Fjallraven Launches Eco-Shell Waterproofs
It's hard to believe, but Swedish outdoors brand Fjallraven hasn't featured a waterproof jacket in its line-up in recent years. Instead the brand - more about it here - has focussed on its core left-field G1000 waxed poly-cotton clothing, but that's all set to change later this year with the launch of Fjallraven Eco-Shell a new fully waterproof fabric.
But because Fjallraven is a little bit different, so is the fabric. Not only is it waterproof with a hydrostatic head of 30,000mm and breathable with lab test results at 26,000g/m2/24h - on a par with top name fabrics, but it's also recyclable and the face fabric of the jacket is recycled in the first place.
As Green As It Gets
On top of that, the DWR - durable water repellent - treatment on the outside face fabric is completely fluorocarbon-free and all emissions during production and transport are climate compensated. In other words, Eco-Shell is about as green as a waterproof fabric gets: 'Waterproof, breathable, sustainable' is the headline.
None of which was really necessary on an unexpectedly warm, dry and sunny spring day in Snowdonia where Eco-Shell was launched in conjunction with UK brand ambassador Alan Hinkes at the National Mountain Centre at Plas y Brenin.
So what's it like? Well, technically it's an all-polyester affair with Polyester face and inner scrim fabrics sandwiching a polyester hydrophilic membrane which sucks water vapour outwards through the fabric and away from the body. The result is a waterproof and windproof fabric, which is also breathable.
The material has a really nice soft feel to it along with a bit of stretch making it really pleasant. It's also relatively quiet compared to some of the technical lightweight waterproof fabrics, which can be a bit crisp-packety.
Initially Eco-Shell features in Fjallraven's most technical collection, the Keb range, named after Sweden's highest peak, Kebnekaise and intended for mountain use, though also suitable for more all-round general outdoors wear.
Jacket And Anorak
We met both the Keb Eco-Shell Anorak and Jacket in pre-production sample form. Both are clean designs featuring two-big Napoleon-style chest-pockets, but eschewing pack-hostile hand-warmer ones, with adjustable hems, cuffs and hood complete with wired peak.
Fjallraven believes in core-vents rather than pit-zips, so both tops get those complete with water-resistant zips. There's a two-way YKK Aquaguard main-zip, complete with internal storm-flap, plus in a nod to less extreme use, those chest pockets have a neat inner mesh pocket plus earphone cord ports.
What's also really striking is how nicely put together the jacket is. It gets Fjallraven's signature retro leather zip-pulls and fox logo badge, but there's also a neat bonded hem-cord channel, zipper garages and clever hidden captive hood pulls, so stealth in fact that one journo simply couldn't find the adjuster cords.
It is, close up, a very nice jacket particularly in the lush Autumn Leaf colour we have for an early look. What we can't tell you about is the fit, our sample jacket is a large, but the cut on the G1000 range tends to be neat and fitted and we suspect the Keb Eco-Shell stuff will be similar - it's going to be passed on to a larger tester, so we'll let you know om due course.
It is though very definitely a slightly longer length cut rather than an aggressively short technical jacket. It's designed to be used for general mountain walking and mountaineering rather than full-on, super-technical climbing and while we were told the hood wouldn't accommodate a climbing helmet, it does seem to.
Our sample jacket weighs a reasonable 510 grammes in a large, which is about right for an all-round, longer-cut waterproof. We'll be keeping an eye on wear and abrasion in particular, polyester is a softer fabric than Nylon or Polyamide, but generally not as outright tough, though that doesn't mean it's not 'tough enough'.
We'll also be checking on how well that fluoro-free DWR lasts and how well it takes a re-proofing, which the obvious replacement being Nikwax TX Direct.
Finally, there's the small matter of pricing. The Keb Eco-Shell Jacket is going to sell for £390 once it appears in the shops this September 2015, while the Anorak version will be £20 less at £370. There's no getting away from the fact that those are top-end prices, but equally Fjallraven is a premium brand and Eco-Shell's mix of ecologically-sound credentials and all-round mountain friendliness is unusual for a top-end jacket, mostly they tend to be uncompromising alpine shells.
Sadly, ahem, the uncharacteristically dry Snowdonian spring means we can't tell you how the jacket actually performs in the wet and windy, but we'll be updating once our large-sized tester has some miles on the jacket. Here's to a soaking wet summer...