The Mountain Equipment Firefox Jacket

After pondering over whether to buy some new Ortlieb panniers (see previous post), my mind remained focussed on the general theme of ‘equipment’. I really need to set some kind of budget for getting hold of what I need to buy. After having cycled across Europe twice already, I have most of what I need in place (bike, accessories, tent, camping equipment etc…) and panniers apart, I have no intention of replacing the stuff that served me well when I cycled to the southern tip of Italy and then from Greece to Portugal along the Mediterranean coast. But this third European crossing is slightly different to the others in that it will be starting in April, albeit April in Spain, and finishing in late summer in northern Norway. Up until my arrival in Oslo, I can’t imagine that Mother Nature can throw at me anything that I haven’t become accustomed to already, especially back in 2010 when August – the month during which I had chosen to cycle to Italy – was the wettest on record in western Europe. The final country on my 2015 itinerary does concern me however. Here is the historic weather record for the town of Bodo which is roughly two-thirds of my way through Norway to Nordkapp, my final destination.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.57.01

The average high temperature in July is 16 degrees, the average low is 12. For the sake of comparison, the average high in London in July is around 24 degrees, the average low is 16. So although it won’t get drastically cooler than London, is will be drastically less hot if that makes sense. The precipitation is interesting; 92 mm on average in Bodo compared to just 45 mm in London in July. The upshot of all this is that I need to be prepared to experience longer periods of cooler weather than I would back at home and expect twice as much rain.

Looking at the trip as a whole, I need to be prepared to layer my clothing; fewer layers when it’s warmer, more layers when it gets chilly. But rain is rain. Whether it’s hot or cold, it’s always just as wet. Now let me first say that as an experienced cyclist I know that getting wet on a bike is just one of those occupational hazards that you need to get used to. If you can’t get used to it, you’d be better off driving. But cycling and rain is not so simply. Keeping rain off your skin when cycling is done not so much to stop you getting uncomfortably wet around the edges (that will probably eventually happen) but more to keep the skin as dry as is reasonably possible. On a cool day (such as those in Norway in July?) dampness on the skin leads to evaporation of the water. In order to evaporate, energy is needed and, as the sunshine is not there in abundance,  it is taken primarily from the body of the cyclist leading to rapid cooling of the skin and the person underneath. So it makes sense to have a good rain jacket. If you are cycling to work, any decent jacket will do. The chances are you’ll be able to sit on a radiator at work in half an hour or so (I write from experience). That won’t be the case in the northern Norway where if I do get wet I could potentially be in a tricky position getting warm again. What I need is a very good quality rain jacket that is relatively lightweight, is very breathable, is just as useful in spring in Spain and in the heat of summer in France and Germany and works as a cycling jacket should allowing me full movement of the things that need to be moved. I think I may have found it in the shape of the shape of the Mountain Equipment Firefox Jacket.

I walked down to Cotswold Leisure in Reading earlier this afternoon to see if I could find anything suitable. I tried on a few of the jackets they had on display but as soon as I did I felt more of a walker than a cyclist. Then I tried on the Mountain Equipment jackets (fear not, they are not paying me to write this or indeed giving me a jacket although if they do, I won’t turn it down…). I could immediately imagine myself on a bicycle in Norway. There was little restriction of movement, the back of the jacket was slightly extended just as tends to be the case with cycling jackets, the material was long in the arms so extending the arm itself didn’t lead to the wrists being exposed and the cuffs were broad to allow a substantial glove to be worn if needed. The three styles that were in stock were the Aeon jacket (£170), the Firefox jacket (£250) and the Changabang jacket (brace yourself… £400). Let’s discount the latter option – it was a little too heavy duty for the valleys of Norway – but the other two were definite possibilities. The Firefox was, according to the excellent Cotswold salesman, significantly more breathable and decidedly more protective against the rain… I think I was being convinced. Time for a little video from Richard Talbot, product manager of Mountain Equipment. I’m afraid there are no 1960s Batman-style ‘pows’ etc… in this video (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and read the earlier post about the Ortlieb pannier bags) and Richard does that annoying Channel 4 thing of not looking at the camera when he’s speaking but I’ll forgive him, shut up and let him speak. Over to you Richard:

Did you hear that? He described it as their “lightest, most packable, and most breathable waterproof jacket“. I think I may just have found the answer to my waterproof jacket problem. I’m also quite taken by the green.

