Gear Review: Fjallraven W’s Abisko Trekking Tight

 

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Life is good when you have a good pair of tights and a swing!

As any woman who has ever done anything even remotely outdoor-oriented knows, finding clothing that is functional (helloooo – pockets, anyone?), fits (we don’t have to look incredibly frumpy, do we?), and is durable is about downright impossible. And I get some of it. Clothing is mass made now, cut to the “average” person, and the truth of the matter is that us women have a million plus one size and shape combinations. Some of it I don’t get – why do the men always get great pockets that they can actually fit things in, and the women’s version of the exact same item from the exact same brand has little tiny useless pockets that you can barely fit a tube of lip balm in?

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Pockets, anyone? That right pocked housed my breakfast bar every day.

For this reason, I gave up on hiking pants years ago. Honestly, I was just sick of the constant search, and I started wearing leggings. I struggled with it a little bit at first – there’s a certain consensus that you’re not wearing enough if you just wear leggings, so my first foray into the legging wearing world included shorts worn over them. However, I gradually began to not care what others thought. I’m out hiking or running, and leggings cover me perfectly, if someone else is going to judge me for it, well, that’s their problem.

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DGAF – Ima wear leggings.

This summer, before starting out on our thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail, I was poking around for the pair of tights that I wanted to bring with me. I have done most of my hiking, running, and backpacking with the Lululemon Speed IV Tight (can I say awesome pockets), but I have one problem with those tights. They have a zipper pocket on the back of the tights that sits right on the bones that stick out on either side at the base of the spine. Literally, the beginning and end of this zipper coincides perfectly with those bones. Normally, for running or hiking (without a pack), this is no big deal. However, when Dan and I hiked the Colorado section of the Continental Divide Trail in 2015, I wore those tights, and ended up with pretty bad sores there, and that was only a month. I was worried about what I’d look like at the end of 5 months.

Literally a couple of days before leaving on our trip, Dan and I stopped into the local Fjallraven shop, just looking around, when I saw the Abisko Trekking Tights.

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These tights were made for train tunnels!

Enter Love at First Sight.

Now, these tights were not cheap. But, there were several features that sold me on them.

  • First – no zipper in the back! No sores on those bones! (There is a tiny little pocket on the front of the tights, but my belly is soft, and I did not have a problem with this pocket.)
  • Second –  the pockets! A girl could dream forever about these pockets! One flap pocket on my right thigh, where I kept my bar before eating it for breakfast, and one zippered pocket on my left thigh where I often kept my phone handy. Imagine, pockets big enough to fit things in. Can you hear the choir?
  • Third – the reinforced zones! Another concern I had had was that, well, this was going to be a really long trip. Every piece of gear was going to go through the wringer. These tights have great reinforcements on the rear-end (if I may say so, I think it also helps that area look better, always bonus points) and on the knees.
  • Fourth – the back panel is wide, so the possibility of seam rubbing while wearing a pack is greatly reduced.
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How’s that for versatile? The Abisko tights made a decent ski pant, too.

So, I bought them, obviously – and proceeded to wear them almost every day for five and a half months.

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I mean, literally, every day.

Pros: Overall, I really loved these tights. They were comfortable, functional, looked good, and had great durability. They were one of the few clothing items that I not only wore throughout the whole trail, but also can continue to wear post-trail, as they have no holes! They were a great layer for traveling through the snow and putting on during those chilly mornings. The durable panels added on were a lifesaver. I didn’t have to pay much attention when sitting down, or kneeling on things. Also, they made it through climbing through/under/over/around a ton of deadfall while on the trail. That is saying something. Tights being tights, I also believe these would fit a variety of outdoor ladies.

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They were great lounging around the camp fire tights, too!

Cons: Only a few (very small) downsides existed with these pants. I really did not spend much time sitting in these tights – surprisingly, a thru-hike consists mostly of hiking! But if I did spend a decent amount of time sitting, I felt my bottom become a little agitated by the coarseness of the reinforced material in that area. The other thing was that over the course of not washing these for a week on end, they became quite baggy in the knees/rear-end areas. I also rated these a bit lower on versatility because they are a slightly warm tight. When temps warmed up, I was generally changing pretty quickly.  For me, these cons were fairly insignificant.

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Chillin’ with my shades an’ my tights!

(Scales 1-10)

Price: $175

Mobility: 10

Durability: 10

Features: 9

Versatility: 7

Weight: 10oz / 284g (size XS)

What is my end take away?

If you are looking for a new tight to hike in, or perhaps are utterly sick of dealing with the rubbish that is hiking pants for women right now, look no further.

