Monday, March 19, 2018

Gear Closet: Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Review

On my recent trip to Arctic Europe I was outfitted for the journey by Swedish brand Fjällräven, who hooked me up with some incredible gear to keep me warm, dry, and comfortable in the cold conditions. Over the course to this entire week, I'll be sharing my thoughts and reviews of the majority of that gear and letting you know why it should be in your gear closet as well. Most of the products I tested fell into the company's new Bergtagen line, which is a complete system built specifically with mountaineers in mind. That makes this gear a bit on the pricy side for the average consumer, but for the mountain professional, the guide, the avid adventurer, or explorer, this is the equipment you're going to want to have at your disposal, as it delivers amazing performance in the absolute worst of conditions.

I'll start this series of reviews with a look at the Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket, which falls into the active shell category when it comes to outdoor apparel. That means that it is the article of clothing that sits the closets to the elements when working as part of your layering system, so it has to be able to repel water, wind, snow, and other weather conditions in order to keep the wearer warm and comfortable at all times. The Eco-Shell can do that without breaking a sweat, and brings plenty of other nice performance features to the table too.

Made from waterproof, yet still highly breathable, hardshell fabrics, the Eco-Shell can shed water even if the rain is coming down in buckets. It's DWR coating prevents the moisture from penetrating the jacket's out defenses, while still allowing warm air from inside to escape. As a result, it keeps you drier and warmer in cold temperatures, allowing you to stay out longer without slowing down. Better yet, those fabrics are made from recycled fluorocarbon-free materials, which makes them good for the environment too.

The jacket features a nicely tapered, athletic cut that hugs the body nicely without impeding motion. This is important in all mountaineering activities of course, but especially so when you're looking to move fast and light. I personally prefer this style of fit as bulky clothing tends to just get in the way, but thankfully the Eco-Shell has been designed to compliment the layers that you were underneath, making it the perfect outer layer to match with a base layer and a down jacket for ultimate versatility in both good and bad weather conditions.

Other nice features include a helmet-compatible hood that is fully adjustable, water-resistant, two-way zippers, pit-zips for added ventilation on the sides, and Velcro adjustments on the cuffs. The jacket also includes dual chest pockets on the exterior with mesh pocket interiors and Recco reflectors integrated into the design. This handy feature makes it easier for search and rescue teams to locate climbers should they become stranded in the mountains.

Putting the Eco-Shell to the test in the Arctic, I found a lot to love about this jacket. First and foremost, it is very lightweight for the performance it offers, tipping the scales at 1.2 pounds (550 grams). Yes, there are far lighter jackets on the market, but very few of them even come close to offering the level of protection that Fjällräven has delivered here. This is a product that repels rain and wind like no other that I've ever tested and while its performance is probably overkill for the masses, for the true mountain adventurer it meets all of your expectations and then some.

Because the jacket is lightweight and thin, it is incredibly easy to pack as well. That makes it a versatile option no matter where you're headed. Even in warmer conditions where a full layering system isn't needed, the jacket works great as a rain shell or wind stopper. Its high level of breathability makes it a good choice for a wide range of activities as well, including trail running, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and so on.

Durability is an impressive feature as well with the jacket shrugging off all manner of external threats. I wore it extensively in a number of different environments ranging from urban outings to hikes at the tops of mountains, and it hasn't shown a single sign of wear and tear. There are no scuffs, abrasions, or cuts to be found, and aside form a little dirt it still looks completely brand new. That bodes well for it being a worthy investment for use on a wide variety of future adventures. In fact, this jacket is so bombproof that chances are you'll wear out before it does.

Of course, all of this performance comes at a price and as already indicated, the Bergtagen system features a high-end price tag. The Eco-Shell jacket will set you back $550, making it an ample investment indeed. Make no mistake, you will find other shell jackets on the market that perform very well for half the cost of this one. But, if you're looking for the absolute best protection, and you spend a lot of time in the high places of our planet, this is a jacket that will exceed your expectations. It is a garment that was made for those who demand the highest level of protection and performance, and it delivers on that promise in spades. The Eco-Shell is indeed expensive, but it is also worth every penny to the person who can't afford to compromise in the outdoors.

If that sounds like you, then you won't regret adding this jacket (and the Eco-Shell Pants that I'll cover tomorrow) to your wardrobe. In fact, it is such a high quality product that it could very well be the last jacket you'll ever need to buy. That alone says a lot about how well it actually performs.

Find out more on the Fjällräven website.

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