Functional clothing: equipment for your trip to Scandinavia

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Nature lovers and sports fans are probably already aware of the benefits of functional or outdoor clothing. However, it is also recommended for travellers, as the Scandinavian countries in particular are known for their unique natural landscapes and extreme weather conditions. Are you planning a trip to Scandinavia with hiking, camping or even skiing? Here we explain which functional clothing is suitable for which activity and where you can buy it.

What is functional clothing?

functional clothing against the cold
Freezing? Not with the right functional clothing.

As the name suggests, functional clothing fulfils certain functions during (movement-intensive) outdoor activities, such as hiking or cycling. Its main task is to ensure an optimum body climate and protect the body from the elements – whether it is raining, snowing or the sun is shining. The composition of the materials is crucial here.

The so-called layer or onion principle is suitable for achieving optimum comfort in all weather conditions. Ideally, you should combine three layers of functional clothing: The base layer, insulation layer and weather protection layer. These can be adjusted depending on the temperature – a perfect functional outfit.

layers of fucntional clothing
Functional clothing is suitable for the onion principle.

1. Base layer

The base layer is the bottom layer and lies on top of the skin. Its main task is therefore to transport moisture. The body is kept warm, but at the same time protected from cooling down through perspiration. Tight-fitting functional underwear made of synthetic fibres or wool that dries quickly is ideal.

2. Insulation layer

The second and therefore middle layer provides thermal insulation. It is therefore particularly important in cold weather. This is where jackets, waistcoats and jumpers made of lighter but warming materials are used – for example fleece, cotton, wool or down.

3. Weather protection layer

The outermost layer consists of functional jackets and trousers. They are designed to withstand the weather and protect against wind and rain in particular.

There are various properties that can be fulfilled by the respective material: Wind-repellent or windproof, water-repellent or waterproof, breathable and hard-wearing. We explain below how you can recognise the properties and how they differ.

Tip: In very cold temperatures, put on a second layer of insulation (e.g. a down jacket).

Activities and areas of use

Functional clothing for hiking and trekking

Functional clothing: hiking
Hiking in an “onion look”

On longer hikes and tours lasting several days, the time of year and therefore the weather and temperatures are crucial. That’s why the onion look is ideal here: it protects you from the rain and cold. If it does get warmer, you can remove one layer. In addition to the right hiking boots and hiking rucksack, fleece tops, waterproof jackets and trekking trousers are ideal. If it’s cold, it’s best to wear functional underwear underneath.

Also make sure you have suitable headgear: in winter, beanies and softshell hats will keep your head warm. Ideally, these are also water-repellent. In spring and summer, hikers rely on caps, sun hats and multifunctional scarves to protect them from the sun.

Functional clothing for jogging and trail running

Functional clothing: running
Running is particularly movement-intensive and sweat-inducing.

Shoes and clothing are also part of the most important basic equipment when running or jogging. As you sweat a lot and quickly during this sport, you should opt for breathable functional clothing. This transports moisture to the outside and at the same time ensures that you don’t cool down too quickly. Tight-fitting clothing that adapts flexibly to your movements is ideal.

A waterproof jacket is also practical so that you can get going whatever the weather. If it has reflectors, it is ideal for travelling on the road in the dark.

Functional clothing on the bike

Functional clothing: bike
Sewn-in pads for hands and buttocks are practical when cycling.

When cycling, it depends on whether you’re travelling on a mountain bike or road bike, going on a bike tour or doing your everyday commute by bike. If you are travelling long distances at high speed or in the mountains, you will quickly work up a sweat.

Functional clothing is ideal here: especially in cold and wet weather, you should wear functional underwear, windproof cycling shorts, a softshell jacket, gloves and waterproof cycling shoes. In summer, on the other hand, short cycling shorts and cycling jerseys are sufficient. Practical: Clothing with padded inserts. If you rely on your bike every day, you should have a waterproof jacket and trousers to hand. Important: Don’t forget your helmet!

Functional clothing for skiing

Functional clothing: skiing
You need a complete outfit for skiing.

Planning a skiing holiday? Whether in the Swedish fells or in the Alps: it’s cold when you’re skiing, but you still sweat because your whole body is in action. While skis, ski poles, helmet and goggles are the first things you think of when it comes to equipment, the right ski jacket and ski trousers are of course also crucial. Look for wind-resistant and waterproof materials, a (detachable) hood and comfortable cuffs.

