Of all genres of mountain clothing, the one which has arguably seen the greatest innovation in terms of both fabric technology and weight saving is hardshell jackets. I recently found a jacket I bought back in 1999 as my first bit of “real” mountain kit and although it seemed incredibly light and modern then, it looked like something that belonged in a museum compared to today’s offerings.
If I was going to grumble about modern kit, however, I’d say that too many manufacturers have made their kit too light (yes, it is possible) and sacrificed durability and function just to save a few grams.
Ultimately if I spend several hundred quid on a jacket I want it to last, and I’d rather carry a few extra grams and have a solid, functional piece of kit than carry something super light which doesn’t do the job its designed for.
Happily, Mammut seem to agree with me on this one and have produced the Nordwand Pro, which at 600g is over twice the weight of many hardshells out there and which is designed to fit and be adjustable so that it can be used all day, not just as an emergency piece.
As well as being a reassuringly heavy weight, it also packs a punch in the price department. It was up in the £500's on all the websites I browsed. So with that sort of price tag there is certainly a high pressure on Mammut to deliver a bombproof product.
First impressions were pretty much as expected – the Nordwand Pro feels heavy duty and built to last. The other instantly noticeable aspect of the jacket is that this is very much a climbers’ jacket, with the sleeves fitting without much to spare around my little peashooter arms and the torso being nicely snug without being restrictive.
Demonstrating typical Swiss efficiency, Mammut clearly value function over form when it comes to fit - the Nordwand Pro is not going to be a winner with the baggy trousered snowboarders out there. The sleeves meanwhile, are apparently ergonomically designed to be suitable for climbing movements and whilst I can’t honestly say I specifically noticed this feature, they certainly fit well and stay securely in place even at the end of a long pitch.
I found that it actually breathed extremely well, especially given it’s weight. These things are hard to quantify but I expected to do more sweating in the jacket than I did, and I also found that having sweated I dried out really quickly once I stopped.
In terms of features, Mammut have really crammed plenty in, reinforcing the idea that this is a jacket to be used all day, not stuck in a rucksack 90% of the time.
The hood is the first main feature, and has 2 adjustment systems (which is referred to as the “monk” system, which I quite liked) to ensure a tight and secure fit with or without a helmet, even in strong wind. I found this worked great and it fits over a helmet fine, but with not much to spare so if you have an especially long neck then check the fit before buying!
It fit me perfectly and stood up to plenty of wind when I was in Norway and always stayed tight and did its job. One nice feature is that there is a button at the top of the main zip which is designed so that the hood is held in place even if the main zip is partially undone, which is really handy if you’re getting too hot but it’s bucketing with rain and you want your hood up and some air moving around you.
Elsewhere there are pit zips, a feature I’ve never been a fan of but these ones work well and don’t take quite the battle to open that some do. There’s also some sticky rubber on the shoulders in order to hold your rucksack in place as you move when climbing. I’ve seen this feature on jackets before and I’ve always found that manufacturers overdo it and put on too much rubber but Mammut got it spot on. The rubber does its job but doesn’t make it awkward to get a pack on or off.
As far as pockets go, the Nordwand Pro is pretty well equipped, with no less than 4 zipped pockets and 2 inner mesh pockets. The 2 chest pockets are well positioned and easily accessible even with a harness on and the small pocket on the left upper arm is the ideal size for a liftpass, iphone or (what I mainly used it for) keeping a GPS handy whilst moving. There’s also a small zip pocket inside the chest, of a similar size to the sleeve pocket, and the 2 mesh pockets. I personally don’t like putting stuff into a pocket without a zip but the mesh pockets would be handy if you want to keep some water with you and didn’t have a pack.
Finally, there’s the excellent, spacious cuffs and the detachable snow skirt. I found that generally I preferred to do without the snow skirt for climbing but having it does add some versatility and it worked well when I was skiing deep powder or digging avalanche pits.
Overall I think Mammut really got the Nordwand spot on. Lightweight shells have their place but the reality is that for winter climbing in the Alps or Scotland, durability is key. Mammut have created a shell which is utterly bombproof and showing zero signs of wear after 4 months of use.
It’s not cheap and it’s not the lightest option out there but if you’re going to be moving through cold places for long periods of time, look no further.
The perfect GORE-TEX® Pro 3-layer jacket for use in high alpine terrain. With its highly improved breathability, excellent robustness and absolute water resistance, it offers the ambitious alpinist ideal conditions for demanding activities.
- Extremely robust and abrasion-resistant 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro jacket for the extreme use in high alpine terrain
- Climbing helmet-compatible hood
- Monk hood system – just two adjustments is all it takes to achieve a perfect fit around the head, with or without a helmet
- Dani Arnold buttons to easily and effectively secure the ends of the collar inside with the zip open, hood pulled up and in the rain
- Reinforced hood shield to withstand strong gusts of wind
- Frontreach sleeves, ergonomically tailored to climbing movements
- Front access pit zip for optimised thermal regulation
- Front pockets positioned to allow easy access, even when wearing a backpack or climbing harness
- Extra wide cuffs with effective Velcro fasteners allowing sufficient space for gloves
- Detachable snow skirt designed to stay securely in place, with double button facing for individual adjustment
- 2 warm inner pockets
MORE INFORMATION: Mammut Website
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