An overview of Scandinavian outdoor brands

8. August 2018

Table of contents

Scandinavia and the outdoors – a match made in heaven. Rodane, Hurrungane, Sarek and Kebnekaise are all music to the ears of outdoor enthusiasts. Scandinavia is home to just about as many outdoor enthusiasts as it has great destinations. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but the message remains the same: Being outdoors is the Scandinavian way of life.

If you’ve never heard this before, allow me to put it into perspective. In Norway, where according to surveys almost 90% of the adult population are outdoor enthusiasts, you can climb jagged peaks high above a fjord and cross plateau glaciers on skis. In Sweden, you can go hiking or dog sledding, and in Finland you can enjoy the sauna and do some crazy winter swimming! Neither snow, rain, cold, wind or darkness can stop you! In Scandinavia, you embrace the great outdoors no matter the weather!

Despite some of the clichés mentioned above, it’s no secret that Scandinavia has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor activities. In fact, the people of Norway live by a philosophy of getting outdoors and connecting with nature that goes beyond anything the people of Central Europe are familiar with: Friluftsliv is what they call this concept, this way of life. It’s such a big part of their culture that you can even study it at university.

Considering how rough the climate is up north, Scandinavia’s enthusiasm for the outdoors couldn’t just be rooted in the love of some free-time activity. In fact, their connection with nature goes much deeper than that – it has much more to do with the absolute necessity to adapt. After all, who would want to be trapped in their room for six whole months waiting out the winter? The Scandinavians wouldn’t. There’s a reason that old adage “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” comes from Scandinavia of all places. And, the Scandinavians know a thing or two about clothing. In fact, a large number of Scandinavian manufacturers have dedicated themselves not only to making “proper” outdoor apparel of the highest quality but also to supplying outdoorsmen and women with everything else they need to enjoy the stunning landscapes between Denmark and Finland.

In the following, we’re going to try our best to put together an extensive, but certainly incomplete overview of the bigger and smaller outdoor brands of the North, all of which are primarily known for apparel but really know their tents and camping gear as well.

What are the big brands?

Fjällräven is probably a name to everyone.

That famous red fox.

Most fans of the outdoors and Scandinavia will probably think of the brand with the red polar fox first: Fjällräven. Even though Norway is usually associated with the wind-whipped mountainous areas known as “fjäll”, the Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven really lives up to its name, producing clothing that is built to withstand the adverse conditions in both countries. When it comes to their clothing, the Swedes have a very high standard and they rarely fail to deliver. Not only are the opinions of experts a testament to this fact but those of their customers are as well.

Thus, the reputation of their backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and textiles has been impeccable since the 1960s. This is due in large part to their use of extremely tough, functional materials for designs that have never conformed to any fashion trends. That’s not to say that their designs aren’t aesthetically attractive. On the contrary: they boast a clean, distinctive style that is even appealing to those who have nothing to do with the outdoors.

Because Fjällräven gear is so timeless, durable and produced in accordance with strict social and environmental standards, the sustainability of their products speaks for itself.

There’s probably no brand better known outside of the realm of outdoor and mountain sports than this Norwegian label: Helly Hansen Their elegant jackets and bags may be becoming staples in cities around the world, but it wouldn’t be fair to reduce them to a streetwear label. Clothing and accessories from Helly Hansen are made for an unbelievably wide variety of activities, from sailing to skiing to working on oil rigs.

What are the classics?

In Norway, many of the founders of the outdoor companies we’re talking about today were and still are old hands in the outdoor world and dedicated practitioners of the friluftsliv way of life. This is true of Bergans as well, which also happens to have one of those classic founding stories. After going on a hunting trip, the avid hiker and hunter Ole F. Bergan was extremely disappointed in his clothing and thus took it upon himself to create something better. And, that’s exactly what he did. Since the company’s founding in 1908, Bergans has been a complete success. The jackets, trousers and backpacks created by Bergans of Norway have enjoyed great popularity among adopters of the friluftsliv-lifestyle all over the world.

One of the truly classic brands is the Norwegian sleeping bag manufacturer known as Ajungilak. Even though they have been taken over by Mammut, the sleeping bags with the distinctive yellow-and-black logo are still Norwegian at their core and well known for their reliability and durability.

Shoes from the Swedish brand Haglöfs.

With these shoes from Haglöfs, your next hill walk will be a breeze.

The Swedes have a classic outdoor brand to show for themselves as well, namely Haglöfs. Founded over 100 years ago, Haglöfs has continued to pursue the very same mission they had formulated at the beginning: to protect local hikers on their adventures into the rugged landscape that surrounds them. And, apart from constant improvements to their products and a larger customer base, not much has changed about this mission since the company’s founding. Today, Haglöfs has maintained a strong focus on sustainability whilst creating a variety of products and fit options for their customers.

