When I heard Justin Ibarra was excited about the new outerwear he was rocking, I was interested to hear what it was and how it was performing. I wasn’t expecting to hear he was wearing Ortovox outerwear though. At the time I wasn’t aware they had a line. Once he had a chance to stack miles and vert, I asked him to educate us and share his perspective.-Colin
Earlier this season I was blessed with the opportunity to start working with ORTOVOX as an ambassador/athlete. A company that has been around since 1980 as a top of the line manufacturer of beacons, the name is well known. What I think most in the outdoor industry don’t know, or at least in the U.S, is that ORTOVOX has also been in the outerwear game since 1988! Which leads into exactly why I am writing this review. I’ve had the pleasure of putting a few pieces of this gear through the ringer over the past couple of months and am extremely stoked on what i’ve seen. The word needs to be spread in the industry and around the U.S that ORTOVOX is much more than just beacons!
A bit of history behind the line.. all pulled from www.ortovox.com
“At ORTOVOX we have put our trust in wool since 1988. That is more than a quarter of a century of experience in working with the most functional of all natural fibers. Starting from the first layer, right through to the third, we take a holistic approach and do not produce any garments without using sheep’s wool fibers. Our expertise lies in our intelligent combination of natural material and other innovative fabrics. With the resulting system of wear comfort we provide you with unique functionality and wear-comfort properties for your mountain adventures.”
“We have been working with swisswool in our insulation products since 2011. The special features of wool fibers from Switzerland are their outstanding thermal properties and excellent climate control, as well as their regional origin.”
“Swisswool comes from the harsh mountainous landscape of the Swiss Alps. This provides an almost unlimited habitat and rich, natural food sources for over 400,000 Swiss mountain sheep. From Grisons to the Valais, the animals spend the summer months on the alpine pastures and are only shorn in spring and in fall, in the traditional way – by hand. They spend the cold winter months in the protection of spacious sheds, fed on nutritious dried grass.”
“We discovered merino wool in 1995, both for ourselves and for all mountaineers. Merino wool offers particular advantages due to its very fine fiber diameter and excellent durability. At ORTOVOX we only use wool fibers measuring 18–19 microns (one micron = one-thousandth of a millimeter). By way of comparison: a human hair measures approximately 50–100 microns, and the human itching threshold is 25 microns. There are, of course, thinner fiber diameters, although these cannot really be processed economically and, what’s more, they do not offer the stability required for alpine sports.”
Nobody wants to smell. With wool, you can get by with just a few items of clothing, even on mountain hikes lasting several days. This is made possible by the protein molecules in the merino fibers which simply destroy odor-forming bacteria. After the tour, you should simply leave your product to air, and you’ll be able to wear it again the next day. Your companions and the environment will thank you for it!
Even our grandmothers knew that wool keeps us warm in winter – that’s why we all had those wonderfully itchy woolen jumpers. But keeping us cool in summer? Even our grandmothers wouldn’t have thought of that. The thermo-regulating qualities are based on two principles: On the one hand, wool fibers are highly rippled and provide plenty of space for air in the gaps between them. This air serves as an insulation layer, in both summer and winter, against heat and cold. The insulating layer also makes it possible for merino sheep to survive in the sometimes hot Tasmanian summers. The second principle is based on cooling by evaporative coolness. Wool can absorb more than 35% of its own weight in moisture (without feeling wet to the touch). If the ambient air is warm, the moisture dries faster, resulting in this refreshing evaporative coolness. If our grandmothers had known that, there would have been woolen T-shirts back then, too.
EASY TO CARE FOR
Even though wool has an inherent odor-neutralizing effect, you might find yourself in a situation where someone squirts ketchup on your product and you need to wash it. This is easier than you might think: Thanks to the addition of the corn-based fiber Ingeo, the material is very stable and easy to care for. You can simply machine wash it at 30° and then leave it to dry on a laundry rack. Just like for most functional clothing, you should nevertheless avoid dry cleaning and dryers.
Wool fibers are hydrophilic fibers – and that’s precisely what makes them extremely functional! They can absorb up to 35% of their own weight in moisture without feeling wet to the touch. The fiber surface remains dry, while the moisture moves to the fiber core. In contrast to down or polyester, wool thus feels warm and comfortable, even when wet. Of course, wool also dries out quickly, too – even keeping you refreshingly cool on hot summer days. And of course, the moisture is also released, providing refreshment in warmer temperatures: warm ambient air leads to a quick drying effect, which provides cooling evaporative coolness. Wool fibers are thus all-rounders that do exactly what you expect from them, whatever the season – they cool you down in summer, and warm you in winter.
Alright, so now that we have a little bit of a ground set lets go ahead and break into my personal review on a few pieces in the Mountainwear line. Firstly, I will go ahead and start with a few pieces in the 3rd Layer (shell) department.
The 3L (MI) JACKET, the MERINO GUARDIAN SHELL.
First Impression/Fit: Right out of the box, this jacket looked sweet. After coming off of using Gore-Tex for many years, I was stoked to try something new. A subtle polyamide (TORAY DERMIZAX® EV) hardshell with the inside lining of the jacket being a soft 100% merino wool liner. I put it on and it seemed to move well and had a good fit. For European made clothing, it was hard to know what the fit of the Mountainwear was going to be like. The Guardian Shell Jacket has a nice cut that I would say is almost an athletic fit. I’m a small guy at about 5’6” and 140lb and the size small fits me perfect in both the Guardian Shell pant as well as jacket. Everything else that I have worn in the line seems to have more of a Slim fit and so I wear a medium.
