Let’s face it, when it comes to outdoor clothing brands, the options are infinite with everything from budget-focused brands to sustainable and high-end backcountry specialists. After years of experience, and testing a wide range of hiking, camping and general outdoor apparel, I’ve found a handful of brands that I tend to gravitate toward.
For those looking to save some time from scouring to all ends of the outdoor gear aisles, here are six of my favorite outdoor brands and their specific apparel items that you may want to give a try.
Kuhl is one of the few privately owned and independent outdoor companies and have an array of apparel options. In regard to fabrics and production, their materials are recycled and sourced sustainably whenever possible, and any leftover material or scrap fabric is donated to local schools for use in educational programs.
While I have not tried every type of apparel they offer, what I have tried is their pants and it was a relief to find them. Of all the apparel items to shop for, finding pants that fit well is among the most difficult challenges, which made finding Kuhl’s hiking line that much more exciting. One thing I love about their pants is that they don’t wear out quickly and are long-lasting; an important requirement when shopping for outdoor gear.
Product Highlight: FreeFlex Roll-Up Pant
I can’t say exactly how many different pairs of outdoor pants I’ve tried on in the past on my journey to finding these but it was tiresome and frustrating.
For outdoor pants I have a few requirements that I always look for, the first and most obvious is fit and feel. Made of lightweight Polyester with a water-resistant and moisture-wicking finish these feel exactly like what you’d expect outdoor apparel to feel like. Probably one of my favorite aspects about this fit is that they are designed with fabric that stretches and rebounds to maintain their form and cut to be mid-rise in the front, and contour into a high-rise pant in the back. This means you can squat, lunge, sit and climb without needing to readjust or pull up your pants after each time you stand.
My next requirement is pockets and these provide standard front pockets as well as snap closure back and thigh pockets that can actually fit a full-size phone, keys or camera lens cap.
Another nice addition is that these come in a variety of colors. For $99.00 each, you can grab whichever color your heart desires for your signature outdoor look, allowing you to be effortlessly outdoor chic.
UPF 50+ Sun Protection
Snap secured pant leg roll-up feature
Relaxed leg fit
When it comes to shopping amongst brands that incorporate sustainability, comfort and style can sometimes be sacrificed for the cause. After years of wearing a variety of belts for outdoor recreation as well as for everyday use, I am beyond thrilled that my husband introduced me to this brand. Arcade belts contain no holes, so they are custom fitting and are also super flexible. In addition to their belts being lightweight and durable, all of their stretch belts are all made from REPREVE® post-consumer recycled yarn, making them sustainable and carbon footprint reducing.
For me to appreciate a nice belt there are a few things I look for; a flat lay buckle that won’t show under everyday clothes, soft edges that won’t dig into my sides or stomach when sitting, and a buckle that is not made of nickel (I’m allergic to nickel and cannot count the number of times a buckle has left its mark on my stomach.) The Arcade belts check off all of these requirements.
As far as style goes, from everyday belt to adventure outing accessory, their variety of colors, designs and styles, means that I can include a little nature-inspired design every day. For even more design options, Arcade also has regular brand partnerships to support specific causes and organizations. For this article, Arcade sent me a sample belt from their recent Smokey Bear and Save the Wave partnership lines to review and having seen the designs first hand, I can say that, as usual I am a fan.
Product Highlight: Smokey Bear Collaboration
Whether it’s due to my love of nature or the fact that I grew up in the mountains attending regular Smokey Bear events, when I first saw this collaboration I instantly loved all the designs. This officially-licensed partnership with Smokey Bear includes four designs each retailing for $34.95 with a portion of each sale going toward the nationwide Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention Campaign.
Product Highlight: Save the Waves Conservation Effort
The Save the Waves Coalition, is a non-profit that uses the sport of surfing as a proactive vehicle for protecting the ocean and coastlines. Designed by artist Erik Abel, at initial glance the “tiger print” took me by surprise, however after realizing that the design is actually more of a resemblance to tree rings, I am much more open to the pattern and the colors and additional design details are a fun combination that definitely encompass a coastal surfer vibe. In fact, when I reached out to the designer himself, Abel said, “the STW/Arcade belt design was inspired by the feeling of hiking down a bluff and getting that first glimpse at the waves, only to find that it's absolutely firing with nobody out!”
Selling for $34.95, Arcade donates 10% of every sale to this coastline conservation effort.
Metal-free buckles molded with high-density plastic
Performance stretch for a secure hold with no pinching
A leader in outdoor gear, it should come as no surprise that Patagonia is high on my list of go-to brands. With a history of producing high-quality apparel, Patagonia is a supporter of environmental and conservation efforts and since 1985 has continued to donate 1% of every sale to grassroots environmental groups.
