My Favorite Outdoor Brands With a Focus on Ethics

This week I’m bringing you some recommendations. I get questions from time to time of what brands I keep gravitating back to. A lot of factors go into my decision making process when it’s time for new clothing or gear. I currently use a variation of the "capsule wardrobe" system and I try to carry that mindset into my gear purchases too. Less IS More! I buy better quality items from trusted brands so that I don't have to re-purchase as often. Until recently, I actually had a second Instagram account that I used to cultivate discussion and inspiration for my capsule wardrobe, minimalism journey, and healthy living.  (Recently I deleted it because let's be real, having two instagrams is a little extra....) I may showcase another post on those types of topics but we won't get into it right just yet.

This year I’ve made it a priority to buy more ethical (made by workers that are paid a fair wage and have a proper work environment), sustainable (manufactured in a way that makes a low impact environmentally), and good quality items. Being able to check all three of these boxes is definitely tricky especially with how mass manufactured the outdoor industry is these days. Most of my recommendations fit into these categories, but not necessarily all. However, if there is a trusted brand that isn’t on my list that you're a fan of, please tell me about it! I’m always on the lookout for products that cause the least amount of harm to this planet.

Patagonia

This is a no brainer. It’s the go-to brand EVERY person brings up when it comes to solid gear paired with a sustainable business model. This is a brand that literally uses the slogan “if it’s broke, fix it”. Nearly every product they offer is fair trade certified and a large number of their products use recycled materials. They are a B Corp certified brand and also are part of 1% for the planet. Some tend to complain about the price of Patagucci (I can’t believe I actually typed that) but I think you get exactly what you pay for. Their products have never failed me.

Favorites:
Black Hole Duffel 60L
Re toot Snap T fleece pullover
Torrentshell Jacket

  

 Torrentshell

Torrentshell

 Re-tool Snap-T

Re-tool Snap-T

Cotopaxi

Next up is a brand called Cotopaxi. I’ll level with you, I don’t actually own any of their products right now. But I should have a shiny new backpack coming at me in the next few months. I’ll be posting a full review of it once I get it and take it on a trip! ( I am so pumped!!)

Anyway, this brand has a super great slogan “gear for good”. They make a ton of their backpacks and jackets with remnant fabrics from properly compensated Filipino workers. This also allows you to get limited edition colors on different gear models. Which is pretty neat! They offer a lifetime warranty of 61 years on their products. This is symbolic of the average lifespan of a person living  in a third world country. Cotopaxi is B Corp certified and their website also has yearly global impact updates

Favorites:
Tecca windbreaker
Haraka Tights - been waiting for these to come back in stock!!

Toad & Co.

Toad & Co is a very eco friendly brand that utilizes a LOT of organic and sustainable materials. I love the effortless style each of their pieces radiates. Everything looks like you could be in the office, going to dinner, or going for a walk. Every product I have owned has been extremely well made even with products that happen to be constructed from thinner materials. Their website has extensive information about their ethics and sustainability endeavors. Toad and Co are also part of the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group.

Favorites:
Marley SS Dress
Airbrush SL Deco Shirt

Osprey

When it comes to backpacks I’m a huge advocate for Osprey. I’m always a sucker for a lifetime warranty. If you break it, they fix it. This brand isn’t B Corp or a part of any large sustainability association that I can find, but on their website they have great information about their factories in Vietnam and the conditions therein. Also they have a great checklist of some of their brand’s culture of sustainability. I have a day pack and a backpacking pack from Osprey and I am always impressed by the quality and durability of their gear, trip after trip and mile after mile.

Favorites:
Womens AG Aura 65
Daylite Pack

 Daylite

Daylite

 Aura AG 65

Aura AG 65

Columbia

Columbia is a recommendation I give out to everyone who needs a piece of gear that’s relatively cheap and also functional, not to mention that their pants actually fit curvy ladies. Lately, Columbia has taken great strides in creating recycled products. Specifically their “outdry ex eco jacket that is made from 100% recycled polyester. Their website has a plethora of information about their stances on environmental issues and what collaborations they are a part of that share their sustainable manufacturing approach. I like the design of most of their products and if you are broke but need a cute fleece for a camping trip, some of their designs are reminiscent of Patagonia *wink wink*.

Favorites:
Back Beauty Skinny Pant
Saturday Trail Stretch Pant

Vasque

Vasque boots are seriously the best. You ever buy a pair of shoes for a special trip and then they hurt your feet for the entire weekend? You won't have to deal with that if you buy a pair of Vasque boots. I bought a pair for a backpacking trip, shipped them overnight, and wore them on the trail the next day. No blisters, no pain, no nothing. I cannot recommend them enough and believe me, finding shoes that fit my super wide feet is a rare occurrence. This brand has a new "for life" customer. Vasque is a part of parent company Red Wing Shoe Company which I don't happen to own any work boots, but I know the reputation they hold. Unfortunately there isn't much about sustainability on either Vasque or Red Wing's websites, but they are made in the USA

Favorites:
Talus Ultradry

 Vasque Talus UltraDry

Vasque Talus UltraDry

Those are six brands that I tend to buy from when I need something brand new, but I am a HUGE used buyer. I scour second hand websites for specific pieces of gear before I turn to the actual company's website to place an order.

Ebay has what I need 90% of the time and for a massive discount. Just be sure to search with as many specific terms as you can, and check a seller’s feedback history. It so much better to buy used instead of putting new pieces into the world.

Another good marketplace for outdoor gear is Gear Trade. It’s basically ebay for outdoor items. I’ve even sold a couple things there. It’s not the most well designed website out there, but it works and I’ve had great luck buying and selling.

In the age of “fast fashion” and “planned obsolescence it’s seriously important to purchase with intent. Only buy when you need it, buy used if you can, and make sure what you’re buying doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet or on society, and buy a product that will last. Some may think that’s a hassle, but honestly, if you can make a small change, pay a few dollars more, and have an item that will last more than one season, what’s the harm in that?