Fjallraven Keb Jacket Review

Whilst Fjallraven are a brand I've been aware of for some time, it's not a brand that I've actually used before - or technology/fabrics that I've ever tested in the real world. In fact, cotton generally isn't the first material you think of when it comes to outdoor equipment these days, and the inclusion of both recycled and organic fabrics makes the Keb's environmental credentials an attractive feature. So naturally, I was curious to see how this unique and unusual Swedish jacket performed in the rainy British outdoors.

Breathable enough for the warm days, versatile enough for the cold days  © UKC Gear
Breathable enough for the warm days, versatile enough for the cold days
© UKC Gear

In Use

First things first: what's the deal with it and how does it work?

The Keb Jacket is best thought of as an unconventional (or perhaps even the 'original') softshell, with the ability to vary the levels of wind/weather proofing and breathability depending on the application of Fjallraven's Greenland Wax. By waxing the jacket you make it more weatherproof (ideal for the winter months), but in turn you also make it less breathable. Give it a wash and that breathability comes back (ideal for the summer months).

In terms of usage, it's marketed as a trekking jacket, designed for long days in the hills, which is about right - it'd be great for that - but it's also great for a whole lot more, particularly on the more technical side, with the durability being a great asset to scramblers, climbers and mountaineers. At 700g it's not the lightest, but it's not designed to be - it's meant to be durable.

G1000 across the shoulders, stretch fabric on the arms/sides  © UKC Gear
G1000 across the shoulders, stretch fabric on the arms/sides
© UKC Gear

The Keb Jacket is more than tough enough to sustain heavy use whilst scrambling on rough rock  © UKC Gear
The Keb Jacket is more than tough enough to sustain heavy use whilst scrambling on rough rock
© UKC Gear

Fit and Cut

There's a Keb for both men and women. The acid test for the cut of any jacket is simply to put it on and raise your arms. If there's lift, it fails; if there's not - it passes. Considering the Keb's focus is very much trekking I wasn't sure how it was going to do in this test, simply because whilst you're trekking such freedom of movement isn't your primary concern; however, freedom of movement is always a benefit and the Keb passed with flying colours. It is definitely quite 'fitted', insofar as it is far from baggy, with a good fit across the shoulders and a long set of arms.

Fabric

There are two fabrics used throughout the Keb, each with differing properties.

G1000 Eco is made of 65% recycled polyester and 35% organic cotton and used on the high wear areas, including the hood, shoulders, front and lower back. This fabric is responsible for the jacket's overall durability, being exceptionally tough and hard wearing. It is this material to which you can apply Greenland Wax, which helps to increase the water resistance and - just as importantly - add to the overall durability of the jacket.

Applying the wax across the G1000 fabric  © UKC Gear
Applying the wax across the G1000 fabric
© UKC Gear

Trying to get a nice, thin spread  © UKC Gear
Trying to get a nice, thin spread
© UKC Gear

Melting the wax with a hairdryer  © UKC Gear
Melting the wax with a hairdryer
© UKC Gear

Watching the wax melt in + darken  © UKC Gear
Watching the wax melt in + darken
© UKC Gear

The Stretch material is 63% polyamide, 26% polyester and 11% elastane. Not only is this material stretchy, but it's highly breathable - so it's used on the back and arms. Greenland Wax cannot be applied to this material, as its primary function is - after all - to keep the air moving through it. This fabric isn't as hard wearing as the G1000 Eco and on one area (specifically the right hand breast pocket) there has been some bobbling, but strangely not anywhere else. Why this is remains something of a mystery, but it is ultimately cosmetic so doesn't get in the way of the functionality.

When it comes to waxing the jacket I opted for the hair dryer approach, simply because I don't own an iron and couldn't bring myself to use a camping stove (although I could see the benefit of this if you were on the move). The application process is relatively straightforward, but does take a few goes to perfect, so that you can get a good, thin and even spread across the jacket. As mentioned a little later I tended to do one or two coatings during warmer/drier conditions, then three or four in colder/wetter weather. If you want to remove the wax and 'reset' the breathability then pop it in the wash and start all over again.

It's also worth mentioning that the cotton used in the G1000 fabric is organic, while the polyester in both the G1000 Eco and the Stretch is recycled. All-in-all this, and the hard wearing nature of the Keb Jacket, makes it an appealing option for those interested in a lifelong investment which has an environmental appeal beyond the general appeal of the performance. It also goes some way towards breaking down the £265 price tag into something far more justifiable, because this is a jacket that will outlive virtually every other on the market (by some distance too).