Keep in mind, this small selection of classic brands is completely subjective and may be modified at any time. The same goes for the insider tips below.

What are some lesser-known brands?

So far, we have only talked about the better-known Scandinavian brands of the outdoor industry. Now, let’s focus our attention on the lesser-known Nordic brands, which arguably have just as much to offer avid outdoorsman and women as those mentioned above.

It’s pretty easy to get lost in the dark and seemingly endless expanse of forestland in Sweden without the right equipment. Fortunately for us, the Swedes have a solution: Silva. The Swedish brand Silva produces exceptionally well-designed equipment for the outdoors, including head torches, compasses and binoculars, all of which are known for excelling in the worst of conditions.

Another high-end brand is the Swedish glove manufacturer Hestra. Hestra develops gloves for a variety of applications ranging from skiing to mountaineering to construction work.

A waterproof coat from the brand 66° North.

A waterproof coat from 66° North.

Some may object, but let’s consider Iceland part of Scandinavia for the purposes of this article. That way, we can include 66° North in our list of high-quality Scandinavian brands! As the name already suggests, the brand, which was founded back in 1926, derives its name from the latitudinal line of the Arctic Circle, which, as you may know, is not known for having particularly nice weather!

The Norwegian skier Kari Traa is better known as a former Olympic skier than she is as a skiwear designer or knitter. But, truth be told, she has mastered these skills at a level comparable to her skiing! It’s pretty amazing, and women around the world have come to love the colourful and functional creations from the former gold-medal winner.

Lesser known than the last two, but a legit outdoor brand in their own right is the Swedish backpack and clothing maker Klättermusen. In addition to their sustainability credentials, the brand is known for their durable and brilliantly designed products. Interested?

The following is a list of brands that are not as well known on an international scale, but still make products of the highest quality. We’ve divided them up into groups according to their country of origin.

Norwegian outdoor brands

Within the groups of countries, we’re going to list the brands in alphabetical order. Otherwise, things would just descend into chaos! It may come as a surprise, but there are tons of fantastic Scandinavian outdoor brands that you may have never heard of before.

  • Aclima: Based near Oslo, the family-owned business Aclima is a brand like no other when it comes to environmental sustainability. Plus, they do it without sacrificing style or function.
  • Dale of Norway: If you’re looking for hand-crafted Norwegian jumpers made of 100% Norwegian wool with traditional designs, Dale of Norway is the place to go.

    A scarf with the typical Norwegian pattern from the brand Dale of Norway.

    That typical Norwegian pattern is a must!

  • Devold: Similar to some of the brands described above, Devold is not only named after its founder but also started out manufacturing functional products for fishermen and others working in the outdoors. Today, the brand is primarily known for its high-quality jumpers and merino underwear.
  • Helsport: Sleeping bags, tents and backpacks have been this 60-year-old family-owned business’s speciality for years. Since their founding, Helsport has invented the tunnel tent, been awarded various prizes for their designs and developed gear for Norwegian expeditions to the Himalaya.
  • Norrøna: Founded in Oslo in 1929, this brand could/should be listed amongst the classics, especially considering the fact that we’ve all seen their memorable logo in one mountain sports magazine or another. And, many of us have probably heard that they were the first European brand to use Gore-Tex. Norrøna takes a back seat to no other when it comes to creating highly technical gear and clothing for alpine-style Scandinavian mountaineering.
  • Sweet Protection: Their speciality? Hardware! Yes, indeed. The Norwegians know their hardware as well. As their name already suggests, Sweet Protection’s protective gear, especially the stuff they create for snowboarding and mountain biking is not only of the highest quality, but will also make you feel safe. Another plus? It’s comfortable too!
  • Ulvang: And here’s yet another Olympic champion from Norway – In 1995, the Norwegian cross-country skier, Vegard Ulvang, brought his very first wool sock to market. Since then, he has expanded his assortment of products and established his brand as one of the leading manufacturers of merino apparel.
  • Viking Footwear: The shoes designed by this small, yet excellent brand are like a ticket to unlimited adventures in the Nordic wilderness. If we were to collect some adjectives to describe Viking Footwear, we’d probably say dry, safe, reliable and suitable for everyday wear.

Swedish outdoor brands

Even though Norway’s neighbour didn’t get quite as many spectacular landscapes, there’s no shortage of manufacturers of high-quality outdoor equipment there.

