Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Gear Closet: Jöttnar Fenrir Hydrophobic Down Jacket

One of my favorite advances in the area of outdoor gear over the past few years has been the introduction of water-resistant down. Before the creation of this type of insulation, anytime a down jacket or sleeping bag got wet, it became practically useless. Wet down loses its loft, becomes clumpy, and can even freeze solid. But with this new type of down insulation that isn't the case, and an increasing number of companies are incorporating it into their products, improving the overall performance in the process. Case in point, the Fenrir jacket from Jöttnar, which uses Downtek insulation to create a warm, lightweight outer layer that is built for alpine pursuits.

If you're not familiar with Jöttnar just yet, it is probably because the U.K.-based company is still relatively new on the scene, and hasn't made a big impact on this side of the pond just yet. But they're hoping to change that in the near future, and considering the line-up of outdoor performance gear that they offer, I think you'll probably be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

The Fenrir is one of the company's flagship down jackets, and is a good example of their approach to design gear for use in extreme conditions. Lightweight and highly packable, the jacket weighs a mere 13.2 ounces (380 g), but offers a level of performance that you might find in a heavier, bulkier product. Stuffed with 850 fill power down, Jöttnar has placed its water-repellant insulation in strategic areas throughout the jacket to help make it as efficient and comfortable as possible. As a result, the Fenrir has been designed to provide protection where it is needed most, without becoming overly bulky.

In fact, one of the things that I like the most about this jacket is its athletic cut and design. This is a precut that has been designed with outdoor athletes in mind, and as a result it hugs the body closely, providing a fit that doesn't impede movement in any way, but also ensures that the warmth is kept inside, close to the body where it will do the most good.

The outer fabrics of the Fenrir include rip-stop nylon that has been designed to keep the howling winds at bay. Those same fabrics are also water resistant and treated with a DWR coating that will repel just about anything short of a serious downpour. That helps to keep the Downtek insulation inside the jacket from getting overly wet as well, even though it is capable of staying dry for up to 10 times longer than traditional down as well.

Other features that are much appreciated include an interior pocket large enough to hold a smartphone, two hand-warming pockets on either side of the jacket, and elastic cuffs that were specifically designed to help keep the heat in. Drawcords along the bottom of the Fenrir allow the wearer to dial in just the right fit, and those same cords have been engineered to avoid snagging them on external objects while on the move.

As someone who is a frequent traveler, one of my favorite features of this jacket is its ability to pack down to a very small footprint. Jöttnar even includes a stuff sack along with the Fenrir that allows you to store the jacket until it is needed, without taking up too much room in your backpack. This will come in handy on many future trips where a warm jacket is needed, but you won't want to sacrifice carrying capacity.

When used as part of a layering system – consisting of base layers, a mid-layer, and an outer shell – the Fenrir truly comes alive. This is a warm, comfortable, puffy jacket, without too much of the puffy part. The fact that it also features a classic, simple, but elegant, design makes it easy to wear around town on cold weather days without feeling like you're out of place. But the Fenrir was designed for performance in the mountains, and that is where it truly shines. The jacket will keep you warm on the trail in incredibly bad conditions, allowing you to keep moving without compromise. What more could we possibly ask for out of our gear?

Jöttnar sells the Fenrir for £200, which roughly translates to $300 at the current exchange rate. That's a relative bargain for a jacket that performs at this level, and offers so much versatility. The biggest challenge you're likely to have is tracking one down here in the States or in North America in general. Hopefully that will change soon, as this is certainly a brand to keep an eye on, and their gear is top notch in every way.

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