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Legendary Greenland Jacket

Do you know the unlikely story of how the legendary Expedition Down Jacket came to be? Now's your chance. 

Our history | 5 minutes read

In today's fast-paced society you tend to get used to a certain rate of development and change. Being still for any moment of time feels strangely ineffective and counterproductive. Likewise, here at Fjällräven, we have become used to a certain rate of innovation throughout the years, not that we're trying to actually innovate anything. But our drive to develop the best, most durable and functional clothes and equipment, often involves an innovation or two along the way. Like the Fjällräven Greenland Jacket back in 1968 - innovative in both design and textile material. But since then it has been remarkably resilient to change. Is that by chance? Hardly.

1966 – The adventure begins

In 1966 an expedition of Swedish and Norwegian alpinists and glacier researchers started a challenging exploration of Greenland. Among the explorers was Per-Åke Sjöman, an experienced alpinist who had heard Åke Nordin, founder of the Fjällräven Company, talk about raising the standard and function of outdoor equipment and asked for his help. Åke custom-made seven different sized tents and also supplied the team with backpacks. 

In the summer of 1966, an expedition of Swedish and Norwegian alpinists and glacier researchers landed in the rugged mountain village of Kulusuk.

Coming home after six weeks of extremely rough conditions, Per-Åke submitted a written report testifying that the tents and backpacks had worked 'surprisingly well'. The team was, however, disappointed with the clothing that was provided from other suppliers. Per-Åke Sjöman and his mountaineering friend Hans Hellström, discussed the problem with Åke, who immediately saw the opportunity to solve another outdoorware challenge.

The Greenland 66 team went on to complete no less than 30 “first summits” of Greenland peaks. Equally important, their equipment “coped admirably with the strain”.

A unique clothes fabric is born

He set out to make a jacket suitable for rock climing, working with Hellström to draw a pattern for a functional jacket strong enough for life on vertical rock walls. On the chest he placed two sturdy pockets, one for folding maps and one for cigarettes. (Smoking had yet to be designated a major health hazard back then). Side pockets were deemed unnecessary and in the way of ropes and harnesses. But what material to use? 

Åke chose a fabric he'd once considered for tents that had proved too heavy for the purpose - a blend of polyester and cotton that was extremely durable. (Little did he know that he was creating Fjällrävens now famous outdoor fabric, G-1000, that serves as the base-material in most of our outdoor clothes and equipment). He sewed the jacket according to the pattern he and Hellström had drawn and decided to try the finished product on a trek. 

A unique jacket is born

After two weeks of trekking, Åke was more or less satisfied. Just one thing needed improving: the fabric's water-resistance. He thought back to his ski-jumping days and the trick they'd used as they sat and waited for their turn to jump. The trick was to use the ski-wax on their trouser seats to try to repel moisture and keep the chilly winter at bay. Why not try the same idea with the new jacket?  Åke experimented with a mixture of beeswax and paraffin. Using the heat from his wife Elizabeth's hair dryer, he applied a wax blend to the fabric and the result was a water-repellant yet breathable material with tremendous abrasion resistance. Now, the jacket would work perfectly for mountain climbing and outdoor recreation. He named it the Greenland Jacket and it was soon worn not only by sportsmen and alpinists but a whole generation of outdoor enthusiasts. 

The 2019 Greenland Jacket 

During the fifty years that have passed since then, there has been only three changes made. One in 1972 when it received side pockets due to popular demand, one in 2006 when it came in a winter version with pile fleece, and one in 2018, when all production of the Greenland collection went from using G-1000 to G-1000 Eco (recycled polyester and organic cotton) and it received some trims and minor modifications to the fit. That's it. 

Test

Born timeless

The time-resilience of the Greenland Jacket has its reasons. It was developed to solve an actual problem in real life. It made sense to mountaineers and it made sense to outdoor enthusiasts. And when you put your new Greenland Jacket on before you go outdoors, it will most probably make sense to you too. That's because function, comfort and durability don't go out of style.  Neither does the compulsion to take deep breaths of fresh air in stunning outdoor surroundings or tread softly on pine-needle covered forest floors. So go on, off you go. Nature is waiting. 

1974 – Åke decides to never feel cold again

Do you know the unlikely story of how the legendary Expedition Down Jacket came to be? Now's your chance.

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