Jack Wolfskin is the sort of outdoor brand that is often seen in the shops, but not in the hills. I don’t know anyone in outdoor circles that own anything they make, but many of the larger retailers such as Cotswold stock their gear.
I’ve checked their stuff on many occasions but usually discounted it because of my hang ups about weight. It’s not necessarily heavy gear, and I know that weight is not always the issue, but there is usually a lighter alternative.
That said I did once own a Jack Wolkskin fleece which I referred to as the techni-coloured dream coat, on account of its rather alarming colour pattern. It was the early noughties after all and I, as well as most of the population were still hanging onto the aftermath of nineties fashion. I wore it my first Camino trip and loved the thing.
The original techni-coloured dreamcoat. It was the early noughties, what can I say?
So now I have been sent a JW Nanuk fleece by to try out by Blackleaf. Reviewing a lightweight fleece at the end of summer isn’t great timing. Sort of like reviewing a down jacket in the spring, or base layer t-shirts in December but you might at least get it cheap being out of season and as explained below, it is useable over the winter if you team it up with other layers.
It is made from 100% polyester although JW refer to this as their Nanuk Athletic QMC material, the primary advantage claiming to be it does a sterling job of wicking away sweat. It’s a snug fit but not tight and the material is wonderfully stretchy. Think along the lines of a pliable Polartec 100 and you’re along the right lines.
Obviously your shape dictates the fit somewhat but the QMC fleece is wonderfully stretchy so adapts.
It is undeniably a summer top, during any other season you could use it but it would have to be teamed up with another layer. For example, a long sleeved lightweight base layer underneath and a waterproof jacket over the top would be fine for me even in winter providing I was walking and producing body heat. Its insulation would not be sufficient for keeping you warm under around 5C but as I say, it is a summer top. So, think along the lines of coupling it with other layers when walking in cold weather, or it is ideal on summer evenings around camp when you just need something worn over a top to take off the chill.
It does wick well, I’ve had a few months using it including taking it on the Camino in Spain where I wore it on some cold morning (the Spanish nights get pretty cold even in August there) and it was always comfortable, I never felt clammy and when the temperature did rise and I had to remove it, my base layer was dry.
The weight is excellent. JW claim 260gr (M) which for once, is bang on what my scales reckon as well. This should be expected for a lightweight fleece so it came as no surprise and it is barely noticeable when worn.
Nice feel and grip to the zip pulls, even with cold hands
Features are par for the course. Two side pockets, waist adjustment via a couple of toggles situated wisely at the front and not the sides so as to not interfere too much with pack waist belts. The cuffs have no adjustment but it’s not needed, the cut is snug and the natural stretch of the material takes up any slack. There’s a full front zip to the top of the collar which sits snugly up the neck below the chin.
I’m very happy with it and continue to use it but there is one drawback which lets the Nanuk down. The build quality overall is best described as average dropping down to poor in a couple of respects. The blue QMC fleece is held together by orange stitching which in places is just coming loose. The worrying aspect of this is that it hasn’t happened over time but arrived in this condition. The main culprits are the cuffs where the threads are just dangling down. OK, it’s an easy one to fix but the point is it shouldn’t have to be fixed.
The second area is the waist adjustment toggles which are attached to the main body by a 1cm wide nylon strip. I had to return the first delivery of this top because when I pulled the toggle it just fell away completely as the stitching holding nylon fixing to the main body had completely missed it altogether. It’s something JW need to address as firstly, it shouldn’t have been built so poorly and secondly, it should have been picked up in quality control. However, fair play to Blackleaf who rightly took it back no questions asked (although they were interested in what happened) after a speedy quick delivery in the first place, and also sent a replacement quickly as well.
Waist adjustment toggle. Conveniently situated at the front to avoid hip belts. This was loose on the first delivery.
Price wise it’s around £42 which is comparable to other, similar offerings by the major brands.
Overall I’d recommend it. The advantages (weight, fit, wicking ability, price and comfort) make up for the build quality and although being abused as usual over a few months (stuffed in packs, used in light rain, burnt by a fire etc) it’s not showing any signs of piling or general wear.
It kinda looks cool down the pub as well.