BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Norrona lofoten Hybrid Softshell 2010 > Owner Review by Richard Lyon


Norrøna lofoten Men’s Hybrid Softshell Jacket - 2010 model
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
August 31, 2012
viking

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Richard Lyon
Male, 66 years old
Height: 6'4" [1.91 m], weight 200 lb [89 kg]
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA
Email: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Torso 22.5 in [57 cm], chest 46 in [117 cm], waist 37 in [94 cm], sleeve length 36.5 in [93 cm]

I've been backpacking regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500-3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, but still sleep in a floored tent and often include my favorite camp conveniences. Outdoor activities in winter are often on telemark or touring skis.

The Product

lofoten Norrøna, a Norse manufacturer of gear and clothing for various mountain activities, has designed its lofoten (Norrøna uses all lower case) line for snow sports - skiing and snowboarding. Norrøna named this product designation after a small archipelago north of Norway in the Arctic Sea.

This past year the manufacturer updated the design of the lofoten softshell jacket and substituted GORE-TEX Active Shell for the Paclite fabric in the jacket I own.  So it’s now known as the lofoten Active Shell, but the current marketing pitch is identical to what was on the hangtag that accompanied mine – a “lightweight highly breathable and waterproof alternative for skiers and snowboarders with a strong focus on backcountry touring.”  

Manufacturer: Norrøna Sport AS, Hvalstad, Norway.  At this writing Backcountry.com is the manufacturer’s exclusive United States distributor.
Website: http://www.norrona.com   English and Norse versions.
Year purchased: 2010
Size: XL, available in S-XXL
Color: Caviar (dark grey) with blue-grey trim (The Active Shell is now available in different colors: Yellow Saffron, Waterfall Blue, and True Purple.)
Related products: Norrøna also offers a Women’s version of the Active Shell, and lofoten shells made of GORE-TEX Pro Shell for either gender.
Weight, measured: 24.4 oz (692 g)
Torso length, measured: 28 in (71 cm)
Sleeve length, measured: 37 in (94 cm)
Warranty: Lifetime to the original purchaser. According to the manufacturer’s website this requires return to the manufacturer in Norway. However Norrøna’s US distributor has a no-questions-asked return policy.
MSRP: $499 US (This is a significant increase over the list price in 2010, perhaps because of the fabric change. Another change is that Norrøna now quotes its MSRPs in US dollars rather than Euros.)

zipper garage The lofoten softshell jacket has a bundle of features: detachable powder skirt; attached hood; toggle-controlled drawcords at the hem, top of the chin guard, and back of the hood; articulated elbows; long pit zips; soft patch at the back of the neck; a tiny garage for the zipper pull at the top of the front zipper for chin protection (pictured at right); YKK® water resistant zippers; asymmetric cuffs (longer across the back of the hand); thumbholes on the liner; hook-and-loop cuff adjustment; Radio/Key card pocket™; and a lens cleaner attached (by means of a tiny buckle) to a leather cord sewn into the left front pocket. (This is visible in the photo above.)

That’s a great list, and there’s more.  My jacket has five pockets: two pockets in the front; a small pocket on the left sleeve (the Radio/Key card pocket mentioned above); a larger zippered inside pocket on the left; and another inside pocket on the right, secured at its top by a hook-and-loop fastener.  This last pocket is for a music box (such as an iPod), and immediately above it is a small hook-and-loop fastener to guide the earpiece wire up.  Note that according to the manufacturer’s webpage the Active Shell now has only one front pocket.

FIELD CONDITIONS

The lofoten has been my go-to outer layer for the past two winters.  While those were not my most active backcountry winters, thanks to an injury in 2010-2011 and moving my home this past winter, I estimate about fifty days of active wear – ski touring, cross-country skiing, resort skiing, day hikes, hut-to-hut trips, and backpacking in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Megeve, France.  I really should say winter conditions rather than winter; now that I’ve moved to Montana I’ve encountered snow and ice as late as June. Here’s a picture of my back yard on Memorial Day (May 28).

Temperatures have ranged from 0 to 60 F (-17 to 16 C), and the jacket has met with rain, snow, sleet, and wind, sometimes all on the same day.  When exercising (snowshoe or regular hiking or boot-packing or skinning on skis) I usually wear the lofoten unzipped over a merino wool long-sleeved t-shirt unless weather conditions (wind or a temperature below 15 F/-9 C) call for an additional layer.  At breaks or for skiing downhill I’ll add an extra insulating layer, either a wool or down sweater underneath the jacket or a down sweater I own that’s large enough to don atop the lofoten.   

OBSERVATIONS

Fit. Based upon this and my other Norrøna jacket, separately reviewed on this site, I’d say this company’s products run true to size.  For winter use I chose XL, in my case the smaller option, for the lofoten, and I received just what I wanted – a trim athletic fit, exactly right across the chest, length slightly below my waist, and sleeves almost long enough to reach my wrists.  With the sleeve liner pulled out by using the thumbhole I am able to block the wind to my wrist.

