In this country, the Swedish outdoor equipment concern, Fjällräven, is not (yet) a household name. In Europe, it’s long been an iconic brand, analogous to Patagonia.
Founded in 1960 by Åke Nordin in the basement of his parent’s home in Örnsköldsvik, on Sweden’s High Coast, the company has sold products in the US for a number of years. Pronounced “F-yah’ll-rah-ven” (which means as ‘Arctic Fox’) its products are sold in over 40 countries.
Like others in the outdoor clothing industry, Fjällräven is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Fair Labor Association — industry-wide groups of leading clothing and footwear companies and NGOs. They share information and best practices, and work towards reducing the environmental and social impacts of their industry, worldwide. This is an important point because the pants I reviewed in this article were made in Vietnam.
Fjällräven tends to be more expensive than domestic brands but so are Mercedes or BMW. It’s the same principal, you get what you pay for. (More on that later).
With the advent of Covid, where sales of garments have generally diminished, Fjällräven and other outdoor manufacturers have seen an increase in sales.
It’s no wonder. People are spending more time “recreating” outdoors and since consumers of a certain demographic have more disposable income, they’re not adverse to dropping a few more bucks on good quality, brand name gear.
That dynamic has resulted in a windfall for the Swedish company, not to mention higher end domestic manufacturers.
Checking out Fjällräven “product”
Full disclosure. I’ve always had a kind of infatuation with European sports clothing ever since I was kid. My father had an old ski jacket from Germany which had a kind of timeless aesthetic.
Fjällräven embodies that same kind of classic feel. A company representative I spoke to described it this way, “Fjällräven isn’t the most technical brand, but rather an experiential brand and touching and feeling the brand is important to allow users (their customers) to fall in love with the heritage and products.”
Fjällräven makes all kinds of stuff—bags, tents, backpacks, and a host of men’s and women’s apparel. It’s not that the company doesn’t use space age materials for their products and doesn’t do R&D like any company but they would rather be known for making durable, practical products rather than gimmicky “technical” stuff.
Case and point: On the “Fjall” website you can read about “Grandma’s Jacket” a decade’s old Fjällräven garment which was passed down to a younger generation family member: https://foxtrail.fjallraven.com/articles/grandma-jacket/
Fjällräven is built for guys (and gals) who really do make it out to places like the Arctic Circle–for serious outdoors people. The description on the website describes one of their garments as “Comfortable and warm hunting trousers”.
I’m not a hunter but I like a company that doesn’t worry about sounding politically correct about their trousers.
Trail and road testing
I was able to test drive out two pair pants. Like others responding to the Covid era, I wanted something that I could use in another number of circumstances whether hiking the Mau’umae trail above my home, walking the dog or even venturing into Costco. And yes, I could even wear the pants (or not) at a Zoom meeting.
Of course, like everyone else, you want something that looks cool and lasts.
One last caveat. Keep in mind that I live in Hawaii thus the pants I’ve reviewed would be considered lightweight and suitable for either summer on the mainland or tropical climes.
Fjällräven describes its Abisko Midsummer Trousers as “Light, well-ventilated and packable trekking trousers. Perfect for warm climates.”
That pretty much sums things up which makes them ideal for the Aloha State. The material called G-1000 Air Stretch is a combination of cotton and recycled polyester (made from old plastic bottles!) with a wee bit of stretch. The knees are articulated and the crotch is gusseted. Both add strength to the design and allow for movement.
According to Fjällräven the material is “strong, resilient, quick drying and moisture wicking.”
If you’re hiking or climbing these are ideal.
The pants will both allow you to high step or move as you like and are super breathable so even on a humid day in Suva, you’ll be able to move and groove with the best of them. There are even a couple of zippers on the thighs that you can open up, almost down to your knee, and let the air flow through your pants.
On the hem of the pants is a drawstring much like you’d find on a pair of US Army trousers. Thus if you put your hiking or climbing boots on your pants won’t slip down over the back of your heels. Just cinch them down. You don’t have to roll them up.
Another interesting design facet is that the fabric on the knees and butt are a slightly darker tone than the other fabric. How come? That’s a rip stop material so if you do get a rip in these spots it will prevent excess damage. The pants are impeccably made as mentioned above, in Vietnam.
Travelers will appreciate that there are three zippered pockets (left, right and right thigh) so that you can keep your valuables safely stashed. There’s also a cargo type pocket with two snaps on the left hand thigh. Inside the right hand thigh pocket is a mini mesh pouch for change, keys or whatever so you don’t have fish them out of the larger compartment.
I have say something about the fit. I’m ecstatic about it. I have a “compact” frame and compared to most guys a tiny waist—29 inches. It’s nearly impossible to find a 29 inch waist in a typical American size but not so with the European scheme of things. Suffice to say, these pants fit me perfectly. Note that these trousers also come in a (new) zip off version so that you can easily convert them into shorts.
Another option for light hiking/everyday “summer” trousers are the High Coast Lite Trousers which the company describes as Light, quick-drying stretch trousers for everyday use and travelling in warm climates.
Again, well said Fjällräven. Constructed with the same G-1000 Air Stretch cotton and recycled polyester material, these are not called “Lite” for nothing. There are five pockets, two standard front and back plus a fifth on the side of your right thigh. It’s too small for a passport or a mobile device but you can stash a credit card, change or keys.
For that reason I don’t think they are ideal to get on an airplane with but if you don’t need a zipper for a hike you’ll be just fine. Like the Abisko Midsummer Trousers they have a drawstring. All of the inner pockets on both pants are constructed with mesh so they are going to be durable.
The High Coast Lite Trousers have a cleaner, leaner (more tapered) look than the Abiskos which make them a bit better for every day use. However, if you wanted to throw them in your bag as hiking pants or as spare run-around trousers they will not take up much room nor will they weigh you down. They also have the advantage of drying rapidly.
And yes, these trousers fit me like a proverbial glove.
If you want to hike or hang out with your sophisticated European cousins, you’re not going to go wrong with Fjällräven.
Robert F. Kay is a columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a health nut, the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and Fijiguide.com. (He also likes crossover wear).