UKH

Jöttnar Grim women's shell Review

© Fliss Freeborn

Now available in a women's version as well as the original men's, the Grim is a rugged mountaineering shell intended for general mountain activities from skiing, to climbing, to walking, to sliding down Glas Maol on your belly like an excitable penguin. Ok, that last one isn't specified on Jöttnar's website, but it's a bonus nonetheless. The price tag is, like most Jöttnar kit, steep - but in return the jacket is robust yet reasonably lightweight, wonderfully breathable, and very, very good at being waterproof. It certainly lives up to its name in terms of the conditions for which it's designed: in general it has taken everything a slew of grim winter excursions could throw at it, and I've stayed warm, dry and comfortable each time. 

Durable, protective and breathable - a great all-round mountain shell for grim conditions  © Fliss Freeborn
Durable, protective and breathable - a great all-round mountain shell for grim conditions
© Fliss Freeborn

However, the Grim misses a few essential features for seamless transitioning between mountain activities. It feels more suited to those for whom winter walking forms their main activity, supplemented by the occasional spot of climbing or skiing, rather than vice versa. 

Weight and build quality

At 488g for a size Small on my kitchen scales, the Grim is a whole 12g lighter than advertised on Jöttnar's website. That's the difference between carrying a large shrew around in your pocket and not. For a robust winter jacket, 500g (minus a shrew) isn't untoward, and it certainly performs better in terms of breathability and waterproofing than some of the heavier jackets I've had over the years.

The seams and taping are excellent, which you'd rightly expect for the £450 price tag. However, some of the stitching has started to burr very slightly on the outside of the pocket zips, possibly because this jacket isn't designed to be used as a sledge in and of itself. That said, the pit-zips are starting to show a similar problem and they didn't get the same abuse as the front pockets during my low-tech bob-sleighing. For now though, this fraying seems purely cosmetic; I wouldn't have though that it bears any effect on the waterproofing ability of the jacket. That said, you might be a bit miffed if you'd splashed out all that cash and your purchase starts to look used within a relatively short timeframe.

The hand-height pockets do have their useful moments  © Fliss Freeborn
The hand-height pockets do have their useful moments
© Fliss Freeborn

I like the robust cuff adjusters, even if the sleeves are long on me  © Fliss Freeborn
I like the robust cuff adjusters, even if the sleeves are long on me
© Fliss Freeborn

Fit

As someone who is roughly the same size and shape as an ewok, the Grim is far too lengthy in the arms for me. The sleeves are so long that they cover my entire fingertips when I undo the velcro on the cuffs. It means I can do a great impression of Noo-Noo the vacuum cleaner from the Teletubbies, but when the cuffs are tightened, the extra material that bunches up near my wrists gets in the way when fiddling with gubbins on my harness. It would also impact the efficacy of the ski-pass pocket, should I ever be wealthy enough to fill it with an actual ski pass. To undo this pocket with the other hand, I have to fully stretch out the sleeve, which is very annoying in cold weather, especially if you've got to undo a good seal around your glove.

Choosing the sizing for this jacket in general was also a bit of a minefield. Jöttnar suggest that an XS, equated to a UK 6-8, will fit someone with a 23-25 inch waist - which is so tiny I'm fairly sure you can't see it with the naked eye. I'm a relatively average UK size 8, and my waist sits at 27 inches if I've not inhaled a loaf of bread before being measured. This, according to Jöttnar, is at the upper end of their small, or the lower end of medium on their size chart, so I go with the small due to my bust and hips fitting at the low end of the small category - or the top end of the extra small category, depending on which way you squint. I told you it was a minefield.

Luckily, the body of the jacket fits me nicely, and I can layer up underneath with everything up to and including a belay jacket. Length-wise, it's long enough to overlap well with my waterproof trousers, but not so long that it gets in the way if if you're doing some high-leg manoeuvring. The fit in the shoulders is snug but flexible; not too roomy considering the excessive length in the sleeve, so works well for climbing and scrambling.