Features.  My one reservation when I ordered the lofoten was that it might be over-featured.  Two winters’ use has firmly disabused that notion.  I have used every one of the features I’ve been able to identify and now praise this jacket for its versatility.  

The front pockets are nicely placed for ready access when wearing a pack, though they are difficult to use for warming up my hands.  I never take an iPod into the backcountry, but the music box pocket is sized just right for my mobile phone, which, thanks to the second inside pocket, won’t be scratched or started by rubbing against car keys.  I have used the sleeve pocket for an RFID-type lift ticket (one that’s swiped across a reader on the lift gate) and on other occasions my backcountry wallet (containing a couple of bills plus a credit card).  Each of the exterior zippers has a slightly curved zipper pull that makes opening and closing them an easy one-handed job.  

As with my other Norrøna jacket, the pit zips are longer than what I’m used to, and so increase ventilating options accordingly. Each has a double zipper so I can create an opening at either end.

sleeve Sleeve length is great.  With my long arms I’m all too used to unwanted exposure at the wrist, particularly when engaged in pole planting or other arm motion.  Not with the lofoten and its longer coverage on the outside of the sleeve.  My wrists stay dry, so I’m unafraid to use the thumbholes on the lining, a feature that I sometimes think was invented just to soak my wrists.  And the hook-and-loop closures haven’t failed me yet.

True to the lofoten line’s stated purpose, the skiing-related features are where this softshell really shines.  The hood fits nicely over my helmet, and I can cinch it tight using any of the three toggles, one on either side and one in the back.  This I find useful when not wearing a helmet, as when I’m skinning or boot-packing uphill or doing camp chores in the evening.  The drawcord at the waist has two toggles, on the inside of the hem (to avoid a snag) just in front of my side, each easily tugged with one gloved or mittened hand.

The powder skirt, which I may remove with a zipper, fits fairly tightly around my waist – tightly enough to retain my climbing skins when I have stuffed them inside the jacket.  When snapped together (three snaps, with additional ones that may be used with lofoten pants) the powder stays out and body heat is trapped to increase warmth, usually a good thing in winter.  With the three-layer fabric, athletic fit, and closures at the chin, waist, and sleeves, the lofoten makes a cozy cocoon when the north wind blows.  And the zipper garage at the top of the zipper means no cold steel at my throat. The lens cloth is very handy for goggle wiping after a fall, and as it’s attached I can’t lose it in the snow.

Water Resistance.  I have been wary of softshells because they are not advertized as waterproof, only water resistant.  That is ordinarily not an issue in winter, as extended rain is rare; still I’ve been hesitant to spend a cold day in something that won’t guarantee to keep me dry.  In winter conditions at least the lofoten has been completely waterproof.  I’ve had no melted snow soaking through, even amid sleet and repeated falls into the powder or spring rain.  Waterproofing has been so good I no longer hesitate to wear a down sweater underneath.  The only inside dampness has come from the other direction – perspiration – and that dampness dries quickly thanks to the lofoten’s excellent breathability.  I’m sure Norrøna had its reasons for changing fabrics, but based upon my experience it wasn’t necessary to improve waterproofing or breathability.

Durability and Care.  This jacket looks almost as good as new, a fact that reflects its outstanding construction and materials.  The yoke and shoulders are made of a stouter material than the rest of the jacket, to absorb the brushes and bangs of ripping past rocks and trees, and that fabric has done its work flawlessly.  Before submitting this report a careful inspection turned up not a single loose thread or frayed edge.  

I’ve met with a bit of soiling, but all spots have vanished after washing.  Following Norrøna’s directions that has been done in my front-loading washer, using warm water, a cold rinse, and non-detergent soap, followed by a spray of waterproofing that I iron in with a warm (not hot) iron.  Then the jacket is left to air dry.

Appearance.  As with my falketind, I think the lofoten looks sharp – trim fit, stylish colors, and a bit of flair from the contrasting piping. This helps my skiing – I always ski better when I’m looking fly on the slopes.

The Really Good

Fully-featured but not over-featured. Truly designed for a skier.
Great athletic fit
Best water resistance I’ve ever experienced in a softshell
Durability
Looks great

Room for Improvement

Especially now that the manufacturer now uses GORE-TEX, it’s expensive. [Hint to prospective buyers: The US distributor has an overstock outlet at which Norrøna products are often listed, and a super-discount website with genuine bargains. You may have to wear last year’s colors though.]

As often is true in European-made products, the zipper slider is on the left side. Perhaps old age is to blame, but I still have trouble adjusting a lifelong habit to accommodate this feature.

I may sew a mesh pocket into one side for my skins.  

THE BOTTOM LINE

As may be apparent from this Review, Norrøna has become my favorite jacket supplier.  I hope this doesn’t become an expensive habit.







 






Read more reviews of Norrona gear
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Norrona lofoten Hybrid Softshell 2010 > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson