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Jöttnar Technical Clothing

A Sidetracked Review | Written by Daniel Wildey

Launched to a subtle fanfare in October 2013, the Jöttnar logo has been ubiquitous in the climbing world all winter, sponsoring Kendal Mountain Festival and the Fort William and Banff equivalents, as well as kitting out the Lochaber MRT and popping up on all the right websites. A pretty confident start for a new UK-based brand but then it would need to be, entering as they are into the crowded upper echelons of technical alpine clothing. This confidence is more than empty swagger; the initial range of four different pieces has been over two years in the making – that works out at six months planning and testing on every item! So does it show?
Jottnar Bergelmir Jacket

ITEM: Bergelmir Jacket
PRICE: £450
STYLE: Waterproof Shell Jacket
WEIGHT: 510g (mens medium)
ACTIVITY: Alpine and Ski Mountaineering
WHAT THEY SAY: ‘Our flagship technical mountain shell, built for total protection and uncompromised performance. Constructed in a grade of Polartec® Neoshell®, especially selected and tested by Jöttnar for hand feel and durability, it delivers true breathability, stretch and robustness in a lightweight and fully waterproof package. Streamlined, uncluttered, durable and athletically cut, Bergelmir is a modern day suit of armour.’

Jottnar Vanir Salopettes

ITEM: Vanir Salopettes
PRICE: £350
STYLE: Waterproof Shell Pants
WEIGHT: 690g (mens medium)
ACTIVITY: Alpine and Ski Mountaineering
WHAT THEY SAY: ‘A fully featured winter salopette designed for extreme mountain conditions. Constructed from Polartec® Neoshell® it delivers true breathability, stretch and robustness in a lightweight and fully waterproof package. With an athletic cut, articulated and reinforced knees, zip-out gaiters, stretch-woven back, harness-friendly ¾ length side zips and full-sized Kevlar™ instep protectors, Vanir is the professional’s choice.’

Jottnar Alfar Mid-layer

ITEM: Alfar Mid-layer
PRICE: £170
STYLE: Insulating Mid-layer Jacket
WEIGHT: 465g
ACTIVITY: Alpine and Ski Mountaineering
WHAT THEY SAY: ‘A versatile and lightweight hooded hybrid designed for multi-condition mountain abuse. Worn either as an outer or mid-layer, Alfar is aimed at fast-paced aerobic activity in cold environments where freedom of movement is crucial. The body is insulated with Duoregulation™ ADVANSA Thermo°cool® and wrapped in a windproof, DWR treated, ripstop nylon. The sleeves and side panels are constructed from Polartec® Powerstretch Pro® to optimise stretch and breathability.’

All three pieces under review look the part. Even from photographs it’s clear that the gear means business, with a sleek and solid design on the outer layers along with the almost retro-space-age vibe of the Alfar mid-layer. So on a recent ski trip to Tignes I didn’t look out of place. Granted, Jottnar will probably not make it onto the bedroom floor of most saggy-bottomed seasonnaires, but for those who know mountains are for life – not just for a gap year – this is serious kit.

It was a strange January week at 1800m – up to 9ºC in the village, but still sub-zero on the glacier, and not a cloud in the sky. At first glance, it was not a testing environment for full-on winter clothing. But that range of temperatures, as well as the varying physical output of hiking for high lines, cruising blue and getting aggressive with the low-level crud in the trees, would have been challenging for any clothing. What struck me most was the clothing’s ability to handle this variety of conditions. Having never used Polartec NeoShell before, I was seriously impressed with its ability to regulate my temperature even when I was working hard in the chopped up, heavy snow.

I usually ski in fairly low-profile touring boots, and the Vanir Salopettes fit snuggly around them. However on the day I rented a pair of fatties, the rental boots I used making for a very tight fit with the pants. The slender cut of the Vanir is perfect for me and is a welcome change from flappy over-trousers. But they’re designed as an all-round mountain pant, to be used with B3 climbing boots as much as with ski touring boots, so a balance has to be struck. It’s worth bearing this in mind when sizing them up.

The Bergelmir shell has a similarly athletic cut, but is quite roomy in the shoulders to allow for movement. It’s probably designed with axe-swinging in mind, rather than my flailing ski poles every time I hit a patch of windblown crust! The mobility effect is equally welcome though.

it’s clear that the gear means business, with a sleek and solid design on the outer layers along with the almost retro-space-age vibe of the Alfar mid-layer
Jottnar clothing
A more appropriate test was yet to come, as I flew south to climb in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains. Jöttnar has its origins in alpinism, so I was looking forward to the mountaineering test on the highest peak in North Africa – Toubkal. Again breathability was key as we set off hiking from the near-desert environment with the blazing sunshine battling the winter air temperature. While others were stripping down to fleece layers or softshells, I was comfortable in the Bergelmir with a merino wool layer underneath. The Alfar insulation was superb at the high altitude refuge when the night temperatures dropped massively; the hood and the high neck offering supreme cosiness without the bulk of a down jacket.

The real genius of the Alfar however lies in the Polartec fleece panels, which dump excess heat without you even noticing. Higher up on the trail the group were scrabbling around for down jackets every time we had a pitstop, but the temperature regulation of this layering system is so effective that I barely had to alter it in the colder reaches of the mountain. As I was filming the ascent for a promo-video this was absolutely invaluable; less time faffing meant more time focussing and you don’t have to be a cameraman to appreciate that! A superb layering piece in all respects.

The Vanir pants were also in their element; roomy enough for a pair of Polartec tights underneath, but fitted enough to stay out of the way, I didn’t snag a crampon once. I’ve never had a pair of winter climbing pants that I can say that about. If I had caught a front point I’m sure the burly kick-patches would have brushed it aside! My only frustration with the Vanir is the lack of a right-hand pocket. There is a hand-warmer on the left side which is great for lift-pass positioning on the ski slopes, but a right-hand equivalent would have been useful. Otherwise I don’t have a single criticism – these are hands down the best mountain pants I’ve used.

And the Bergelmir shell jacket is up there too. Using NeoShell instead of any other membrane is the key; the incredible breathability is not only noticeable, it’s a pleasure to try and push its limits. The climber’s cut allows athleticism and the pared-down design gives you just what you need, and nothing you don’t.

It can’t be easy to start a new brand at the very top but that’s exactly what Jöttnar have done. Where can they take it from here?

Jöttnar.com@jottnar


Read a note on Sidetracked reviews here.

The Alfar insulation was superb at the high altitude refuge when the night temperatures dropped massively; the hood and the high neck offering supreme cosiness without the bulk of a down jacket.

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