Fleece jumpers are ideal under the jacket. The base layer is important as well: long functional underwear is the right choice here, providing warmth and wicking away perspiration at the same time.

Features of functional clothing

For women, men, children and in plus sizes

Of course, functional clothing is available for both men and women, as the cut is adapted in each case so that the clothing fulfils its purpose. However, individual accessories, such as hats and gloves, are often unisex. In this case, manufacturers focus on neutral designs. There is also a large selection of outdoor fashion in large sizes online.

For children, functional clothing is ideal for playing and running around in the fresh air or when going on a winter holiday, for example. Here it is important that the little ones are protected from the wet and cold with the right jacket, trousers and underwear. Practical unisex models are also available here.

Water-repellent vs. waterproof

The so-called “water column” indicates how waterproof a material is. More precisely, it refers to the water pressure that the material can withstand before moisture penetrates. For many outdoor activities, it is sufficient for clothing, especially trousers and jackets, to be water-repellent. This is the case from a water column of 800 millimetres.

In order to stay dry even in heavy and prolonged rain, high-quality hardshell or rainwear with a water column of 1,300 to 30,000 millimetres is required. This is known as waterproof. To achieve this, the seams of the clothing are glued, welded or taped.

Wind repellent vs. windproof

Just like rain, a strong wind can also cause the body to cool down. Ideally, functional clothing should therefore have an insulating effect. Functional clothing is measured by the volume of air that flows through one square metre of fabric per second. If the value is 5 litres per square metre per second, the fabric is considered windproof. If the value is higher, the garment is only considered windproof.


If a garment is breathable, it ensures that moisture from the body is wicked away to the outside. The clothing’s membrane ensures that the outside and inside temperatures are equalised.

Two measurement values have become established to determine the breathability of clothing: The MVTR value indicates the amount of water vapour in grams that penetrates through one square metre of membrane surface within 24 hours. The RET value stands for the resistance that a fabric offers to water vapour. For the latter, the lower the value, the more breathable the clothing is.

UV/light protection

Of course, solar radiation and the resulting heat can also harm our bodies. The density and colour of the fabric play a decisive role here. The UV protection factor (USF for short) serves as a unit here, which indicates how much UV radiation penetrates the clothing and can lead to sunburn.

Detergent for functional clothing: In general, the materials of functional clothing should be treated with care. Do not use powder detergent, but always liquid detergent. A small amount is usually sufficient. Also, never use fabric softener on your functional clothing.

Scandinavian brands for functional clothing

Scandinavians know their weather, but still have a particularly close connection to nature and spend as much time as possible in the unique landscapes. This is why a number of brands and manufacturers of functional clothing have settled here, the best-known of which are listed below. You can find all Scandinavian outdoor brands in the linked article.

Fjällräven Logo

Whether hiking, trekking, mountaineering or simply for everyday use: the Swedish brand Fjällräven produces high-quality outdoor clothing with a focus on sustainability.

Craft Sportswear Logo

Swedish manufacturer Craft is aimed at all fans of running, biking, cross-country skiing, triathlon, alpine skiing and outdoor activities. Anyone looking for high-quality functional underwear is guaranteed to find what they are looking for with this brand.

Haglöfs Logo

Haglöfs was named the most sustainable brand of the year in Sweden in 2015. In addition to outdoor clothing for men, women and children, Haglöfs also offers the right equipment for hiking and camping.

Peak Performance Logo

Peak Performance from Sweden is primarily known for its ski clothing. However, golfers, runners and cyclists will also find the right functional clothing in a modern design.

Klättermusen Logo

Klättermusen is the Swedish brand for hikers, mountaineers and climbers. There is also ski clothing and you can even kit yourself out for expeditions to the Arctic.

Tierra is an outdoor brand from Sweden based in Stockholm. The manufacturer specialises in all mountain activities and equips the Swedish mountain rescue service, among others.

Norrona Logo

The Norwegian brand Norrøna equips you for skiing, mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking and even (arctic) surfing. The functional clothing is designed for cold environments.

Bergans Fritid is a Norwegian manufacturer of outdoor clothing and equipment based in Hokksund. The brand has been outfitting men, women and children for more than 100 years.

Skogstadt Logo

The Norwegian brand Skogstad, based in the UK, produces sustainable functional clothing for young and old and is based entirely on the onion principle. There is a large selection of outdoor jackets.

Danish Endurance Logo

The Danish manufacturer specialises in outdoor and sportswear. Danish Endurance is particularly popular for its underwear and socks.

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