Aided by Clare Baker, Charlotte Peters sees Härkila’s latest stalking gear for women put to the test in the Highlands
In Norse mythology, Freja was a warrior goddess. By naming its new woman’s stalking jacket and trousers after such a character, Härkila is making a very positive statement.
Stalking kit designed for the female form isn’t always easy to find, so I was keen to review the latest Härkila offering.
The glens and hills of Argyll
Fittingly, the parcel containing the Freja jacket and trousers was delivered to the Argyll estate stalking lodge in the Highlands where I was staying. I had asked fellow house guest Clare Baker (who runs Arcklebear Gundogs) to hill-test the kit while I tracked behind with our photographer. This was because Clare is tall, blonde, willowy and Amazonian and I am not. She had also booked a stag the following day and so it was the perfect opportunity to put the Freja kit through its stalking paces.
A keeper’s grandaughter
Although Clare hadn’t stalked in the Highlands before, she has shot red and roe deer in her native Gloucestershire. She also shoots game regularly and her grandfather is a gamekeeper.
Next morning, Clare stepped out of the lodge after breakfast in full ‘Freja’, ready for some practice on the rifle range. She said that she liked the cut of the jacket instantly and loved how it and the trousers felt, particularly noticing the fabric’s softness and lack of rustle.
It was a fresh 7°C at the range as Clare lay down to take aim. She said that it was “very easy to move around” in the outfit. The ground was dewy but any water just rolled away once she stood up.
We then drove along the hill track a mile or so and caught up with the garrons, patiently following the pony boy. We were doing this the traditional way. As anyone who has stalked in Scotland knows, the weather is a changeable beast. You have to be ready for anything. It’s for this that the Freja has been designed. It has been created from a silent, soft material that features the Härkila Weather System (HWS), which makes it both breathable and waterproof.
Whoever designed Freja is obviously no stranger to stalking. Walking uphill in pursuit of a stag can be hot work and it wasn’t long before Clare had availed herself of the ventilation zips located under the arms of the jacket and in the legs of the trousers.
“I can feel a lovely breeze now, drawing all the heat out,” she explained. Although there weren’t any midges around, there would have been no need to worry about any bites to exposed skin as the vents had a mesh lining.
Crawling over scree
After an hour’s steady walking uphill the keeper spotted a group of deer and picked out a stag. He and Clare lay on the bilberry covered ground, out of sight and upwind. She drew the hood of the jacket for extra camouflage and after a 20-minute crawl over heather and scree the stag was in Clare’s sights. She took the shot, making a clean kill just below the shoulder.
With the keeper’s guidance, Clare took care of the gralloching, splattering the trousers and jacket with blood, before loading the quarry onto one of the ponies and making our way back down.
What Clare thought of Harkila Freja
That evening we discussed what we’d thought of the Freja kit. Clare said: “When I was crawling through the heather with my rifle I could move easily but was protected against the spiky heather stalks, and no heather stuck to me.
“I bent the wired peak hood at one point to shield my eyes from the sun. The jacket was comfy, a nice fit and waterproof, as were the trousers – there were no tight bits. The hand pockets were in a good place and a good depth and the zipped phone pocket was handy and felt secure. I just had a shooting shirt on but was perfectly warm, dry and not too hot. I wasn’t cold either, even after 20 minutes lying on damp moss.
“I have to say I didn’t particularly like the cut of the trousers – they were a bit low at the back for me. I prefer a higher waistband but they were okay.
“I liked the length. I am 6ft tall and the jacket sleeves were bang on fit and the trouser length worked well with my boots. The bottom buckles pulled tight and stayed in position, so I wasn’t worried about any ticks creeping in. I didn’t need gaiters so my outfit was completely noiseless.
However, I would have liked a bit more fabric at the bottom of the trousers, as it was a bit of a struggle pulling them over my boots.
“After the gralloch I had blood up one sleeve and the trousers were very bloody but on the way down the hill the blood dried and brushed off.
“Although I liked the colour it was in one block shade, so from a stalking point of view maybe it should have some features in different shades for a more dappled effect – maybe knee pads and elbow/front patches.”
• I put the Freja in a 40°C wash using non-bio detergent and then hung the jacket and trousers in a warm room overnight. Come the morning they were dry and looked like new again, with no tears, rips or wear even after crawling over scree and heather.
• At £349.99 for the Freja jacket and £269.99 for the trousers, this isn’t a cheap outfit but it is beautifully designed, hardwearing, comfortable and good for several seasons’ hard stalking. It may even make you feel like a goddess.
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Features of Harkila Freja stalking kit
- A large hood with wired peak ensures that your head is kept dry and has toggle-adjustable drawstrings to keep you snug in battering wind and rain
- The flexible Härkila Weather System (HWS) membrane quickly absorbs and removes perspiration but prevents water entering from outside
- Silent fabric (both jacket and trousers)
- Ventilation slips for extra breathability
- Double radio pockets with rubber aerial ports plus internal telephone pocket
- Adjustable bottom and sleeve hem
- Cut to fit women
- Waterproof, windproof and breathable
- Flexible two layer HWS
- Integrated adjustable hood
- Double radio pockets with rubber aerial ports
- Side zipped pockets
- Ventilation zips under arms and on thighs
- Adjustable bottom and sleeve hem
- Easy entry top pockets on trousers
- Zipped thigh pockets with cartridge holder inside right side
- Back knee adjuster
- Snow lock on trousers
- Soft, hardwearing fabric
- Easily washable
- RRP £619.98 (£349.99, jacket; £269.99, trousers)
- Colour: Willow green
- Sizes: 34-46