Fjallraven Keb EcoShell Jacket Review
It's got a certain fit, certain features, and a certain style. But the proprietary fabric and waterproof-breathable (W-B) membrane will likely be the highlight of this review. The Fjallraven “EcoShell” fabric is a fantastic option in today's market, and combined with the very simple and versatile design of this jacket, it's a winning product in my books so long as water repellence is not a top priority.
I wouldn’t call it heavy, but it's certainly not in the lightweight category of ultra-distance or emergency-use hardshells. I’m happy with the weight for any ski day/trip, but would choose another jacket for “in case” use on a long/challenging trip.
From the official website:
Water column: 26’000
Overall this jacket is substantially more comfortable than any other hardshell I’ve tried, and more comfortable than roughly half of the softshells. Yeah, it's that nice.
The fabric has a bit of 4-way stretch to it - not a lot - but just enough to feel really smooth when reaching or bending for something, especially across the shoulders and back.
The fabric does have a bit of the typical rigidity and crinkly sound associated with hardshell jackets (or should I say: W-B membranes), but it's truly diminished from the norm. I don’t notice any noise or restriction when wearing it.
Very gradually I’m coming to value comfort more than other performance and feature aspects. I can recall so many occasions while donning a certain jacket in the mountains and immediately finding that comfort and protection I was missing - installing this deep “oh yes” sensation, which can really positively colour your experience of the day. Comfortable garments and tools support a connected feeling to the task at hand. They remove an almost imperceptible barrier to the experience. Almost all of my favourite days have involved my most comfortable kit, not necessarily my most functional or durable or even protective kit.
This rating is given strictly in the context of W-B memrane hardshells. I’ve tried the Arcteryx 100-denier Alpha jacket before, and would say that one is probably quite a bit more durable. Also, the new (as of 2021) Gore Tex Pro Most Durable membrane is being mated to some other heavy face fabrics which feel impressively tough (in the shops). However, the EcoShell is durable. It is fairly resistant to getting snagged by trees or abraded on rope or rock. And has easily survived some terrific ski crashes of mine. This is thanks to the fabric weight, weave, and stretch. I don’t feel the need to baby it all like I do with my really lightweight ski touring jacket.
I love the two big chest pockets and prefer this higher placement to the mid-torso placement which many technical jackets are going to. Sure, your backpack chest strap is going to be in the way of the pocket access, but I actually found that to often be the case regardless to high or mid torso placement. The dual internal mesh holding pockets are super useful for your phone or other items. (For clarity, these mesh sub-pockets are inside each of the exterior chest pockets. Neither accessible from inside the jacket.) Best of all, these chest pockets are billowed - meaning there is a bit of extra fabric and the bottom and sides for larger objects to extrude into, thus preventing them from jabbing into your body on the inside. And these billows fold perfectly flat when not “in use”, thus not interfering with the external aesthetic of the jacket.
The hood has fantastic adjustability and brow. Its a big hood but not the biggest. Its big enough to ski with my size M/L helmet comfortably, but only just. My Norrona Lofoten jacket has an even bigger hood which is noticeably more comfortably to have up over my ski helmet.
The pit zips are my favourite of any jacket. They are actually not located in the armpits - which is what makes them great. Being placed on the torso (extending up to the armpit) removes the stiffness which zippers add to arm movement and also make the zipper pulls easy to find and grab with gloves without removing your backpack. I find the heat is dumped just the same with this location, all the while solving the annoyances typical of armpit zips.
There aren’t many other features to speak of. Its an uncomplicated design. No snow skirt or interior pockets. I won’t deduct points for any features not included. There is a small external sleeve pocket but I don’t find it useful for anything, not even my RFID ski pass.
I very often ski with the hood up. The rain/snow/wind protection and warmth/comfort is unparalleled. I think more skiers/boarders should try it. Experiment with the hood adjustments so that it moves with your head and doesn’t obstruct your peripheral vision. A big hood is certainly necessary though, and some jackets simply work better for this than others based on how the hood connects to the shoulders.
Construction Quality (5/5)
It's really, really well made. It's obvious to see this in the stitching and seams and general finishing of cuts and folds.
Wind protection (5/5)
The fabric provides as much wind protection as you would ever really want and the features allow to really tighten up around the openings (hands, hip, face).
Water repellency (2/5)
I’ll just be frank: this face fabric has no natural water repellency and does not hold DWR well. As such, the face fabric is prone to wetting out. That isn’t to mean that water can come through the membrane. But a wet fabric is heavy and transfers moisture to other things it touches and most impactfully - breathes poorly.
The factory finish worked best. I have renewed the DHW with two different PFC-free products and had minimal success. (Those same products have given me success on other jackets.)
It should be pretty well understood that PFC-free DWRs do not work as well as the PFC-containing ones which usually accompany Gore Tex (and other) jackets. But thats just a simple question of valuing the environment over an increase in water-shedding performance. I’ve had the best result with Nikwax spray-on kind.
As expected, it holds out water. The zippers and seams have all performed well for me. This said, there have been a few instances under extended use in heavy rain and wet snow when there has been some moisture gradually coming through. It's not something I worry about, but I think 4 of 5 stars is appropriate in terms of waterproofness. I have both cheap rain jackets and Gore Tex jackets which I trust more in an extended downpour.
It's a shell without any insulation. That said, it's a little warmer than many others like it. It breathes really well so temperature is modulated, but the heavier fabric retains a bit of heat that you avoid (for better or worse) with super lightweight shells.
The overall size is similar to size L from other brands. The body manages to be sleek while also roomy for layering, which is exactly what you want really. I would say it suits an athletic frame, but not exclusively so.
I’m a 42” chest and 32” waist, and while I think the size L would easily accommodate a larger chest and midsection than mine, its bottom opening (which sits below the hips) is not large. A person with larger than average hips may not fit at all.
I usually wear a long-sleeve baselayer and ultralight softshell jacket beneath which leaves ample room. I’ll sometimes add a fleece layer which is also easy. Adding a midweight puffy jacket underneath takes up all the available room, but definitely still works. The armpits and sleeves are the limiting areas in that case.
My only gripe is that the forearms are slightly snug. I personally have this issue with many garments, though not usually outerwear. If you have huge forearms, that could potentially be in conflict with this jacket.
In my opinion, this is great value. It's a beautifully made high-performer for a mid-expensive price. Even the most premium products (at premium prices) have performance downsides, and the EcoShell has its downside as others have theirs. Considering that many Fjallraven products are truly premium priced, it's almost a bit surprising that this jacket is of notably sub-premium price.
It doesn’t appear to be designed with any single purpose in mind. It’s an outdoor generalist. I’d say it looks halfway posh for city/social use too. It certainly doesn’t have an overly technical appearance.
Sure, I won’t be taking this jacket out for a rain-soaked multi day kayak trip, or even an outdoor concert with heavy rain in the forecast, but for just about everything else its amazing. I think that’s pretty darn versatile.
It's an amazingly comfortable and functional jacket that I reach for often through all four seasons. It works for alpine climbing, ski touring, camping, and commuting. If the forecast is calling for substantial rain, the EcoShell is not my first pick. But when headed out for light or mixed weather, including heavy snow, this Keb EcoShell is a jacket I’m thrilled to don.
Last updated or reviewed 2022-12-28