to these, the common wear areas of the Salopettes (around the knees, rump and crotch) are reinforced and the previously mentioned internal gaiters are manufactured from rip stop material, all of which provide further reassurance that they were built to last.
While reviewing the each of the above properties, we’ve obviously discussed the majority of the features already, but what else does this kit have to offer? Well we think it is fair to say that neither the Bergelmir Jacket or the Vanir Salopettes are packed with additional features (like some of the ‘inspector gadget gear’ out there), but we are of the opinion that it is this simplicity that allows them to meet their high level of technical performance. That being said, there are a few extra little hidden gems that are worth highlighting and these are as follows:
The Bergelmir Jacket
Helmet Compatible Hood – As you would expect with the majority of hooded technical jackets, however this one incorporates a wire stiffened brim with mouldable peak as well as internally protected pull cords. Two External Chest Pockets – Large enough to store most items that you need close to hand, including but not limited to, aguide book or OS map (snacks fit very well too)! An internal Chest Pocket – Perfectly sized for a passport, phone, wallet or GPS.
The Vanir Salopette
Under layer Access – Two waist zips provide access to any under layer pockets however, when wearing a harness, we found these of minimal value. Chest Pockets – Two pockets are provided on the chest panel, which we found particularly useful due to their inner mesh. Because of this they have warm body air continually circulating through them so we found ourselves regularly using them to dry small wet items of clothing (namely the inners of our failed gloves)! External Pocket – A single external pocket that can be used for small items, however much like the under layer access zips, we found these of little use when wearing a harness.
Value for money
Supposiedly money isn’t everything, but when you are on a shoestring and you’ve blown all your savings on international flights, it certainly feels pretty important, so in this section we will look at the cost of the gear. Firstly, it has got to be said, Jottnar equipment is not cheap but, as we said right at the start of this review, they do produce technical clothing at the high end of the spectrum. In this respect, we would say that the price of the majority of their clothing range would not suit the budget of a novice or casual mountaineer.
With the an RRP of £450 for the Bergelmir Jacket and £350 for the Vanir Salopettes, you definitely have be committed to invest in them, however if you are, we think you will see the value of your purchase almost immediately. You now what they say ‘you get what you pay for’ and, even though we can point out numerous examples where this is not the the case, we do think that this old adage does apply to the Jöttnar brand.