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Hands-on Gear Review
Fjallraven Vidda Pro Review
Cons: Thick and heavy, very warm, expensive
Bottom line: A high quality and expensive pant that may be best used for hunting or bushcraft rather than simple hiking.
The Fjallraven Vidda Pro Trousers are undoubtedly the most unique pair of hiking pants featured in this review. Constructed with G-1000 fabric, a blend of 65% polyester and 35% cotton, they embrace a design ethos that has long ago fallen out of favor in the outdoor clothing world — the use of cotton. However, they combat the highly absorptive qualities of this fabric by using an old-school, throwback technique to add customizable water resistance — impregnating the pants with wax. Before the proliferation of synthetic materials and chemical DWR coatings, rubbing or melting wax into clothing was a standard means of repelling water, a tactic that Fjallraven never moved away from.
Although perhaps a bit quirky for today's user, there are many advantages to this system, including the ability to easily customize the performance of your outerwear and a significant boost in durability that the wax adds. Although initially skeptical, we came to respect and enjoy this do-it-yourself system, as it allowed us to forge a closer relationship with the clothes we were wearing — and it works! The pants, on the other hand, proved to be a bit of a mixed bag, with some laudable features as well as obvious drawbacks compared to their modern competition.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Fjallraven, meaning "Arctic Fox," is a Swedish brand built on sustainability and durability since the 1960's, which is quickly expanding into North America and beyond. The Vidda Pro are super reinforced, highly durable trekking pants that feature not two but three cargo style pockets. We tested the "Solid Color" version of these pants, as the regular version features decidedly Euro-looking off-color knee patches that we just couldn't rock here in Colorado. They are some thick, burly pants that seem ideal for very harsh climates or heavy work, such as elk hunting or building a wilderness cabin than they are for warm weather day hikes or trekking.
We want to recognize these pants for their durability, which we find virtually impossible to test for when conducting comparative tests in a relatively short window, but is off the charts for these pants. They have double reinforced knees and butt, and the G-1000 fabric is far and away the stiffest and strongest in our test group. Impregnating them with Fjallraven's Greenland wax adds not only water resistance but also durability. Much like waxing a pair of Nordic skis, this process involves rubbing a block of wax all over the pants and then melting it into the fabric using either a standard clothes iron, or just holding them carefully over the flame of a cook stove. Surprisingly, this does little to affect the look or feel of the fabric, while noticeably increasing water resistance.
Comfort and Mobility
The Vidda Pro trousers have a roomy, almost baggy fit, that is not constricting in any way. This quality is accented by the heavily articulated knees, and they fit much like the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible. Despite being made of a blend of both polyester and cotton fibers, the G-1000 fabric feels neither soft and smooth like the KUHL Kontra Air, or overly abrasive and artificial.
While they retain a decent amount of mobility due to their loose fit, they are also noticeably thick and heavy and don't exude any of the light, stretchy qualities present in say, the Patagonia Quandary pants. While our complaints are minor, they just aren't as comfortable or as mobile feeling as the highest scorers, and we gave them 6 out of 10 points.
Venting and Breathability
Over the course of our testing, not to mention a lifetime spent hiking in the mountains and deserts all over the world, we have come to realize that ventilation is a far more efficient means of keeping cool than relying on a garment's breathability. Unfortunately for the Vidda Pro, it has few features that accommodate either, and thus received the lowest score for this metric. Unlike literally every other hiking pant in this review, these pants didn't have a single mesh-lined pocket or zippered vent designed to allow warm, moist air to escape. And despite claims to the contrary, we found that their very heavy, thick fabric trapped heat very quickly. It was very apparent to us that these limitations meant that this pant is best suited to cold, harsh climates. We would very quickly choose the REI Co-op Screeline or The North Face Paramount 3.0 instead if we wanted a pant that we could wear when it was hot outside.
When it comes to versatility, we felt that the Vidda Pro fell right in the middle of our range of hiking pants. On the one hand, its durable construction and plethora of pockets mean that it is an optimal choice for outdoor work or camping, and allows a cold weather hiker to carry lots of gear and still stay organized. On the other hand, we really wouldn't want to set out on a hike in the desert in these pants, and can't imagine wearing them in summer. Likewise, they may be a bit of an odd look for wearing around town, at least where we live. As a pant that is perfect for some conditions, and anathema to others, we ranked them right in the middle. They were more versatile in our minds than the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, but we couldn't find as many situations where we wanted them on our legs as the Prana Stretch Zion.
The most interesting aspect of this pant is its method of water resistance — impregnation by Greenland wax. A small block of wax must be bought separately but is quite affordable. The pants come already treated, but we found that we needed to add more on our own. Washing the pants in hot water removes any wax treatment you may have already added, a "reset" which is either helpful or annoying depending on the circumstances. Since we unknowingly washed out our treatment, we were forced to re-apply, which we found to be fun, mildly laborious, and mildly time-consuming, especially if we were in a rush to get out the door. For this reason, once we had them custom treated, we could see these pants being a serious candidate for "never wash" status.
In our initial shower test, after having washed these pants clean, they did an admirable job of holding up to a light rain, but then became soaked through, absorbing a lot of water in the process. We couldn't help but think that perhaps adding 35% cotton to the blend wasn't a great idea for a hardcore outdoor pant. After applying our own wax, however, we found that they were easily among the best performers in a heavy rain, although many repeated applications of wax were needed for seriously impressive water resistance. While this was a neat system, we rated them slightly lower than the highly repellant and non-absorptive Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant or Patagonia Quandary.
There is no doubt these pants have a lot of features. They have two deep front handwarmer pockets, but no rear pockets. On the right side is a large cargo pocket with mesh divider, and on the left are dual overlapping cargo pockets that sit a little further forward on the thigh. All of these are covered with button flaps. Also on the left is a tall and narrow pocket designed for a knife or hatchet with top and bottom button flaps. The knees are reinforced with fabric that has an opening at the bottom for stuffing knee pads into should you choose. Finally, there are snap button tighteners at the lower leg cuffs that allow you to cinch the cuffs closed around a boot, or pull them up above the calf and hold them there. With so many well thought out features, we rated them at the top, comparable to KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible as well as Kontra Air.
The Fjallraven Vidda Pro pants will best serve those looking for an extremely burly and durable pant for their outdoor pursuits. To us, they are a very high quality, sustainably sourced hunting or camping pant. They are ideal for cold weather, harsh climates, and dirty, abrasive work. They would be one of our last choices for warm weather day hikes or long backpacking trips, as we prefer a lighter, stretchier, and cooler hiking pant for most occasions. These pants were born in the Arctic, and if your home or dream trip is reminiscent of the Scandinavian wilderness, they are probably an ideal choice.
These pants retail for $150, easily the most expensive in this review. Despite their price, we think they provide a good value, as they are clearly durable enough to last a very long time, and will surely outlast their thin nylon competitors.
The Fjallraven Vidda Pro are the heaviest and most durable pants in this review, and they come with a ton of cargo pockets for organization and storage. They also rely on the unique Greenland wax treatment for customizing water resistance. While we think they make an optimal choice for hunters or other woodsmen, we found them to be a bit overkill for use as an everyday hiking or around town pant.
— Andy Wellman
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