In The Field: From bluebird sunny days to windy and cold storm days the jacket has performed top notch. Very packable on the up and has provided more than adequate protection on the way down with 20,000 mm waterproofing and a breathability at 20.000 g/m²/24h. User-friendly pit zips and plenty of pockets. This paired with my Swisswool Light Insulated jacket makes them the perfect jacket combo for touring in the backcountry. I feel as if this could be a great jacket for both the resort or the backcountry.
Pros: Very Breathable, Comfortable, Warm, Packable, Nice Cut, Great Color Scheme
Cons: At 850 grams slightly heavier than competitors
The 3L (MI) PANTS, the MERINO GUARDIAN SHELL
First Impression/Fit: Out of the box the Merino Guardian Shell pants had the same great feel that the Guardian Jacket has. Slightly soft polyamide outer with the 100% Merino lining inner. The pants lended to have more of a Freeride cut to them with a bit of a baggier feel than I am used too. The pants also have a high cut to them which makes them somewhat of a “half-bib” type of feel. It is a velcro style of waist adjustment and there is a slightly padded high back which they claim as SWISSWOOL Back Protection. A nice feel and look with big cargo size pockets on both legs and adequate side zip vents. The lower leg also has a burly protection area from your skis, crampons, ect..
In The Field: As with the rest of the gear, I have been able to put it to the test in a variety of conditions. The pants performed great on both sides of the spectrum. They moved well while touring and they breathed well on the uphill. With the same water/windproof ratings as the Guardian Jacket it’s an excellent piece for all-mountain conditions. I am very warm-blooded so they seemed a little on the hot side for my everyday touring pant but they are my go-to during adverse conditions, snowmobiling, sled access skiing, and resort days.
Pros: Plentiful Pockets, Higher Cut, Warm, Breathes Well, Durable
Cons: One-way zipper for going #1
The (SW) JACKET PIZ BOÉ, SWISSWOOL LIGHT TEC JACKET
First Impression/Fit: A nice and light insulation layer is crucial in the backcountry and when paired with a shell makes the perfect combo. The SWISSWOOL LIGHT TEC fits the bill. Windproof and water resistant the Pertex outer and Swisswool liner seem to go together like white and rice. Again, with the slightly slimmer fit the Medium fit perfect and works great with the Guardian Shell or on its own battling the elements. Very lightweight and the underarm area has elastic Naturetec Light inserts that provide a most excellent freedom of movement and breathability.
In The Field: A perfect combo of weight, packability, and warmth. My first line of defense for the cold before my shell goes on and the perfect combo with the shell for the ride down. The jacket seems to breathe well and offers the perfect amount of warmth without being too warm or too cold. The elastic under the arms is great for movement and overall is an outstanding jacket for the b
ackcountry layering system. Also a great jacket to wear on its own or around the town as I have gotten many compliments on it!
Pros: Highly packable, Very Lightweight, Warm, Nice Cut
Cons: The only con I can think of is that the light green color gets dirty easily
The (MI) PANTS BACUN, MERINO NATURETEC SOFTSHELL PANTS
First Impression/Fit: The minute that I put these bad boys on I have to say that they have been the most comfortable ski pant that I have ever worn, hands down. The Bacun pants lended more of a Slim Cut and so the Medium’s fit me perfectly. A membane-less polyamide shell interwoven into the Merino Lining, these pants are my favorite piece so far in the ORTOVOX line. Side zips for when the sun comes out with two waist and one stretchable thigh pocket leaving enough room for your map/compass, beanie, gloves, snacks, ect.. Velcro style waist adjustment and Cordura protection at the leg bottoms.
In The Field: These pants are now my overall go-to pants. Very comfortable, highly breathable, warm, and highly water/wind resistant. They have been shedding wind and water very well and do a great job of wicking moisture from the body and then expelling it. These pants just feel like I am wearing sweatpants and kicking back on the couch they are so comfortable. I foresee them being a phenomenal pant for some spring/summer ski-mountaineering objectives but they have been excelling in my winter touring days as well.
Pros: Highly Breathable, Great Movement, Very Comfortable, Highly wind-water resistant
Cons: Leg Bottoms a little tight.
The (MI) ZIP NECK HOODY, MERINO FLEECE
First Impression/Fit: As part of my layering system, I have to have a good fleece. Being in love with my Melanzana micro-grid, I was curious as to how the Merino Fleece was going to compare. Out of the box it looked like a great piece with a nice hood, a ¾ neck zip, and a nice big front pocket. The polyester outer has a soft feel to it with an even softer Merino Liner. Also a piece with a cut on the slimmer side, the Medium fit me great. The thumb holes are a cool feature that I wasn’t used to and I was also a big fan of the dual zippered front pocket.
In The Field: An excellent addition to the layering system. The fleece is very warm and with a polyester outer and Merino Wool Liner it breathes well and feels great to the touch. The ¾ zip neck is great for taking the fleece on/off and provides a great way to dump heat while wearing it. The front pocket is awesome and it’s great to have the zippers to keep things from falling out unexpectedly. A nice hood and with the neck fully zipped provides adequate face protection. Although slightly heavier than I previously used, this fleece rivals all competition out there that I have had hands on. Also, another piece that is at home in the Alpine just as much as it is in the streets.
Pros: ¾ neck zip, Thumb Holes, Big Zippered Front Pocket, Warm, Breathable
Cons: Chest pocket too small
Overall I have been extremely happy with the ORTOVOX MOUNTAINWEAR Lineup and I am excited to keep putting them through the ringer. There is plenty more in the line including baselayers, gloves, backpacks, accessories, in which could all be a seperate review on their own. I highly encourage that you all take a minute and check out the ORTOVOX | Voice of the mountains website to see what other awesome products that they have!! I hope that this has been helpful to those reading it and that the word keeps spreading about the top notch products that ORTOVOX is providing, other than just beacons!!
Thanks for reading!!