by Marcus Leach
They say that walking in the Alps during the summer is beautiful; sunshine, flowers in bloom, birds chirping, stunning alpine views and rivers trickling down the picturesque mountains.
Sadly the same doesn't apply to the winter months. Whilst the snow-capped peaks and crisp white slopes are beautiful in their own right they are conditions better suited to skiers and snowboarders, of which I am neither. Yet I wasn't about to let a little snow and freezing temperatures stop me from enjoying some alpine adventures, and so, dressed for the occasion i set about seeing as much of the area around Alpe d'Huez as was possible in a week.
Having never set foot in the Alps before, let alone in the winter months, my biggest concern was ensuring I was going to be warm enough. That concern was quickly alleviated by the brilliant Odin H2 Flow jacket which, no matter how viperous the trekking, kept me at the optimum temperature throughout. This was down to the 'light insulation at strategic areas where you need it the most' making full use of the H²Flow mechanical venting system. What's that I hear you ask? Well, let me explain.
The insulation concept uses air to provide warmth and ventilation and lets you control the airflow that cools you down when necessary. These trapped air pockets mean that your temperature is always regulated, so you don't get a chill when stood still, but equally don't go into meltdown once you are really pushing yourself.
There are a huge number of features listed for this jacket, but I wanted to focus on a couple of key ones that I found to be of great use. Firstly the jacket is really waterproof. The fabric has had a Durable Water Repellency treatment and all of the zips and seams are designed specifically to be as watertight as the rest of the jacket. Too many times in the past I have found waterproofs to fail when they leak around the zips.
The other big draw for me is that as well as the material the jacket is made from being waterproof, windproof and breathable it is stretchy. Given that those wearing this jacket would be engaging in all manner of physical activities it is a priceless feature to have some give in the material.
Whilst I might not have endured the harshest conditions an alpine winter can muster I certainly experienced enough to know that this jacket is designed with extreme conditions and extreme sports in mind. What's more it will, based on my own experiences, stand up to whatever the elements can throw at it. (disclaimer: I didn;t wear the jacket in a blizzard so can't guarantee it would survive such conditions)
First and foremost these trousers are incredibly comfy to wear, either on their own or with a thin base layer underneath - not that you really need one as they are more than warm enough on their own (as above I haven't worn them in the extreme cold so can't vouch for the need of a base layer for temperatures below -5).
As with the jacket I used they were waterproof, windproof and breathable, thanks to Helly Hansen's 2-ply waterproof/breathable Helly Tech Professional, ensuring that I stayed bone dry throughout all of my treks, even when the heavens opened. They also come complete with ventilation zips, a very cool little addition, for when it does get a little too warm for you, but also waterproofed as well.
Plenty of room for movement whilst trekking and scrambling over rock faces, which as with the jacket is a simply yet invaluable design. Another simple and effective design aspect of the trouser is the built in gaiter, which meant the boots were free from any snow or other unwanted objects in them. The last thing I wanted to be doing in freezing temperatures was stopping to take my boot off to empty them out.
As great as the jacket and trousers were these boots were the star of the show for me, which was a surprise as when I first put them on I thought they were going to be a little clunky and cumbersome. However, within a few hundred metres of walking I soon realised that they were anything but that and from there on it I never looked back, so to speak.
The waterproof and breathable fabric technology employed for these boots ensured my feet stayed dry, even when conditions got pretty grim, and I couldn't have been happier withe how comfortable and supportive the boots were. When you're walking for eight hours a day it is imperative your boats never feel like you're actually wearing thick heavy boots, and that's exactly what I got from these. Be it along the valley floor, squelching through mud, or along the high alpine trails in snow they stood up to all conditions.
The support comes via a specially designed midfoot stabiliser, which in the company's own words is 'a hard plastic TPU shank that adds durability to the structure of the midsole, and prevents the shoe from twisting through the gait-cycle'.
Dressing for the cold is all about layers, at least that's what a mountaineering friend of mine tells me and who am I to argue with someone in the know. However, thanks to the FZ Hoodie I didn't need to worry about any layers, other than my jacket, as these two were the perfect combination.
A mix of lifa fabric and merino wool make this the ideal top to wear under a jacket. Helly's life flow technology ensures that the moment you start sweating the moisture is quickly taken away from your skin, keeping you dry, whilst the soft merino wool keeps you perfectly warm. The fact it is in a hoodie style makes it, in my opinion, even better as your head gets all the warmth and comfort it needs as well.
With thanks to Helly Hansen. To find out more about these products, as well as the full range of others products offered, head over to the Helly Hansen website.