Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket Review
Ah, Sweden. Land of safe automobiles, girls with dragon tattoos, fika, the krona and various bands with names emphasizing the letters “A” and “B.”
I arrived in Stockholm one afternoon in September a few years back and found a place that was indeed safe and friendly and in love with ABBA (and at least respectful of Ace of Base). But I also found a land subjected to cold and damp conditions. A place prone to heavy, soaking rains. I had flown up from Spain where, in late September and early October, it’s still summertime. Not so in Sweden.
I recall my jet circling Arlanda Airport. From the sky, I spied ground covered in alabaster snows. The white was interrupted only by a small crisscrossing of coal-black landing strips. A lonely highway abutted the tarmac flats. White. Black. Harsh. That bleak and bitter visual sent a chill down my spine. Yet it did nothing to prepare me for the tangible side of being so close to the Arctic Circle.
I spent several minutes registering the maritime cold of the place once I reached downtown Stockholm. The sub-arctic air harbored a jarring, wet iciness. It was analogous to nothing I’d ever encountered. As I strolled the city, my shoulders bunched up around my neck to keep out the damp. The skin on my face tightened from exposure to the cold vapors. Later, I bore witness to rains that tumbled in long, dagger-like cascades from skies already darkened in the mid-afternoon. When the clouds had been purged, dampness snuck through doorways and windows. There was no place to hide.
A few days in town failed to acclimate me to the weather. At last I forced myself to lift my chin from my chest as I walked the city. What I found when I scanned something other than my close-to-frostbitten toes was as jarring as the chill. Thousands of hardy Stockholmers braved these conditions. But they showed no outward recognition of the city’s moisture-laden frigidity. Women wore dresses paired with tights and light jackets. Men donned clothes that were neither bulky nor unfashionable. My chin fell again to my chest. Despite several days to acclimatize, I remained susceptible to the creep of Sweden’s cold humidity. Others seemed fully content to stroll about in the clean seaside air.
At long last, following years of resigning myself to full-blown weather wimp status, I am vindicated. It turns out that Sweden really can be quite damp and cool in the autumn. It turns out I may not be unusually susceptible to the place’s harshness. Rather, I simply was not equipped with the right gear – appropriate jacket, in particular. When I next go to Sweden in the fall, the excellent (and easily packable) Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket will be going with me.
Until then, here in the States, the Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket performs admirably. It keeps out damp and chilly gusts and rains. It looks (almost) as good as those Swedish women in tights. And it features groundbreaking materials that can easily stand up to whatever late-summer and autumnal weather our southerly New World can toss its way.
Proprietary fabric called “G-1000 Lite” comprises the jacket’s chest, shoulders, hood and sleeves. The G-1000 Lite is a tight-woven blend of polyester and cotton designed to withstand wind and rain. It provides outstanding durability and resilience in blustery conditions.
Unlike some fabrics similarly designated for damp usage, the G-1000 Lite both keeps out the wet and breathes with ease. There’s none of that under-jacket sweat that happens with less advanced materials. In my usage, which has included daytime rains when temperatures remain elevated, the ventilation has shined. The jacket’s “lite” weight has offered a discreet presence. Then, when the clouds have parted to reveal the sun, the fabric’s UV protection has been valuable.
The G-1000 lite is treated with wax (via a fluorocarbon-free impregnation process). The consumer may increase the wax composition of the material by applying additional “Greenland Wax” product manually. Or, if waning from wax is desired, the garment may be washed at high temperature (40 degrees C) to strip some of the treatment.
“Wax on” yields more durability and resistance to wind and wet. “Wax off” provides easier breathing and more flexibility. I’ve found the default level of waxiness built into the ripstop canvas to be ideal. I’ve felt no compulsion to alter it. The rain beads up and rolls right off, and any residual dampness quickly evaporates. It is nevertheless very useful to have a jacket whose characteristics can be so easily modified. Instructions for applying Greenland Wax are found on an interior panel of the Abisko Lite Jacket.
The remainder of the jacket (i.e., the lower torso and back) is built from stretch material. The 88% Polyamide and 12% Elastane blend moves easily. The jacket lives up to the billing as a “light and pliant trekking jacket.”
I have been impressed by the garment’s integration of solid structure and free-moving fluidity. There’s no mistaking that you’re wearing top-end gear with the Abisko Lite slung across your shoulders; however, you’re never encumbered by it.
