Klättermusen Einride EtaProof Mountain Jacket Review

Overview

About two years ago I got interested in a material I wasn’t quite familiar with: Ventile. Ventile is made from an extremely tight weave of long-staple cotton and was invented in the 1930s and used extensively in the Second World War for fighter pilots bailing out of their airplanes over the English Channel. At the time, waterproof technical textiles did not exist but the Allies were losing too many pilots at sea so a solution had to be found. They started to make floatation suits out of a material previously used for fire hoses.

When woven tightly, long-staple cotton fibers swell when wet and block moisture from seeping through. In single layer fabrics, this does not become fully waterproof, but when combined with a second layer of fabric, it does. Other pros: it is durable, breathable and won’t melt near a fire when an ember touches its surface.

Obviously, bush crafters, survivalists, mountaineers and other outdoorspeople were quick to discover this fabric. Various outdoor gear brands have been making clothing (especially shell jackets) out of this fabric for decades. Cons: it’s relatively heavy (especially the double layer version), expensive, stiff when wet and none-stretchy.

My research led me to invest in a Tilak Odin Anorak. This is a Czech-made Ventile pullover style jacket with ample room for winter layers underneath and a clean look. While I like it for everyday life and hiking and trekking in winter, the roomy fit and small(ish) hood  kind of makes it unusable for technical mountain stuff. Also, anoraks tend to get annoying after a couple of weeks of use in urban life.

However, the feeling of the fabric is superb, especially because it is super durable and ages gracefully. So, I decided I also wanted a jacket made from the same material. First step was to get rid of some jackets and other gear I was not using often or didn’t spark joy anymore. Thanks to the decent second-hand market for high-quality outdoor gear that wasn’t too difficult.

Second step: investing. My eye fell on the beautiful Klättermusen Einride Jacket, which I was able to get for a steal, because the brand’s website had one piece left of an old production run in exactly my size and color. Lucky me!

Klättermusen Einride Logo Detail.jpeg

Construction

‘Cotton kills’ is such a ubiquitous expression in the outdoor community that we often do not give it much thought. That is because, by and large, the expression is true. When you go into the mountains fully dressed in everyday cotton jeans and midlayers and you are caught in a freezing drizzle or downpour in the colder seasons you’re pretty much done for.

There are, however, a few exceptions: Ventile and EtaProof. Both of these fabrics swell when wet and act as a barrier between you and the wind and rain. As a single layer, these fabrics act as any good softshell fabric should, and when combined with a second layer, they become waterproof. Ventile is basically the granddaddy of technical waterproof-breathable fabrics. EtaProof is essentially the same but made in Switzerland instead of the UK. For a number of their garments, Swedish company Klättermusen has decided to work with EtaProof.

EtaProof is made from 100% organic cotton, which is nice because these high-quality cotton fabrics can only be produced from the top 2% best cotton of worldwide production – can you imagine the amount of fertilizer and water it would take to do that in a non-organic way?

The cool thing about Ventile and EtaProof is that it not only works well in the outdoors, it also looks very good. It does not have any of the plastic look and feel of traditional shell materials and it also ages nicely. It cannot delaminate or crumble and it will not rip as easily as a thin softshell or hard-shell material. All in all, it is a very good material for hard-use cases. Just bring a lightweight rain jacket as a backup, but you’ll probably not use it much…

The construction of the Einride is top-notch, as you would expect from a premium brand like Klättermusen – high prices in the outdoor industry tend to be quite a good indicator of quality (although marketing does rear its annoying head sometimes as well).

Essential seams have been taped for increased water- and wind protection, and the zippers are all YKK Aquaguard of the newer generation with the exposed teeth. The hard-wear areas have been reinforced with DuraCoat, a proprietary coating technology developed by Klättermusen, increasing the abrasion resistance of these areas up to five times. As this is a mountain jacket in design, these reinforced areas are the lower sleeves up to about the elbows, and the side of the hips. Stitches are superb throughout with ample bar-tacking and double stitches when necessary.

