UKH

Salewa Ortles TirolWool Celliant Jacket Review

It may look like a conventional midweight synthetic duvet, but under the bonnet the Ortles Jacket (let's ditch the full name) turns out to be an unusual blend of wool and synthetic insulation. In order to do something new, it seems, Salewa have taken a step into the past. Wool clothing was of course standard wear for mountaineers of yore, but in recent decades it has been almost entirely replaced by synthetic alternatives. So what's the idea of bringing it back?

In colder weather it's good worn on the go, 264 kb
In colder weather it's good worn on the go
© Dan Bailey

Insulation - what exactly is it?

Inside is Salewa's own TirolWool Celliant, an unusual natural/synthetic hybrid comprising 40% wool and 60% polyester. You get 80g/m2 in the sleeves (better for movement) and 100g/m2 in the body (which needs more insulation). This seems a pretty standard amount of insulation for a midweight jacket that you might walk or climb in, not just stand still on a belay.

The synthetic bit (Celliant) sounds high tech. Something called a 'thermo-reactive mineral', it is ground into micron-sized particles and added to the polyester before it is extruded as a filament. This means it is permanently embedded in the yarn and so shouldn't wear off over time. Salewa say that it 'reflects and recycles radiant heat back to the body', as well as having a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than wool alone. In fact, they go further. Here's what they say:

"Celliant minerals [...] recycle radiant body energy (heat) into infrared light and convert, store and reflect it back to the body over time. This Far Infrared Radiation (FIR) increases microcirculation and peripheral blood flow in a similar way to a small infrared sauna. Or, to put it simply, the body maintains its optimal temperature for longer."

"In July 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Celliant® products are now recognised as "medical devices and general wellness products". In addition, according to a study by the US National Institute of Health, America's most important American authority for medical research, socks made with Celliant® promote greater pain reduction for patients with chronic foot pain."

With the temperature in double figures, it's getting a bit much on the uphills..., 176 kb
With the temperature in double figures, it's getting a bit much on the uphills...
© Dan Bailey

I honestly can't say how these scientific-sounding claims stack up in the real world, and I definitely haven't noticed a difference in my own performance. But probably more important than any 'wellness' claim is how well it insulates. I'm told that the Celliant/wool fill has thermal performance similar to that of Primaloft Silver or Gold, which would make it pretty good.

In use the jacket is certainly snug. When you're stationary - breezy summit stops for instance, or hanging around at the bottom of the crag - the Ortles Jacket feels pretty warm for its weight. At 547g (size L, on my kitchen scales) it is on a par in terms of weight with more conventional midweight synthetic-fill jackets, and seems to offer about as much warmth as the best of these that I've tried - with the caveat that such things are impossible for a reviewer to judge objectively. So it's good, but perhaps not a revolution in terms of warmth-to-weight.

In colder conditions this jacket feels comparatively breathable when worn on the move. On snowy or windy days I haven't noticed getting sweaty when walking or climbing in it (within reason - if you're running uphill then all bets are off). That's not something you can say about all 100% synthetic-filled jackets, some of which can be sweaty when you're on the go. Obviously, in warmer weather you do soon overheat if you're doing anything active in the Ortles Jacket. This isn't a thin summer jacket, and once temperatures get up to low double figures I've found it too warm for moving in.

If the Celliant stuff works so well, then why did Salewa go for a hybrid at all? What does the 40% wool part bring to the table? In a word, durability. Due to the fineness of their fibres, synthetic fills can start to lose their loft after repeated washes. Wool resists this compression better, and thus lasts longer. So the idea of this natural/synthetic blend is to give you the best of both worlds, the performance of a quality synthetic fill and the longer lifespan of wool. These days we might all do better to invest in clothing that lasts, so top marks to Salewa here. Its price may be at the high end, but if it goes on performing well for longer then the Ortles Jacket could be considered value for money.

It's cold and windy outside, but I'm snug inside, 226 kb
It's cold and windy outside, but I'm snug inside
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

The main body has a nylon ripstop outer, which is light but seems reasonably tough. Across the shoulders it's a thicker fabric called Powertex Extreme. Cleverly, you also get this around the bottom hem and at the wrists, two areas that, like the shoulders, see more wear than most bits of a jacket. There's a DWR finish throughout. I've found this works well for shrugging off snow or a bit of snowmelt, but I've yet to try it in rain (and hence I can't yet comment on the performance of the insulation when damp either). The fabric feels pretty wind resistant, and I've worn the Ortles Jacket comfortably without a shell on a windy mountain day in winter conditions. For all but the windiest or foulest winter weather I think the Ortles would do well as your outer layer.

Fit

A women's version is also available, with a good range of sizes for both sexes.

There's room in the body to wear the Ortles Jacket over a couple of lighter layers, a T-shirt and thin fleece for instance. As such it can function either as a midlayer - it fits fine under a winter shell - or as an outer layer. Hem length is good too, coming a bit below the waist and offering at least a bit of buttock coverage. The drawcord adjusters at the waist work well, and the elastic tails are directed up inside the jacket out of snagging range.