This balancing act speaks to the quality of materials and care of workmanship built into the Fjallraven. A peek into the company’s history explains a great deal of the attention to craft and detail. Since 1960, the Sweden-based Fjallraven has been engineering outdoor gear adhering to the holy triumvirate of what the outdoorsman (or woman) requires of apparel and equipment: functionality, durability and dependability.
The philosophical bent of Fjallraven is perhaps best explained by the company’s power animal. “Fjallraven means Arctic Fox in Swedish, honoring the small and adaptable predator that lives in the Swedish mountains under the harshest conditions.” That damp, autumnal chill I felt in Stockholm? Yeah, that’s nothing for the noble and hardy and vicious Arctic Fox. The fox’s dare-I-say “cute” curled up form appears on a leather badge affixed to the jacket’s left shoulder.
That Arctic Fox may be cute, but he’s also cunning and crafty. There are enough clever design features built into the Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket to sneak a vulpine grin onto even the most jaded explorer’s face.
Let’s start with the zipper. The two-way front zipper enables total control over the level of closure of the garment. And it retains the ease-of-use and weather-resistance of a zipper. The two-way zipper was once a feature found on many jackets of high-quality construction. However, the feature’s prevalence has trended toward endangerment over the years. It’s unfortunate since I often find it useful to leave some span of top and bottom of a jacket unclosed. During fast ascents, when walking quickly, or when wearing a backpack, the ability to leave open a few inches of zipper at the hem of a jacket is most appreciated.
At the hem, a drawcord is integrated into the fabric so the hem may be securely cinched if tight closure is needed. Sleeve cuffs also can be fitted with Velcro straps.
Up top, a fixed hood made of the G-1000 Lite material can be worn loose or tight. I found the hood to be an example of excellent spatial planning. It seems too often that a hood works either loosely draped over the head or pulled down tight, but not both. The Abisko hood is comfortable and protective either way.
The chest features a pair of vertically zippered pockets. They are best suited to carrying a folded up map, smartphone, or something else of similar dimensions. The backside of the pockets is lined with stretch material to enable bulkier carry-ons. But anything much more three-dimensional than a notepad became uncomfortable during my usage.
Mostly, this was due to the pockets’ large footprints. They reach from the sternum across to the armpit and from the clavicle down to the floating ribs. Something of bulk stored inside either pocket has a tendency to migrate down under the armpit between the arm and ribcage. From a usability perspective, this complaint is a minor one. After all, most bulky items that I carry have permanent stations either in pants pockets or backpacks.
The left chest pocket features an elastic pouch for the phone, which keeps it in place. And a headphone port is built into the pocket (in the event you’re in the mood for ABBA). However, it would be nice if the jacket sported a pair of traditional slash pockets at the hips for keys and the like. An interior security pocket also would be welcome.
Excellent. Just excellent. The fit is structured but conforming, roomy but contoured. Because of the attention paid to material stretchiness, the Abisko Lite jacket can easily accommodate bulky sweaters underneath. And it moves without restriction even when resting atop layers. But, unlike some jackets that seem to anticipate such layering and ignore the possibility of usage in warmer temps, the Abisko Lite does not look hollow when the wearer sports only a tee as the base layer.
On my not-quite-six-foot frame, the hem of the size Large jacket reaches about three inches below the top of the femur. The shoulders are right on. The sleeves are cut just-so to allow full range of motion without sacrificing coverage at the wrists. I found the sizing chart provided by Fjallraven to be accurate.
Yes, the jacket is from Sweden (a tiny Swedish flag sewn in at the left hip reminds us of that and, indeed, “Abisko” refers to an area of Sweden found inside the Arctic Circle). But the garment fits like it could have come from one of those European countries more commonly celebrated for clothes tailoring.
Who the Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket Is For
The Abisko Lite excels in wet and damp conditions. It lays over just about any kind of base beautifully It has a sophisticated aesthetic. And it promises abiding durability. Additionally, the ability to modify the jacket’s water resistance and ventilation characteristics with Greenland Wax is unique and useful.
The jacket is accordingly recommended for those in need of fashionable outerwear with top-quality engineering and durability. Made for mid-range temperatures, for off-and-on rainy conditions, for keeping chilly winds and damp at bay, and for city and country adventuring, the Fjallraven Abisko Lite Jacket offers broad appeal.
MSRP: $250.00. For more information, visit www.fjallraven.us.