Fjallraven Keb Jacket Review
Fjallraven is a Swedish company with a very long history of producing high quality and carefully designed outdoor clothing and equipment. The Keb Jacket is part of their well established Keb range (I tested some of their Keb trousers here) and is, as they describe it, 'a well ventilated garment designed for long mountain treks in varying terrain'. Fjallraven are gaining an increasing toe hold in the U.K. market and this should really be no surprise - the Swedish climate Fjallraven products were ultimately designed for mimics the UK's variable weather patterns very well. Perhaps over the years the brand has been seen as more the preserve of bushcrafters, and yet there is much about their product range that suits the general mountain goer too.
It is clear, even from the very first inspection of the Keb, that a lot of thought has gone into its design and no corners have been cut in its construction. It is beautifully made and I found myself staring at the quality of stitching and examining the fine detailing with great admiration. It is also clear that the designers have agonised over the positioning and operation of every zip, buckle and pocket.....and there are plenty of zips, buckles and pockets!
The main fabric of the jacket is Fjallraven's own G1000 Eco which is a blend of polyester and organic cotton. This is the mainstay of many items in the Fjallraven range because it provides excellent levels of weatherproofness while also offering excellent durability. Depending on the level of moisture you'll face, the G1000 Eco can be waxed using the brand's own wax product to increase waterproofness (there is plenty of information about how to do this on the Fjallraven website here). On the Keb G1000 Eco fabric is used on the shoulders, arms, front panel, pockets, drop tail and hood. In other areas a four way stretch material is used for increased breathability and to facilitate a full movement range.
There are 2 large chests pockets and a smaller sleeve pocket, a storm baffle protected 2 way front zip and a cavernous extendable and volume adjustable wired storm hood. There are also venting zips and Velcro closure cuffs. The Keb really is fully featured.
Describing the feature set of the Keb can be done in a few sentences and yet that doesn't really allow a full appreciation of the smaller design details that set the jacket apart. It really needs to be experienced to be fully understood. So far I have been building that appreciation by using the Keb for plenty of mountain days and some climbing instruction sessions in the Peak District. It also spent a month with me in Peru and skiing in the Alps last winter.
The fit of the Keb is great. I usually take a medium in most brands and the medium in this jacket fits really well while still having room for layering underneath. The first thing I do when I try a jacket on is to see how it copes with a full range of movement. The Keb initially feels like quite stiff (it softens up with use) but even so it allows an excellent range of reach and stretch. Fjallraven spend a great deal of design time ensuring their garment fit is as good as possible and, for me at least, they have nailed it with this jacket. I also didn't appreciate until I read a bit more that they have added details like extra fabric under the sleeves to allow the full range of movement and, of course, that clever use of four way stretch fabric in key areas really helps too.
The jacket's hood easily needs its own paragraph! It is an interesting and innovative design. The hood is again constructed from G1000 Eco fabric and is a good fit that can, if needed, allow a helmet to be squeezed underneath. The volume is adjustable via a rear drawcord. But, the interesting part of the hood is what happens at the front - a large extendable section can be rolled forward to offer excellent sideways protection. Once it is in its extended position you instantly feel something like Shackleton in the frozen wastes of Antarctica. Please check out the video at the bottom of the page to see the hood in action.
The hood is also wired and will stay in place when all around you is turning to chaos. When you don't need that level of protection though, which is probably 95% of the time, it can be folded back to offer a hood of normal proportions. A unique design and one that will suit some users more than others.
So, the hood is certainly a stand out feature (literally!) and the question is does it really suit a jacket of this type? I must say that I am in two minds about it. We have all been in gnarly weather where the wind, rain or snow is getting whipped into every crevice and pulling a protective hood up is a sanctuary. On these days the longer hood length would be very much appreciated. However, it is also important to consider that this jacket is essentially a beefed up soft shell design and on those really challenging days I think you'd be most likely to be wearing a hardshell jacket too. The hood, put simply, seems more protective than the protection levels the rest of the jacket can offer. It can be folded easily out of the way and then you are left with a more traditional sized hood so no great problem - you'll just have to decide if it suits your requirements.
Having said that, the overall protection levels of the Keb are great for what is effectively that afore mentioned soft shell. The G1000 Eco panels are very water resistant and, because these are placed in the areas that will be hit by the weather most, they offer a strong barrier. The downside of this could be breathability levels. Fjallraven have accounted for this with the addition of two mesh backed venting zips which run down each side of the jacket. I have tested these extensively and they work really well. It takes a bit of working out when the wind is whistling in from one side and you need to vent - but it soon becomes second nature to keep just the leeward side unzipped. Te side zips also allow easy access if you have anything in the pockets of garments underneath. Conveniently, Fjallraven have avoided adding any pockets in the lower part of the jacket so the fit of a harness or rucksack isn't compromised.
The Keb features 2 large zipped chest pockets that will store everything from your phone to compass, GPS, camera or snacks. Inside there are handy mesh keeper pockets to allow safe storage of something like your phone and the pocket fabric is 4 way stretch material to allow plenty to be crammed in. The arm pocket is a nice addition although I don't carry too much that will fit in there. I deliberately used the Keb for a few days skiing and it was perfect for a lift pass or it would store snacks or maybe a small phone, but I'm sure users with more creativity than me will find other uses.
All the other details on the Keb are perfectly thought out. The cuffs close with Velcro and there is a drawstring closure around the lower hem. Finally, a stormflap covers the front zip.
So, the Keb is a great jacket. It looks good, is beautifully designed and constructed and it will perform well for a range of hillwalking and mountain based activities. Beyond that, there is something reassuring about all the Fjallraven products I've used so far. They seem to exude an air of quality but they also make you feel a part of a gentler way of operating in the mountains. They are garments that maybe, just a little bit, draw you back to that very Swedish wilderness that surrounds the Fjallraven facility. The Keb jacket weighs 820 grams for a size medium and, although it may seem pricey at a RRP of £240, do bear in mind that it is so well made you'll be able to hand it down to your children!
Posted by Paul
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