Klättermusen Einride Front Zip.jpeg

I like how Klättermusen’s designers have opted for the KISS approach to the features of this jacket, as that makes sure that any unforeseen problems are mendable. It also creates a clean look that doesn’t stand out on the streets. That is not to say that this is not a technical jacket, but more on that in the next section.

Features

While this jacket looks super clean it comes as equipped for the mountains as any technical shell should! We’ll start at the top and work ourselves to the bottom of the jacket.

Klättermusen Einride Hood Back.jpeg

First up is the hood. As Klättermusen is a mountaineering brand in spirit and practice – the name literally means Climbing Mouse – the hood is fully adjustable, roomy enough for a climbing helmet and fully patterned to follow your head whichever way you move. The adjustment dials are operable with one hand, although they are a bit different from those seen on most other jackets so they take some time getting used to. Definitely make sure you know how they work before you take a trip to the mountains! The brim is laminated and shaped to keep rain and snow off your face while moving. In design and feel it is comparable to the climbing hoods seen on Arc’teryx or Rab jackets, but less with the snorkel hoods you sometimes see on other Scandinavian brands such as Fjällräven, Lundhags or some other Klättermusen jackets. I like it like this, it is a more dialed-back design that is more controllable when not worn.

Klattermusen Einride Front Pocket Zip.jpeg

 

Next up are the pockets! This jacket has three, one on the inside and two on the outside. They are placed high up, so as not to interfere with a hip belt or climbing harness. The outside pockets are big enough to carry gloves, beanies and neck gaiters, or other essentials. They are lined with mesh so they can also act as ventilation ports when it is warmer or you are moving faster or uphill. No other vent zips are present. Again, the zippers are YKK Aquaguard with exposed teeth. The inner pocket will carry a small smartphone or wallet, but not much more.

The bottom hem is adjustable and the sides are reinforced with DuraCoat to make sure your climbing hardware or pack belt does not rub the EtaProof directly.

The sleeves are pre-shaped, reinforced with the same DuraCoat as the hem, and feature nifty sleeve adjusters that forego Velcro or elastic sewn into the fabric but work with a little bit of elastic string and a plastic buckle – again, easily replaced when worn out.

The single-way main zip is slightly asymmetric, one of Klättermusen’s design cues. It also feels quite comfortable as the zipper runner isn’t right in front of your chin when you are all buttoned up. Of course, the back is fleece-lined.

Klättermusen Einride Wrist Adjustment.jpeg

Fit

Klättermusen has really designed this jacket with a technical layering system in mind. It fits perfectly with a base- and mid-layer or a base layer and a thin puffy jacket, but works as well with just a base layer. I am able to squeeze a thin down vest on top of a fleece as well, but that is pretty much the limit. A reinforcement jacket will easily fit over the jacket and midlayer while belaying or resting. The patterning is great. The raglan sleeves are lengthy enough for climbing and don’t make the jacket ride up while lifting your arms over your head. I am 1,78m and weigh about 72kg with slightly long arms for my length and size Small is perfect for me.

Usage

Basically, this jacket is ready for anything. The patterning and feature set will make it function in the wild while mountaineering, hiking, or bush crafting – although the last group might prefer a jacket with more pockets. The clean look will make sure it doesn’t stand out too much on the street (except for those who know what to look for…) and the weatherproof EtaProof material will make it attractive in a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions.

The only drawback I can think of is that it will not perform as well on very wet and cold spring or fall days while camping, as cotton dries quite slowly – although long-staple cotton has a quicker drying time than your everyday jeans.  This will be less of an issue in the summer or winter Alps, when staying in huts is par for the course. Also, when combined with natural mid-layers made from wool (warm even when damp) I’d say you’re good to go for slightly wetter adventures as well, provided you’re not camping. I’ve been using the jacket in everyday life in variable conditions for a few months now, and it only wetted through on the inside of my elbows so far – in pretty heavy rain I might add.