All in the name of 'testing', out on a truly wet/grim day  © UKC Gear
All in the name of 'testing', out on a truly wet/grim day
© UKC Gear

Hood

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I first pulled the Keb's hood over my head, but I wasn't expecting this. It's a large hood, but larger still is the protection that surrounds it. When pulling this over in dry conditions it felt like a bit of overkill, but in bad conditions it really does come into its own, keeping the rain out of your face like nothing else.

Were there to be a drawback it is that whilst it's huge - and that's good - reducing the volume, due to the stiffer nature of the fabric, can be quite tricky and as a result of this it can flap about in extreme wind; however, this stiffness can also act as a benefit on those windy days where you don't necessarily need a hood, as it stands upright as a cowl around your neck, neatly keeping the breeze from much of your face and from going down your neck.

The hood itself is made of the G1000 fabric, so is an area which you can well and truly lather in Greenland Wax, because it's unlikely you're ever going to need it unless it's raining. Two or three coatings will provide a good level of resistance, but four will make it about as waterproof as water resistant gets (with the usual caveats about how it isn't strictly waterproof due to the absence of taped seams etc...).

The roomy chest pockets are well placed for use with a rucksack  © UKC Gear
The roomy chest pockets are well placed for use with a rucksack
© UKC Gear

Zips along the sides allow for active ventilation  © UKC Gear
Zips along the sides allow for active ventilation
© UKC Gear

Other Features

The Keb features two chest pockets, which may or may not be to people's liking because of their elevated nature. On the plus side, these roomy vestibules are perfect for 'on the go essentials'. If you're wearing a pack or harness their position is perfect, allowing access to everything you need without having to undo your buckles. However, due to their height they're not ideal for putting your hands in, so it's a case of swings and roundabouts. If you're after something of this nature Fjallraven have plenty of other offerings, including the original Greenland Jacket. Inside the pockets themselves there's a further elastic retainer within which you can put your phone or compass.

If you have lathered the Keb in wax and were worried when the weather did warm up then fear not, because there's another way of generating airflow courtesy of the zips along the side of the jacket. These go up from just above the hem to just below the armpit and provide a much needed breeze on a warm day.

Summary

The Keb is a somewhat unique creation: it's hard wearing, durable, wind proof, and - if you keep on top of it with the Greenland Wax - is highly water resistant. It's also massively versatile, but that's not to say it's for everyone. There are some that may find the price - or the weight - off-putting, but these are people with a whole host of other products/fabrics/materials to choose from. One thing is for sure: if you do buy a Keb Jacket the chances are it's going to be a considered purchase, and one which is likely to last you a long, long time. As such, I would argue that it is a price worth paying.

Fjallraven say:

A long-time favourite on rocks, snow and all kinds of terrain, the award-winning Keb Jacket is now updated for even better performance. It is still the reliable, well-ventilated jacket that has been a favourite among trekkers all over the world, but now with a refined fit, better durability and new details that are easier to repair. Made in durable G-1000 Eco and stretch fabric and perfect for trekking and alpine adventures, all year round.

  • Weight: 700g Mens (Medium) / Women's 590g (Small)
  • Material: G-1000® Eco: 65% polyester, 35% cotton
  • Material 2: Stretch: 63% polyamide, 26% polyester, 11% elastane
  • Gender: Men's and Women's
  • Environmental info: Organic|Recycled

For more info see: fjallraven.co.uk

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1 Jul

You don't own an iron Rob? Of course you don't ;-)

1 Jul

Looks tempting. My trusty Montane finally died a death last year and I was astounded at how much jacket prices had seemed to go up over a few years. If these are as bombproof as they sound then the outlay could be worth it.

1 Jul

If there are large areas of stretch fabric you can't apply the wax to what's the point of waxing the rest of it? Unless the stretch fabric is made water resistant in some other way?

1 Jul

The G1000 is in the 'high impact' areas where rain tends to hit and seep on a softshell i.e. shoulders etc. Remember it's only a softshell so the waxing is just to offer the chance of improved water resistance.

1 Jul

So surely it just runs off the waxed panels and soaks into the stretch panels? Doesn't sound like the waxing offers much of a benefit to me.

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