Jottnar Odin Shell & Vanir Overtrousers Review

When Jöttnar launched their range in 2013, a feature that stood out was their selection of Polartec NeoShell as the only waterproof fabric they would use for shells. After the original Bergelmir hardshell jacket and Vanir salopettes Jöttnar have produced a number of lighter hardshell models, but all still used the NeoShell membrane laminated to various different weight face fabrics. So Jöttnar's announcement that for winter 2018/19 they were launching a totally new proprietary waterproof-breathable fabric, "Skjoldr", for their flagship products, grabbed people's attention.

Odin and Vanir, above the clouds in the realm of the gods on Ben Nevis  © Toby Archer
Odin and Vanir, above the clouds in the realm of the gods on Ben Nevis
© Toby Archer

Generally when brands release hardshell gear made with a proprietary fabric it's because they can then sell those products at a lower price than something made of Gore-Tex, particularly Gore-Tex Pro. There are of course other branded waterproof-breathable fabrics out there, NeoShell and eVent most notably, but if anything Gore-Tex has become more dominant over recent years. So Jöttnar continue to plough their own furrow, progressively moving their range over to using their new fabric. Skjoldr clearly isn't cheap, Jöttnar are aiming very much at the premium end of the market, but the fabric doesn't have the massive marketing backup and general brand awareness of Gore-Tex, or even NeoShell. This is a long winded way of saying that if Jöttnar wants to sell jackets that are only a fiver short of 600 quid, and are made out of a fabric that no one has heard of before, then both the jacket generally and the material itself had better be bloody good!

So are they...?

Both trousers and jacket come in the new Skjoldr waterproof/breathable fabric  © Toby Archer
Both trousers and jacket come in the new Skjoldr waterproof/breathable fabric
© Toby Archer

The review that follows can be considered our preliminary findings - the Odin and Vanir LT in Skjoldr only became available at the start of winter, and although I'm a pretty keen weekend-warrior type of winter climber, the pre-Christmas conditions south of the Scottish border were mainly notable by their absence. Since then I've had chance to put the kit through a good few full days of winter climbing, and done some more days hiking in pretty pish weather in the Odin. The kit kept me warm and dry when we did a new route on Ben Nevis (OK, a comically small new route that we did by accident while basically lost) and saw me up my first UK V,6 since I was student in Scotland back in the 90s. I now feel I've done enough climbing to have put the kit through at least initial 'proper' use: elbows, knees, arms, shoulders jammed into cracks and chimneys, where not falling off becomes about the only concern, and your clothing will have to look after itself until at least the next belay ledge...

Odin Hardshell Waterproof Mountain Jacket - £595

Warm, dry and comfortable on a wintry Snowdon  © Toby Archer
Warm, dry and comfortable on a wintry Snowdon
© Toby Archer

Fabric

We might as well start with the Skjoldr fabric as that is central to why the Odin is a very good jacket. Jöttnar says that its hydrostatic head (HH) is 20,000mm, which is double that of NeoShell. In years of using NeoShell jackets I've had a handful of times where I suspected there was some dampness inside due to water being pushed through (under shoulder straps normally), but others report this much more with NeoShell and it seems that with Skjoldr, Jöttnar want a fabric that really should keep the worst of British weather out. Tommy at Jöttnar told us that Skjoldr uses a monolithic hydrophilic polyurethane (PUR) membrane. This breathes via a molecular transfer of water vapour from inside to out, where internal moisture is forced out by heat pressure. This differs from normal PTFE membranes that cease to breathe when the face fabric wets out, because the pores become blocked. In contrast, Tommy told us, Skjoldr's PUR membrane continues to push sweat vapour out even when the outer face is saturated. He argues that the PUR membrane is also comparatively less susceptible to degradation over time, while PTFE membranes tend to lose their waterproofing ability with normal wear and tear.

