Review: Jottnar Fenrir Jacket

Jottnar is a very young, new company, founded just three years ago in 2013. In that short time, they have created a solid and focused range with core pieces from fleece mid-layers to full-featured hardshell jackets and pants. I received the Fenrir Jacket a few months ago and have been beating it up and using it almost everywhere since.

The Fenrir is a designed as a mid- or outer- layer down jacket for cold and damp conditions. It uses 112-grams of 850-fill water-resistant DownTek goose down (in a Men’s Medium), with synthetic insulation at the cuff, hem and collar (the spots most prone to getting very wet). The outer is a dense, and surprisingly tough, rip-stop nylon with a very good DWR treatment. The inner lining is soft and cozy, and just like the outer, tougher than it appears (i.e. I’ve yet to put any holes into this jacket, which is quite an accomplishment for a lightweight down piece).

The cut is athletic and movement-friendly. The torso is tapered and trim-fitting, and the shoulders are roomy and don’t bind when climbing. Sleeves are long and slim, and I’ve never had them lift up when reaching overhead. The cuffs are very low-profile, comfortable but perhaps slightly too tight — they seal up against my wrist very well, but are almost too difficult to pass my hand through when trying to take the jacket off.

Two parts of the Fenrir that are most definitely too tight are the neck and hood. The hood is an under-helmet design so it’s quite tight, but after trying it a couple of times, putting a helmet over a down hood is not something I ever want to try again — it’s tight, uncomfortable and considerably too hot. But, it does somehow squeeze over a helmet, though there’s no way you can zip it up all the way (to be fair it’s not designed to fit over a helmet, so this isn’t entirely surprising). The neck and chin are so tight I physically cannot do the zipper all the way up if I’m wearing a thicker base layer or mid-layer underneath, though it zips up fine but tight if all I have on is a thin base-layer. (Maybe I just have a large head and neck?!) I can’t believe I’m going to say this — given how much I love hooded outer layers! — but I’d like to see it without the hood, and with a lower, and roomier, collar.

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One of the coolest features of the the Fenrir are the snag-free hem drawcords. Jottnar have basically separated the hem drawcord so there’s no loop — as someone who seems to clip my jackets’ hems and cords into every ice clipper and biner in close proximity, this is a really cool feature (and one I’ll probably steal for, and implement, on my other jackets).

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The DownTek water-resistant fill performs like advertised — it’s very warm, and retains most of its loft when exposed to moisture. I literally soaked through the Fenrir on several occasions, both from sweating it through on approaches as well as from standing under dripping-wet icicles (…on purpose). The jacket remains warm, dries quickly and seems to perform just as well after repeated soakings. It does, however, pick up a fair bit of body odour if you sweat in it enough!

There are the typical dual hand pockets, and a single inside chest pocket. All the zippers are robust and run snag-free, though I did manage to lose the cord-pulls for both hand pockets within a couple of weeks — not a big deal, but definitely curious as to why those two cords came loose as I’ve never had that happen before. Of note, all three pockets are slightly smaller than I’m used to: the hand pockets fit my hands comfortably, but don’t expect to store much else in them. Similarly, the chest pocket is big enough for an iPhone 6+ but there’s not a lot of extra room. I’d love to see all the pockets get a bit bigger, as well as adding a couple of mesh drop pockets on the inside for storing gloves, bars, etc. (Not that other jackets in this class have mesh drop pockets, but it’d be a nice touch!)

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The Fenrir comes with it’s own colour-matched stuff sack; shoved inside, the packed jacket takes up a bit more space than a 1L water bottle. Interestingly, the stuff sack is quite roomy which makes stowing the jacket quick and easy, but doesn’t necessarily make for the smallest package: I can fit the Fenrir into a smaller stuff sack, but it takes longer. Trade-offs, I guess? I’ll take the easy-to-stuff but slightly-larger Fenrir stuff sack, though.

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Weight for my Men’s Medium comes in at 420 grams, plus another 16 grams for the stuff sack. This is a bit heavier than other lightweight down jackets, but I suspect most of this is due to the much more robust face fabric. It also feels warmer than other lightweight jackets I’ve used, and in my use hasn’t lost any down through the seams as virtually every other down jacket I’ve seen.

If you’re in the majority of readers from the USA or Canada, it’s also worth noting that Jottnar kit is currently not easily available outside the UK: you can buy direct from the company but there are no current retailers (as of May 2016). At 200 GBP (that’s around $400 CAD, or $285 USD, right now), the Fenrir does fall in-line with other high-end down jackets but offers some unique features.

Pros: tough, great fit, very good performance
Cons: tight hood, neck & cuffs, smallish pockets
Overall: A tough, all-around, lightweight down hoody with some unique features but a tight cut for the hood and neck — a great fit for those with smaller frames.

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