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Gear Review: Hilleberg Anjan 2 Tent

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San Juan Mountains, Colorado

In the long distance thru-hiking world, taking a tent over a tarp is sometimes considered a luxury. But the Continental Divide Trail is a different beast from the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. It’s the highest elevation continuous trail in the United States and has more weather extremes, from harsh desert sand in New Mexico and the Great Divide Basin to weeks of sleeping above 12,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. North bounders will almost certainly encounter crisp fall weather and snow in northern Montana. The insects in the Wind Rivers can be maddening. All these factors start to move the tent from a luxury item to something bordering on necessity.

Elaine and I initially started the trip with a pyramid style tarp. It worked quite well and was light. But the reality of a five month trip versus a week or even month long trip is that your shelter truly becomes your home. We craved more, something with a floor for muddy conditions, and a cozy feel of a home where we could really rest at night. It needed to be durable for the five month trip and a master of different terrain, including above-timberline alpine conditions. And of course, as is always the mantra in thru-hiking world, it needed to be light.

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Near Mount Taylor, New Mexico

Hilleberg is not a popular brand among thru-hikers. Indeed the most popular models on the trail come from the brands Z-Packs and Big Agnes, well established in the thru hiking cult of gear. Some of this is weight based, but some comes from lineage. Hilleberg is a Swedish brand, well known in the polar exploration and mountaineering circles but much less so in thru-hiking world. Hillebergs are also known for being a bit more expensive than competitors – the Anjan 2 retails for $650.

Of course weight is also a factor. The Anjan 2, with stakes and poles, weighed 3 pounds, 2 ounces. It’s not the lightest tent on the trail, but between the two of us it was absolutely fine, basically 1.5 pounds each. When balancing lightweight with strength however, we were very pleased with the Anjan. There was never a time where we thought “Oh wow, this tent is too heavy and is really bogging us down.” That simply was not a factor. A solo traveller might consider the Hilleberg Enan which weighs right around two pounds.

We spent approximately 120 nights in the Anjan 2, putting it through the paces in wind, snow, rain, sun and everything in between. While not a free-standing tent, we found this was not an issue. It’s very easy to set-up. Basically, slide the two color coded poles through their respective sleeves, stake out one end, “snap” the tent to make it taught and stake out the other end. There are four guyline in addition to the end stakes, which we used every night in case of bad wind.

Wind River Mountains, Wyoming

Speaking of wind – this is where the Anjan and Hillebergs in general shine. The were many nights on the divide where the wind was between 20-50 mph but the Anjan almost seemed oblivious to it. It’s ideal to face the front or back into the wind, but even if this is not possible the guy lines make it so the tent can handle a cross breeze with aplomb. Tunnel style tents like the Hilleberg do well in the wind. There was one night in particular just south of Rogers Pass in Montana. A cold front was moving thru and we had to camp in the open because all the trees were dead from beetle kill. The wind was howling. While it wasn’t the most restful night, the tent held strong and fast.

Rain was pretty much a non-issue with the Anjan. We stayed dry and we had no problems with splash-back under the tarp. The bathtub floor is strong and waterproof. We did not use a ground cloth, in large part because with Hillebergs you don’t really need one. We did encounter a fair bit of snow, especially later in the trip in northern Montana. It was the heavy, wet variety. This is the one area where tunnel tents, especially those made of the lighter fabric, struggle a little bit. Snow sags the fabric between the two poles, although we had much better luck handling this when we made sure the guylines were absolutely taught. It’s worth noting that the Anjan is billed as a three-season tent. Eight inches of heavy, wet snow is not what the tent is designed for, but it held up despite a bit of sagging.

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San Pedro Parks Wilderness, New Mexico

Therein lies much of the beauty of the Anjan. It allows the backpacker to head out in weather that would prevent movement with some not-as-strong shelters. That’s a main reason to adventure – to get out in all conditions and see what nature is like at her most temperamental. Good gear with proper knowledge about how to use it allows one to enjoy the full gauntlet of conditions. For us, that was worth a weight sacrifice of a few ounces.

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San Juan Mountains, Colorado

The inside of the Anjan is very comfortable and roomy. There was plenty of area for my wife and I with gear, including about 10 inches of space on each side to store random items. There is also a nice pocket on each side to stash your headlamp and phone at night. There is a clothes hanging cord off the roof, perfect for getting wet socks out of the way. Finally there was more than ample space to put our wet shoes at the bottom of the tent, a necessity to keep them from freezing solid overnight.

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Idaho/Montana border country

The vestibule is absolutely huge. We cooked in it 80 percent of the nights on the trail, exceptions being very nice weather and in grizzly bear country. Generally one of us would cook and the other would hang out at the bottom of the tent writing, sending satellite messages to family and friends and relaxing. The tent tapers significantly at the bottom, but it was still plenty roomy enough for relaxing with two people.

