Fjällräven Nils Trousers – first look

Ranking high among tall folks’ whinges about cramped aircraft seats, conspicuousness on nightclub dance floors, bad backs, poorly fitting bike frames and bruised heads from doorframes is trouser length.

Nils trousers
Nils trousers

I’ve chewed over this topic with fellow ‘lankeys’, and all are overly sensitive about showing off too much sock above shoe and feeling that unsavoury breeze around the ankle. All crave the security of trouser gather rather than flap.

It’s the same when searching for outdoors legwear. I need an inside leg of 36″ give or take in order to achieve the aforementioned gather. Most gear manufacturers seem to run out of fabric at 33″ or 34”.

There is some hope. The enduring Rohan Bags can be bought in an unfinished leg although the fit can be restrictive and the waistband uncomfortably high. North Face trousers will nearly be long enough, but the cut can be far too baggy. This results in two sartorial templates: Simon Cowell or MC Hammer.

Enter Swedish brand Fjällräven.

Fjallraven logoScandinavians tend to run a little longer than their counterparts in other parts of Europe. This is evidenced by my Hilleberg Akto which, unlike many backpacking tents out there, will accommodate my 6’6″ frame when I’m lying down… or am ‘fully extended’ (if you’ll forgive the expression).

I’d read about the brand before and picked up a pair of Nils trousers on a recent trip to Stockholm. Some products are available from a few specialist suppliers over here and a friend informs me the brand has found favour with the football casual crowd. Suffering the same fate as Berghaus and The North Face, then.

fjalraven-4I deliberated for quite some time in Sweden while browsing in one of the branches of the excellent Naturkompaniet. Fjällräven gear is very expensive and the Nils trousers are £100. A ton for some strides that are going to be used and abused seemed excessive. However, after trying a pair, I parted with the cash purely on the basis of fit.

The Nils have a ‘classic fit’ (read: quite fitted), a low waist (better when wearing a pack in my view) and, significantly, have a ‘raw’ unfinished leg. That gives us mutants a whopping 37″ inside leg. Happy days.

Another great feature of the Nils and other Fjällräven trousers is the articulated knee. This means that, despite having little or no stretch, the trousers ‘move with you’.

This brings me neatly onto the fabric and another feature of the brand. If it’s Fjällräven then there’s a good chance it will be G-1000 – the Swedish firm’s polycotton.

Available in a number of grades, this windproof, hard wearing and water resistant cloth is used for a hefty chunk of the Fjällräven range, including jackets, vests, shorts and caps. The company stops short of underwear, although one suspects that Fjällräven employees have curtains made from the stuff.

fjalraven-5The Nils are made from a soft, ‘silent’ grade of G-1000 with tougher ‘original’ on the knees and seat.

And I can attest to its toughness. While on my recent Peak wildcamp, I slipped on a stile and fell into a thorn bush. The Nils emerged from this ridiculous slip up with only the faintest puncture mark on the seat – the main point of impact. Had I been wearing more regular walking trousers, I’d have been doing an impression of a post-Hulk David Banner.

G-1000 is impregnated with wax to give the fabric water-resistant properties. Washing out over time, it can be reinstated with a bar of Greenland Wax. This DIY approach permits the user to apply more wax and achieve greater water resistance on key areas of the garment, such as the knees, seat and lower leg. It’s a nice idea and allows you to customise your strides.

Fit and fabric aside, the Nils feature two scoop packets at the front, a rear studded pocket and one on the leg, which also features an integral elasticated valuables pocket. This leads me to my first gripe about the Nils, there’s no zipped pocket… A feature I miss.

Second, these trousers run warm and are suitable for the three seasons outside summer. They are certainly a product of the Swedish outdoors where temperatures are generally cooler and conditions damp. I would not be able to wear them in warm weather while active as they would be far too sweaty.

fjalraven-2This is not a light item of clothing, either, so weight weenies should look elsewhere. Drying times are longer than lighter walking trousers, too, if you do manage to wet them out. There is a lighter version of G-1000 available, though.

Despite these minor niggles, the trousers performed superbly in Dark Peak winter conditions. I wore gaiters with the Nils and no over trousers. With drifts waist deep in places, the trousers shrugged off snow and water beaded on the fabric.

The trousers were comfortable with full pack as expected and, while a close fit, those excellent shaped knees gave me the full range of movement.

The trousers have been washed once so far and emerged as good as new after this two-day Peakland yomp.

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