'The Keb Eco-Shell manages to combine retro charm, eco-awareness and soft-feel fabric with impressive real world performance even if gnarly isn't in its vocabulary'
Outdoors Magic: Soft-feel, quiet fabric, beautifully made, good hood, cult retro vibe looks, sustainable credentials. And it keeps you dry too.
Outdoors Tragic: Polyester face fabric may not be as tough as Nylon. Top-end price.
Outdoors Grabbit? Gorgeous fabric, feel and build quality with gentle retro vibe and eco-awareness thrown in makes for something a little bit different, but no less effective. Not as brutally rugged as some more in-your-face technical shells, but still pretty capable just the same. We're slightly wary of the polyester face and soft feel, but our original launch sample is still going strong.
Lightweight mountaineering jacket / stretch Eco-Shell fabric with polyester face / twin Napoleon-style chest pockets with media outlet and elastic mesh inner pockets / twin core vents / main water-resistant double-ended, molded zip / adjustable helmet-compatible hood with wired and stiffened peak / adjustable cuffs and hem.
Full Review Below
Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket - The Tech
Fjällräven's new Eco-Shell range is only a year or so old and it's subtly different from the norm. The fabric name is a clue, the own-brand Eco-Shell material is made from recyclable polyester, which is part recycled itself. On top of that, the DWR treatment itself is free from controversial flour-chemicals.
'Breathability lab figures are quoted at 26.000 g/m2/24h, which is on a par with top fabrics from the likes of Gore-Tex and eVent'
The other departure from the norm is that the face fabric is Polyester. That gives it both its recyclable nature and a lovely, soft feel.
Usually shell jackets use Nylon (Polyamide) which is generally harder wearing, but also stiffer and noisier in use.
For what it's worth, breathability lab figures are quoted at 26.000 g/m2/24h, which is on a par with top fabrics from the likes of Gore-Tex and eVent, so theoretically at least, it should be comparable for comfort when working hard.
Other than that, the Keb Eco-Shell is a neatly put together jacket using contemporary technology including water resistant molded tooth main-zip, lamination and has a generally well-produced feel to it.
Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket - Performance
Swedish brand Fjällräven is hot right now. Its range of slightly retro-styled, but functional outdoors kit and its use of canvas-type waxed poly-cotton G1000 fabrics has attracted a bit of an outdoors cult following.
It managed all that without going fully waterproof, but around a year back, the brand launched Eco-Shell, and, as you'd expect, it's subtly different from traditional waterproofs. For a start the recyclable Polyester-based 3-layer laminate fabric feels beautifully soft and quiet in use.
Next it has a smattering of traditional Fjällräven touches like the main leather zip-pull and signature leather arctic fox brand patch. And finally, in the case of our test jacket, it comes in a beautiful colour the brand calls 'UN Blue' for obvious reasons.
How Does It Work?
It looks great, but how does it work? First it doesn't have any ultra-technical pretensions. The cut is neat, but actually quite generous - we could almost go down a size from our normal medium - with a walking-friendly, longer than average length. The sleeves are generously long too.
For practicalities it's hard to fault. We like the cavernous, Napoleon-style chest pockets with their neat elasticated phone or media sub-pockets, the adjusters at hem and cuffs are easy to use. And the hood works very well indeed.
It's helmet compatible in the sense that it genuinely works properly with a climbing helmet for mountaineering or ski-touring. And the stiffened and wired peak is good news then things get properly gnarly.
Hot And Sticky?
As far as breathability goes, we'd say it's in the ballpark. Not as impressive as Polartec's class-leading NeoShell - used in the Jöttnar Asmund for example - but certainly not a horrible sweat-box either. For normal hill use it's fine, if you overcook things, you will get sweaty.
Having said that, big core vents, rollable sleeves and venting front-zip give some cooling capacity and the same's true of waterproofs generally. Go hard and you'll get hot and sweaty.
Finally, we're a little wary of the longterm durability of that soft-faced Polyester fabric. It doesn't have the same fortress feel of heavy duty Nylon-based laminates and we wouldn't want to use it for, say, mixed winter climbing, but to be fair, our long-term launch jacket has been on the go for a year now and is still doing fine.
Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket - Verdict
A slightly 'different' approach to waterproofing from Fjällräven with those retro touches, longer cut and lovely, soft and quiet, eco-friendly, Polyester-based fabric.
Don't dismiss it as a novelty though, the Keb Eco-Shell is actually a beautifully made, very competent all-round mountain jacket. And while we wouldn't buy it primarily for mountaineering use, it's nice to know that the well-designed hood will also accommodate a helmet as well or better as many more overtly 'technical' jackets.
It's not cheap and we wouldn't back it in a one-to-one battle with an angry, abrasive rock, but for moderate to normal mountain use, it does just fine thank you.