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Outdoor Research - Valhalla Hoody Jacket

posted Jan 2, 2015, 4:11 AM by GoOut Project   [ updated Jan 2, 2015, 11:44 AM ]



The Outdoor Research Valhalla Hoody Jacket is a soft shell designed for backcountry skiing or splitboarding, and for all those situations where you need good breathability and good weather protection simultaneously. Could we miss the chance to try it? Certainly not! 

Technical Description

The Valhalla Hoody Jacket is a three-layer soft shell with a GORE® WINDSTOPPER® membrane and with the following features:
  • Water resistant, windproof, and breathable
  • Adjustable wire-brimmed hood
  • Two way separating front zipper
  • Internal front-zip stormflap
  • Two way TorsoFlo™ hem-to-bicep zippers
  • Two zippered napoleon pockets with one access PassThru pocket
  • Zippered internal mesh pocket
  • Internal media pocket with touch screen
  • Two zippered hand pockets set above hip belt or harness
  • Hook/loop cuff closures
  • Drawcord hem
  • DWR coated zippers on front zipper, hand pockets, and TorsoFlo™ zippers
  • Silicon shoulder grippers for enhanced stability of the backpack
  • Taped seams only on the most critical areas
Materials: GORE® WINDSTOPPER® X-FAST Soft Shell, 3L 85% nylon, 15% spandex face // 100% polyester back
Weight: 613 ​​g (size L, men's version) 

Our Test


We tested the Valhalla for 4 months mainly for backcountry skiing and freeriding toward the end of the winter season and over spring, the ideal period for the use of a garment of this kind. The temperature range during all days of testing was mostly around 0 °C, with peaks down to -5 ºC and up to +10 ºC. The skinning under the sun have been perfect to test the breathability of this jacket!

First Impressions

The fabric is rather soft to the touch, it has a comforting thickness, and it is even slightly stretchable! The manufacture is excellent, as well as the choice of materials used. All the finishings (taping, zippers, cord adjustments) are very well made. All the zippers work with excellent smoothness and are easy to access and operate with one hand or wearing gloves.

Lightness & Packability
Being just above the threshold of 600 g, the Valhalla can be classified as a medium/heavy-weight jacket. However, considering the high degree of protection it offers, it is a good compromise between lightweight and protection. It is still lighter than many of its direct competitors. Its compressibility is not amazing, but the Valhalla is thought to be a garment that you can keep wearing all day long, 'til you get back home (see also below in the section Breathability). 

Cut & Fit

The cut of the Valhalla is roomy enough to allow good mobility and extra space for intermediate layers. The jacket leaves ample range of motion without bulky excess material. Having some extra cm of length on the waist compared to garments intended for mountaineering, the Valhalla fits well on long-limbed body types and it offers better protection when sinking in deep powder. The hood has different adjustment options. The visor has an internal flexible wire that is useful to maintain the optimal shape of the hood, but which, unfortunately, reduces its volume making it incompatible with a helmet. The sleeves are long enough and they usually keep the
wrists well covered, but the velcro straps are positioned in a way that does not allow to tighten the cuffs beyond a certain threshold, therefore they cannot always guarantee a proper closure, especially if you wear thin gloves.

Comfort

As for comfort, in our opinion, the choice of materials is particularly good: the fabric is soft, protective, and slightly stretchable. This contributes significantly to make the Valhalla jacket particularly comfortable and suitable for sports that require high mobility. The lining material is pleasant and it is never abrasive on the skin. The well-made cut greatly contributes to increase the comfort. The neck is high, separated from the hood, and it seals very well. The main pockets are large (large enough to stuff your gloves or even the skins in there) and they are optimally positioned: they are easily accessible even when wearing a backpack or a harness. Inside all the pockets, even those on the chest, a mesh fabric helps to improve ventilation.

Breathability
The breathability of the GORE® WINDSTOPPER® X-FAST membrane has always been very good. During most of the ascents, the Valhalla has maintained a pleasantly dry interior without forcing us to open the ventilation zips, except in some of the warmest days. Breathability is, indeed, the real strength of this jacket! The TorsoFlo zippers are simply the most efficient ventilation solution in existence: the length of the ventilation zippers, as well as the possibility of opening the jacket all the way from the hip to the armpits, like a poncho, are unmatched. The TorsoFlo zippers are also practical when wearing a backpack, since they can be opened both below and above the waist band. For all these reasons, the Valhalla is one of those garment that you wear in the morning, as you step out of the door, and that you only take off in the evening when you get back home!

Weather Protection

The WINDSTOPPER® is an excellent barrier even against the most stubborn winds. It can comfortably withstand as much snow as you can get in a whole day in Niseko! Therefore, with the Valhalla you are going to be pretty safe... what are you saying? ... not all the seams are taped?... that is true, but we can honestly say that we've never suffered the lack of taping in the less exposed areas. Finally, as in most of the protective shells, the degree of thermal insulation is not very high, so in colder days, think in advance about the most convenient combination of layers!

Durability

The quality of all the materials used and their wear resistance are very good. The slightly stretchable fabric of the Valhalla often saves from accidental tears and cuts. By the end of our test, we didn't notice any sign of wear or breakage, but the Valhalla is not armor! Please treat it with care!

Versatility

It is a jacket designed specifically for backcountry skiing or splitboarding and if you plan to use it mainly for these activities, you'll certainly love it. However, even when it leaves its own "habitat", the Valhalla never feels lost. For example, it is also great for a winter day-hike. It can virtually be used for any other outdoor activity in moderately cold climates. You can really leave room to your imagination!


Our Verdict


In conclusion, the Valhalla Hoody Jacket is a very functional garment for the activities for which it has been designed (backcountry skiing,
splitboarding, and ski touring), offering a good compromise between protection and comfort in the practice of high-intensity sports in moderately cold environments. It is particularly well suited for backcountry skiing, splitboarding, or even short winter hikes during which it meets two opposing needs: the need to dissipate moisture during the ascents and the need for protection from wind and snow during the descent. It is a great garment for those who like to reach the best lines with their own legs!

PROS

+ Good cut and manufacturing 

+ Good breathability 

+ TorsoFlo ventilation zippers


CONS

- The velcro cuffs are not well positioned - The hood is incompatible with a helmet


 Lightness & Packability    6/10
 Comfort    8/10
 Fit & Cut    7/10
 Weather Protection    8/10
 Breathability    9/10
 Versatility    8/10
 Durability    8/10
 Total Score  7.7/10