Friday, 20 April 2012

Haglöfs Fang Jacket Review – A Scandinavian Saga In 3 Acts

This is the first piece of outdoor clothing by Haglöfs I have ever bought. It’s a brand I have been interested in trying for some time – in fact I’ve tried jackets on before and quite liked what I’ve found, but somehow I’ve ended up choosing something else. I must also confess that despite a growing interest in trying their stuff I’ve found the prices slightly scary being, as they are, towards the upper end of the range.

However you do often get what you pay for. Their products look good and garner positive reviews in product tests, so when I was looking for a soft shell jacket and saw this model substantially reduced, I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.

RRP = £240
Price Paid = £140

Because of our current “not walking” status, I’ve decided to do this review in 3 parts: first an overview of the jacket with product stats and technical features, followed by a more detailed report on the jacket in use when I get the chance, then a final appreciation after a decent period of test time.

Act 1: The Technical Stuff

Initial Impressions:

First off, the Fang is a good-looking jacket whose style and use of distinctively coloured fabrics make it stand out from the crowd. Now I know this might not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I find the usual gamut of garments in monochrome red, blue, grey or black to be rather utilitarian and uninspiring. For the sorts of prices asked, what is wrong with wanting a garment to be attractive as well as functional?

Anyway, whatever the merits (or otherwise) of the colour options available, it comes down to quality in the end, and this is what I want to cover in this first appreciation of the product.

The term “soft shell” has an enormous range of meaning these days, and an equally enormous range of products and prices to match, ranging from products that are little more than an alternative to the basic fleece to those that are much more technical altogether, offering high levels of breathability, durability, weatherproofing and comfort. The Fang definitely falls into the latter category, probably upping the “technical quotient” of my gear collection by 50% in one fell swoop, and has a wealth of features to examine.

Features:

The salient points of this jacket (as listed by the manufacturer) are summarised below:

· A versatile Windstopper® Soft Shell® jacket for winter related activities.
· Two different weight fabrics used to balance features with low pack size.
· High degree of stretch for comfort.
· Completely windproof.
· Excellent breathability.
· DWR treated surfaces provide excellent weather resistance.
· Helmet compatible 3-way adjustable hood.
· 2-way main watertight front zip with wind flap & chin guard.
· Highly durable woven face fabric provides excellent abrasion resistance.
· Offset seams in key areas to prevent bunching and chaffing.
· Articulated sleeves with underarm pit zip ventilation.
· 1 zipped chest pocket.
· 2 zipped hand pockets, placed for use with a harness.
· Velcro adjustable cuffs.
· Single-handed adjustable waist draw cord.
· Weight in g: 705 (L)

That’s quite a lot of features, so it’s perhaps worth enlarging on them to explain some of the benefits.

The use of more than one type of fabric in a garment is not a new idea, but one that seems to have been gathering pace in recent years. Usually, this type of zoning is done to concentrate attributes in the places where they are needed, rather than all over, and this is the case here, too. A lighter, less bulky fabric is used for the underarm areas to increase breathability, enhance movement and reduce pack size, whereas as a heavier, more robust fabric is used for the rest of the jacket providing additional durability in heavy wear areas and increased weather protection.

At 702g in size XL (as per my electronic scales – a shade below the stated weight for size L) it’s not the lightest of jackets, but I’ve found it very comfortable to wear. The cut is excellent (for me) and on the couple of occasions I’ve worn it so far (so no stylish pictures of me modelling it ... yet) I’ve found it to stretch nicely with my movements and, although it might sound like an odd claim, it doesn’t feel as heavy as stated once it is on.

One minor gripe here, though, is the sizing. Although Haglöfs is a Swedish manufacturer, the sizing appears to have been based on some other, more petite nationality altogether. You will almost certainly have to go up a size – I did, needing an XL to get the right fit rather than the more usual L in regular clothing – particularly if you intend to wear anything other than the most minimal of base layers. Haglöfs are not the only culprits in this respect – there are several others – but why some outdoor gear manufacturers feel the need to do this, I don’t know, unless (in this age when so many reviewers dismiss a product on weight alone, regardless of how good it might be – something that annoys me greatly) they want to make the weight per size appear as low as possible.

As far as many of the other features go, I have yet to discover the full benefits. But early indications show that the pockets are well placed, the zips all run smoothly, the cuff adjustment is simple and effective, and the fabric and build quality makes for a really durable product. Testing so far has been very limited, but so far it has successfully blocked out a cutting breeze and effectively turned a light shower.

The 3-way hood adjustment works very well, with adjusters placed at the side of the face, the back of the head and the nape of the neck. Even without a helmet (or much in the way of hair) it is possible to get a nice, snug fit without acres of loose fabric to flap around in the wind or inflate.

Haglöfs market the Fang as a jacket for winter-related activities, and I had this in mind when choosing it. I was looking for a versatile layer that would bolster my winter layering (as a mid-layer, providing more protection than a standard fleece against wind and weather) and that could also be worn at other times of the year as a more versatile outer layer, with more weather protection than a fleece and more breathability than a waterproof. In this respect, I think it will suit perfectly well.