Klättermusen Einride Back.jpeg 

Pros

Full mountain feature set

Looks clean

Feels great

Durable and reparable

Windproof and water resistant

Safe to use around a camp fire

Dries faster than normal cotton

Cons

Costly

Not the lightest option out there

Stiff when wet

Cotton still dries slower than synthetics

Overall

All in all, I would say that this is the most versatile none-waterproof jacket that I have ever worn. It performs well with a range of layers, is water resistant and windproof enough for daily use and hardwearing enough for abuse. Its technical feature set makes it usable in a mountaineering setting, and its subdued look makes it good for the street as well. It does not feel like a plastic bag, does not sound like a bag of crisps, breathes well and is patterned for movement. If you’re going to own just one softshell and are not a gram-obsessed person, make it this one.

 

Further reading

https://www.klattermusen.com/en/men/jackets/10607m81-einride-jacket-mens-charcoal/

 

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Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Review

Overview

Fjällräven has been making quality gear for over sixty years now, but one relatively recent addition to their line-up is properly waterproof high-performance gear. While waterproof apparel has been in their collection for quite some years, 2015 saw the introduction of a revolutionary new material: Eco-Shell (or, technically, Eco-Shell 2.0: They already released a previous version in 2011). Why this material is so ground-breaking is a question I will return to later.

When Eco-Shell 2.0 first came out I tried the Keb Eco-Shell Jacket for a while. I liked it in terms of fit and feel, but to me it had one major drawback: My climbing helmet barely fit underneath the hood. Fjällräven claims that a helmet should fit but I just did not have enough room for movement – quite annoying when you’re pushing uphill. I sold it after about half a year of use and switched to one of Fjällräven’s main competitors: Arc’teryx. Until recently, their hood design was unrivalled. I say ‘until recently’ because the Swedish crazies from Övik came up with the Bergtagen Collection: a concept built for technical mountaineering, alpinism and back-country skiing. Anxious to find out if this system of clothing is all that it is cracked up to be? Please read on…

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Helmet Compatible Hood.jpg

Construction

As I’ve come to expect from the Swedes, the construction is technically top notch but straightforward. Where some brands can go a bit overboard with features, Fjällräven tends to be simpler and more barebones in their approach, especially with their technical apparel.

Let’s start with having a look at the major identifier of this jacket: The main material (bear with me here…).

As I’ve said before, Eco-Shell is quite the revolution in the outdoor industry. Where most waterproof-breathable apparel throughout the market is made from Gore-Tex or some sort of copy of that American powerhouse, Eco-Shell is different, especially in Version 2.0.

Gore-Tex advertises with the slogan ‘Guaranteed to Keep You Dry’. Rightly so. Their materials are inherently waterproof because the microporous membrane does not let water through from the outside. Now, Gore-Tex (or any other microporous membrane really) remains breathable because the material contains microscopic pores – hence the name. These pores essentially are super-small holes in the material that let water vapour through from the inside, preventing the quick build-up of sweat and heat.

Gore-Tex is made from stretched PTFE, short for Polytetrafluoroethylene (you can forget that and call it Teflon). You’re likely to be familiar with this: it’s used around the house in tape form to waterproof faucets and showerheads.

In most garments, it is laminated to a polyamide outside and in most cases a protective inside coating as well (hence the industry mumbo-jumbo about 2, 2,5 and 3-layer clothing). Then, the face material gets a durable water-repellent coating made from PFC (perfluorocarbons). This makes water bead off of rain jackets. This construction has essentially remained the same since the material’s invention in the sixties and seventies. Of course, the layers have become thinner, stronger and more breathable. But the main concept has remained the same.