We traded out the under-gunned stock pegs for mini-Groundhogs from MSR. Lightweight is important, but breaking stakes on the trail is no fun and causes unnecessary stress. I would recommend this upgrade for any backpacker, regardless of tent choice.

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Lake of the Woods, Wyoming

One area that takes a little figuring out with the Anjan and the interconnected fly and tent body is what to do if the tent gets wet. If the tarp is soaked from rain, dew or condensation, it’s a little frustrating to stuff the whole thing together, soaking the entire tent. We ended up paying a lot of attention to the weather and getting very proficient at separating the inner and outer tent. If a warm, dry day was forecast, we’d put the tent away wet and then dry it out during lunch. If cold and wet weather was predicted we would take apart the inner and outer tent, keeping the relatively dry body separate from the soaked fly. Using these two techniques, we never really slept in truly soaking wet tent.

That said, the Hilleberg set-up method, which is so useful and quick in heinous conditions, does require a little more thinking when dealing with multiple days of rain in a row. Of course, we’re thru-hikers, up and hiking well before things can dry. For traditional backpacking, where breakfast is cooked and the sun is allowed to warm and dry things before setting out, this would not be an issue at all.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Being a bit of a warmer tent, the Anjan does suffer from some condensation. However, it’s not worse than any other shelter. When we camped with other hikers, we noticed that we got condensation when they got condensation and visa-versa. Condensation is a product of many things – campsite location, localized weather conditions and temperature difference between the inside of the tent and the outdoors. The Hilleberg breathes fine, has a large mesh door, a mesh window, and plenty of flow space beneath the tarp walls.

After three months of desert and mountain camping, we did have some problems with the front zipper. However, clamping them down with a small pliers on our multi-tool and squeezing them together about a millimeter fixed the issue in seconds. At the very end of the trip we got a tear in the fly on a seam near the front zipper. I’m not sure how it happened, but I suspect it was a result of overtightening the guy lines on the snowy night in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. True to Hillebergs though, the tear did not increase. When we got home we called Hilleberg and they gave us simple instructions for sending it in for repair.

Red Desert, Wyoming

That’s one of the best things about Hilleberg. They are a family operated company who are passionate about one thing: tents. Petra Hilleberg, who runs Hilleberg North America, is the daughter of founder Bo Hilleberg. She is a fantastic outdoors woman and has a real knowledge of the perfect shelter for everything from a hike along the CDT to a ski across Greenland. They also have an in-house warranty and repair department, following the mantra of re-use and fix.

Bottom line: Hillebergs cost a bit more money, but when looking for a bombproof two-person tent for three season backpacking in the high and low country, it would be hard to do better than the Hilleberg Anjan 2.

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Near Stony Pass, Colorado

Review: Fjallraven Keb Gaiter Pants

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Fjallraven is a Swedish company that makes outdoor apparel and gear. While their best known product is the somewhat “hipster” Kanken day pack, they actually produce a full line-up of highly technical products. While I have not actually laid hands on one of their tents, they look like a dead ringer for Hilleberg tents, which are in my opinion the best in the business for serious cold weather expeditions.

Fjallraven makes some dynamite outdoor pants, but they are “old school” in many ways. They eschew Gore-Tex and other high tech fabrics for something called G-1000 – essentially a robust cotton with a slicker outside than your average t-shirt. The advantage of G-1000 comes from it’s breathability. Bottom line – cotton breathes well. Yet in the outdoors, some waterproofing or at least resistance is often needed. Fjallraven does this by promoting and producing something called Greenland Wax, which is an environmentally friendly paraffin. Waxing is simple – rub it onto the areas where water resistance is desired and then iron it in. Want more waterproofing? Put on more wax. Want less? Use less – or even no – wax. This method is cool because one can customize garments. I’ve always found certain areas of clothing get more wet than others – the shoulders, the bottom of the coat, the thighs, the butt, etc. Fjallraven says you can melt in your wax with your camp stove or over an open fire for field application. This method sounds slightly terrifying, but seeing how these pants are produced by Vikings I can see how they would recommend that.

The waxed cotton theory could be ideal for spring and fall in the Rockies. I do find that their pants are a little too warm in the dead of summer, which might have something to do with their origin – they are from Scandinavia where 90° days are rare. Also, I’m not sure I’d trust the wax as my only waterproofing solution in a super wet climate like Alaska, Norway or the Hoh Rainforest…for those locales I’d prefer Gore-Tex active or something to the like. That said, I need to test that and report back. It rains a lot in Sweden and these are the pant of choice for the outdoors over there. Theoretically using these in very wet conditions seems flawed – but theory and practical use don’t always mesh.  More on this topic as I get it.

