The mountains are a fickle place. Too hot, too cold, incredibly sunny, raging winds, all the weather that makes packing sometimes damn near impossible. Especially when you want to be prepared for all the things. When the mountains can’t make up their damn minds, there’s the Outdoor Research Whirlwind Hoody.
When I flew into Oslo for my Norway trip, one of the first things I did was pop into the Norrøna flagship store in Sentrum. I couldn’t pass up a trip to see Norrøna in real life! They’re only available on Backcountry in the United States… I hope that changes soon, because they have some pretty cool (and colorful!) stuff. I told myself I would only try things on and wait to buy stuff back home because of the exchange rate. But then I saw the Norrøna Bitihorn Pants in Hot Chili aka bright, obnoxious orange, and I had to have it. Backcountry definitely did not have this color in stock.
Toren Apparel is a pretty neat technical-meets-street startup for adventure clothing. Their online-only presence sets them apart from other brands, allowing them to focus on providing high quality, outdoor apparel at affordable price points.
They offered to send me their new Fundamental Shell to test out, and I couldn’t say no.
The Fundamental Shell is basically combination of the Arc’teryx Alpha SL hardshell and the Outdoor Research Valhalla softshell in terms of form and function. Made of Toray 3-layer mini ripstop polyester with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, it has the waterproof protection of a hardshell, and the movability, breathability, and swishiness of a softshell.
The sizing runs fairly large. As a 5 feet tall, 100ish pound person, the XS shell is very roomy. I highly recommend sizing down.
This jacket is all about the little details that make it street-wearable and trail friendly. First and foremost, the pit zips! The jacket has pit zips, but they are covered in little flaps of fabric to conceal the zipper. This prevents the zipper teeth from scraping the fabric and pilling it, while concealing the technical details. The zipper pulls are fairly small, and are difficult to grasp. Keep this in mind if you’re considering this jacket for alpine activities.
The jacket has two standard hip pockets, situated above a pack hip belt or harness for easy access to items. The Fundamental Shell also has a left-hand sleeve pocket, though it is well concealed in the seam of the sleeve. One inner left chest pocket allows for easy access to your smartphone without needing to remove it from your pocket. The idea is cool, but I am not sure about the implementation. I’m not too inclined to open up my jacket in inclement weather and have a little waterproof bag case for my phone.
The hood is roomy and helmet-compatible with three cinches to make it fully adjustable.
All in all, this is a solid first piece for the Toren Apparel line. If you’re looking for something that’s technical and street wearable, this is for you. If you’ve already got a softshell and a hardshell and you love both, this is something you can pass on. If you’re a hoarder who likes all the latest and greatest, you’ll probably want it.
Pre-order the Fundamental Shell now for $195. The jacket is set to arrive in Fall 2014.
Mountaineering is one of those things that I’ve been trying to get into for a while now. I mean, who can resist gr1m, frostbitten, kvlt ice and spikey things and tall peaks?
For the boyfriend’s Christmas present, I got him an intro to mountaineering class for the two of us through REI’s Outdoor School.
We woke up well before the sun was up and drove to the REI in Roseville. The other option was to meet at the Donner Pass Sno Park next to Boreal. We arrived at the trailhead at around 10AM due to a freak bus fire accident on the side of 80.
Our instructors, Dakota and Ryan, handed out ice axes, crampons, helmets and gaiters. Students were free to bring their own gear if they had it. Then, we set off across the road towards Castle Peak. It had snowed a bunch the week before, and without snowshoes, we were mostly postholing in the snow.
Did a lot of practice of walking in balance up and down hills. Spent some time practicing kick stepping and the French technique. We spent an absurd amount of time practicing self-arresting in various ways. Did some self belaying up and down the side of a powdery hill. Practiced some “real” mixed climbing up a rock formation.
And then glissaded all the way back down (mostly) to the trailhead, which was awesome. I want to glissade my life away.
If you’re looking for a glimpse into mountaineering, I highly recommend this class, though your mileage may vary. Dakota and Ryan were super, nice, friendly, patient and informative. I feel like I have a decent grasp of basic mountaineering techniques that I can practice on small, less technical peaks.
See ya this summer, Rainier!
This class is available through REI’s Outdoor School website. The cost is $125 for members and $145 for non-members.
Have you taken a class through REI before? What did you think?
Pictured above are the Outdoor Research Women’s Valhalla Pants, Outdoor Research Women’s Riot Gloves, The North Face Women’s Kira Triclimate Jacket, Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet, Icebreaker BodyFit 260 Compass Leggings – Girls’, Icebreaker BodyFit Oasis Crew Long Sleeve, Black Diamond FrontPoint Gaiters, Camelbak Aventura pack, and Triple Aught Design Artemis Hoodie.
The Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants are awesome. I haven’t tried these for snowboarding or skiing yet, but I took them on a mountaineering course and some snow frolicking. Then I fell in love.
At 20.1oz, they’re not the most lightweight pants, but you’ll be wearing them, so the weight is pretty negligible. Made of GORE® WINDSTOPPER® X-FAST Soft Shell, they’re a highly breathable pant for winter activities. Zippered thigh vents allow you to ventilate accordingly. The fabric is extremely stretchy so your range of motion is not limited by your pants. The GORE® WINDSTOPPER® sheds snow super easily and is water-resistant, so you can move quickly through the backcountry. I put the WINDSTOPPER® to work this weekend on a snowy mountain; it lives up to its name.
These pants have four zippered pockets: two hand pockets and two thigh pockets. One also doubles as an avalanche beacon pocket with a key clip attachment. They also have an internal stretchy gaiter with slots for boot power straps.
The cut is standard, and on the roomier side, so no need to size up. Your regular size should be fine.
I don’t really have any negative things to say about these. They’re primarily a ski/snowboard pant, so they are a little baggier, especially around the ankles. If you have snow gaiters to wear over them, you might have some trouble fitting them on. However, can’t take points away from the Valhalla since they’re not meant to take snow gaiters.
If you are in the market for a pair of softshell pants, these might be for you! Lightweight, breathable, and super easy to move in… would definitely recommend!
These come with a matching jacket, so check out my Outdoor Research Valhalla jacket review here.
The Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants were sent to me for review.