  • Didriksons Outdoor Fashion: Didriksons’ functional clothing boasts a casual flair and has proven to be quite effective in stormy coastal climates. They make everything from beanies to jackets.
  • Houdini: Named after the great magician who could get himself out of any jam he found himself in, Houdini produces functional clothing crafted to withstand the elements. Just like Houdini on the stage, the clothing from this young Swedish company are guaranteed to amaze.
  • Icebug: This lesser-known shoe manufacturer situated on the west coast of Sweden is all too familiar with muddy, slippery terrain and, as the name suggests, ice. Outdoor shoes from Icebug are built for the slippery winter streets and frozen trails of this world.
  • Ivanhoe: Name after the legendary knight, this family-owned business creates extremely high-quality (merino) wool and cotton apparel and certainly has an eye for distinctive designs. Today, the brand still makes around 80% of its products in Sweden.
  • Lundhags: Making reliable footwear for tough winter excursions has been the focus of the company founded by shoemaker Jonas Lundhag in 1932 since the very beginning. Even today, there are boots still being made according to the shell principle. But now, their product range has expanded to include jackets, trousers and backpacks for demanding adventures. Lundhags has become one of the best known and largest Scandinavian labels – and rightfully so.
  • Pinewood: Scandinavian outdoor clothing has a good reputation, but is not necessarily the cheapest stuff out there. Fortunately, Pinewood, who has been stirring up the functional clothing scene since 1990, shows that Nordic quality doesn’t have to be expensive. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
  • Woolpower: As warm and as comfortable as possible – that’s one way of describing classic Woolpower clothing. The Swedish clothing manufacturer started out with nylon tights until they developed the fabric Ullfrotté Original in collaboration with the Swedish Army. The fabric is made of 70% merino wool and 30% synthetic fibre. The former tights manufacturer is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of comfortable functional garments.
  • A thermos flask from the brand Primus.

    Well equipped with Primus.

    Peak Performance: “Real ski clothes for real skiers” is this innovative company’s motto. Like their colleagues from Klättermusen, Peak Performance comes from Åre in northern Sweden. The functionality and quality of Peak Performance textiles makes their garments incredibly versatile but also allows the brand to focus on creating apparel for individual sports as well.

  • Primus: This Swedish company has a long tradition of engineering outdoor cooking equipment and has had the privilege of outfitting adventurers such as Roald Amundsen and Edmund Hillary with extremely durable and reliable stoves and tableware. Today, Primus is more popular than ever and makes sure campers and adventurers get the warm meals they need, no matter where they are. Need some new cooking gear?
  • Sätila: Many Scandinavian outdoor brands are considered to be obsessed with the minor details. Well, the same can be said about the headwear experts at Sätila – and for good reason. In the wild and rugged expanses of Scandinavia, the little details are often essential for survival. And, having the right hat is a good place to start.

Finnish outdoor brands

  • Suunto: Even though the glory days of Nokia have faded into the past, the world is still well aware of the fact that the Finns know their technology. The high-end watches, compasses and dive computers manufactured by Suunto substantiate this fact. Not only are their instruments wonderful toys for outdoor lovers to play with, but they’re often absolutely vital. Thus, it will come as no surprise that Suunto has established itself as a world leader in the field of measuring instruments.

    A high-tech watch from the brand Suunto.

    High-Tech with Suunto.

  • Kupilka: Kupilka is a brand for special outdoor tableware and cutlery made of a natural fibre composite invented in Finland that is not only environmentally friendly, but also eliminates a number of disadvantages that other materials have. They are light, robust, dishwasher-safe and won’t burn your fingers.

Danish outdoor brands

Now, let’s take a little trip down south. Yes, Denmark is also part of Scandinavia, even though it is separated from the big peninsula by Kattegat and Skagerrak. The nature here is significantly less wild than up north, but the weather can be pretty similar. At the very least, the outdoor brands know what their material is up against.

  • Nordisk: This is probably Denmark’s best-known outdoor brand. They have been offering a wide range of clothing and equipment for more than 100 years. Their focus: to create the simplest designs possible to keep the weight down and weak spots to a minimum. Many products are designed for casual wear, but there are also lines engineered for extreme adventures.
  • Ecco: The best shoes in the world? That’s debatable, I guess. But, what’s not up for debate is that Ecco is one of the few shoe manufacturers in the world that operates its own tanneries and shoe manufacturing sites and thus produces products of the highest quality for sports and everyday wear.

If you want more proof that Scandinavian outdoor goods don’t have to be expensive, you should have a look at Oase Outdoors and its three successful brands:

  • A tent from the brand Robens.

    What is an absolute must in your outdoor kit? – That’s right, a tent!

    Robens: This brand manufactures everything that makes camping and being outdoors comfortable, and that at an affordable price.

  • Outwell: When you go camping with the whole family, Outwell products are the perfect choice. This brand values comfort, fun and that holiday feeling, and it comes across in their products.
  • Easy Camp: Easy Camp is another brand that puts user-friendliness and comfort first. Their products are also an incredible value for money.

Well, that’s about all the Scandinavian brands we have for you. If we’ve forgotten something or you have a favourite you’d like to share, feel free to leave us a comment. We’d be happy to hear from you!

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