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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Dale of Norway Roaldshorn Vest > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

DALE of NORWAY ROALDSHORN VEST
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
September 18, 2011

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Male, 65 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.91 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
Chest 46 in (117 cm), waist 37 in (94 cm), torso 22.5 in (57 cm)

I've been backpacking for almost half a century, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.  Winter adventures are often on touring or telemark skis.

THE PRODUCT

collarThe Roaldshorn vest combines heavy Norwegian wool for warmth and water resistance with Gore Windstopper technology to make it windproof.  I’ve found it to be an ideal as either a midlayer on really cold days and as an outer layer when the temperature is only a bit below freezing.  

Manufacturer: Dale of Norway AS [pronounced da-LAY]
Website: www.dale.no [This website has tabs for Scandinavia (in Norse with prices in Norwegian kroner), International, and North America (the latter two in English with prices in US dollars).]
Size: XL [Available in S – XL, men’s sizes]
Color: Indigo/vanilla.  When I bought it the vest was also available in black.  Both of these colors are now listed as “past season colors” on a US distributor’s website.
Length (measured in the back): 31 in (79 cm)
Weight: 22 oz (624 g)
Materials:  Norwegian wool treated with a “new technology” to adapt it to W. L. Gore’s Windstopper membrane.  Dale calls this fabric “Knitshell.”  A tag inside the vest notes that the garment has also been treated with Nano technology for additional stain and water repellency.  
MSRP: Not available; the Roaldshorn is not listed in Dale’s current online catalog.
Year purchased: 2010

The vest’s construction and design may be seen from the following two photos.  The left one shows the inside – a “soft liner” (fabric undisclosed) everywhere except the sides and a strip across the chest, where there are strips of grey wool.  The reverse of this can be seen in the photo on the right, showing the outside of the vest.  The white stripes (another unidentified fabric) across the chest and sides match the wool inside.  These panels give the vest room to breathe, so to speak  - allowing some wicking from my base layer without overly compromising the windproofing.
Vest-insideVest-outSide

pocketOn each side panel on the inside of the vest is a large pocket.  This is a very welcome feature for a backcountry skier, as each pocket is large enough for a pair of climbing skins, which must be stored close to my body to avoid freezing.  The outside of the vest has two slash handwarmer pockets, each with a zipper and a zipper pull, and a center zipper with a pull that sports Dale’s logo.   A small leather Norwegian flag patch sits on the left between the venting stripe and the collar, and the company’s name is embroidered (in an understated black) on the back of the collar.   All stitching is at least double and loop-stitched, with the outside stitching at the collar and inside stitching along the ventilating panels in a contrasting color (white).  

FIELD CONDITIONS

In the backcountry I have worn the Roaldshorn while day hiking, backpacking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, and ski touring.  Conditions have varied from a sunny fall day, temperature about 50 F (10 C) on a spring creek to a day tour on telemark skis at -10 F (-23 C) in a whiteout blizzard.  

I use this vest for different purposes depending on my activity and the weather conditions.  On day hikes when the weather forecast doesn’t include sustained rain and temperatures aren’t expected to drop much below freezing, the vest is my outer layer (though I may pack a rain shell just in case), normally atop a long-sleeve wool shirt and merino base layer.  When ski touring or snow shoeing its duty as an outer layer extends down another ten or twenty degrees F (4-9 degrees C), and I use it as a midlayer, under a lined jacket, when it’s colder still.  

PERFORMANCE

Dale markets its Knitshell jackets as “windproof, water resistant, and very warm relative to their weight.”  I unreservedly endorse the first two claims.  Protection from the wind and rain is my vest’s best attribute.

Wind resistance is the best I’ve experienced in any garment that does not have an impermeable layer somewhere on it (a non-breathable outer fabric or silk liner, for example).  Cold gusts simply don’t get through the Roaldshorn.  I’ve noticed this most when fishing.  Several favorite angling haunts are in the Paradise Valley in Montana, where it is ALWAYS windy.  I fished one of the spring creeks there last Thanksgiving weekend (late November), temperature just above freezing and frequent blasts of wind right in my face.  The vest, zipped all the way up, kept my upper body toasty warm in gusts that several times blew off a rain hat that I’d cinched tightly around my neck.  Yet I didn’t have to pay for this protection with sweat inside – the vest’s venting system did its job as if it had been in a dead calm.

This windproof ability makes this vest ideal for ski touring, when I can vary the insulating effect by opening the zipper when I’m climbing and then close it up tightly to traverse a windy ridgeline or when it’s time to schuss through the powder.  

If anything the treated wool’s ability to handle rain is even more remarkable.  Even after several hours of fishing in a drizzle the vest’s wool, while wet, didn’t get soggy.  Raindrops actually bead on the outer surface.  At a trade show demonstration I saw Dale actually soak one of its Knitshell vests with a garden hose, with the same beading and impermeability.  I haven’t worn the vest as my outer layer in a lengthy downpour, and as noted I generally pack a shell, so maybe I don’t trust what I saw with my own eyes.  But my own experience allows me to say that Dale’s claim of “water resistant” is major understatement.

I’ve said the vest keeps me very warm, yet my commentary on Dale’s third claim is somewhat qualified.  The Roaldshorn isn’t a lightweight garment even by my non-ounce counting standards when considered as a midlayer.  As midlayers go it’s on the heavy side.  Without coverage for my arms I can't consider using it as my only outer layer.  Even more problematic for backpacking purposes, it’s rather bulky too, and not easy to compress for stashing in my pack when I don’t need it for warmth.  Because of this most of my backcountry use of the vest has been on day trips, on snow or trail.  When I don’t need it I just lash it to the front of my pack.

Vanity may be another reason I hesitate to fold and cram the Roaldshorn into a backpack.  I think it looks very handsome, and so provides a stylish as well as highly functional front country windbreaker on chilly days.  Dale, a company that is world famous for its traditionally-patterned everyday sweaters, knows how to win fashion points.

The size XL fits me snugly.  I’ve never found it constraining, but a few times I wished it were a bit larger. On one jaunt on fat (very wide) skis I wore two layers underneath the vest and had a bit of difficulty zipping the vest to the top with both skins stored in one pocket.  (Easy fix – one skin on each side. That’s actually wise for another reason, as the skins are left- and right-specific for my asymmetrical tele skis.)   I prefer a size XXL Dale sweater to XL, so this company may just size slightly small.

The specially constructed Knitshell combination has needed little maintenance.  One of the hangtags notes that ironing immediately after washing helps preserve the Nano treatment, and that’s what I’ve done (with a medium-hot iron) each of the two times I’ve washed it.  Each washing was done by hand with a wool-specific product, followed by an air-drying.  My vest has collected one smudge on the outer white stripe, but otherwise looks as good as new.

All in all I consider the Roaldshorn to be an extraordinarily useful vest for athletic and everyday use.   

Vest zippedWHAT I LIKE

Truly as windproof and waterproof, yet breathable, as any garment I’ve ever worn.

Warm and cozy

Makes me look like a ski instructor (until I’m seen skiing).

WHAT I DON’T

Bulky and on the heavy side; tough to stash inside a pack.

I wish an XXL were available.



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