Fjällräven: Eco-Friendly Outdoor Gear (With an Adorable Mascot)March 15, 2017
It all started with a backpack.
More than 50 years ago, Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin, from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, created the shell to what would be one of the brand’s most iconic products, the Kånken backpack. Now active in 20 countries around the globe, with seven stores in the United States, Fjällräven continues to develop and innovate products and gear to enrich and ease the experience of the outdoors adventurer.
Fjällräven, which is Swedish for “artic fox” (hence the cute logo), embraces an eco-friendly and minimalist approach, creating products that are streamlined and durable and ultimately create less waste over time.
Fjällräven’s materials and production processes have been modified to reduce its water, energy and chemical use. Take for instance its proprietary fabric G-1000. Developed back in 1968 when Nordin, who passed away in 2013, created his first jacket, this fabric’s tight weave of recycled polyester and cotton could take a beating and proved itself to be wind and water resistant.
“We develop many of the fabrics we use, either in-house or in close cooperation with our partners that are experts in their field, to ensure they meet our quality and sustainability requirements,” said Philipp Kloeters, Head of PR Fjällräven International. “Most of the hard shell materials nowadays use a fluorocarbon impregnation, and we wanted to ban PFCs completely from our production since it takes an extremely long time for them to break down in the environment and they are suspected to cause cancer and can travel long distances.”
The company’s commitment to sustainable efforts, aka The Fjällräven Way, is apparent in almost everything it does. Not only does it ban PFCs from its production processes, but it also sources animal materials, like down and wool, in a transparent and cruelty-free manner.
“With the Fjällräven Down promise, we have the best and most transparent down production processes in the sport and outdoor industry,” Kloeters said. “We’re also running a project that is tasked not only with producing 100 percent Swedish wool but also producing wool that is 100 percent traceable. And don’t forget our “Save the Arctic Fox” project to preserve the arctic foxes from extinction.”
The Cruelty-Free Down Challenge ranks outdoor brands for their sourcing practices and process transparency –
Fjällräven currently is leading the pack.
Sustainability efforts are evident across Fjällräven’s product lines. It may have started with a simple backpack, but the same eco-friendly philosophies have expanded out to all of its products: from pants to jackets, sleeping bags to tents.
When asked about Fjällräven’s most popular products, Kloeters said the most popular products are daypacks, jackets and pants – which he said was probably the most sold product group overall. Kloeters went on to say that, globally, the Kånken is probably the most sold and well-known product.
We could probably do a whole article just on the Kånken, but long story short – this product never was supposed to be the next hot item. It was the solution to a problem.
“In the late 1970s, statistics showed that nearly 80 percent of the Swedish population suffered from back pain at some point in their lives,” Kloeters said. “At that time, shoulder bags were pretty ‘hip’ and experts felt that the risk of back pain could be reduced if the weight of school books could be distributed across both shoulders instead of just one.
“Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin followed the discussion and decided to develop an affordable, functional and robust backpack for school books. The Kånken backpack was introduced just in time for the beginning of the school year in 1978 and was very well received.”
Large enough to fit two, three ring binders, not much has changed since its release nearly 40 years ago.
In addition to its wide array of retail products, Fjällräven hosts programs to engage its customers outside of the store.
With the goal of getting people out to enjoy trekking and exploring the wonders of the world, the Fjällräven Classic takes place in Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong and the United States (this year’s adventure is set to take place in Colorado). For a small fee, Fjällräven will stock you with some essentials and set you on your way to connect with the great outdoors.
“The idea came directly from Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin,” Kloeters said. “He had always been inspired by the
dramatic landscapes and breathtaking scenery of the Swedish mountains. He wanted others to explore the same landscapes and, more importantly, [get] the same feeling of freedom from spending a few days trekking on the trail.”
If you’d rather feel the brisk sensation of an artic breeze, Fjällräven Polar might be more your scene. Participants are nominated and elected to attend Polar on behalf of their home country. The event was created back in the 90s when Nordin met Kenth Fjellborg, one of Sweden’s leading dog-sled drivers who recently had competed in the Iditarod.
“They wanted to create a Swedish equivalent, but not for experts like Kenth – for ordinary people to show that with guts and gusto, advice and guidance from experts, anyone could take on the challenge,” Kloeters said. “Over the years, participants have faced everything from blizzards and minus-30 [Celsius] temperatures, to beautiful, sun-drenched landscapes of crisp white snow.”
Participants for this year’s Polar experience already have been selected, and they’ll hit the snow in just a few short weeks (April 3-8).
If you can’t make it to the Classic or Polar events, or maybe you’re more of a do-it-yourself kind of person, they’ve got great guides to give you some knowledge before you hit the great outdoors.
So what’s next for the company that has you covered from head to toe for all your great outdoors adventures?
“We are working on our Swedish Wool Project and will introduce our first sweater made entirely from the wool of our own sheep next winter (2017/18),” Kloeters said. “With Bergtagen, we will introduce a functional and sustainable system of garments for mountaineering and our Eco-Shell material will find its way into more product families.”