If you expect any new fabric to stop you sweating, I'm afraid you've missed the point. But I will say the Odin deals with sweat at least as well as any other shell I've used, and Skjoldr is up there with the best fabrics

So far I've found it work perfectly in terms of weather protection. Any dampness inside I'm pretty certain was sweat and, when not working as hard, I've been totally dry inside despite rain and sleet outside. The DWR also seems effective, with water beading on the outside of the jacket. The Odin is also very windproof: this is worth noting because Jöttnar's earlier waterproofs using NeoShell may have been very breathable, but they were also highly air-permeable - and I've always felt you could tell this because, basically, they weren't fully windproof. I'm pretty certain Skjoldr fabric is more windproof than NeoShell. For winter climbing this is a good thing. The grade of Skjoldr used on both the Odin and Vanir LT is 80 denier, 171g/m2 - this is a strong and relatively stiff material, but again for winter this a is good thing. A stiffer fabric deflects less in the wind, which means less movement of air inside the jacket, which can cool you. Overall this makes the Odin a very protective shell jacket - on a number of days I've used my belay jacket less than I expected to, being warm enough in the Odin, and I have taken to carrying a lighter down belay jacket with me, rather than my big synthetic one.

The flipside of protection from wind and rain can be getting sweaty inside, but so far I've been impressed with the breathability of Skjoldr fabric. Jöttnar give a rating of 20,000g/m2/24h - the so called moisture vapour transmission rate (MVTR). Even more so than is the case with HH ratings, MVTR seems to be a minefield, with different methods and tests being used and probably inflation of figures going on by some. So I'm loathe to say how well it works, but I can say Skjoldr seems to me to be as breathable as NeoShell, perhaps even more so.

Waterproof pit zips and pockets, plus a chunky YKK main zip  © Toby Archer
Waterproof pit zips and pockets, plus a chunky YKK main zip
© Toby Archer

One complication though is that the Odin has pit-zips, which I've used lots. The Jöttnar Bergelmir I've been using since 2014 does not. So it is hard to say whether the fabric is more breathable or if the generous pit-zips actually make the difference. If you expect any new fabric to stop you sweating, I'm afraid you've missed the point. But I will say the Odin deals with sweat at least as well as any other waterproof shell I've used, and Skjoldr seems to be up there with the best fabrics.

The face fabric feels good quality and both the Odin and Vanir seem pretty tough when it comes to abrasion resistance. I have annoyingly made a small tear in the outer layer of one the chest pockets on the Odin, now fixed with Tenacious Tape. This was my own fault - I ran two pitches together on a winter route on Glyder Fach, producing a 50m monster pitch of technical climbing that ate almost every bit of gear we had. I got to the point of having no quickdraws left and very few krabs that I could strip from anything else, and was wedged in a squeeze chimney trying to work out what to do next. I got a bulldog in but the only krab I had left was on the back of my harness holding prussiks and penknife. Those got shoved into one the Odin's chest pockets. In my attempts at escape from the squeeze chimney I think the penknife in the pocket got pushed hard against the rock, tearing the fabric. So, while overall the fabric does seem very good quality, don't expect miracles.

photo
Helmet-friendly hood
© Toby Archer

photo
Medium-length in the body
© Toby Archer

Features

The Odin has a great hood; the volume adjuster means it works fine just over a hat, but clearly it is designed to go over helmets. I've tried it with four different models of climbing helmet and it swallows them all with no problem. It also goes over my much bulkier ski helmet - it's a bit tighter over that, but still perfectly usable.

The jacket has two chest pockets closed with waterproof YKK zips - the pullers sit in "zip garages" completing the seal. The pockets are big and easily take a 1:50000 OS map even with the cardboard cover on (but of course you remove those like any sensible hill-goer!). Inside there is a zipped security pocket that takes my biggish smart phone which I keep in a bulky protective case. On the other side internally, is an elasticated mesh stash pocket that could take a small water bottle but works very well for stashing your lead-gloves in whilst you belay in warmer ones. On the lower left arm there is small external pocket designed for a ski pass - for me that's so far been redundant but Jöttnar do sell the Odin as a jacket for skiers as well as climbers.

Fit

Sadly this jacket is not available in a women's cut. A note on sizing: I think Jöttnar's sizing is relatively generous but this may well be connected to making a jacket that climbs well. The arms in particular are longer than I need; I'm 5'10", but I imagine plenty of people 2 or 3 inches taller than me but with the same waist and chest size would fit medium. On me the Odin comes down low enough to cover my bum, and there is minimal hem lift even when both hands are up vertically as when holding onto ice tools. Jöttnar seems to be very good exchanging sizes for people who buy from their website if a customer decides their first ordered size isn't right.