Jöttnar also lose points on fit due to the largest women's size they offer being a UK 12-14, which is well below the national UK average of a size 16. This means that an actual majority of women are excluded from buying this jacket if you think about it, which obviously no one has. I think Jöttnar could do significantly better on this front, and at least offer one extra size up, a 16-18, so that more body types are catered for. They could do with shortening the sleeves too, but that's probably just my fault for having an ape index so negative it can't work out how to peel a banana.

The wired hood is great, except with a helmet  © Fliss Freeborn
The wired hood is great, except with a helmet
© Fliss Freeborn

Testing SKJOLDR's 20,000mm hydrostatic head  © Fliss Freeborn
Testing SKJOLDR's 20,000mm hydrostatic head
© Fliss Freeborn

Fabric

The fabric is Jöttnar's own 3-layer SKJOLDR™ material, which has a breathability rating of 20,000g/(m2)(24h) and a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm. This equates to pretty damn waterproof, and the Grim should stand up to wind-driven rain and the pressure of pack straps without remotely leaking. In terms of breathability, an MVTR of 20,000mm may not be on a level with ultra-breathable ultra-light summery shells, but it's very good for a burly winter jacket which offers more protection than a lightweight alternartive. Its thick 80 denier fabric resists flapping about in the wind well, which helps you feel better cocooned inside, and promises to be durable.

In real world use I've found it retains noticeably less moisture than other jackets I've owned, and I can comfortably go uphill at a decent pace without feeling like a boil-in-the-bag meal by the summit. The fabric is supple to the touch, and the inner lining is comfortable next to bare skin when everything else has been stripped off to motor uphill in the pouring rain. It sounds significantly less like a crisp packet than my boyfriend's GoretexPro jacket, and doesn't crinkle or rub like an annoying cicada when next to a rucksac. The Grim beads up like an absolute dream, and in general feels reassuringly expensive. Which of course, it is.

Features

The Grim does have some well-thought-through features incorporated into the design. I especially like the inner 'dump' pocket, which is meant to be an easy way to store gloves, goggles or skins when you're on the move, but is also the perfect size for a bottle of merlot. The other inner zip pocket designed for valuables is good for phones up to around the size of an iPhone 6, but anything larger might be a struggle to get in and out with ease, despite the stretchiness of the fabric. I have to take my granny-flip-phone case off my Huwawai p20 to get it in, so early on I designated this pocket to car keys and dryer lint.

The elastic drawstrings on the bottom have a slim, circular toggle mechanism for release, rather than making you fiddle about with any ungainly, oblong bits of plastic. This also eliminates any possibility of ping-back or the elastic getting caught on twigs after you've been scrabbling around in the bushes for a pee, which I can definitely get on board with. The elastic on the hood is easy to readjust, even when gloved-up, and it tightens in all the right places to help keep the wind off. The Grim's hood also includes RECCO reflector technology, which means you're more easily locatable should anything horrific happen to you.

As an all-round foul weather shell, there's a lot to like about it   © Fliss Freeborn
As an all-round foul weather shell, there's a lot to like about it
© Fliss Freeborn

While all the zips glide ever so smoothly, I'm slightly perplexed by the main zip being only one-way, rather than having the option of opening from the bottom to go over a harness in a hurry. Perhaps this is due to the Grim being an all-round mountain shell rather than built specifically for climbing, but this is one feature I'd miss when hanging off remote buttresses in Scotland's unpredictable weather. Other than that, the pit zips are easy to open by yourself with a gloved hand, which makes a nice change from other jackets where you have to enlist the support of a friend-in-waiting to help you ventilate. The tags on every zip are easy to locate and use while wearing gloves, which is a win.

