Expedition Series


Åke decides to never freeze again

Fjällräven’s founder, Åke Nordin, was in a bivouac – basically a pit in the snow – on the barren mountain plateau of Abisko in Sweden’s far north, enduring an unbearably cold and windy night.

Bitter cold was Åke’s least favourite aspect of outdoor life. He lay there freezing, his teeth chattering, and began wondering if perhaps he could invent a jacket in which it was impossible to freeze.

Learning from the best is a good start

Back in 1940, an American named Eddie Bauer patented the pattern for the world’s first down jacket after catching pneumonia during a fishing trip in the US state of Washington. His down-insulated parkas were a preferred choice for US combat pilots, who flew in them in World War II.

Åke had always learnt by dealing with people who were more skilled than himself.

The down insulation experts were in the US, so that’s where he headed. At an outdoor fair in Chicago he met the rock climber George Lamb, founder of Camp 7 – at the time one of America’s foremost manufacturers of down jackets and sleeping bags.

US army tests had shown a ten-centimetre-thick layer to be capable of insulating down to minus 40°c, provided air ducts are sewn in the space between the inner and outer jackets, as in a sleeping bag.

With this knowledge and using the technique he’d learnt in Colorado, Åke filled these ducts with goose down and feathers but packed the shoulders with a layer of Dacron polyester fibre to prevent them from compressing and losing insulation when wearers carried heavy tools in their pockets. He fitted the jacket with an insulating hood that covered everything but the eyes when pulled tight, and he made the garment long enough to cover the wearer’s bottom.

After testing his prototype carefully, Åke began producing the Fjällräven Expedition Down Jacket in 1974. The hood came with yellow waxed strings of the same durable type as in ice hockey boot laces. It was a jacket that kept the wearer warm in extreme temperatures in places with no indoor shelter.