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Salewa Ortles Mountaineering Kit Review: Conquer the Dolomites With One Apparel Collection

Salewa Ortles
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Salewa’s Ortles mountaineering kit was born in the Alps, and designed for high alpine adventure — I tested the gear on its home turf.

One of the most famous climbers of the Ötztal Alps was discovered some 5,300 years after his last ascent. But “Ötzi,” the Copper-Age mummy found in the ice near the Austrian-Italian border, wasn’t armed with the latest alpine kit from Salewa. If he had been, he’d probably have made it out.

Just a short distance from where Ötzi was found — at the base of Ortles, the tallest peak in the Eastern Alps — Salewa revealed its latest mountaineering kit. It’s an apparel line inspired by the 13,000-foot peak.

From its boots to its hoods and packs, the Salewa Ortles Mountaineering collection is a testament to Salewa’s dedication to alpine adventure.

In short: The new Salewa Ortles Mountaineering collection covers all the bases for technical mountaineering gear, and it covers them well. The Powertex pants and jacket offer three-layer protection and peace of mind when weather rolls in. The waterproof, breathable TirolWool Responsive jacket reflects body heat and breathes comfortably. The duck down Parka is athletically tailored to fit under shells, and compresses more than other comparable down jackets.

Salewa Ortles Mountaineering Kit Review

Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection Tyrol jacket; (Photo/Salewa by Federico Modica)
Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection Tyrol jacket; (photo/Graepel collection)

Long before me, before Patagonia, or before Polartec, Salewa was toiling away at the forefront of modern alpinism. The brand was the first to introduce fleece and tubular ice screws. The brand’s equipment has come a long way since those early days. But its innovative Italian mountaineering gear has only gotten better.

The Salewa Ortles Mountaineering line is the culmination of a century of engineering at Salewa. I was very curious to try the collection in the brand’s home mountains — the Alps.

Shells: Ortles 3L Powertex Pant & Jacket

I had the option to try out a pair of the brand’s Schoeller pants ($350). But the forecast looked suspicious. So I left the Schoellers at the hotel and chose to bring Salewa’s Ortles 3L Powertex Pant (also $350) instead.

Nearly half the price of its GORE-TEX Pro pant, the Powertex pant offers three layers of protection. It has full two-way side zips, a robust gaiter tough enough to deflect a rogue crampon, and an elastic cuff to fit (and stay) over the boot. Inside the pant leg, a gusset unzips to provide room to fit over bulky ski boots.

Offered in sizes S-XL, the pants Velcro around the waist for a micro-adjusted fit. The front closes with two snaps and a zipper fly.

I appreciated the map pocket over the thigh. And the perforated stretchy panel at the back of the waist allows you to dial in the fit while keeping the pants cool under the pack.

Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection Ortles Powertex Mens Jacket; (Photo/Salewa)
Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection Orteles Powertex Men’s Jacket; (photo/Salewa)

I also brought the matching Ortles 3L Powertex shell ($400). Though the weather gods granted us clear skies, the jacket stuffed into the beavertail of the Wall pack (discussed below) and brought peace of mind.

As you’d expect, the shell is waterproof and breathable, and it has pit zips and a fantastic athletic fit with a functional hood.

Besides the nice goggle pocket on the inside, a few details make it a standout choice, notably, the long front pocket zipper on the left side is uniquely two-way.

Pull it down and you access the chest pocket. Pull it up and the zipper opens to the inside of the jacket, helping vent the torso or accessing items pocketed in your midlayer. A Velcro tab prevents the shell pocket from spilling its contents.

Salewa Ortles Powertex hood; (Photo/Salewa)
Salewa Ortles Powertex hood; (photo/Salewa)

Also, the hood has a port at the chin. That allows you to strap the helmet through the hood. If you’ve ever tried to buckle a helmet over a jacket’s chin, you understand the value of this design. It looks clean and works flawlessly.

The only downside: the jacket’s chin guard is pinned under the helmet straps. So, in order to pull the jacket off, you have to unbuckle and rebuckle the helmet.

I usually don’t climb in shells. Instead, I reach for a layer that breathes better. Wearing a shell is a personal choice that meets your body’s physiology where it’s at.

But you absolutely need to carry one in the mountains. And from my perspective, the lighter the better. At 14 ounces, the Ortles 3L Powertex Jacket is a good balance between lightweight and durable.

Parka: 2 RDS Down Jacket

Salewa Ortles Medium RDS Down Mens Jacket; (Photo/Salewa)
Salewa Ortles Medium 2 RDS Down Men’s Jacket; (photo/Salewa)

Because I’m old, I get cold faster than I used to. So, I always pack an insulated puffy (and a pair of puffy pants). The Ortles Medium 2 RDS Down Jacket is a blend of 750-fill duck down (in the torso) and 130 gsm Tirol Wool Responsive (in the shoulders and arms). It compresses smaller than my Patagonia DAS Parka, and I appreciate the extra length that covers the butt.

Best of all, it’s a fair value for the price, at $350.

Two deep hand pockets pair with a small chest pocket. With no internal mesh pockets, you’ll need those deep hand pockets to stow away gloves and assorted stuff.

This piece is more athletic and less oversized than a traditional parka. There is just enough room to layer over your midlayer and hardshell. The cuff hugs your wrists with a soft elastic.

