There’s a lot more to Scandinavia than just Ikea.
Scandinavia is a magnet for good press. BBC Travel ran a recent feature highlighting “the world ‘s most reputable countries”, with 2 of the 5 countries listed being in Scandinavia. The Atlantic even published an article with the headline “Making America More Like Scandinavia“.
Scandinavia is described as the region including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden and sometimes also Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. We’ll use the latter definition for this article.
Regardless of your view of the region, there’s a lot of good gear coming out of the Nordic region. With that in mind, here are 8 must know Scandinavian outdoor gear brands:
Known for their technical, colorful outerwear, Norrøna is a premium outdoor gear brand that primarily caters to skiers and hardcore outdoorsmen. Founded in 1929, today the brand is still family owned and based near Oslo, Norway.
Most of Norrøna’s products utilize the highest-tech materials like Gore-Tex, Polartec Powerstretch, PrimaLoft Silver, and so forth. Norrøna doesn’t quite have Ikea prices, though. Expect to pay around $600 for a Gore-Tex jacket. In addition to their more technical goods, Norrøna has an urban lifestyle line called “/29”.
In the US, Norrøna’s products are sold exclusively through Backcountry.com.
Arguably the largest Scandinavian outdoor gear brand, Fjällräven is almost reaching mainstream status in America. In addition to the hipster-favorite, Kånken, a boxy backpack which was originally designed in 1978 for Swedish schoolchildren, Fjällräven also makes apparel and gear for trekking, casual wear and hunting.
Unlike many other outdoor gear brands which use third party materials from companies like Schoeller and Gore, Fjällräven uses its own materials, ranging from a burly waxed canvas-like material (G-1000) to a waterproof-breathable shell material (Eco-Shell).
The brand is slightly technical with some heritage appeal; you could possibly think of Fjällräven as the Swedish version of Patagonia. They have a similar environmentally conscious vein as well.
Haglöfs could be compared to something like Mountain Hardwear. It’s a technical outdoor gear brand founded in 1914 in Sweden, and has since been acquired by the Japanese brand, ASICS. Haglöfs makes outdoor apparel, sleeping bags, shoes and backpacks.
4. Helly Hansen
When traveling abroad, it’s not uncommon to see European tourists decked out in Helly Hansen gear. The brand was founded in Norway in 1877 by captain Helly Juell Hansen, “protect his sailors from the harsh, Nordic weather”. The brand still sells sailing equipment, but also markets to the larger audience, selling work wear and outdoor gear.
Known for their rubber boots, shoes and tennis balls, Tretorn is a Swedish classic. While not exactly an outdoor gear brand, Tretorn has been making durable and casual shoes for over a century.
WeSC (We are the Superlative Conspiracy) is a slightly weird, alt, anti-mainstream brand. It’s almost like the Swedish version of Supreme, but minus the stupid hype – in fact, WeSC’s Manhattan store is right next door to Supreme’s.
Like Tretorn, WeSC can’t be pinned down as an outdoor gear company, although it does cater to the snowboarder crowd. The brand’s Instagram bio describes itself as a “premium streetwear brand born in the streets of Stockholm, by and for intellectual slackers since 1999.” That pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Iceland has of late gone from middle-of-nowhere Nordic island to much-hyped tourist destination visited by pretty much everyone. 66º North, a cold weather apparel brand hailing from Iceland, naturally flaunts it’s Icelandic heritage. It’s great marketing and I don’t blame them for it – to Americans, Iceland is basically synonymous with “cold”.
Here is a paragraph from a 2005 Wall Street Journal write up on 66º North:
The message seems to be getting across. Zac Hilton, an 18-year-old college freshman from Greencastle, Pa., says his $220 fleece and stretch jacket “makes me look thinner.” But the real draw he says is the brand’s association with Iceland. “Everything about Iceland is so cool,” he says.
Slick PR schemes aside, 66º North does actually make good products. Since being introduced to the American market in the mid 2000s, they have carved out a niche as a premium outdoor-lifestyle brand. Expect $50 t-shirts and jackets from $200 to $1K.
Hestra, a vaunted Swedish glove brand, has been around since 1936 and sells both dress and outdoor gloves. Hestra is based in the city of Hestra, Sweden, and has been run by the same family since it’s inception. The brand is primarily known for it’s outdoor oriented gloves for activities ranging from skiing to mountaineering to golfing.
US based buyers can find their gloves at REI, Backcountry.com and other specialty outdoor gear stores.
What is your favorite Scandinavian brand? Leave a comment below.