Now, back to the budget that I mentioned earlier. I have set myself a maximum spend of £1,000 to purchase anything I need that I don’t currently have. The panniers will set me back £200 and this jacket another £250 leaving £550 for all the other layers. I shall not be a happy man if when I start cycling north of Oslo I experience the driest and hottest July on record (although it will give me something to write about in the book…).

Categories: Cycling

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

6 replies »

  1. Hi. I’m Norwegian and I was looking for information about the Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket (I was actually wondering what are the 2015-colours, and what are “old” colours that I should be able to buy at a lower price).

    I see you’re planning to cycle in Norway. The Northern parts of Norway are very beautiful, but please make sure not to chose the fastest route all the time. In stead of following the E6 you should take a ferry/boat from Bodo to Lofoten in order to see the beautiful surroundings there when cycling in direction of Nordkapp…

    All the best of luck to you =)

      • Yes, I currently live in Oslo.

        Seems like you have got some pretty good advice from Paul Uijting. I can confirm that everything he says is definitely valid and useful. You also have wolves in Norway by the way (you have 0,0001% chance of seeing any wolves/bears…).

        Your plan looks very good. You have included the trip to Lofoten as I suggested. Seems like you follow the coastline in stead of following the European Route 6 which is much quicker but much less interesting things to look at…

        You are much more flexible if you can do wild camping (no risk as long as you chose the camping site a bit wisely), but there should be hostels and small cabins to rent along your route. Be aware of the vast distances north of Trondheim, and you may easily experience 80km between shops/petrol stations.

        There are hundreds of people cycling your route in the summer, and there should be some information on the net concerning where to sleep, buy groceries e.g. I think most Norwegians go the opposite direction (from Nordkapp in the north to Lindesnes in the south – you’ll follow the same route as them from a bit north of Trondheim).

        • Hi Andre
          Sorry, I’ve only just seen that you’ve posted the information here (I was very busy moving house last week!!). It’s all very useful reassuring stuff, especially about the wolves and bears 🙂
          It would be interesting to meet up for a chat when I pass through Oslo. Are you going to be there during July?
          Best wishes

  2. I was in Norway the last week of July 2014. It was a family trip we planned so my mother, a Bergen native, could show a little of the Old Country to her grandchildren. She had warned us all year that we would likely meet with bad, cold, wet weather. As it turned out, the whole week was sunny and pretty damn hot, approaching 30 degrees a couple of times. The north of Norway and the eastern valleys a significantly less soggy than the fjord country, I understand.
    I have the Ortleib panniers. I found closing them pretty easy, having had experience with dry bags. How do they compare for carrying capacity with your old bags? In your first book you dump your stove. Will you have one in sparsely populated Finnmark?
    My brother, knowing I intend to tour Norway next summer, bought me rain jacket for Christmas. It fits well, seals up at the wrist with Velcro and seems to be high quality. I’m worried it may be a bit short in the waist. I’ve never ridden in the rain. Can this be a problem?
    The jacket, by the way, is called a “Showers Pass.” If anybody has any remarks about this brand, I’d like to know before I have to wear it in a downpour.

    • Hi. Thanks for that – very interesting.
      I suppose I have to work on averages rather than specific weeks when considering the weather but your point is noted.
      My current Ortlieb bags and the propsed replacements are identical in size: 20 litres each at the back, fewer at the front (I forget how many litres – 10?).
      Well remembered about the stove! Yes, I now have a small Trangia stove that I will be taking especially for the cycling north of Oslo.
      I’ve not heard of the Showers Pass raincoat so perhaps someone else could advise (or a quick Google search is normally all it takes to find a few reviews).

What do you think?