Softshell: The North Face Apex Valkyrie
I've said it before - I like softshells. Previous models that I have worn have all been fairly light weight, the sort of clothing that I would always stuff into a rucsack without even thinking about it. The Valkyrie is an altogether different garment. It weights 770g, but looks and feels sturdier still. The primary reason for this is the inner fleece lining, or backer. Even after a month of use it is relatively stiff, and definitely falls into the category of 'proper jacket'.
The fleece inner means it's more comfortable to wear than other softshells, especially the bits that lie against your skin. The outer is fairly breathable and keeps out light rain and moderate winds. It is not, however a full waterproof replacement. Despite the stiffness there is a reasonable degree of flexibility when active.
It has a fleece lined fixed hood with three elasticated toggle adjusters. It has a full length zip which is not water resistant, though does feature a rear baffel made of the same water resistant Apex Universal fabric as the jacket outer. It has 4 pockets. 2 are situated symmetrically high on the chest, both zipped. One is accessed via a hidden zip inside close to the central zip on the left breast, and the fourth is inside on the right breast, also zipped. The sleeves are long. I often suffer with sleeves riding up my forearms when I stretch for something, but these seem perfect. The Velcro fasteners on each cuff are a little too close to the end of the sleeves, causing a tiny amount of rubbing on the wrists if not used carefully. Finally the waist has an elasticated drawcord operable on either side of the body via a small toggle hidden inside the skirt of the jacket.
In a nutshell it looks good, has enough pockets and adjustments to suit most, is comfortable and practical. I just hope that it loses some of its stiffness over time. Retails at £180 which is pretty pricy for a 'proper jacket' that won't replace your waterproof.
What I liked:
Lightweight yet sturdy
Plenty of zipped pockets
What I didn't like:
A little on the stiff side
Cuffs fastening Velcro can rub
Would like to see more jackets with pit-zips
Reviewed by Matt Heason on behalf of planetFear