Fjallraven Old-School Gear

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Step inside the Fjallraven Store at 262 Mott Street in New York City and you enter a time warp where wool pants, waxed jackets, and backpacks with leather straps and metal buckles adorn the walls. Fjallraven — pronounced “Fee-Yell-Raven” — means arctic fox in Swedish, and the brand has roots in the country’s northerly regions where snow piles deep and polar gales blast from Valhalla and other points past the Arctic Circle.

Fjallraven was founded in Sweden 50 years ago. It is a widely-recognized name in its home country, where school kids for a couple generations have slung on the company’s boxy Kanken backpacks. Parkas, bags, and outdoors clothing are staples in the line.

Fjallraven New York.jpg

Fjallraven store in New York

The flagship New York store, which I visited last week, is a basement space with white walls and an Army-surplus feel. Gear is arranged on shelves and hung on the walls, including Fjallraven products and items from other niche brands. There are few electronics, a lack of known outdoors brands and, except for the chopping axes, almost nothing that is “cutting edge.”

Indeed, the Fjallraven aesthetic and the store in general is in drastic juxtaposition to almost every other product and current theme in the outdoors industry. The company makes jackets for ice fishing and polar treks. The clothing has a traditional outdoors look that your dad or grandpa might have worn. Fjallraven eschews Gore-Tex in favor of iron-on wax! Indeed, the company sells blocks of wax, which can be melted with an iron and rubbed into the fabric of a jacket to make it waterproof.

Fjallraven Jacket and Wax.jpg

Fjallraven jacket and iron-on waterproofing wax

The products are not cheap, either. The Fjallraven Arktis Parka — a down-insulated piece made for, among other activities, ice fishing — costs $775. It has a hood with synthetic fur and is marketed with features including a breast pocket “large enough to hold a thermos.” The Norr Shirt, $125, is a cotton flannel button-up with a decorative yoke and two chest pockets with flaps.

In New York, the Fjallraven store feels like an anachronism amongst its neighboring boutiques on trendy Mott Street. The staffer that helped me out, Maria, had a Swedish accent and an enthusiasm toward the Fjallraven brand, which she says has been present in her life since she was a child.

Clearly, the company is riding the retro or vintage wave with its idiosyncratic line. The look is pure and classic 1960s and ’70s design, like an LL Bean catalog page from decades back. It conjures nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings to anyone who grew up camping and hiking in similar gear. Mott Street is a good venue for a brand where authenticity can blend with fashion, plus, perhaps, a dash of subtle irony tossed in on the side.

Fjallraven Kanken Backpacks.jpg

Classic Kanken backpacks

To me, that’s what Fjallraven is — neat and fun, but not likely the products I’d pick for anything more than casual hiking and camping. At the store, Maria attempted to sell me on the concept of polyester/cotton fabric blends, waxed jackets, and boxy little backpacks. I do love traditional and crafty products where they make sense. But this winter I am going to have to stick with my modern-day backpacks as well as Gore-Tex instead of wax and an iron to rub it on, no matter how cold it gets outside.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. A version of this post appeared on VentureThere.com

Posted by Jason Pax - 06/02/2011 11:30 AM

Fjällraven has many Gore-Tex products; I have some packs and I can rely on them anyday. ;)

Posted by s reynolds - 08/13/2011 11:09 AM

Before there was Gortex there was wax…

Posted by Sappetta - 09/14/2011 04:25 PM

Fjällräven is excellent for much more than casual outings. And their summer range is the best I have found for tropical climates, especially their MT fabric.

Posted by GoreTex and really cold - 11/25/2011 01:53 AM

Living in a cold country (Norway), I have tried lots of winter gear. If you can handle the weight, a three layer composition comprising outer layer of either tighly woven cotton, or, a cotton/polyester blend, then either thick wool or fleece, and then thin merino wool is an ultimate treat for active outdoors, when there is a chance you go close to a camp fire or to a bush. Bring a light down jacket/vest for when you are inactive.

In slightly warmer/wetter but still cold conditions, and without camp fire, nor risk for tearing, I change the outmost layer into eVent/Gore Tex/other laminate. The original patent for GT is gone, so there are other good less pricy alternatives.

Other people swear by Paramo products, but I have not had a chance to test.

Posted by kristoffer petersson - 02/24/2012 07:23 AM

i would only buy fjällräven

Posted by Sleepwalker - 07/12/2012 12:27 PM

Fjallraven makes very good gear. I never had one of their jackets and i would prefer some North Face Hardshells or something like that but the Fjallraven trousers are awesome. G1000 is no material for high-pulse-activity gear but it is great for the daily outdoor. And Im very sorry for the prices in the US but for me (living in germany) the Arctic Parke costs 350€ = 425$.
Reading the Iceland trail article you gonna see some Fjallraven Trousers on the pictures.

Posted by Dirk Defauw(Belgium) - 08/29/2012 03:47 AM

Fjallraven is not only big in their country but is a well-known brand
In Europe for the outdoors. Also take a look at their website for further
Info about their products and product video’s www.fjallraven.com .
I normally use jack wolfskin another upcomming brand in Europe but for this winter I’m going to buy
the fjallraven Barents pro pants for its durability and versatility.

Posted by SorenLo (Denmark) - 09/17/2012 01:00 PM

Fjällräven is a very reliable and long lasting product. I would prefer it any time over North Face, Arc’teryx or some other kind of “innovative” brand. In my oppinion, Fjällräven is even more innovative in their choice of fabric and designs. I just bought their “Kajka”-backpack and I’m very pleased. Keep in mind, that Gore-Tex is almost the only brand on the market manufacturing that kind of water-resistant and “breathable” fabric. So maybe it is time to look beyond the beloved Gore-Tex …

Posted by MvN (the Netherlands) - 04/26/2013 02:19 AM

Fjällräven is the opposite of most American brands. Their models are sold for many years, it’s build to last and focused on intensive use.
I have several American friends who are surprised if I tell them that I use my jacket/garment for many years before replacing it.

Posted by Jorma - 07/02/2013 04:59 PM

And GoreTex is a major environmental pollutant also. It is made of PTFE which requires the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is toxic to environment and to humans.

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