We travelled 150km inside the Arctic circle to check out the new mountaineering kit by Fjällräven.
It’s one o’clock in the morning. The howling mountain winds are battering into our refuge, and threatening to tear it from its very foundations. I’ve been drifting in and out of sleep for a number of hours now, kept awake by the violent gale that’s blowing outside. It’s grim up north, and I’m further north than I’ve ever been before.
Fjällräven have taken us 150km north of the Arctic circle to try out their brand new mountaineering range, the Bergtagen. The range, which features technical mountain clothing as far removed from their hipster Kånken bag as it’s possible to get, has been designed “for a life above the tree line.” Here in the Tarfala Valley, in the shadow of Sweden’s highest mountain Kebnekaise, trees are in short supply so we’ve definitely come to the right place to see what this kit can do.
The word ‘Bertagen’ comes from a long-lost Swedish expression that refers to how time spent in the mountains can leave you feeling spellbound, humbled, and changed. The range consists of a base layer, a work layer, a shell layer and an insulation layer. It has been designed in collaboration with an elite test team, including Sweden’s first mountain guide Stefan Palm and Fjällräven’s outdoor expert Johan Skullman.
On the subject of the range, Johan Skullman says “Mountain expeditions are a large part of Fjällräven’s history. Today, we’re continuing along in this vein with a well-thought-out clothing system that has a whole range of technical solutions. But none of this has come at a cost to our long-term thinking. We will always be true to what we believe in and the environments we want to spend time in.”
Waking up during what turned out to be just a brief respite from the wind, our group rouses itself with coffee, pastries, and porridge. While the guides plan the day ahead amongst themselves, clearly quite concerned by what’d be safe in such extreme weather conditions, we listen to talks from a number of the Fjällräven players who’ve joined us for the adventure. The loud wind peppers these talks with comedic interruptions, but it’s great getting an insight from the people who clearly care deeply for the brand and the products that they make.
“As a company, we’re proud to have phased out fluorocarbons in 2015,” Martin Axelhed, Fjällräven CEO, tells us.
For everyone present, it’s obvious that minimising environmental impact and maximising sustainability are central to the brand’s approach. This gets underlined by Christine Dolva, Head of Sustainability and someone who’s taken a refreshingly hands-on approach with how Fjällräven source their wool, when she says “If you make yourself part of the process and engage with the shearing, and the animal’s welfare, and see every aspect of it – you soon learn to appreciate the true value of sustainability.”
After listening to an overview of the gear’s features, and learning that the garments’ reinforcements are made of recycled nylon (there’s that sustainability again), we’re packing up our 38 litre Fjällräven Kaipak backpack, splitting ourselves into groups of three and four, and heading up to the glaciers with our Swedish Mountain Guides.