With cooler temperatures now in the forecast, that means layering and preparing to bundle up every time I head outside. Since most of my outdoor adventures includes consistently taking photos I typically am not a fan of constrictive jackets, and as a result, a staple in my outdoor wardrobe for cooler months is always vests. For me, the key to finding the perfect vest is finding one that can keep me warm, but not leave my core feeling sweaty if I hike and move around a lot. I also tend to prefer vests that are not bulky and have pockets that are actually secure and thus useful. Ergo, the better sweater vest.
Product Highlight: Better Sweater Fleece Vest
Made with a sweater-knit exterior, the interior of this vest is moisture-wicking and made from 100% recycled materials. This vest comes in a contoured women’s fit that is somehow the perfect balance of form fitting yet not constrictively tight. Since pockets are always a winning feature for me, I love that the vest includes two exterior zippered handwarmer pockets and deep interior drop-in pockets as well, so you can hold your gear and keep your hands warm without crowding.
Sold for $109.00 this vest comes in a number of colors to mix and match to appease your preferred outdoor and winter style.
Dyed with a low-impact process
Midweight 100% recycled polyester fleece
Front zipper has a kissing-welt closure and hidden wind flap
The benefits and perks of REI are extensive, and although I could probably write an entire paper on my love affair with REI, to keep things relatively brief, I will say this; if you aren’t already, sign up for the Co-op member reward program. As a member you get a slew of perks. Some of my favorites are; you can buy and trade in used gear, you get extra savings during events throughout the year, free bike tire flat repair and snow board/ski machine waxing, free shipping (with some exceptions), and the biggest perk is that as a member, you get 10% back annually on all eligible purchases.
When it comes to apparel, there are quite a few things I could highlight, but to stay on track I will highlight only two items that are a definite favorite of mine. The first is one that I would wear everyday if I could; the hybrid tights.
Product Highlight: REI Co-op Flash Hybrid Tights
As a female, I am quite in tune with the appeal of yoga pants, but when it comes to heading outdoors, especially if you’re planning on hiking or climbing, there’s a much better solution and these hybrid tights from REI are it.
These retail for $74.95, and the combination of soft stretch jersey and durable stretch nylon fabrics, provides breathable comfort that wicks moisture, dries quickly and is abrasion-resistant, which means that scrambling or even sliding down some rocky surfaces isn’t the end of the road for your pants.
Plus, the shape supporting cut allows for a graceful transition from casual walk around the block to outdoor hike, which makes them the perfect all-around pant.
Sun-protective fabric with 50 UPF Rating
Comfortable high-rise 3-layer waistband
Stretch side pocket and zippered side pocket
Product Highlight: REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie
When it comes to my desired shirt of choice, I have always loved tank tops, but when it comes to 90+ degree weather the lack of sun protection is not always preferable, especially as I get older and wiser. Thus, the addition of lightweight coverups into my summer wardrobe has been a relatively new undertaking with some trial and error to find something light enough to remain comfortable in the summer.
This super soft knit fabric wicks away moisture and provides 50+ UPF protection and includes an antimicrobial treatment to keep the fabric clean and fresh during the hotter months. With a handful of pastel-shaded colors, this hoodie sells for $49.95 and is not only a staple for my hiking bag, it has also become my grab-and-go coverup for other outdoor activities from walks to games of tennis, as it actually keeps me cooler when I’m in the hot sun for extended periods of time.
3-panel hood with internal drawstring for sun coverage at the neck
Dropped shoulders provide extra mobility
Thumbholes to hold sleeves in place
I cannot stress the importance of good footwear, especially if you’re on your feet for miles through various terrain. When I first started hiking, my stylish go-to footwear was a pair of knockoff Timberland boots that looked cute, had no support and almost no grip. Being young, I made do, but having upgraded to Merrell hiking boots, I will never go back to anything less.
For those looking for a good all around hiking boot, they are a great option for an affordable boot that is ready to go straight out of the box. Plus, they’re pretty, and come with deep purple accents.
Product Highlight: Women’s Moab 2 Mid Ventilator
When it comes to shoes, new models are always coming out it seems, so since purchasing these, there is a new Moab 3 Mid series, however the Moab 2’s that I have are great and since they are an older model, that means they come in at a lower price point of $120.00 or less if you find them on sale.
Made with a durable synthetic leather and mesh upper and lining, these boots are more breathable than others I have worn, which I have greatly appreciated during warmer summer hikes. Although these boots are a little bit on the heavy side, they are made with a Vibram® rubble sole which provides slip-resistant traction. Additionally, they are made with a removeable contoured footbed that lasted about two years before I pulled them out and replaced them with Superfeet Trailblazer insoles, which made my boots feel like new.
Metal hook with traditional lace closure
Bellows tongue to keep out debris
Protective and abrasion resistant toe cap
So, there you have it. While I am not an expert in outdoor apparel or gear, these are some items I highly recommend from my experience adventuring in the outdoors. Whether you were seeking this information out or merely stumbled upon it while browsing blog posts, I hope you found some of these product highlights helpful and you find some extra style or comfort out on the trail.