Midlayer: Ortles Hybrid TirolWool Responsive Jacket

Salewa Ortles Hybrid Tyrol Responsive Jacket; (Photo/Salewa)
Salewa Ortles Hybrid Tyrol Responsive Jacket; (photo/Salewa)

My favorite piece from the Salewa Ortles Mountaineering collection was the Ortles Hybrid TirolWool Responsive Jacket ($200), a wool-insulated midlayer jacket. The Responsive Jacket is a hybrid puffy with softshell arms, durable enough to scramble in or work with sharp tools without risking a tear.

The fit is slim and the materials are flexible, making it ideal for pulling moves on rock. You could easily wear this jacket from hut to summit and back again.

The spun wool insulation stays warm when wet. It also breathes exceptionally well, is protected with a DWR, and is reputed to “reflect heat back to the body.”

I couldn’t see the Responsive Jacket reflecting my body heat. But it was comfortably warm. I found it to be a “put it on/leave it on” layer. This jacket meets the gamut of alpine conditions you’ll encounter on a climb. It did a fine job at blocking wind on the summit ridge, and the DWR kept the mountain spittle from wetting the jacket out.

Salewa offers a vest version of the Hybrid Tirlol (for $160), which is what a lot of our group chose to wear. It’s a viable option for those who want more flexibility. It punches up the warmth around the core without heating up the arms and packs down small.

Raven 3 GORE-TEX Boots

Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection at the summit; (Photo/Salewa by Federico Modica)
Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection at the summit; (photo/Graepel collection)

If the Alps are nothing else, they are accessible. Very accessible. Most climbs start out of a small mountain village and pop out onto talus inside an hour’s hike. With this approachability, you can wear your boots right out of your hotel to the summit.

Salewa has a line of three boots in the Salewa Ortles Mountaineering collection, ranging from a mid-boot mountain boot to a technical-alpine beast built for steep ice.

Unfortunately, the Salewa Ortles Mountaineering line of boots wasn’t available to test yet. So, I opted for Salewa’s Raven 3 GORE-TEX boot ($340). It’s a stalwart mountaineering boot and the second iteration of a boot I wore up the Grand Teton.

A good blend of durability, rigidity, and fit, but with lighter materials, the Raven 3.0 is built on a light-but-burly last. It’s one of the only boots I can comfortably wear right out of the box and onto the mountain.

Salewa Raven 3 GTX; (Photo/Salewa)
Salewa Raven 3 GTX; (photo/Salewa)

Salewa dropped some of the shoe’s suede and extra locking lace pulleys to yield a slightly more nimble boot. Weighing in at just over 3.6 pounds for the pair, they are warm, walk fast, and are rigid and crampon-compatible. They offer secure footing while scrambling up scree and climbing class 4 rock.

The Raven is protected with a robust toe rand and stiffer toebox. The collar softens up around the ankles, and the entire boot is insulated.

Boots are a very personal choice. In our experience, the Ravens run wider, but there is no slop. It’s enough to layer a pair of socks inside to provide warmth without getting hotspots.

Exploring the Salewa Ortles Mountaineering line of boots, the Raven 3.0 falls somewhere between the $350 Ortles Edge, a lightweight, nylon-reinforced mid-boot, and the $400 Ortles Ascent, a full leather boot that rises over the ankles for better protection. With the Raven, you get more boot than the Edge, but it weighs less than the Ascent.

With this in mind, the Raven arguably offers more bang for the buck.

Pack: Salewa Ortles Wall

Salewa_Ortles_2022_Collection_Ortles_Wall_32L_Pack; (Photo/Salewa)

You gotta put all that mountaineering apparel inside of something! A svelte top loader, the Ortles Wall ($170) has two pockets. One pocket on the inside secures all your small personal items, and an external top pocket carries those items you need to keep accessible — like a headlamp, sunblock, or food.

The Salewa Ortles Mountaineering pack uses a roll-top to create a water-resistant seal, and it cinches down with a top strap that also functions as a rope keeper. Tools slide under the Hypalon compression straps while the sharps tuck into sleeves. A clever bungee toggle locks tools in place through the head’s carabiner hole.

To access the pack on the go, a large waterproof vertical zipper opens from the side. That allows you to quickly grab that parka or shell without having to unpack the entire kit. Overpacked? A beavertail pocket fits a lunch or extra climbing equipment.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to climb in the Alps, though. Most major summits have a high mountain hut with beds and a stocked restaurant. Any ~30L pack will do.

But I particularly like the external entry points on the Ortles Wall. It’s small enough to store in the overhead bin and durable enough for the summit.

The side zip and external pocket are a great addition while on the move. I had enough room to carry summit boots and a sleeping bag (which I didn’t use) inside the pack on the way to the alpine hut.

Behind the Brand: Salewa Ortles Mountaineering Kit

Salewa Ortles 2022 Collection Salewa Headquarters; (Photo/Salewa by Federico Modica)
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

When I got into mountaineering some 30 years ago, the first piece of gear I bought was a pair of steel Salewa crampons. I brought that pair of metal fangs to three continents, climbing over 100 peaks in 10 years before they eventually (finally) gave out.

Headquartered in Bolzano, Italy, the mirrored limestone towers of the Salewa campus jut out of downtown. With an onsite kindergarten, a rooftop organic garden, and a climbing wall open to the public, the place feels more like a family recreation center than a corporate outdoor brand. You can even borrow the company Defender for weekend adventures.

Coming up on 100 years in the business, Salewa is expanding. Soon, it will be doubling the campus size with a new sister building addition, and a plan to engineer products in the Dolomites for another 100 years.

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