Since we're not all built the same the fit is likely to come out different on everyone. On me, despite the supposedly active cut, there just isn't enough articulation in the arms. As a result I get a lot of hem lift when the arms are raised, which means that when climbing the jacket tends to pull out from under a harness.

photo
Sleeves fit over thin gloves fine
© Dan Bailey

photo
...But not over fat ones
© Dan Bailey

There's quite a close fit in the sleeves, particularly from the elbows down. Thanks to this I would struggle to wear the Ortles Jacket over a full winter climbing outfit, and hence it's not really usable as an over-the-top winter belay refuge. The close-fitting sleeves also inhibit arm movement a bit when you are layered up over anything bulkier than a microfleece. You can't roll the sleeves up far to vent - something I like to do. And the cuffs, with their stretchy but close-fitting inner sleeve, are too tight to pull over a bulky glove. If you're wearing gauntlet-style gloves then they have to go outside the sleeves, which is a shame since it'd be nice to have the option to fit them underneath.

Features

As a jacket explicitly designed for mountaineering the Ortles has a major flaw - the hood. This is not big enough to fit properly over a helmet. It is however soft and unstructured, and can at a pinch be worn underneath your helmet instead, though that feels a bit restrictive and none too comfy under the chin. The hood does give a snug fit on a helmet-free head, but I've found that once the fit has been cinched in at the back and the front zip pulled to the top, head movement is somewhat compromised. Also, since it lacks any stiffening in the brim, there's a tendency for it to flap in the wind. Overall the hood is not a strong point

You can't fit the hood over a helmet and then do up the zip..., 164 kb
You can't fit the hood over a helmet and then do up the zip...
© Dan Bailey

The two zipped hand pockets are a good size for hat, gloves etc. Unfortunately they are placed slightly too low, and only half-accessible when wearing a rucksack, or if you have a harness over the jacket. A single smaller zipped chest pocket is also provided, and I've tended to carry my phone in this. You also get two stretchy mesh inner pockets, designed for keeping gloves in. When winter climbing and swapping between pairs of gloves I like being able to keep one pair inside my jacket, where it will hopefully have a chance to get warm and dry out a bit. Sadly the Ortles Jacket doesn't stash into one of its own pockets for carrying on a harness. You do get a stuff sack, although this lacks a karabiner loop. It's a pretty big bundle when stuffed too - I have sleeping bags that compress to this sort of size. This is not a particularly packable jacket. Perhaps that reflects the fact that wool isn't as compressible as polyester fill?

It's not a particularly compact jacket, 148 kb
It's not exactly compact when packed

The YKK Vislon main zip feels suitably robust for a mountain jacket, and is backed with a decent draught-excluding flap. There's no nice soft chin guard, which is a lack I can live with; more annoying is the fact that there's only one zipper, which limits the Ortles' usefulness as a belay jacket.

photo
Early November on the Fiacaill Ridge
© Dan Bailey

Summary

Its unusual wool/synthetic fill seems really good, but certain elements of the design unfortunately niggle, and these undermine the Ortles Jacket's role as a winter climbing or alpine jacket - something at which it might otherwise excel. Bearing in mind the poor hood, the tight wrists and the hem lift, I will probably save it for hillwalking or easy mountaineering days this winter, and pick something with a more active cut when climbing. That's a shame, since with a better cut the Ortles would be a real contender for climbers as well as walkers.

Salewa say:

The Ortles TirolWool® Celliant® Jacket is a warm, wind-resistant and water-repellent jacket for alpine mountaineering, ski mountaineering, glacier mountaineering, ice climbing and more, with a nylon ripstop shell and Powertex Extreme reinforced shoulders. TirolWool® Celliant® is our proprietary lightweight, soft insulation material that combines wool from Tirolean sheep and innovative polyester fibres enhanced with thermo-reactive minerals. Heat emitted by the body is absorbed and converted into infrared radiation, which is stored and reflected back to the body – keeping you warmer for longer. And the soft, fleecy material is highly compressible, so your insulation remains packed down small in your backpack until you need it. Featuring free motion patterning to prevent hem-lift while climbing and designed according to the SALEWA® body mapping system, it can be worn alone as a warm outer layer or as an insulating mid layer under a shell. With an insulated, fitted hood with integrated high storm collar.

Ortles Celliant jacket prod shot, 46 kb

  • Sizes: XS-XXL (men) 4-14 (women)
  • Weight: 547g (size L, our weight)
  • Insulation: Tirolwool Celliant
  • Reinforced areas: Powertex Extreme 2L 10k Ripstop 83BS
  • Main material: Nylon Double Ripstop 56BS
  • Durable Water Repellent C6
  • Insulated fitted hood
  • Ergonomic sleeves and shoulders
  • Free motion patterning ensures no hem-lift
  • Elasticated tight cuff for snow protection
  • One-hand elastic hem adjustment
  • Zoned insulation
  • Front zip with internal windproof flap
  • Zipped chest pocket
  • 2 zipped outer pockets
  • 2 spacious mesh inner pockets
  • Reduced stitching for clean finished look
  • Bluesign® approved fabric

For more info see salewa.com

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