Masthead header

IMG_0155

Here’s something else that got a serious try out over the winter and spring and I’m only getting round to writing up now. That could be because I like to thoroughly test before committing my opinions here, or it could be because I procrastinate a lot. Probably both.

Time for some serious insulation, this the Jöttnar Fjörm.

Jottnar Fjorm

So far, Jöttnar have really impressed me with their approach. They’re a company with a small range of kit, focusing on providing the best quality of gear that’s specifically designed for mountaineers. There’s no high street stuff here, only technical wear for serious mountain goers. The range is slowly expanding and every piece has been clearly thought through; not by a committee of designers with goatees and lattes, but by people who actually use the kit in real mountains. That gets my vote.

The Fjörm is a technical insulation piece. One of the great joys of Scotland is that sometimes it can be cold and dry, and sometimes it can be cold and wet. Down jackets have always been great in proper cold, but once you bring moisture into the mix, it’s not so good and synthetics start to win the battle for warmth when wet. The Fjörm is a hybrid of both down and synthetic. It’s a 20 denier nylon outer shell, filled with 850 fill-power Downtek hydrophobic down, but in addition there are sections of synthetic, particularly in the areas most likely to get wet like the hem and cuffs. Pretty much ideal for a Scottish winter then.

Jottnar Fjorm

Other features include a helmet friendly hood, with stiffened peak, big handwarmer pockets, an internal pocket that will take a 1 litre bottle, a two-way main zip with glove friendly zip pulls and one-handed hem cording. My handheld scales are broken, but by juggling on the kitchen scales it seems my large weighs in at just over 600g.

Jottnar Fjorm

Jottnar Fjorm Jottnar Fjorm

I’ve used it as a belay jacket, a winter camp jacket and a standing about in the snow chatting to people jacket. It’s excelled in all roles. It packs down small, it’s very warm for the weight and the outer shell sheds snow nicely. The two way zip is handy when you’re wearing a harness. It layers nicely over the top of bulky midlayers and yet the fit is still good and not too roomy. I’ve even thrown it on top of wet hard shells and it’s coped fine.When it gets nasty, you can batten down the hatches and hide away in the deep hood.

I haven’t found any significant downsides. I guess the price will be the one that’s mentioned most in the feedback I’ll get. You can’t have the best materials, design and construction and not expect to pay for it, but we’ve had that chat before so I’ll not labour the point.

I’ve grown very fond of this jacket, it’s like a safe haven on the wildest days. There’s some internal warmth to be had too from the joyous green colour which always makes me smile when I pull it out of my pack on a dreich day. The Fjörm reeks of quality and is almost like someone has made a bespoke design to suit my personal needs.

I’ve had a synthetic jacket on test from Rab for the same amount of time, and when it comes to the real cold weather, the Fjörm outperforms it for less than half the weight. Once it gets soggy and you’re stood belaying in sleety drizzle, then the synthetic wins out, it’s hydrophobic down but it can’t work miracles. Having said that, if it’s that wet you’re gonna be too hot in the Fjörm anyway.

When it gets proper cold, the Fjörm is unbeatable.

Highly recommended.

Jottnar Fjorm

 

IMG_0077

I managed to land one of these pre-launch and have been using it for 3 seasons. This was the MSR Windboiler when it arrived and is now the MSR Windburner.

Regulars here will know that I love the MSR Reactor. It’s the most weather resistant and speedy canister stove I’ve ever used and was my first choice when heading out in winter. It did have a couple of flaws: the 1.8L version was a bit too big and heavy for the solo traveller and the 1.0L pot was too small to fit the stove burner in with a 100g canister without serious scratching on the titanium.   The Windburner was designed for solo use from the ground up, so on paper, potentially my new favourite stove ever.

MSR Windboiler

The radiant burner head is similar to that used in the Reactor. The pot is 1.0L capacity which is perfect for a dehydrated meal and a cuppa. The integrated cosy and handle caters for the Jetboil market and adds a little insulation and easier handling. There’s a new lightweight plastic canister stand, a lid with pourer and strainer and a plastic measuring cup/bowl that covers the heat exchanger when it’s not in use.

Out on the hill, it’s very similar to the Reactor to use, but better to pack. The pot will take the burner, a 100g canister along with the stand and the wee towel without any scraping or squeezing. The burner slots onto the cup easily and stays locked. A meal and a cuppa can be ready in a few minutes, which is always welcome. There’s no piezo ignition, but I carry a firesteel inside the pot and it always lights first time, even in windy conditions. Boil times are slower than the reactor, but still decent; I can have my dinner ready before I’ve finished pitching the tent, which is my general measure of acceptable time.  Other blogs will get the stopwatch out for these, but I can’t be arsed with that degree of stove geekery. Gas efficency is great, with a 125g cartridge lasting me 3 days on average, with multiple meals and cuppas each day. The lid is snug and the pouring action is good, so no unexpected lapful of hot water. The plastic grips on the burner make it easier to handle when it’s hot and the cozy with integrated handle is better than the Jetboil equivalent in that it stays in place when you use it.