While it works reasonably well in temperate to cold conditions, this set-up has one major drawback: it totally destroys the environment. Most Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex copycat clothing consists of multiple textile materials (polyester, polyamide, PTFE and sometimes more). This makes them virtually impossible to re-cycle. Furthermore, Teflon production involves numerous extremely harmful chemicals, which can lead to cancer if not properly worked with. To add insult to injury, PFC-made DWR’s are harmful to nature because they take an extremely long time to break down and are poisonous to small animals and, because they linger and build up, the rest of the food chain.

Then there is the inherent technical drawback of microporous membranes: because they are basically a super-thin plastic layer with tiny holes they are susceptible to wear-and-tear and their breathability is limited.

Eco-Shell 2.0, especially the 3-layer variant, avoids most of these issues. While Eco-Shell 1.0 essentially was a 100% polyester microporous membrane with a PFC-free coating (which already is a lot better than PTFE membranes coated with PFC’s), Eco-Shell 2.0 improves upon the first edition in a couple of important ways.

Number one is the basic technology used: Eco-Shell 2.0 is a hydrophilic membrane. That means that it is actively sucking away excess moisture from the skin. This makes it much more breathable than a microporous membrane. Whereas microporous membranes rely on mechanical transportation of water vapour, hydrophilic membranes chemically suck it away from the inside out. The difference is very noticeable when working hard or when the temperature rises.

Number two is that Eco-Shell is a mono-material: the entire garment is made from partly recycled polyester (details such as zipper runners excluded). This already was the case with Eco-Shell 1.0, but not so much for most other waterproof-breathables. Mono-materials are easier to recycle than garments in which multiple types of plastic need to be separated before melting them down. Also, polyester membranes tend to be stronger and therefore longer lasting than PTFE membranes.

Number three is the total lack of PFC DWR. Fjällräven works with DWR’s with a shorter carbon-chain. This makes them significantly less harmful. Granted, most brands are currently ditching PFC’s. That’s a good thing. The only drawback is that PFC’s are extremely water-repellent, and PFC-free DWR’s thus need to be replenished more often.

Number four is a CSR-related choice made by Fjällräven to climate-compensate production and transportation of Eco-Shell, meaning that it is completely CO2-neutral when it ends up in the customer’s wardrobe.

Last but not least, polyamide-reinforced PTFE membranes tend to feel like wrinkly and noisy plastic bags. This is because the membrane needs plenty of reinforcement to remain reasonably durable. Normally this is done by adding a layer of polyamide in a thickness dictated by how strong the garment needs to be.  Eco-Shell apparel uses polyester instead. Polyester is much stronger, more pliable and softer, and hence not nearly as loud when moving around. It is also easier to recycle, as mentioned before. It is heavier than Teflon and polyamide though, so that comes at a small weight penalty.

To me, Eco-Shell is a major improvement over most other waterproof-breathable materials. Now let’s discuss why the Bergtagen Eco-Shell is such an improvement upon all the other Eco-Shell jackets in the Fjällräven line-up.

Features

First up: the hood. Whereas Fjällräven’s other shell jackets feature hoods designed with hikers and trekkers in mind, the Bergtagen Eco-Shell’s hood has been designed for one purpose only: to fit a mountaineer’s helmet with room to spare. In many ways, it is very similar to Arc’teryx’s Stormhood design: it is two-way adjustable, very roomy and has a laminated brim. However, there also are some major differences: the collar is higher, meaning that it offers more protection from harsh winds. Also, the entire front is lined with microfleece for a soft feel and warmth.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Helmet Compatible Hood Adjustable.jpg

Second, it is made from 3-Layer Eco-Shell RipStop fabric, meaning that the outside material is a lot harder-wearing than the Keb or Abisko Eco-Shells. Furthermore, it features elbow patches made from Corylon, an Aramid-based fabric developed in-house by Fjällräven to be immensely strong yet very pliable.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Corylon Elbow Reinforcements.jpg

The third major difference between this one and the rest of the Eco-Shell line-up: zippers. Bergtagen products feature very tough zippers, laminated ones on the Eco-Shells to make them waterproof. Also, they feature innovative pullers to make them easier to manipulate with gloves on. In fairness, they are a bit bulky but the large pullers are a big advantage in bad weather.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Front Pockets.jpg

Other than that, the features are pretty similar to the Keb Eco-Shell Jacket and most other high-quality shells: two pockets on the front with roomy inside pockets for GPS or phone, Velcro-adjustable sleeves and a draw cord-adjustable hem. Large ventilation zippers on the side prevent overheating.

