FjallRaven - Brand Ambassador
May 24, 2016
Stalking in the UK can take several different formats, from sitting almost motionless for hours at a time in a high-seat, to something closer to a marathon for highland stalkers. How can one type of clothing suit every scenario? Simply put, it cannot. However, a basic understanding of how many modern garments operate, (or rather, how they claim to operate)24, would give the average stalker a more informed decision, unless of course the only thing that matters is the label! Rewind a few years, when I took a number of big brand garments deep into the highlands for a test.
The only thing tested was my patience, and the only products that did as promised were my Hanwag boots and my merino wool under garments. Everything else failed miserably. It was only a few weeks after this test that I bought my first pair of waterproof/breathable trousers from Fjallraven; the aptly named Mouflon. Two very hard winters followed and I learnt to tailor them for my needs, with the addition of more or less wax as conditions dictated. During this time, the trousers were worn on an almost daily basis as a professional stalker, soaking up the punishment and abuse of carcass extraction, larder work and estate maintenance that was thrown at them constantly.
The Fjallraven brand needs little introduction to most people involved in outdoor pursuits, such as hunting or trekking. I have personally used their products for almost a decade now, and have never been disappointed. A visit to the continent will see a large proportion of the outdoor types dressed top-to-toe in Fjallraven, clearly our overseas cousins value practicality and functionality above brand names and labels. My clothing is made by a clothes designer and manufacturer, and my boots are made by a footwear designer and manufacturer. Why would I want a jacket made by a rifle manufacturer? The hysteria around all kit having a matching brand name bemuses me! Two years ago, I was appointed as one of Fjallraven's UK brand ambassadors, with a focus on improving awareness of the brand in the hunting sector. When the new Hunting range was launched two years ago, it was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the practical side of the garments, but less in the way of functionality.
Part of my brief was to explore the range of clothing produced by Fjallraven and select items from their other ranges which might prove more practical or functional for the UK market. With a wide choice of brands already available, it was always going to be a slow burn situation. The unfamiliar European ordering process for new products and the understandable dealer reticence, only added to the situation. However, two years in has seen a significant shift, with more emphasis being put on getting the right product for the situation, without the marketing hype surrounding so many of the bigger names.
The core material in the Fjallraven stable is G1000, in several different formats. It is primarily the standard G1000, a simple yet durable poly-cotton that forms the key, for UK stalkers in particular. The nature of the standard G1000 can be altered by the simple addition of a special wax, Greenland Wax. A block is simply rubbed over the material and warmed with either a low heat iron, a hairdryer or even the warmth from a campfire or stove. The more wax applied, the more water-repellant and durable the garment becomes. However this does have a negative, although barely noticeable, and that’s a slight change in breathability. To restore the garment to its original state, a simple machine wash is all that’s needed. As mentioned earlier, when I was asked to become a brand ambassador, it was with a purpose. Fjallraven appear to be one of the few brands with whom I am involved, who listen to feedback. I had always bemoaned the fact that the cut of the trousers, better suited our more svelte Nordic cousins, with higher waist and longer leg lengths being the norm. This began to change with the introduction of the ‘Pro’ models of trousers. In fact many of the standard cut trousers are being dropped in favour of the pro versions.
During the last few years, I have been able to get a more hands on approach with more of the brand and have managed to single out some top performers. I’m often asked for my own recommendations, but as there are so many different scenarios I’ll try to break them down into the most familiar. To take a seasonal approach to this, I’ll start in Spring; Roebuck season. Early spring, where cool mornings and evenings are the norm, interspersed with some sunny days make it ideal for the Karl Pro or Barents Pro trousers, with my own favourite being the Barents pro. Cool and possibly more damp weather may require some merino underwear and the addition of some Greenland Wax to the trousers. Coupling these with a Forest fleece, Varmland padded jacket or Skogso padded jacket, will tick all the boxes. I have also started using the brilliant Lappland Eco Shell as a lightweight waterproof shell, this can be packed away to nothing in a large pocket or small daypack. Moving into early summer, the choices being remarkably similar, with the Barents Pro and Karl Pro being my favourite trousers and a Sten fleece for evenings. For the more normal wet UK climate the Lappland eco shell fits in well also.
From late summer into early Autumn, the Roe rut and beginning of the Fallow buck season sees damp cooler mornings, warm days and cooler evenings. Again, my trousers of choice are the Barents Pro, with added Greenland wax and maybe a merino base layer. Similarly, jacket choice is either the Varmland Padded or Forest Fleece, with the Eco shell just in case. The cooler, shorter days of Autumn see the biggest change for me with the Barents Pro Hydratic trousers, that come with a breathable/waterproof membrane, being my first choice. In Autumn, I wear these unwaxed to allow maximum moisture transfer. Our changing climate, meaning a warmer Autumn, generally accompanied by wet and windy weather makes these an ideal choice. Jacket choice is identical with the Skogso padded jacket seeing more use. From Autumn and on into Winter, when the weather can throw pretty much anything at us, my trouser choice is simple, Barents Pro Hydratic with a heavy Greenland Waxing or Barents Pro Winter, with a warm pile lining for bitterly cold days. The Skogso padded jacket with the Lappland Eco shell on top will keep out the worst for the upper body. Alternatively, some of the Numbers Anoraks, in particular the No.8, provide a smock like garment ideal for the hill. When I was first asked to look at the range of garments, it was somewhat bewildering. Obviously the Hunting range was where I should start, or so I thought. However, after two years constant testing, it is clear that trousers from the trekking range are far more applicable to the UK stalker.
If I were a hill stalker I would still be looking at the Barents Pro range, with decent gaiters and one of the Numbers range Anoraks. Note - The Barents Pro range all come with a ‘raw’ leg length, unfinished. I am a 32” inseam and have 3-4” cut off!