Swimming through vertical snow halfway up a mountain in the Alaska Range, sweat dripping down my brow as I questioned my decision to come on this trip—a decision made in front of a cozy fireplace months earlier—I turned to see my partner with an ear-to-ear smile. It bothered me that he seemed to be having such a good time as I slid three feet backwards once again. Turned out he was having just as many regrets as I was; the smile was simply the result of a bright spot amid our sufferfest: his gear was outperforming his wildest expectations.
“These pants are the best alpine climbing pants I’ve ever used!” he said. He was wearing a pair of the Fjällräven Bergtagen Trousers, on their maiden voyage. Burrowing through that heavy wet snow, under the beating Alaskan sun, the pants kept him perfectly dry, and he was neither too hot nor too cold.
Obviously, I decided I’d have to investigate for myself when I got off that godforasken mountain.
Over a year later, I’ve now put the Fjällräven Bergtagen Trousers through the wringer myself. I’ve worn them on sopping wet WI 3 ice climbs where my knees were pressed against the sorbet slush for seemingly hours on end; I’ve worn them on deep snow-slog approaches; and I’ve worn them on frigid ski tours.
And my buddy was right: these pants are great.
Made from Fjällräven’s proprietary G-1000 Lite Eco material (the recipe of which is two parts recycled polyester, one part organic cotton), the pants are super durable. The material has a canvas-like feel to it. Just rubbing it between your fingers, you know it’s not about to rip like some of the super crinkly shell materials out there. Additonally, the pants have Corylon (approximately 19 parts polyamide, 1 part aramid) reinforcements on your knees and the inside of the lower leg, both critical locations. This even more abrasion-resistant layer is clutch: when you are kneeling against that wet ice, you have a bit more protection—in terms of padding, warmth and water-resistance—and a stray crampon kick is much less likely to puncture the pant leg if you’re wearing these trousers.
The G-1000 material isn’t fully waterproof, but is more than sufficient for activities like ice-climbing and powder skiing. The seams are all taped to increase watertightness. If it is really wet out there, you’ll see damp patches begin to show, but I’ve never felt as though the water was actually penetrating down to my insulating layers.
The water-resistant capabilities come from another proprietary Fjällräven product called Greenland Wax, made from beeswax and parrafin. The G-1000 of the trousers is “impregnated” with the wax. Like wax paper, water naturally beads off it. The water-resistant properties wane over time, but the neat thing is that Fjällräven sells bars of the Greenland Wax separately, so you can always reapply and rejuvenate those properties. I have not personally tested the performance of the pants after applying a new coat of wax, but in theory it’s a great idea.
So to recap: Water-resistance—great; durability—excellent. Breathability? Again, these pants hit the mark. At 670 grams, the Bergtagen trousers aren’t in the featherweight category—they have some heft to them—but despite this, they breathe extremely well. On long approaches, I never felt like my legs were in a sweatbox while my upper body was nice and thermo-regulated, as sometimes happens with other shells. That being said, since they are a bit heavier, I’d go with a lighter layering system underneath—the G-1000 material has more insulating properties than some flimsy ripstop layer. The outside of each pant leg is also equipped with an approximately 6-inch-long vent, if you need to cool down dramatically.
There are a number of pockets: two hip-pockets and two zippered mid-thigh pockets on the front of the legs. I would’ve liked one back pocket, but not a big deal.
The pants come with a RECCO reflector, a piece of avy safety gear that more of us ice climbers should have on us in the backcountry (check out a great piece about avalanche safety here).
My only point of contention with the Fjällräven Bergtagen Trousers is that the fit isn’t necessarily ideal for pure water-ice climbing. They are a smidge baggier that you really want. I agree with my friend’s assessment from Alaska, though: for alpine routes with more varied terrain, they are hard to beat (though that leads me to wish they had full-length side zips to make layering and unlayering easier, but that’s just getting nitpicky). But there’s a remedy for the fit: If the pants are too long or the waist too big, you can get them custom tailored at a Fjällräven store, gratis! Easy peasy.
The Bergtagen Trousers cost $350—a pittance compared to some of the pricier, lighter-weight bibs out there, and they work just as well. If I ever make any more half-baked decisions in front of a cozy fireplace to spend my summers suffering in winter hellscapes, I’ll be sure to bring these trousers along.
Fjällräven Bergtagen Trousers
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