There's no hem lift when you raise your arms  © Toby Archer
There's no hem lift when you raise your arms
© Toby Archer

Weight

My Odin weighs 584g, 7g less than Jöttnar's stated weight for medium (nice one Jöttnar - good to see firms being conservative with their stated weights). This is a big burly jacket for the worst winter weather. Partly because I'm reviewing it, but also because I've been very happy with its breathability, I've worn it more than I normally do with a hardshell - including over just a thin base layer on walk-ins. So on some days I've left my windshell behind, which saves perhaps 150g; this can be balanced against the Odin's burly weight. Interestingly Jöttnar is now making the Bergelmir in the same grade of Skjoldr fabric too. It has fewer features, including no pit-zips, but is 100g lighter and £70 cheaper. With the same hood and fabric as the Odin I expect it is a very fine climber's shell too.

Any gripes?

I have two minor criticisms. Firstly the colours are boring. The blue, or "limoge", that mine came in is nice enough, but the other options are black or grey, both of which are awful for photos (and not so great in terms of being rescued either). Secondly, the little Jöttnar branded zip pullers can fall off - the string they are made from is quite stiff and the way they were larks footed through the metal zip puller meant they could undo themselves quite easily. A couple disappeared before I noticed and changed the way they were attached.

But the real elephant in the room is, of course, the cost. Is £595 justifiable for a coat? Clearly for some it is. Top of the range shells from several 'premium' brands nowadays come in at around this price bracket.

Value is a difficult concept and it isn't solely linked to utility. Is the Odin a really good mountain shell? Yes. Can you go climbing safely in appalling Scottish weather in jackets that cost less? Also yes. Will it make you climb harder? No. However some people will value a small British company making high quality gear. Some people just think the brand is really cool. Some will value a product that doesn't use the market leading fabric. Others will ask how can you justify that price exactly because it doesn't use the the market leading fabric. The Odin has shown itself so far to be a very good shell for winter climbing in poor weather. It is well-designed, well-cut and well-made for its intended use. I'm happy to say that it is definitely fit for purpose, but whether it is worth the high price is something that every potential customer has to decide for themselves.

Jottnar say:

New for 2018/19, Odin is our most fully featured men's hardshell technical waterproof mountain jacket. This is one tough hardshell, built from new Jöttnar SKJOLDR™ windproof, waterproof, breathable fabric. Odin is designed to be a winter fortress in the most atrocious conditions, without sacrificing those features which lend it versatility for all year use. Wear over a mid layer or base layer as your final protective outer layer for skiing and mountaineering.

Odin prod shot

  • Sizes: S-XL (men)
  • Weight: 584g (size M, our measure)
  • Fabric: Jöttnar SKJOLDR™
  • Fabric Weight: 80D 171g/m²
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm minimum
  • Breathability ratings: 20,000g/m2/24h
  • Streamlined, articulated cut allows layering underneath
  • Scoop drop back hem
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Wire stiffened with moldable laminated peak

  • No loop, anti-snag, glove compatible hem draw cords
  • Glove compatible hood draw cords and cinch
  • Large harness and rucksack compatible chest pockets
  • Internal valuables stretch pocket
  • Large internal mesh dump pocket
  • YKK® AquaGuard® coil water repellent laminated chest pocket zips and pit zips
  • YKK® Aquaguard® VISLON® water repellent front zip with internal storm gasket

For more info see jottnar.com

Vanir LT Men's Hardshell Mountaineering & Ski Pant - £375

I reviewed the Vanir LT in "Eucalyptus", which is actually a fluro-yellow with a hint of green. And really, what's not to like about yellow trousers? Everyone knows that looking cool makes all routes one grade easier [or obliges you to climb on grade harder - Ed]. More seriously, the Vanir LT are great mountaineering trousers. The Skjoldr fabric blocks wind, rain and snow completely. It breathes well, plus the long, waterproof side zips allow for the rapid dumping of excess heat and sweat. These trousers are well-cut, and with their diamond crotch present no resistance to even the widest of bridging moves or highest of high-steps. The 80-denier Skjoldr fabric also seems very tough, and you get extra reinforcement on the knees and seat. I admit to using knees a lot winter climbing, but so far this has not troubled the material.

photo
The colour should help you climb at least one grade harder
© Toby Archer

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... or maybe not...
© Toby Archer

I've used the original Vanir NeoShell salopettes for most of my winter activities for four years, and love them. But I came to the conclusion I didn't really need the salopette section - it's an extra layer of waterproof material under your jacket and would be a place where sweat built up. The Vanir LT are trousers, not salopettes, but they have, quite literally, both belt and braces keeping them up. They stay up where you want them perfectly. The braces are removable should you find that a belt alone is enough for you, but I don't really see any disadvantage to having the braces beyond a few grams in weight.