Back to the Keb Gaiter Pants. These are probably Fjallraven’s most technical hiking/mountaineering pants. They feature G-1000 in all the areas where reinforcement is needed – the thighs, bottom of legs, etc, and a stretchy material on the more motion driven areas, like the butt and inner thighs. They work well and provide a great range of motion.

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These are zip-off pants. Zip offs are high in functionality and absolutely the pits in fashion. Is there anything more dorky than a zip-off? Well, believe it or not, Fjallraven did a good job with these. They don’t really look like zip-offs – they “almost” look cool. Compared to offerings from Outdoor Research and Kuhl…well, they are downright stylish! I chose the U.N Blue color, which looks spiffy. The only problem is my normal hiking ski shirt and hat are also blue, so it’s not hard to go out their looking like a smurf!

While they are maybe only quasi stylish, there is nothing quasi about the functionality. They are simply an awesome Colorado pant for the high country. Start the morning off in the cold with the pants fully intact, and when it warms up, zip ’em off and have a nice pair of shorts. My only complaint with the zip-off function is the seam near the knees is a little uncomfortable when they are in pant mode. Not bad, but they are not pajamas. I have sensitive skin and little things like that bug me, so for most it probably wouldn’t be a problem.

As I mentioned, G-1000 is a warm material, but fortunately these pants have a long, almost seductive outer thigh zip. This is a nice interim as the day is warming up (or you are exerting more effort) but it’s not warm enough yet for shorts. The ability to control the thermostat in the Keb Gaiter Pant is the best I’ve ever seen on any pant.

Another feature of these pants – that I admittedly have not used, is you can make them full-on Gaiters when they are zipped off. The lower part has a latch to connect to laces and the upper part of it has a draw strong cord to synch it over the calf. If one is serious about using this feature I would recommend attaching a little cord to the existing eyelets at the bottom of the cuff to create a strap under the boot.

The pockets on Fjallraven pants are the best I’ve ever seen. They are large and on the thigh, perfect for a camera, map, compass, food, dog leash, etc. This is one of the best features on the Keb Gaiter Pants.

Fjallraven sizing weird weird. They use a European system that is detailed on their website. Basically, I wear a 31 in the U.S. pants and a 46 in Fjallravens. I have a 32 inch inseam and the pants are the long version – they also come in regular. The long length seems to work well for me. They fit very well, although I must say they are a little snug around the butt. My wife loves it, but it’s a big difference from North American fits. It seems to be a trait on most Fjallraven pants, especially the Keb models. It’s odd, because the waist is perfect, if not even a little loose. I wear a belt with them, but I’m honestly not sure I need to. The fit is highly functional…it’s just different.

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I’ve been using the pants for about a month now on hikes in Indian Peaks wilderness. I pushed them a little bit by using them for a backcountry spring ski as well. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the cuff fit just about perfectly over my Dyanfit TLT-6 boots. There was no loose fabric to catch a crampon on…always a nice thing on steep snow climbs. Note however, that this doesn’t seem to work with the regular Keb (non-gaiter version). My wife has a pair of those and they do not fit over her TLT-5’s. This could be a size thing too…my boot is a 27.5 and hers is a 22.5. Best to test them out in the shop if you hope to use them for this application.

While I’ve only had them a month, durability seems outstanding. There is no piling or tearing or any tell-tale signs of wear. I also notice they dry very quickly…there is something to this G-1000 stuff. One application where materials like G-1000 works great is mid-winter nordic ski touring. Water proofing is nearly a non-issue in these conditions, but breathability is a big issue, especially if you move fast or run warm. I’m not sure I’d use the gaiter version for nordic ski touring – I doubt I’d ever want the zip-off function when it is 5° F in January – but I’d have zero hesitation using the standard Keb pant for a tour on the Asnes Nansens.

I’m a fan of these pants. I love the versatility, the look and the durability. I also think Fjallraven has a cool, environmentally friendly story. I’m going to give them 4.5 stars out of five, with the little deduction being a result of the tight fit around the butt. I’d say I could lose some weight, but I don’t have much to lose! They are a great option for somebody who wants a classic hiking pant with lots of versatility. For cold mornings and hot days they are hard to beat! And as the temperature gets a little colder in mid-August and beyond, I think they’ll be even better. They are not cheap – they retail for $225 – but I suspect the durability and functionality could make them an outdoor wardrobe staple for a decade. There are not too many outdoor pants out there that I can say that about, and the cost is actually comparative. While not cheap, they are a good value.

More info: http://www.fjallraven.us/products/keb-gaiter-trousers