There are lots of really good outdoor gear companies out there. Until now, however, the trouble has always been justifying the very high prices of most brands, even though they offered features that were very desirable. Enter Cortèz Outerwear, from the Netherlands. Cortèz offers products directly from the manufacturer, which reduces the prices substantially while maintaining essential features that rival or exceed competitor offerings. That’s the theory, anyway.

With their current Kickstarter campaign they are offering a technical shell that on paper seems very impressive. As an adventure photographer, I had the opportunity to bring one of these shells to the Faroe Islands for a week. The Faroe Islands are a small chain of islands in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland, and since they sit right in the middle of the Gulf Stream they are constantly pummelled by very high winds, rain, and snow in the winter. True to form, the islands lived up to their reputation and for a week I was battered by winds that reached 100 km/h in sustained conditions, blowing sideways rain, and snow. Sometimes all at the same time. To perhaps give away the ending of the review, I will come right out and say it – the Cortèz Outerwear technical shell performed flawlessly. And now, let me tell you why.

Photo by Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

Photo by Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

Photo by Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

Photo by Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

Photo by  Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

Photo by Timo Pape @still_no_fixed_address

The first thing you notice when you pick up the shell is that it is not ultra light. I own other shells that barely weigh anything, and while those shells do perform well, I find that in high winds in cold conditions, I feel the chill moving through the garment. I also question their long term durability. I can counter that by wearing a heavier mid layer but if I do not want to add bulk this is not my preferred option. The three layer construction of the shell uses Dermizax®EV, a completely waterproof and windproof material that is also breathable. Coupled with the generous pit zips, the shell provided excellent protection without making me overheat during hard exertions.

A technical shell without a great hood is quite useless, in my opinion. The hood on the Cortèz Outerwear cinches tight, with pulls on both sides of the chin and one behind your head. This lets it seal out the elements very well. There were many times when I was hiking against headwinds so strong I could barely open my eyes. Without an excellent hood, I would have had rain pouring in through my neck and down my back, which would have soaked my other layers. I am very grateful that this did not happen.

Incredible winds in the Faroe Islands

Let’s talk about pockets for a second. I am picky about pockets. If they are too low, they can’t be used when wearing a pack or a climbing harness. If they don’t open wide enough, I can’t get things like cases for lens filters or my phone in them easily. If they sit in front of the waterproof membrane, then the outer pockets aren’t waterproof and I can’t use them for things that need to stay dry. On the latter point, I am actually not sure if the pockets on the Cortèz Outerwear technical shell are supposed to be waterproof but I had my phone and other essentials in them the whole time and nothing ever became wet. One one day, I was hiking straight into driving rain. Everything in my pockets remained completely dry, and there is nothing more I can ask for.

Happy smiles despite constant rain and snow

So, the jacket is amazing. But beyond that, I should mention that Cortèz Outerwear is also involved in a regreening initiative with Justdiggit. For every shell that they sell, they will re-green 50 square meters of land on the foot of the Kilimanjaro. It is an outstanding initiative, something that I can totally get behind. In this day, consumers who want to promote an ecological view point should vote with their money, and support companies that do likewise. Cortèz Outerwear certainly gets my vote.

If you’re looking for an excellent technical shell that costs substantially less than other brands but still offers all of the features (and more) of those other brands, look no further. You’ve found your jacket.