My History with Fjallraven Products
I’ve been using Fjallraven products for many years now. I’ve come to rely on the Arctic Fox for bulletproof construction, features that I need, and performance that keeps up with me. I’ve been an expedition photographer for more than ten years and in that time I’ve amassed a fairly substantial pile of Fjallraven gear. One of my pairs of Keb hiking trousers has been to nearly 30 countries with me. They have been waxed, beaten by rocks and sun, drenched in sweat, covered in dust, mud and snow, and they look pretty much like the day I bought them. My Keb jacket is pretty much the same; absolutely love the hood on that piece!
The main thing I’ve been missing in my closet was a proper winter parka. Deep cold adventures to the Arctic, where the temperature can plummet to below -40 Celsius or further, had previously required a carefully layered approach with fleeces, down jackets, and shells. I was never really happy with the way that worked out. A few years ago when I became a photographer for the Canadian Rally Championship I started photographing events in the northern parts of Quebec in the dead of winter. In rally, you stand around a lot as a photographer, sometimes for hours. If the weather is truly severe, that can be harsh and even dangerous.
It was time for a proper parka. I’ve had my eye on a Fjallraven Arktis Parka for a long time now, and thankfully Altitude Sports has them in stock. Mine came in Uncle Blue colour, and in size small. If you’re on the fence about the sizing of the Arktis, I would say that they run a bit on the large side. Fjallraven is always very generous with the sleeve length, and on my frame (6’ 155lbs), a size small leaves me plenty of room to add a fleece and a medium mid layer without any problem. The length is such that it comes down to the middle of my thigh, which is perfect.
Things like pockets aside, the main concern when you decide you want a parka is how well it will keep you warm. On the second day of owning it, I decided to take a long hike very early in the morning during a cold snap in Eastern Canada where the windchill was down near -40 degrees Celsius. Wearing just a fleece under it, I was quite comfortable. It took me a bit of fiddling before I realized that there were good drawstrings inside of the parka that sealed in warm air, and getting used to a hood that awesome also required some effort. The hood is cavernous. It is fully insulated, and lined with a synthetic fur that is detachable if you want to sacrifice a bit of warmth and wind protection for better visibility. When it is completely zipped up, it’s often hard to tell that there is anyone inside the coat. While walking on that day, I kept thinking back to my time exploring Norway’s Arctic a few years ago via dogsled. I remembered crouching on the back of my sled trying to shield myself from the wind, and kept wishing that I had the Arktis at that time. The hood sure would have been welcome.
Arktis Bulk versus Dexterity
With extreme cold comes bulk. It’s hard to escape the fact that in the winter, you normally have nearly no dexterity for things like small zipper pulls and tiny bits of velcro. Thankfully, the Fjallraven Arktis has none of that. Zippers come with huge pulls that are easily gripped with mittens, and the cuffs present on the sleeves are massive. Pockets have huge flaps that are easily opened.
Speaking of pockets, I am stoked to say that the pockets on the jacket all fall either above or below my exact waist line. This means that I can wear a pack with a hip belt or bend over to do things, without having pockets either get in the way or be rendered useless. I have railed against pockets that end up under my hip belt for years, and so this is an amazing feature to me.
As a final note on features, I want to touch on the fabrics used. Down is an excellent insulator, but in order for it to work it needs to be kept dry. The inside of the jacket is lined with a very nice soft material that is not itchy, and the outside is Fjallraven’s ubiquitous G-1000 and G-1000 Lite materials, which grace so many of my other Fjallraven products. Not only are they tough, but they can be made even more weatherproof by waxing it to increase water protection. My other G-1000 garments still look like new, and I am confident that the Arktis will also, for years to come.
I finally own the parka I have needed for years now. I fully expect it to become the piece of gear I reach for every time I need to feel completely protected from winter’s extremes, where I am in Canada or somewhere else in the world. The first rally of 2018 is in a week, in Northern Quebec. I am very much looking forward to it.