Another feature which points toward this being a more general jacket is that the outer pockets aren't all that usable while wearing a harness. Jöttnar claim that the pockets are both rucksack and harness compatible, but with my harness or rucksack hipbelt on, only the top half of the pocket is properly accessible. If you want to get to things which take up the whole pocket, such as a map, a kitten, or modern smartphone, then faff ensues. I'm wondering if Jöttnar's claim holds only for the men's version of the Grim, wherein both waist-straps and harnesses sit slightly lower on the torso due to men having a less contrastive waist to hip ratio.

The main gripe I have with the Grim, however, is its claim of helmet compatibility. It's a very tight fit for both my ski touring helmet and my climbing helmet when all the zips are done up properly around my face. So tight in fact, it feels like someone has duct-taped my mouth shut: I can't open it at all when there's any type of helmet under the hood. My boyfriend thinks this is a fantastic feature, but I'm not so sure. To be fair to Jöttnar, their website only mentions being compatible with climbing helmets rather than anything else, but the jacket is also advertised as being suitable for ski-touring, so there's a slight unwritten contradiction going on here. And even when the zips are open a little so I can chatter, there's still not much in the way of manoeuvrability when it comes to either belaying, or turning my head to survey the slopes in a white-out. Without a helmet, however, the hood is well positioned and keeps the wind and rain off beautifully.

Ethics and environment

Jöttnar don't have any greenwashing spiel on their website which, in all honesty, is horribly refreshing.

Summary

The material and manufacturing quality on the Grim are top-notch, and I've yet to find a jacket that's simultaneously as waterproof and as breathable as this one. For a winter hillwalking jacket, it ticks nearly all the boxes, coming up short only on full pocket access with a rucksack's waist strap. In general, navigating women's sizes successfully is like doing rocket surgery, so it's hardly Jöttnar's fault that I didn't have a clue which size would fit me.That said, the arms are ludicrously long, even on my less ewok-like friends who tried it on. Overall, the Grim will suit winter hillwalkers who fancy staying dry, warm and comfortable even in the most silly conditions. If you're more of a climber or regular skier, then a hard shell designed specifically with better harness and helmet compatibility is probably the way to go. But the Grim is absolutely fine for the very occasional adventurous day should you be that way inclined.

Jöttnar say:

Grim is a fully featured hard shell technical mountain jacket built to the same specification as our men's Odin, but with hand pockets instead of the Odin's chest pockets. Grim is built to protect you in the most severe conditions.

Made from 3-layer Jöttnar SKJOLDR™ windproof, waterproof, breathable fabric for outstanding harsh weather protection and durability.

  • Sizes: XS-L (women) S-XL (men)
  • Weight: 488g size S (our weight)
  • Fabric: Waterproof, windproof, highly breathable, 3-layer, 80 denier Jöttnar SKJOLDR™, a proprietary hard shell developed by Jöttnar in conjunction with leading Japanese textile scientists and fabric mills
  • DWR coating
  • Hood: Climbing helmet compatible, wire stiffened with mouldable laminated peak, glove compatible hood adjuster
  • Integral RECCO® Rescue System reflector in hood peak
  • Cuffs: Durable Hypalon® tabs, super sticky VELCRO™ with triple reinforced stitching
  • No loop, anti-snag, glove compatible hem draw cords
  • Glove compatible elastic hood draw cords with Cohaesive™ cinch
  • Large harness and rucksack compatible hand pockets
  • Internal valuables stretch pocket
  • will accommodate most smartphones
  • Internal mesh dump pocket for
  • hats, gloves, goggles and skins
  • Zipped forearm pocket
  • YKK® AquaGuard® coil water repellent laminated chest pocket zips
  • YKK® Aquaguard® VISLON® water repellent front zip with internal storm gasket
  • YKK® AquaGuard® coil water repellent pit zips
  • Cinstruction: Micro-seam allowance reduces bulk and weight
  • Laminated high-strength hanger loop

For more information jottnar.com


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3 May

"...to sliding down Glas Maol on your belly like an excitable penguin"

Whilst this is a delightful image it does lead to the question of are there many penguins living on Glas Maol? :)


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