A little while ago, while I was in Scotland preparing for my Winter ML training, I got an email from a company called Fjern Equipment. They are a relatively new company and were trying to get the word out about their kit. Would I like to try a piece out and write about it?
Here’s what Naomi from Fjern said about their brand: “At Fjern we set out to make an essential range of kit to keep the elements at bay, with an unwavering focus on end use in our design and alpinism at its heart. Drawing inspiration from kit we’ve used and abused over our combined 150 years in the outdoors, Fjern was created by a group of UK based passionate outdoor enthusiasts with lifetimes of experience as mountaineers, skiers, hikers, mountain guides and climbers.”
Sounded interesting. I browsed the website and found the Women’s Octa Insulated Jacket. I’ve been looking for an insulated jacket that’s less of a duvet than my Rab Photon belay jacket. Maybe this would be the one…
What you get
Fjern’s Women’s Octa Insulated jacket is a very lightweight jacket (more on that a little later). It is a full length jacket that comes in sizes XS to XL and a selection of colours. Mine is the burnt orange/navy colourway because I have a mild obsession with orange at the moment. Especially an orange-cyan combo. Anyway, I digress.
Other noteworthy features are:
- Full length zip
- Built in hood (stiffened, no toggles)
- Thumb holes in elasticated cuffs
- Draw cord toggles at bottom hem
- Two decent sized pockets
The jacket is made entirely from polyester, including a large proportion that has been recycled. To see the full tech specs, look at the official Fjern Women’s Octa Insulated Jacket here.
Wearing the Fjern Women’s Octa Insulated Jacket
I have been wearing this jacket a lot. It arrived a good couple of months ago and I wanted to give it a full and thorough test before I told you about it. The main thing I wanted to work out was where this fitted in my current array of mid-layers. To do that, I took it on pretty much every Ten Tors training weekend I was on, plus many other walks and even some runs. Because, yes, I go for runs now…
This has basically become my go-to alternative for a fleece. It’s a snug fit and is pretty windproof, so think of it a bit like a very light softshell, but for when you know it’s not going to rain. The colourway picks up dirt and marks quite easily, but so far it has been easy to wash them off. That’s everything from sweat to suncream to toothpaste (yeah, oops).
For walking, it replaces a fleece in my layering system – about the warmth of a thick micro-fleece but much much thinner. For running, I found myself choosing it as outer-layer of choice until it became summer and I have to commit to running in a baselayer.
What Went Well
I do like this jacket. It’s certainly not perfect, but I have been consistently choosing to wearing it for over a month. Enough that the thumb holes were getting grubby and it looked like a “used” jacket, not a gear test piece. It’s been through the wash several times.
It has taken me a while to get used to the cinched-in elasticated sleeves. What that means in real terms is that you can’t pull your sleeves up. You also really need to put your watch on the outside of the jacket else it’s a faff to read and take the jacket off. But I’m well into them now I’ve got the hang of it. Having warm wrists makes a huge difference in colder temperatures and who doesn’t love a thumb hole? I’m definitely going to be wearing the Fjern Octa Insulated Jacket next winter. It’ll be perfect as the one-above-base layer. They’ve very warm sleeves and stop the draught coming up your arm.
I have mentioned this already, but I really do like the colour. Be aware it’s definitely not waterproof. It’s not advertised as such, although some insulated jackets are water resistant even if they don’t mention it on the tech specs. The fabric goes dark easily when it gets wet, even a rain spatter. So be aware that means you could well get a very obvious wet patch on your back if you’re carrying a rucksack. Luckily it dries very quickly too though!
Lightweight and Packable
You can’t pack it down into a pocket – not that it’s designed to do that, but I did try. The pockets are big enough for hands but they’re right on the line of a rucksack waist strap so you might not use them for anything big.
Although I do really like this jacket, there are a few things that were a bit off for me. They’re certainly not insurmountable, but you should definitely be aware before buying.
The Fit and Sizing
There is no getting around it: something about the fit is really odd on this jacket. Either that, or I’m a really strange shape, but I’ve never had trouble with jackets before. Yes, I did use the size guide to put me in an XS (UK size 8) and the arm length is correct. But it’s got raglan sleeves and there’s something a bit wrong around the shoulder area. It’s tight under the arms and I physically can’t do up the zip all the way without choking myself. And that’s with just a baselayer on underneath.
As a mid-layer this is fine, but it’s not a good look for an outer layer when the weather gets serious. Especially since there aren’t any toggles on the hood, so you need to do the zip up all the way to have any chance of the hood staying on your head in the wind. So not sure what to suggest here. I would say go a size up, but then you might end up with slightly baggy or long arms. Which might be a bit of a pain with thumbholes, but I’d have to try it to know for sure.
Is it Really an Insulated Jacket?
When I ordered it, I really thought I was getting a warmer jacket. From the picture, it looked like a classic synthetic jacket – a lightweight warm layer to put on in the evening on a summer’s night camping. But there is no fill in it at all. The best I can describe it as a windproof fleece. Something akin to a lightweight softshell but without the water resistance. It was sold alongside clearly baffled down jackets, so I was surprised it didn’t have filled insulation.
Some research led me to the answer. Octa® Active is a type of insulative fabric, used by other brands like Norrøna and Adidas. So you can say Octa Insulated Jacket like you might say Gore-Tex Waterproofed Jacket. Except chances are you haven’t heard of Octa. When I read the name “Fjern Women’s Octa Insulated Jacket”, especially alongside others on the Insulated Jackets page like “Women’s Husly Insulated Belay Jacket” and “Women’s Arktis II Down Hooded Jacket”, I just assumed Octa was a jacket name. A friendly way of describing it that had nothing to do with its properties. I read, “Fjern insulated jacket for women, called Octa” not “Fjern jacket for women that uses Octa insulation”.
Forgive me for going full Eats, Shoots and Leaves on you but I am a sub-editor and punctuation is important. All we need is a friendly dash to avoid any confusion in the future. Introducing the Fjern Women’s Octa-insulated Jacket.
So, with all that said, a jacket that is essentially a windproof fleece with a £170 RRP is incredibly expensive. Especially when you can also get a 700 loft down jacket from Fjern for £190. It just feels like it’s been priced as something it isn’t. That said, it looks like their main distributor is through SportPursuit.
For those of you who haven’t been corrupted yet, SportPursuit is a highly addictive outdoor clothing marketplace, specialising in ridiculously marked down sales. You can expect 50-70% off as standard.
At the time of writing, you can get this exact jacket for a more reasonable £69.99. SportPursuit is often the realm of last-of-the-line clearance stock from well known brands like Salomon, Osprey, Marmot… to name a few. But there are also new brands that are pretty much SportPursuit exclusive – or ones that have grown up out of it (like Rivelo, a favourite cycling brand of mine). So it’s not a bad thing and it’s not a scam, but just remember to shop savvy.
The Fjern Women’s Octa-insulated Jacket is a great little jacket that I wear often, in spite of the weird fit. It is the equivalent warmth to a windproof fleece, with cinched wrists and thumb holes. And although this shouldn’t have too much sway in a gear review, I really love the colour.