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Fjallraven Pak down vest is the perfect backcountry layering piece

FjallRaven Pak Down Vest
“Fjallraven” means “Arctic fox” in Swedish — something they honor with the logo on the left breast. Photo: Fjallraven
While the sleeveless look is generally best avoided on things like wool sweaters and deep-V T-shirts, when it comes to winter outerwear, it’s kind of my go-to. For the thermally challenged, down vests offer the ideal qualities for layering up: warm and toasty where it counts (at your core) while not smothering you in too much insulation at your extremities.

While I’ve got a couple of cheap down vests hanging in the closet (Old Navy, for realz), their bulk and tendency to distort after a few washings make them a non-starter for anything other than a quick trip to the store. I’ve been hunting for a lightweight, compressible version that I can actually wear outdoors, and the Fjallraven Pak women’s vest ends that search.

The thing with a second or third layer is that you want it big enough to accommodate close-to-the-body pieces underneath, but not so huge that you approach Stay-Puft territory. While an extra-small would have hugged my figure perfectly, stepping up to the small was definitely the right call, as it’s loose enough to throw over a hoodie, but still presents a streamlined silhouette.

Fjallraven’s design team added some simple, yet thoughtful, details to the Pak, like a nylon hook inside the collar for hanging and a fabric fold-over at the chin that hides the top of the zipper so it won’t irritate your face. The two outer pockets are zippered — something missing from my low-end vests — and it even comes with its own stuff sack.

Plus, the back of the vest is cut lower than the front, which prevents that annoying lower-back gap you get when reaching overhead in a straight-hemmed jacket.

My inner hippie loves the Pak for a different reason, though: The fill is 100 percent traceable goose down. This means that Fjallraven works with ethical meat suppliers to harvest the down from geese already “in the system,” shall we say, as opposed to farming them separately for clothing applications.

They even send a company representative to each slaughter to make sure the animals are being treated per the Fjallraven code of conduct — and the down can be traced back to the sealed bag it was shipped from the farm in.

Fjallraven means “Arctic fox” in Swedish, the company name “honoring the small and highly adaptable predator that lives in the Swedish mountains under the harshest conditions,” the brand explains. I’m gonna go ahead and say you’ll straight feel like one if you slip this on.

Fjallraven Women’s Pak down vest ($250)

Find more snow-hiking gear to gift this season.