Jöttnar have maintained their original design idea of having zips that don't open fully at the side. They stop just below your harness waist belt, to avoid pressure points. Nevertheless when opened you can get them on over boots if necessary (not with crampons on though!) and the side zips do work very well to vent the trousers. I've found that for winter climbing, wearing them over a single base-layer, I can happily wear them all day. On sweaty walk-ins the zips allow huge amounts of venting, but once zipped up for climbing my legs have never felt cold, even during longer belays. There are also two zipped pockets which are great - the original Vanirs only had one which I always found slightly annoying. The fly also uses a waterproof zip, but only has one puller on it, which like with normal trousers zips closes upwards. Not having a zip puller at the bottom of the fly that can open upwards is the one design fail I've found with the Vanir LT. With the fly as it is, having a pee whilst wearing your harness, while not impossible, requires much indecent-looking fumbling trying to find the zip puller [is that all? -Ed].

Drawstring and snow gaiter = neat uncluttered ankle  © Toby Archer
Drawstring and snow gaiter = neat uncluttered ankle
© Toby Archer

At the ankle there is a big and super-tough kevlar kick-patch, which does its job very well if you aren't wearing gaiters. The bottom of the trouser legs are also finished with an elasticated drawcord which really neatens the fit at the ankle. Inside there is an internal gaiter, sized to fit both ski boots and climbing boots, according to Jöttnar. I've used them mainly so far with lightweight B3 or B2 climbing boots and the gaiter is a reasonably snug fit around them. You get a lace hook here, which holds things in place well. There also are eyelets on the side of the gaiter designed for elastic that would go under the boot as a strap. My first elastic loops were not a success, lasting maybe half the walk up to the CIC hut before wearing through and snapping. The second made it to the CIC, but not far above it also snapped. I'm not quite sure what would do better, but elastic clearly doesn't work, particularly with modern low profile boot soles and UK walk-ins that aren't over just snow. It's no big deal if the gaiter fits snugly around your boots anyway.

Water repellent zips; belt and braces...  © Toby Archer
Water repellent zips; belt and braces...
© Toby Archer

The bottom line is the Vanir LT are great hardshell pants for winter activities. They are far from cheap, but I note in last winter's UKC group test of shell-pants, that three of the pairs tested were more expensive than the Vanir LT this season. And remember, get them in the fluro-yellow and you're almost guaranteed to climb a grade harder.

Jottnar say:

Revised for winter 2018/19 with Jöttnar's new SKJOLDR™ windproof, waterproof, breathable fabric. Tough, lightweight and versatile, the Vanir LT is the pant of choice for mountain rescue teams, professional mountain guides and committed ski-mountaineers and climbers. Feature rich, with articulated and reinforced knees, internal powder gaiters, harness-friendly ¾ length water repellent side zips, fully detachable braces and full-sized Kevlar™ instep protectors.

  • Sizes: S-XL (men)
  • Weight: 630g (men's medium)
  • Fabric: Jöttnar SKJOLDR™ 3 layer
  • Fabric weight: 80D 171g/m²
  • Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm minimum
  • Breathability ratings: 20,000g/m2/24h
  • Streamlined, articulated cut
  • Elasticated, adjustable, detachable braces
  • Reinforced knees and seat
  • Diamond crotch for strength, stretch and durability
  • Kevlar™ reinforced in-step protectors
  • Reinforced cuffs to protect against boots
  • Internal gaiters with elasticated gripper cuff, volume cinch and boot clasp. Will fit both skiing and climbing boots
  • Two hip hand pockets with YKK® Aquaguard® water repellent zips
  • YKK® Aquaguard® water repellent two-way front zip
  • YKK® Aquaguard® two-way leg zips. ¾ length sized to stop short of harness pressure points
  • Corded, glove compatible zip pulls

Vanir prod shot

For more info see jottnar.com




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