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In 1939, after years of growing up and being active in the cold climate of Krøderen in Norway, the Johansen family realised the importance of keeping warm and dry in challenging conditions - and so, the Aclima merino base layer was born. Åke Nordin founded Fjällräven in his family’s home in the 60s after discovering that backpacks weren’t as comfortable as he thought they should be, especially after spending a lot of time outdoors as a scout – and so, the backpack frame was born. Similarly, Didriksons all started in 1913 with fishermen’s workwear, when Julius, a fisherman’s son, noticed the poor-quality workwear his father and his colleagues had been using for years on the West Coast of Sweden.
These brands have since come a long way but the thoughtfulness and consideration of the end use remains at the very core.
On the top of my list, is women specific design and features. Although still rare in a lot of outdoor products, this is something that is becoming more and more popular. Backpacks are an important one and something that people don’t often think about. On average, women will have a shorter torso, wider hips and narrower shoulders than men. So, a unisex backpack that can only be adjusted by the length of the straps won’t be too comfortable for women. Brands like Fjällräven have introduced versions of their popular backpacks that are designed specifically for women which take these physiological differences into account, offering carrying systems that are lightweight with shorter back lengths, and straps and hip belts that are ideally suited to the female shape.
Trousers are another product that can make an enormous difference to comfort and functionality when designed specifically with gender in mind. Many of Fjällräven’s classic female trousers are now available in a curved fit, designed to complement the natural curves that are common in many female shapes. The fit is more generous over the rear and thighs while the waist is slightly more accentuated, making sure that there is no opportunity for the fabric to pinch or bunch up in awkward places.
Something that might seem odd, but is actually pretty cool, is a ¾ length pair of base layer leggings. At first glance, it seems strange to cut the bottom off since the main purpose of a base layer is for warmth, but have you ever been skiing or hiking and got some discomfort in your legs from rubbing? It is annoying and is often a result of friction occurring between your base layer, socks and boots. The ¾ length leggings are intended to be worn with higher socks so that the over lapping happens far away from where your boots end, so you can enjoy yourself and be protected without any added discomfort.
The position of seams in garments is another important feature for comfort. When you’re out walking the dog or up the hills you can often be on the move for long periods of time and so a good trekking trouser will have repositioned the seams to be far away from areas where chafing could occur. Similarly, a good base layer will avoid having seams over high rub areas and will often use flat lock seams to minimise the opportunity for friction, a feature particularly important for this layer since it is in direct contact with your skin.
Jackets with angled zips and pockets in unusual positions look cool but there are also very valid reasons behind these features. If you are wearing a few layers (which is almost always a must in Scandinavia and Scotland with the varying weather), there is a potential for overlap between the zips in your jacket and the layers you are wearing underneath. Not only could this cause discomfort from rubbing but it creates a weak spot for the likes of wind and rain to potentially creep in. If your outer jacket has an angled zip this issue is resolved with style. Have you also ever wondered why your jacket has pockets higher up than usual? Chances are it is to accommodate for the waist strap of your faithful and trusted friend – the backpack.
There are many more thoughtful features out there but we could be here all week, so I’ll leave it there. These small details are what make a quality product. When you start to use the products more, you will start to notice these little quirks that make a big difference, and if you are anything like me, you will think it is pretty darn cool and fall more in love with them each time you use them.