MSR Windboiler

Downsides? Well, the wee plastic cup is too tight when it’s cold and you can’t get it off the base of the stove without significant brute force and annoyance. So much so that I had to take an ice tool to it on it’s third outing. I just leave it at home now. I’m told that’s resolved in the production version. The wee canister stand gets brittle in the cold too. I’ve reverted to using the MSR universal canister stand, which is wider and made of metal. Given how tall the stove is, more stability is a good thing. Additionally, the control is tricky. I found that when trying to slow things down to a less ferocious boil, it’s easy to turn the gas right off. Control of the valve is a little unforgiving at the bottom end. It’s a minor thing, but it did make me mutter a few times on cold nights when I was trying to simmer my chocolate pudding.

Has it replaced the Reactor as my favourite stove? Yes, I think it might have, just not with the same fanfare of trumpets as the Reactor. It’s not perfect, but it’s good to know that the weather will have no impact on your ability to get a cuppa. Having spend years messing about with windshields and the like, I like something that’s just simple. I suspect they may revise it further, but for now it goes in my pack every time. Recommended.

MSR Windburner

 

I’ve been using this through the winter and spring and it’s time to talk about it. This is the Arc’teryx Alpha AR jacket.

Arc

The AR bit stands for All Round, which is a concept I like. I don’t want to have different jackets for different activities, I’d rather have one that fairly light and is good for walking, scrambling and climbing.  It’s a three layer Gore Pro piece, the face fabric is a 40 denier Nylon in a plain weave. Arc’teryx call it N40P-X. It’s fairly light and durable. There are reinforced areas, with an 80 denier version on the shoulders, forearms and hood. My Large weighs in at 417g. The main jist is that they’ve balanced out weight with increased durability in key areas. A fine compromise if you want an all-rounder.

Arc

 

 

You’ve got pit zips, two big chest pockets and an internal pocket. The pockets are big enough for a map and they’re nice and high so you can get into them when harnessed or wearing a pack, or both. The adjusters and zip pulls are all glove friendly and there’s a wee foam block sewn into the hem to stop it riding up when you’re wearing a harness, which is a nice touch.The hood is super roomy and easily takes a helmet. Adjustment is good and there’s a stiffened peak.

Arc Arc Arc Arc Arc

As usual for Arc’teryx, the cut favours the larger gentleman. This is despite it being their ‘Athletic Fit’.  They say it’s allow for layering, but we all know it’s to allow for pies.

So real life performance then. If you’re climbing it works really well, allowing for harness, helmet and pack nicely. If you’re scrambling you get some resilience where you need it on the forearms and shoulders, and good reach-high seams. I’ve been scrambling a lot in this and it’s still looking like new. If you’re backpacking or walking, you get the rain protection for not much in the way of weight. After 6 months of steady use, the DWR is still bearing up.  Foul weather performance is good, regulars will know I avoid membrane jackets until the weather is really grim, but once it’s on the breathability is pretty good and the venting options help. The hood is a bit too big for me, and the cut is over generous for my frame, so there’s a fair bit of fabric flap on the windy days.

Is it really an all rounder? Kinda. I’d say it’s ideal for mountaineers or alpinists, and it’s feature set ticks all the boxes. If that’s you, then you really need to take a look. It’s pretty good for scramblers, walkers and backpackers too, but there are other choices out there that maybe lighter or more robust depending on your preference. If you never do anything involving ropes and harnesses then you’ll need to shop around to be sure. The usual caveats apply for Arc’teryx: it’s better cut for the big-boned than the skinny and the price will make your wallet cry but having something that’ll cover multiple scenarios makes that pain a little more bearable.

If like me you do a bit of everything and don’t want to have a separate jacket for every occasion, you should add the Alpha AR to your shortlist.

 

IMG_0198

  • July 13, 2015 - 3:06 pm

    More-On - Very good photo Michael.
    Nice to see what it looks like without snow, especially as on my last visit the view was obscured by a blizzard if I remember correctly!
    Richard

  • July 16, 2015 - 10:49 am

    MT - Ah, indeed. Any plans to return?

  • July 29, 2015 - 11:28 am

    More-On - Absolutely. No idea when, but I’ll be back!

  • August 1, 2015 - 9:24 am

    MT - Good lad. Let me know when you’re in the zone and we can meet up, properly this time.

_MG_7909

I know, it’s been quiet round here hasn’t it?

There have been things. So many things that my creative boat is swamped and partially submerged.

When my mojo returns, so shall this; normal service will be resumed.

While you’re waiting, here is a photie of fresh air.

 

a26145916w50643381p51270675