(Photo courtesy of Joel Bear)
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the mountains during the fall has memories of those quintessential autumn elements of the experience that seem to define comfort and warmth and security. A mesmerizing fire crackling in a stone fireplace in some remote cabin shared with family and friends. A hearty stew that sticks to your ribs like nothing else can. A hot cup of campfire coffee with a nip of Jameson that warms you from the inside out. They are the elements that do more than define the season, they are the elements that make it memorable.
Fjallraven is a Swedish-based company that was established in 1960 with the mission to create clothing and gear specifically suited to handle the cold, wet conditions that adventurers routinely have to deal with in the mountains. Until recently, the brand hasn’t had a large following in the U.S., but that is quickly changing as American outdoor enthusiasts are discovering what the Swedes have known for decades – when it comes to functional outdoor gear, timeless quality and style are infinitely more important the latest fashion trends.
If you’ve never heard of Fjallraven (pronounced fee-all-raven), and yet there seems to be something oddly familiar about their clothing and gear, it’s probably because in the more than 50 years they’ve been in business, the company has figured out how to weave the essence of that quintessential autumn outdoor experience into everything they make. So when you put on that jacket or backpack or shirt or pair of pants, you’re getting more than just functional quality and style, your also getting the feel of that mesmerizing fire, the taste of that hearty stew, and the comfort of that hot cup of coffee.
While this all might sound like a lot of hocus pocus to some, for others it might just go a long way toward understanding the inexplicable draw they feel toward a brand they’ve never heard of. Regardless of which camp you fall in, it’s a safe bet that there is something in Fjallraven’s collection that will somehow connect you to the outdoors in a way that feels familiar to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started on the journey.
Vidda Pro Trousers
At the heart of Fjallraven’s product offering is its proprietary G-1000 fabric that’s a polyester/cotton blend permeated with Greenland Wax to create a durable and water resistant shell that’s surprisingly breathable. One of the coolest parts about the material is that you can apply more wax to the surface of the fabric for an eco-friendly way to dramatically increase its water repellency for those times when you’re heading into wet conditions.
The Vidda Pro Trousers are made from that fabric and have reinforced material in the seat and knees. The trousers fit snugly, but because of the way they’re cut, they also provide for a surprising amount of range of motion and never feel like they’re binding up in any of the wrong places.
With an SRP of $150, the Vidda Pros also include a host of little extra features that can make a big difference, especially on longer treks. From pockets in the knees for optional kneepads and adjustable elastic straps on the cuffs, to six distinct pockets – including one that’s big enough for a map and another designed specifically for a hatchet – the Vidda Pro Trousers will absolutely raise the bar on what you expect from a pair of pants.
The Greenland Jacket has been part of the Fjallraven offering since 1968 and for good reason. It’s as solid and reliable as any shell that’s been developed by any company in the years since then. The Greenland is made from the G-1000 fabric that’s already infused with a coating of Greenland Wax, but, just like the Vidda Pro Trousers, it’s easy to add another layer of wax to provide even more wind and water repellency without the chemical treatments other shells rely on to provide a water-resistant barrier.
The Greenland Jacket has several strategically placed pockets that give you quick access to your most important gear, and features extra G-1000 reinforcement on the shoulders and yolk for added protection against the elements and pack wear. The jacket retails for $240 and has a classic good look that never seems to go out of style.
Kajka 75 Pack
With so many technical packs on the market today that seem to sacrifice functionality for the sake of added features, Fjallraven’s Kajka pack is a refreshing study in simplicity. First and foremost, the Kajka is rugged. Made from a polyester/vinylon material, the Kajka leaves no doubt that it could take a tumble down a mountain and come out unscathed. But as tough as the material is however, the pack doesn’t feel anywhere near as heavy as it looks.
Both the width and length of the pack can be adjusted to give you a proper fit, and the pack’s main compartment can be accessed by large zippered openings in the front to make it easy to grab the rain jacket you so brilliantly stuffed in the bottom of the bag. The Kajka 75 retails for $400, and although it has a simple design, it’s still packed with functional features such as a removable top lid that can be worn as a separate hip or chest bag and pole straps that allow you to access the inner compartment without taking the poles off. One of the coolest features, however, is that the Kajka uses a sturdy wooden frame that is a little more environmentally friendly than standard metal pack frames.
Move With Bag
Even the roomiest mummy bag can be extremely claustrophobic for people who like sleeping on their sides. Enter Fjallraven’s Move With Sleeping Bag. Instead of trying to provide extra room inside the bag that adds extra weight and bulk, Fjallraven designed the bag to act more like a down comforter you wrap around yourself and roll from side to side with. The $300 bag compresses into an impressively small bundle that goes nearly unnoticed in even the smallest pack, yet the 700 fill down that’s stuffed into box channels around the torso specifically for side sleepers provides enough warmth for early fall high country outings.
Abisko Dome 3
Launching this spring, Fjallraven’s Abisko Dome 3 is a free-standing tent that just might be the easiest tent on the market to use. The dome tent was designed to keep its shape even when placed on uneven ground, even when all the pegs can’t be secured. The flysheet is connected to the inner tent which makes it easy to pitch in the wind and rain. That doesn’t mean, however, that the tent is stuffy. Like all of Fjallraven’s dome tents, the Abisko includes two doors and two vestibules on opposite sides of the tent. This not only allows for easier entry and exit from the shelter, it also ensures that at least one door will not be facing into the wind so you can provide comfortable ventilation without worrying about turning your tent into a hot air balloon. And the double vestibule allows you to keep more of your gear out of the elements without sacrificing valuable internal real estate.
True to the Fjallraven brand, the Abisko has a rugged durability in a lightweight package that will make you want to take it with you on every excursion – especially the ones where you have no idea what kind of conditions you will encounter along the way.
These products, and many others designed to help connect people to the outdoors, are available on Fjallraven’s website. But the rapidly growing popularity of the brand in the U.S. is also creating an explosion of Fjallraven retail stores across the country, so if there isn’t one near you, it’s a safe bet there will be soon. And when you walk into one of the stores, don’t be surprised if, for some inexplicable reason, it feels like you’re stepping into that warm cabin you still remember from your childhood. Maybe it is a little hocus pocus. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.