Field Test -- Norway's Romsdal Alps (part II)

The Gear Junkie: Field Test — Norway’s Romsdal Alps (part II)
By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Part I of this article can be found here.

The mountain was called Kvitfjellet, and it was a hulking and flat-top mass set against the Norwegian sky. We started a few hundred feet above sea level — shouldering packs, clipping into skis — then began the long climb toward the summit.

It was day No. 4 on my Norwegian odyssey, a trip to the Romsdal Alps last month to climb and ski peaks above the country’s famous fjords. The ascent on Kvitfjellet would take four hours; going down — a 2,000-vertical-foot flight on an immense white face — would be 30 minutes if we went straight at it.

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In this column I previously covered the hard goods — skis, boots, bindings, avalanche safety equipment and a pack — that make ski-touring trips like this possible. For this week the focus is on apparel, specifically the outerwear and base layers I wore on the mountain.

As my top layer of protection against the elements of coastal Norway, I tested a to-be-released shell jacket from Outdoor Research. The Elusive Jacket, available in September for $299, uses Gore Windstopper soft shell fabric with a light lining of fleece inside. But the company (www.orgear.com) doesn’t drape fleece all throughout the interior: It is welded in panels on the upper arms and on most of the back, though with a channel of non-fleece fabric on the upper back to promote breathability.

This selective insulation helps keep you warm where needed and ventilated where the body often has too much heat. The fabric, which is water resistant and wind proof, stretches and moves when you move.

The Elusive is a full-featured top, with ventilating pit zips; a removable powder skirt; a hidden hood that folds into the collar; water-resistant zippers; and five pockets.

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On my legs, Outdoor Research’s lightweight Exos pants ($165) provided just enough protection from wind and moisture. These 17-ounce Cordura pants — made for climbing, skiing and trekking in snow — are waterproof and stretchy, making them comfortable during activity.

The Exos’ zippered pockets — including small hand pockets on the hips and cargo pockets that sit almost behind the thigh — are well placed and do not interfere with your stride. (I kept energy bars and sunscreen in the cargos during the ski up Kvitfjellet.) An integrated belt and a zipper fly give the Exos a nice and normal-feeling pants fit.

For insulation under the shells, I used common fleece mid-layers during the climb on Kvitfjellet. But my base layers — prototype wool pieces from Duofold — were newsworthy: The company’s (www.duofold.com) to-be-released Varitherm High Performance Wool base layers combine a wool-based fabric with a treatment called Dri-Release.

Duofold cites this mash-up as generating a faster transfer of moisture off the body, with the long underwear essentially soaking in your sweat and dispelling it to the next clothing layer on up in the chain.

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On the ascent of Kvitfjellet — poling, striding, pushing and stepping, hour upon hour uphill — I can say that the Duofold blend indeed did its job. It insulated and regulated moisture as needed, moving sweat off my skin and remaining dryer than most base layers I test.

I wore the men’s crew top ($39) and bottoms ($44). Like all pieces in the line, these employed wool as the base fabric with a touch of polyester and spandex fibers knit in. When the Varitherm wool pieces ship (due to stores this summer) the company will sell several styles for men and women, including crews, bottoms and zip mocks.

The Varitherm design is smart, too, with a good fit; flat-stitched seams and an absence of tags to eliminate chafing; and touches like thumbholes on the cuffs for pulling the fabric up over the hand. On top of Kvitfjellet — snow spinning in the coastal air, wind whipping — I appreciated that extra warmth.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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