 

A few omissions make it clear this is a more hard-core jacket: no sleeve pocket (why would you need a ski pass in the back-country?), no cord hole for your headphones, and no inside pocket. You’ll only hear the wind howling in this one. Due to the fact that it is tougher, it is also a little bit heavier than the Keb Eco-Shell – but the weight penalty is barely noticeable: about 30 grams in a similar size.

Fit

Roomy but articulate. A thin down jacket will easily fit underneath but it is not bulky when only wearing a t-shirt. Fjällräven jackets tend to be roomy. If you know your sizing with their stuff you can stick to your normal size but if you’re new to the brand you might want to size down. The hem is quite long, which is nice in bad weather as it offers ample wind and moisture protection, and protects fleeces and down or synthetic layers from moisture. The sleeves are long, as is generally the case in climbing oriented jackets. It’s a necessity for me as I have rather long arms for my overall height.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Size Tag.jpg

Details

Fjällräven is a brand with its own quirks and design philosophy. This is most apparent in general things such as colour choice (compared to most household outdoor brands their palette is quite subdued) and in some of the design details. For example, while most brands tend to go with pit zips to offer extra ventilation, Fjällräven is steadily banning this from their line-up, instead opting for core ventilation zips placed along the entire side of their shell jackets. This has a number of advantages: one, it offers better ventilation as your body generates most of its heat at the core. Two, they are not blocked by backpacks, whereas pit zips tend to be closed off by shoulder straps, and three, they can double as access to the pockets of midlayers worn underneath. This makes hand pockets on the outside unnecessary, reducing bulk and weight.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Vent Zips.jpg

Another quirk is their obsession with double zippers. It’s hard to find a jacket without a zipper that can open from the bottom up. This is annoying and nice at the same time: annoying because they can be a little finicky to close, nice because it makes for an extra ventilation option. It also necessitates the push button at the hem to make sure it does not open up by itself.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Double Zipper Bottom Push Button.jpg

Other than that, some things stand out: the mesh pockets inside the chest pockets are roomy, roomier than on the brand’s other shell choices. The hem drawstring does not have a garage, making sure it can be adjusted easily on the fly while wearing a backpack or harness (but also making it more noticeable and a snag hazard). The best detail in my opinion is that the Velcro tabs on the sleeve cuffs are sewn into the material, as opposed to the industry standard of a strip of Velcro sewn onto the sleeve. This helps make them longer lasting, and might prevent the build-up of snow on the tab in heavy weather.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Hem Draw Cord.jpg

Furthermore, what makes Bergtagen unique in the Fjällräven line-up is the incorporation of RECCO reflectors into the garments. This enables Search and Rescue teams to detect the wearer via a small and flexible metal strip sewn into the material.

Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Cuffs Velcro.jpg 

Usage

To be honest, so far I’ve only used this jacket around town, riding my bicycle to and from work in various weather conditions ranging from cloudy to continuous rain and sleet (biking through precipitation, especially sleet, is a good way to test a shell though: it increases the pressure on the material).

It does breathe much better than most other shell materials during the same activity, and most details work as advertised. The hood is roomy but adjusts well when not wearing a helmet, you can easily manipulate the zippers while wearing gloves and the pockets provide ample room for large phones, GPS and other necessities. Most importantly, the jacket is completely waterproof but breathes very well in most if not all cases. I’m looking forward to stress testing this jacket next Alpine season.

