In April 2014, Alexandra Kalita spent six days dog sledding through the Arctic tundra.
And she stayed warm (mostly). How? Behold Alex’s reviews of her top 5 favorite Fjällräven items. To learn more about her experience on the Fjällräven Polar, check out her blog or read our Misadventures interview with this unlikely dogsledder.
My chief concern leading up to Fjällräven Polar was that I would be miserably cold at night. I trusted that the physical exertion of dog sledding would keep my blood flowing during the day. I was right about the daytime; wrong about the night.
The down filler, rated up to -30c, kept me toasty warm, and the synthetic fur hood created a nice tight seal around my face– keeping warmth in, but moisture from my breath out. For winter camping in the tundra, two features proved critical: 1. in the morning, the side zippers let me slip my arms out to prep my gear (and make sure my outer and reinforcement layers were within close reach!) before reluctantly crawling out into the cold; 2. the extra length allowed me to sleep comfortably, but still stuff the bottom of my sleeping bag with any gear I needed to keep from freezing overnight, like my water bottle, any personal hygiene products with high moisture content, and my felt boot liners.
Essentially, a down sleeping bag you can wear during the day– with multiple pockets for staying organized. I relied on the Fjällräven Polar Parka to keep me warm during periods of rest (admittedly, few and far between on this adventure!) and while sledding across flat and unprotected terrain, like frozen lakes. It’s super warm, but perhaps what I appreciated most in the field were the thoughtfully placed arsenal of pockets, zippers, drawcords and d-rings. The kangeroo pocket was a perfect spot for stashing our giant mittens, the d-ring kept my field gloves accessible and the smaller zip pockets were useful for small but important things, like a headlamp. I found organization to be one of the greater challenges when I was fatigued, so wearing the Polar Parka in camp toward the end of the day (and the end of my reserves of brain power) was key. It even comes with it’s own compression sack for efficient packing.
Without a doubt, the work horse of my kit. The Hestra Field Glove is technically two gloves in one. I wore the removable wool pile liner to sleep. At the start of the day, I’d slip the hard-wearing leather exterior over my hands. The leather provided a firm grip for harnessing the dogs and protection against extreme temperatures for tasks like operating the camp stove or using metal tools that have been conducting the tundra’s cold for 4 days. My guide gloves had a snug fit, which contributed to good grip, and allowed me to slip on the heavy-weight special-edition Hestra mittens on top. That way, I had a double-layer of warmth and my hands were never exposed mid-glove change.
I give the Tur Fleece Hoodie special mention because it was so unassuming– an underdog hero. Because a fleece is a fleece, right? Well, except when it’s a fleece on the inside, a windstopper on the outside, and a balaclava in a pinch. Unlike a traditional fleece, the exterior is smooth against the outer shell layer for increased glide and less risk of snagging. I also found that when I worked up enough of a sweat to shed my outer shell layer, the wind struggled to penetrate the tight weave of the exterior. But the interior of the Tur has the classic cozy texture of a fleece. (At night, I even used my fleece as a pillow– flipping it soft-side out and neatly folding it into the hood of my sleeping bag.) A bonus feature of the Tur is that you can zip the hoodie up tight around your face, like a balaclava, without hindering visibility! And dare I say it’s flattering? Yes, technical performance was my primary concern out in the tundra. But now that I’m back home, I’ll admit I do appreciate that the slim fit cuts a dashing figure.
Have you ever used a wind sack? It’s tent fabric in a little pouch, and you unfold it and it’s kind of like those big wind tubes in airports. Fjällräven kept saying, Test it out! And we’re all thinking, this is stupid, we’re never going to use this, what is this? Then we got into it in the middle of the Arctic tundra, and it was like being in a sauna. It was so hot! I have no idea how it works, it’s just this tiny little thin piece of fabric, but the construction and the material and the way the wind passes through heats you up instantly by what feels like fifteen degrees. It was incredible!
Alex Kalita launched Common Bond Design in May 2013, with the goal of offering flexible design services to clients within a wide range of project scope and budget. Her pragmatic approach to the design process is influenced by her professional background in the financial regulatory industry, where she worked in a dual operations/marketing role. Through evening courses in interior design at Parsons and instructional classes in woodworking and upholstery, Alex honed her contemporary aesthetic and built a practical skill set. An outdoors enthusiast but had no previous dog sledding experience, she was one of twenty lucky people from around the world chosen by Swedish outdoor clothing and equipment supplier Fjällräven to participate in their annual dog sled adventure, the Fjällräven Polar.