Polartec Wool Highloft is a revolutionary fleece fabric designed in conjunction with Salewa. It aims to provide extremely efficient lightweight insulation with effective moisture management. It features in the Salewa Ortles Wool Highloft Full-Zip Men’s Hoody and I was lucky enough to receive a sample. Here is my Salewa Ortles Hoody Review.
The History Of Fleece
It is fair to say that the development of fleece fabric revolutionised outdoor clothing. A quick drying, lightweight, highly insulating fabric is perfect for so many situations. At the forefront of the development of fleece has always been Massachusetts based manufacturer Polartec. In 1979 they developed Synchilla fabric and I understand that the then CEO declined to patent the material so that it would be produced cheaply and gain widespread acceptance. What an inspired choice, as fleece is now a staple for nearly every outdoor person.
Why Fleece Works So Well – and How It Can Be Improved
The principle of the way fleece works has always been for it to mimic the insulation qualities of wool. Even in our technically advanced world we often look to the natural world to protect us.
Wool is a great material. It is a very efficient insulator, good at moisture management and it is naturally odour resistant. It does have a few disadvantages though. Some people find it very itchy and it can be prone to wearing out quickly and loosing its shape. Merino wool helps to solve the itchiness problem because of its soft and very short fibres. Wear can still be a problem. The solution? Combine wool with synthetic fibres to add greater durability, help with shape retention and offer faster drying times.
That is the principle behind Polartec’s Wool Highloft fleece. The fabric uses bi-component knit technology which combines Merino wool and synthetic fibres to offer the best balance of thermal performance and durability. The fabric is exclusive to Salewa and it has been developed in conjunction with their athlete team.
Features of the Salewa Ortles Hoody
So, having explained the main fabric used, what about the other features of the Salewa Ortles Hoody? Salewa describe the Ortles as the ‘perfect mid layer for high-intensity stop and go activity in the most severe weather.’ Typical mountain weather.
With this in mind, the Ortles uses Polartec Highloft Wool in the key areas of the trunk, back and hood. The sleeves and sides are made from lighter weight Polarlite wool blend fleece with a smooth outer surface and brushed grid interior.
The hood has a tailored fit and the Salewa Ortles Hoody features ergonomic sleeves and shoulders to offer an athletic fit. Stretch cuffs and binding hem are designed to seal in warmth and minimise water absorption. A full length zip allows easy on-off and great ventilation options.
The Ortles packs into one of the two hand warmer side pockets and the size medium I was sent weighs 339 grams on the digital scales. The top comes in Umbre Blue colour (tested) and there is a Grey/Flint Stone colour available. It retails for £180.
On first inspection you’ll spot that the Salewa Ortles Hoody is luxuriously soft and fluffy. It reminded me of one of those lovely comfort blankets you tuck babies up in! Indeed, I imagine babies would be very happy wrapped in this top! It certainly feels like very luxurious fleece, but there is a woolly feeling to it too.
I’ve always struggled with the itchiness of normal wool. Infact, I look at a rough woollen jumper and wince! Luckily, when I discovered Merino years ago all these problems disappeared. Merino is a perfect non itchy wool option. I understand this is because the very fine diameter fibres can bend easily and so it’s much more flexible. This allows them to bend against the skin and consequently they don’t cause itching. I now use Merino a lot – particularly for base layers.
So, although the Ortles has a slightly woolly feel, it is definitely not itchy. It actually feels great. It is also quite thick, but not too thick to prevent it being a good layer for higher output activities. A perfect mid layer thickness.
The hoody has the features you would want on this type of top. The full length zip is great for venting. The hood fits snugly and can be comfortably worn under a helmet. It would be difficult to wear it over a helmet, but that’s not the aim. The elastic around the hem and cuffs works really well. On jackets of this type I want hems and cuffs that are simple and won’t get in the way. It is also important that the hem material doesn’t soak up water. It is a great detail that the Salewa name features on the hem material.
One observation is that I’d personally swap the hand warmer pockets for a chest pocket. The side pockets do their job well, but I’m normally wearing this type of top with outer layers. In this situation it is hard to use side pockets whereas a chest pocket is really handy.
The cut and fit of the Ortles is excellent. Salewa have incorporated gussets into the sleeves which allow a great range of movement. The use of a lighter weight fabric on the sides and sleeves also allows for a neat fit. It also leaves less fabric to get in the way where it isn’t needed for insulation.
There are also lots of other small details I like on the Ortles. The zippers feature neat cord pulls, there is soft fabric inside the collar which feels comfortable against the face (or beard). This also shields the top of the main zipper to prevent rubbing on the face. Being able to store the hoody into one of the side pockets is really handy, although it needs a tight push to get it stowed. I would have also liked a hang loop in the pocket so that the hoody could be clipped onto a climbing harness.
So, finally, how does that special fabric hold up to realistic outdoor activity use? In short, I think it is superb. The Polartec Wool Highloft certainly packs a bunch in terms of warmth – especially given its small pack size.
It offers impressive insulation, but the other features are just as notable. The breathability and moisture transmission of the fabric is very impressive. That breathability does mean the Ortles isn’t very wind resistant, but that is only the same as any fleece without an outer or inner windproof layer.
Another advantage of Merino wool is its natural odour resistant qualities. There seem to be various reasons for this. Wool is very good at absorbing moisture and this keeps the skin drier. This means the microbes don’t find as much moisture in which to grow. I also read that wool has a different subatomic charge to synthetics, meaning it doesn’t attract odour producing bacteria. It is also said to hold bad smalls and release them in the wash, rather than releasing them during use.
I can’t speak specifically for the Ortles on odour resistance as the COVID-19 lockdown means it has mostly been used for single day activity. However, I have previously had considerable experience using Merino for extended periods and been extremely impressed at its odour resistance. One notable example is a 7 day continuous wear test I undertook a few years ago.
I have so far been using the Ortles mainly for gritstone climbing in the Peak District and hillwalking. It is holding up well to the rough and tumble of climbing on this rough rock and shrugs off hillwalks with aplomb. Infact, there are no signs of wear yet – although I won’t claim this is a long term test.
I am a fan of Salewa products and of Polartec fabrics and so had high hopes for the Ortles. I haven’t been disappointed on either count and really enjoyed producing this Salewa Ortles Hoody Review. The jacket features are high spec and carefully tailored to mountain activity use. The Polartec Wool Highloft fabric is a great synergy of natural and synthetic fibres combining to maximise the best features of both.
It is a great product and both companies should be congratulated on collaborating in such a constructive way. At £180 it is certainly on the high side for a fleece garment, but you’ll have a product that will last well and perform superbly. We hope you have found my Salewa Ortles Hoody Review. You can find out more about the Ortles on the Salewa website. Please also check out the details on Highloft Wool on the Polartec website.
Polartec fabrics also feature in this review of the Rab Alpha Freak Pull-On.