Fabrics:

There are two main fabrics used in the Fang:

WINDSTOPPER® 3-layer, 94% Polyamide, 6% Elastane, Soft Shell stretch face fabric with 100% Polyester Micro Fleece backer and ePTFE membrane.

WINDSTOPPER® 100% Polyester Soft Shell fabric with knit backer and ePTFE membrane.

For those who are interested in more details on the fabrics, further information can be found on the Windstopper website:


In summary, though, the fabrics aim to offer “total windproofness and maximum breathability, combining the comfort of a soft mid-layer and the water resistance of a shell in one garment.” It is also DWR coated, so it will be interesting to see how this performs in tough weather conditions, but the benefit of total windproofness (preventing chilling after exercise) is likely to be a massive boon compared to traditional fleece products.

Initial Conclusions:

I’m pretty impressed with this jacket so far. Admittedly it is still early days, but it seems a comfortable, robust, well-thought-out jacket that has been designed with a clear purpose in mind, and I have no concerns about it’s ability to perform as suggested.

I was going to post a link to the product as well, but this model seems to have been phased out. I contacted the very helpful people at Haglöfs UK to find out the latest situation. This is what they said:

“The Fang … was a Fall/Winter 2011 item and does not carry over into the Spring/Summer 2012 range as it is more of a winter jacket … in the UK you could use it all year round with our weather.

There is nothing the same as the Fang in our SS12 range … the closest would be an Eryx Hood … this is lighter and will not be as warm as the Fang … the only difference I can really notice between the two is the Fang is warmer and heavier. Some MRT have been using the Eryx Hood and their feedback has been very positive.

Fang Jacket RRP £240 Weight on a Men’s large 705g
Eryx Hood RRP £275 Weight on a Men’s large 520g

See this link for the Eryx Hood:


For FW12 the Fang does not carry over but … there is more choice with the new Fin Hood £220 (closest match to the Fang), Pelamis Jacket £220, Eryx Hood – new colours £275, and the top of the range … Suta Hood at £350 – more snow sports orientated … I have no links for these … as they are not available till around late August / September.”

So there you have it - so far .....

8 comments:

  1. Hi Jules,

    Very comprehensive review.

    Have to say I agree with the comments about slim fits, not everyone is as slim and toned as David Beckham, some of us carry a few extra pounds and have a bigger than average rib cage .... at least that what I keep telling myself.

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    1. Thanks Ross.

      Yes, I know what you mean. I must have a massive pancreas or an enormous spleen, or something like that anyway.

      And as for physique, well I'm more David Brent than David Beckham. :(

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  2. I bought a Haglofs jacket a couple of months ago and found the inside lining in the hood marked badly after being caught in a heavy rain. Tried and failed to wash out and for the price I'm very disappointed in what seemed to be a nice jacket.

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  3. Hi Anonymous

    Sorry to hear you have had a problem with your jacket. Not knowing the full circumstances, I don't know what type of jacket you have or quite what happened to it. But I understand you are disappointed having paid a lot of money for it.

    It does seem odd, however, that simply getting a high quality garment such as a Haglofs wet should have caused marking like that - especially if it is designed to be waterproof. It sounds more as though something has contaminated it somehow (grease, sunscreen, insect repellent, fabric conditioner) although I don't know your circumstances and don't profess to be an expert. I have done the same with a new Berghaus jacket (which now has an ugly grease stain on it) and, although frustrating, it is not really a fault of the garment.

    I'm not making excuses for the product or manufacturer, though, so if you are convinced it's nothing like that, perhaps try taking it back to your retailer to see what they say? Whatever the outcome, I hope you manage to get things sorted.

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  4. Hello ,

    about to order a jacket by haglofs, the Mens Roc Spirit Jacket.

    In realation to the sizing thing im having kind of a melt down . I just sent back a marmot spire jacket that was too big so i want to get this one right .

    the marmot was a M and was too big , I find this pretty odd as I am a 40/42" chest . but i guess maybe its a snow jacket and they are normally a bit bigger .

    Out of interest what size chest are you and how tight would the large have been?

    I like a nice slim fit in a jacket but don't want to end up ordering a jacket that's too tight :)

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    1. Hi Anon

      Yes, I sympathise with you predicament, and often have the same issues. The problem is that different jackets by the same manufacturer can have differing fits. I'm not sure about the Marmot sizing (I have Marmot stuff and my usual size is OK) and I don't have the Roc Spirit. But the Fang jacket was quite a slim fit (very, in fact) and seems to work on the basis that "large" means "tall" not necessarily "broad". I'm about a 42" chest, and usually Large suits my build. But the Fang is XL which is broaad enough but the sleeves are very long!

      If you intend to spend a lot of money, trying on is probably advisable! :-)

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    2. Hey man , thanks for a fast reply :)

      See the problem is there is nowhere near me that stocks this jackets , its all HH and north face in the local outdoor shop .

      I think im going to chance a large and hope for the best , really dont want to have to send back another jacket lol

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    3. Good luck - hope it all works out for you!

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