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Therese Iknoian

Traveler | Photographer at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian spent a decade as a daily newspaper journalist before launching a freelance writing career specializing in outdoor, fitness and training. All the while trotting the globe, her focus finally turned to travel. Fluent in German, Therese runs a translation business (www.ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. Also a French speaker, she loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication and the search for great travel discoveries.
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Sometimes the need to stay warm outweighs the desire to pack less or be too minimalistic. But that doesn’t mean your coat needs to be bulky and heavy – especially if you think layers, layers, layers. Think the Bergans Svolvaer Down Long jacket.

Bergans is a popular Norwegian brand that recently entered the North American market. So after getting to know it in Europe, I decided to try out a new jacket on a winter trip back to Germany and Central Europe. I chose the Bergans jacket since it seemed basic enough to go for a not-too-technical hike but nice looking enough to head out for coffee or be seen around town, still fulfilling the HI Travel Tales mandate for multifunction.

Bergans Svolvaer Down Long jacket

Therese staying warm and stylish in her Bergans Svolvaer jacket while covering a Fasching children’s parade in Switzerland (a kind of Mardi Gras).

Although the fabric is windproof and water-repellent, the Bergans Svolvaer is not a heavy winter jacket intended for arctic chills. You can easily wear it when the temps are hovering around freezing or so, but below freezing you will want a layer (or perhaps two, depending on your inner climate control) for warmth.

Still, the Svolvaer does meets HI Travel Tales multifunction requirement: I headed out to Europe with forecasts of temps into the teens (Fahrenheit) armed with the jacket, an ExOfficio fleece hoody (winner of a coveted HITT Seal of Approval … click here to view), and a vest. The set-up defined layering perfection as I could don one or all layers depending on the weather!

Bergans Svolvaer Down Long jacket

The Bergans Svolvaer Down Long jacket ($299) has sewn-through quilted construction, meaning at the seaming (and the chambers are not large, thus there is lots of seam stitching) cold air from outside can permeate while your warm body heat can escape – great for temperature management on warmer days but not as great when it’s colder. Windproof ability fully works only where no stitch holes break the fabric. In temps into the teens, I needed a windproof vest underneath to seal out the exchange and for longer outdoors walks, an added hoody (or a long-sleeve hoody instead of a vest) was ideal. At times, I actually wore both the fleece hood and the jacket hood.

Still, this Bergans jacket offered a sleek, stylish, simple, slightly fitted look for every need. It features an attached hood and a high snap collar to bury your chin behind when a chill breeze strikes. The 700 cubic inches of down fill is not too lofty, which means the Bergans Svolvaer stuffs well in suitcases, carry-ons and daypacks. Plus, it is 90 percent down and 10 feathers, making it a higher-quality, more comfy fill. Two front hand pockets held hands or stashed gloves, and two high diagonal front chest zip pockets were great for a cell phone, headband, metro ticket or other smaller item. Plus, those top pockets were positioned well to, er, accommodate a woman’s parts, located at just above chest line.

The fashionable, slightly extended back of the Svolvaer jacket works well to keep out drafts, and a snap-down zipper storm flap for extra protection covers the two-way front zip.

As much as we liked the Bergans jacket for less-than-arctic weather and great packability, there were a few features we felt were lacking or missing:

  • The cuff has a simple elastic band, but the elastic is not sewn in and constantly twists in the casing – not ideal for a jacket at this price.
  • One user felt she really wanted knit cuffs or some “extension” at the wrist to help keep hands and arms warm – certainly wouldn’t be a bad feature.
  • Although the collar and chin guard snap up high, it has a nylon inner face so it can be irritating or even sticky and uncomfortable next to your skin. Again, a jacket with this price tag absolutely needs a fleece or softer lining to boost the comfy factor.
  • Same with the pockets – a hand-warmer lining would be a lot more cozy than the cold nylon face and, in our view, a must-have feature for a jacket like this.

Despite those design and feature misses, we’d still take the Svolvaer Down Long jacket along on any winter trip where a lightweight, packable, multifunctional jacket boasting a bit of style is required.

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