he Hymir is Jöttnar’s second hard shell jacket and a rather different beast to the bigger and burlier Bergelmir, their first and flagship piece. The Hymir immediately catches the eye simply because it is a smock. Smocks have all sorts of advantages as a design, as well as some disadvantages (more on both of those below), but hardshell smocks remain rather rare birds and, like the Hymir, are normally only used in jackets at the ‘light and fast’ end of the market.
Whether Jöttnar have found a great niche with virtually no competition, or have gone down a design cul-de-sac with a smock, remains to be seen, but I rather like the Hymir and suspect it will easily find plenty of fans amongst more discerning and serious users.
The Hymir is easy to describe because it is so simple. A smock, with a deep zip going down to mid chest. One good sized chest pocket - it takes an OS map easily - on the left side of the main zip. A wired ‘proper’ hood, clearly designed to work with climbing helmets (and I’ve worn it over a number of different helmet models with no problem). Finally, velcro at the wrists and hem drawcord finish off this rather brief list of features.
Jöttnar have again used NeoShell for the material, but a considerably lighter grade than on the Bergelmir (96 g/m2 compared to 168 g/m2 if these things make sense to you). The fit is also trim, noticeably so in silhouette when you look at how it slims down to the waist (if you have something of a belly it might well be worth checking the fit before buying). There is very little loose or flappy material with the Hymir.
Altogether the elegantly simple design and lightweight material means my Hymir in size medium weights 332 grams - a very respectably low weight for jacket that gives plenty of protection from lousy weather. Most of the testing I have done with my Hymir has been going winter climbing in it, but I have also worn it walking and cycling at lower elevations at higher temperatures to see how it deals with rain and sweat.
Neoshell continues to impress me; I haven’t tried the most recent versions of Goretex to compare, and definitely have no laboratory results to back it up, but NeoShell DOES breath well. Back in January I did a mad rush up to the Lake District to get some winter climbing done on an unexpected day off. On St Sunday Crag I soloed up Pinnacle Ridge, down the gully that defines its right side, traversed along the base of the cliffs, gave East Chockstone Gully a go (stopped by a short pitch of almost vertical but unfortunately too soft to climb ice), then carried on to Pillar Gully and topped back out again up that.
I felt very Ueli Steck, although to the neutral onlooker I probably looked far more like any other slightly sweaty middle aged bloke huffing and puffing their way up some easy winter climbs...
But it was a great test for the Hymir. After doing Pinnacle Ridge with a warm mid-layer on and getting hot as a result, I tried the Hymir just straight over my base layer. Moving fast on steep, secure neve you really warm up and, although my base layer was getting soggy, the inside of the Hymir wasn't. Neoshell breathes well, additionally the simple design of the Hymir must aid that breathability. Unlike more featured jackets where you will get double or even triple layers of the material over the chest due to the pocket configuration.
So - anything wrong with the Hymir?
Not really, but rather a few points that any potential buyer should be aware of.
Firstly, it’s a smock. “Duh.” I hear you cry. Well, yes, that is obvious when you look at it, but having now pulled it on and off in gales, blizzards, and even sudden warm sunshine, it IS more faff to get on and off than a full zip jacket; I’ve found particularly trying to pull the waist section down over your midriff as that is the narrowest section. Weigh that up against the advantages of low weight and no zip and storm flap bulging up over your climbing harness.
Secondly, and apologies if I've said this before about every NeoShell jacket I’ve tried, NeoShell is NOT fully windproof. Firms can call this “active air permeability” or some such as much as they want (Jöttnar, to their credit, don’t), but what it actually means is while it must help with the good breathability, NeoShell isn’t as warm in awful weather as old school hardshells. The NeoShell that the Hymir is made from is light and has a rather pleasantly soft drape to it, but this accentuates the issue. Heavier jackets made of stiffer material are actually physically more resistant to being deflected by wind, and this means that they can keep warm air inside them, insulating you better.
On the move and working hard this issue isn’t really noticeable with the Hymir, but standing on a belay ledge in a brisk, cold wind, I was reaching for my belay jacket faster than had I been in a non-NeoShell jacket.
Overall, the Hymir is a very breathable and lightweight waterproof jacket. With a hood that fits over helmets well, it is obviously more aimed at the climbing market than at backpackers, runners or cyclists - as many other super-light waterproofs hardshells.
Mine has survived a number of mixed climbs unscathed, despite the light and soft material, although for a do everything winter climbing shell, I think the much more durable Jöttnar Bergelmir is more suitable; although at going towards both twice the weight and price.
The smock design might divide people, but for a slight increase in hassle getting it on, you get minimal weight, low bulk and excellent weatherproofing.
The Hymir retails for £230 and I think is rather good value for that price; being a year round jacket: light enough to be stowed away in the pack for summer trips in the mountains for when the weather changes, but functional enough to be worn all day on the UK mountains in winter.
What Jottnar Say:
A streamlined, focused, ultra-lightweight, technical hooded climbing smock, constructed from the world’s lightest grade of Polartec® Neoshell®. Truly breathable, truly light, truly packable and fully waterproof, Hymir is an indispensable tool for all things fast and light.
- More Info: Jottnar Website