Before I swan-dive into the Fjällräven Keb ($200) review, a brief lesson in Swedish is in order. You have to know how to pronounce “Fjällräven”.

Get your tongue-roll on for the “r” and say it with me: “Fee-yellll-reh’ven”.

Check you out! You just said “arctic fox” in Swedish.

Testing environment: Colorado in mid-September climbing Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross.

The Fjallraven Keb's gazing up to Mt. Democrat

The Fjällräven Keb’s gazing up to Mt. Democrat

Design: The Keb’s are made with a blend of polyester (65%) and organic cotton (35%). Fjällräven calls it G-1000®. They are reinforced on the rear, front of legs, knees and inside the bottom of the legs where you’re most likely to come into contact with rocks.

Functionality: The first time I tried these on they felt heavy and stiff. Almost like canvas. Once I put started moving around, they softened. Not yoga-pant soft but enough to allow for the ranges of motion my lower extremities needed to maneuver ascents, descents, scree, talus and boulders.

I like the…

  • Adjustable ankle cuffs with hem hooks accommodate high-rise hiking boots or low-rise hiking shoes. I wore these with a pair of LOWA Vantage GTX Mid’s and the pant legs had no problem fitting over the boot’s uppers. The hem hooks secured the pants to the boot laces à la gaiter-style and kept debris out of the boot.
  • Side ventilation zippers. When the zippers are closed, my legs were fully protected against the cold and the winds that rage at 14,000 feet in September. When open, all the clamminess acquired from exertion disappeared.
  • Raised back keeps the lower back protected. Because it’s possible to lose your footing and slide down a slope of talus on one’s butt. Incidentally, this is another reason why the hem hook is brilliant. It kept debris from shooting up my pant leg and into my boot.
  • Thigh pockets, though big and flat (held my trail map), didn’t add 10lbs to my summit shots. 
Fjällräven Keb's shedding weather (drizzle)

Fjällräven Keb’s shedding weather (drizzle)

Weather-shedding: Really good gear testers intentionally wait for shitty weather to assess the water-proof/water-resistant integrity of a piece of gear. Disclaimer:

  • I’m not one of the good ones.
  • I live in Minnesota so syncing up my Colorado trip with shitty weather was too tedious.

The day I climbed the four peaks, the weather was severe-clear and windy. But the days before and after at Kite Lake was 50 Shades of Misery. When it wasn’t raining it was drizzling. When it wasn’t drizzling it was getting ready to rain. At one point, it even looked like snow was imminent.
The Kebs are fully coated with Greenland Wax, which is a blend of beeswax and paraffin on steroids. This is what repelled the light drizzle and kept my legs dry. Not new or innovative technology. The Scandinavians used it make garments water-resistant long before Fjällräven was even born.

In fact, according to Norse Saga, the Vikings slathered beeswax and paraffin onto their clothing to stave off hypothermia when raiding lands in inclement weather.  (<<this part I totally made up)

A word about Greenland Wax. It isn’t permanent and I found that this is both good and bad. The bad is that it will eventually wash and/or wear off. The good is that it’s simple to re-apply and you can rub it onto any shelled garment to make it water-resistant and dirt-resistant.

Just be advised that it only makes the garment water-resistant not water-proof. It will protect you in a light drizzle but not a downpour. (<<this part I did not make up)

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Try on the Keb’s before you buy them – just in case

Fit: I HATE European sizing. I normally wear size 4 and according to the European-to-American global sizing chart, I should fit into a 36, right? Wrong. I couldn’t get the 36’s zipped.

Then I tried the 38 (American size 6-8). They zipped but were tight in the hips. The next option made me wince. Size 40 (American 10!? Push me off a cliff now).

The 40’s turned out to be a bit loose (vindication!) but that’s the size I went with. A size 39 would have been ideal but it doesn’t exist.

I received my Kebs as a media sample at Outdoor Retailer. Fortunately, Fjällräven had a tailor in the booth that had shortened the length and nipped in the waist. These simple alterations made them feel much better in the hips and actually look flattering.

Keb's summit Mt. Cameron

Keb’s summit Mt. Cameron

Try these pants on before you buy them and don’t be afraid to go a couple sizes up and have them altered.

Flaw: For some people, the $200 will feel like taking a bullet. Add another $40 if you need to have them professionally altered.

Bottom Line: Expensive but the quality justifies the price. The heavier G-1000® material and reinforced legs and knees makes the Keb a true outdoor trouser designed for the tough stuff.