 

Pros

Tough 3-Layer RipStop face fabric

RECCO

Pliable and soft

Recyclable

PFC-free DWR

Completely waterproof

Very breathable

Hard-wearing reinforcements

Large zipper pullers

Large side zips

Spacious pockets

Roomy, fully helmet-compatible hood

Cons

PFC-free coatings are less water-resistant

Hem draw cords need to be tucked in manually

Just one slit for a headphone cord would have been a nice touch

Overall

If you need a hardwearing and exceptionally breathable hardshell jacket for back-country and alpine adventures year-round, and still want it to be somewhat good looking in daily life: look no further. This jacket has all the bells and whistles you might want – and none that you don’t. It will protect you from the elements no matter the circumstances, and will do so with room to spare for a helmet and necessary layers.  Fjällräven also makes a women’s version, obviously. Follow the links below for more information.

fjallraven-bergtagen-eco-shell-jacket-recco-label.jpg

With a recommended retail price of 579,95 Euros, it comes with a hefty price tag. But then, most of the jackets in this category are that expensive, if not more so. Design, construction and the materials used make them pricy – no compromises are made in terms of functionality. More than with any other type of gear, rainwear is you-get-what-you-pay-for. The Fjällraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket is, however, built to last, with careful attention to detail and the environment.

Further reading

https://www.fjallraven.com/bergtagen-eco-shell-jacket

 

https://www.fjallraven.com/bergtagen-eco-shell-jacket-w

 

Having a taste: Fjällräven Classic 2015

 So obviously it has been a little quiet here for a while… That is, however, with a very good reason. My employer saw fit to dispatch me, and a few of my colleagues to Abisko in Northern Sweden, to show some of our new products and colors for Fall/Winter 2015 to the finishers of one of the world’s most beautiful long-distance treks: The annual Fjällräven Classic.

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Running a long 110KM from Nikkaluokta to Abisko, the Fjällräven Classic follows a part of the well-known King’s Trail in Swedish Lappland. For many it is an introduction to long-distance trekking, to others it is just practice. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that it is not an easy road. Trails with large and small stones and rocks make sure the walkers need to think about where to put their feet and the absence of huts or cabins means that camping out is the way to go, so participants need quite a large and heavy pack to make the multiple-day walk enjoyable and comfortable – although some people prefer to do it trail-running in less than 24 hours, most trekkers do it in three to five days.

Personally, walking the Classic is definitely on my to-do-list, but I was there to work – kind of.

Being there was first and foremost about tasting the atmosphere of Northern Sweden. About talking to people, whether they were passers-by, long-time trekking enthusiasts, newcomers, other Fjällräven employees of every part of the company, and to existing or prospective customers – in short, it was a networking event set to the backdrop of one of the most impressive and beautiful areas in Europe, maybe even the world.

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Luckily we also had time to get out there. The surroundings of the Abisko Tourist Station are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen: Wild rivers, large lakes, and long-stretched plains, hills and mountains – even a very scenic sauna down by a lake which we were lucky enough to get to use. Although we didn’t have the time to get far enough away from civilization to get that typical sense of vastness and solitude I associate with long-distance trekking, it was awesome and beautiful nonetheless.

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I would definitely love to visit the place in my actual spare time once or twice again: once just to finish the Classic and again to enjoy the surroundings on my own or with a close group of friends. If you ever have the time to go, please do. It’s up North, so even in summer months you need to take the necessary stuff to enjoy the outdoors even when it’s a little colder. During the darker months, you can also get a good view of the Northern Lights. Getting there is not very straightforward (we had to fly from Amsterdam to Stockholm and change to a domestic flight to Kiruna, and drive for an hour and a half) but it was totally worth it!

Further reading

 http://www.fjallraven.com/classic

http://www.svenskaturistforeningen.se/en/Discover-Sweden/Facilities-and-activities/Lappland/Fjallstationer/STF-Mountain-station-Abisko/

http://www.visitabisko.com