The Best In Outdoor Brands
Providing the basis of many practical wardrobes as the pioneers of technical fabrics and leaders in developing new construction techniques, outdoor brands have transitioned from catering solely to outdoor enthusiasts to now being considered go-to brands for versatile all-terrain styling. Established names such as Patagonia, Gramicci, Klättermusen and Columbia each have their own story to tell and were commonly founded by individuals passionate about the great outdoors seeking products that would cater to their active lifestyles and protective needs, but were lacking across the market during the 20th century. Similarly, more contemporary labels such as Kavu and Topo Designs have followed in the footsteps of these iconic labels to introduce their own take on classic styles of yesteryear, crafted with modern materials with consideration to coast to coast styling and inner city lifestyles. Unknowingly making history with their DIY approach to solving issues within apparel, luggage and climbing accessories, the impact each founder has upon both the design and sporting world continues to be made.
As one of the father figures in modern rock climbing culture, the roots of Gramicci can be traced back to Yosemite, California during the 1970’s where a collective of off-grid climbing friends gathered together and continually broke records, personal limitations and the law to fuel their passion for reaching new and dangerous peaks. Known as The Stonemasters, the initial collective included names such as Rick Accomazzo, Dale Bard, Jim Bridwell, Dean Fidelman, Richard Harrison and Lynn Hill, as well as brand founder Mike Graham, to name but a few. As teenagers the collective initially started climbing peaks close to their homes of Joshua Tree, before seeking higher feats in Yosemite National Park where they gained a reputation as free spirits and borderline outlaws whose addiction to climbing took them away from societal norms but ultimately led them to be the founders of modern day big wall climbing. Donning bandanas, cut off shorts and surfer style t-shirts, the impact The Stonemasters had on climbing can almost be equalised to the associated movement surrounding laid back clothing choices, which have come full circle within current trends. The first product Graham developed, a compact and collapsible portaledge, was created to aid longer pursuits by removing the need to climb back down to seek shelter and rest. Finding success after selling out of his garage, attention was soon brought to creating shorts tailored especially for rock climbing with a durable finish, integrated webbing belt, deep-reach pockets and crotch insert that allows for a 180 degree range of movement. Like many innovators, Graham was unable to find anything suitable on the market and set out to create his own. Popular within climbing and surf communities, the Gramicci G-Shorts and accompanying longer length Gramicci Original G-Pants withstand repetitive wear and have ceased to diminish in appeal for outdoor enthusiasts of today. Reinterpreted in cotton twill variations and lightweight nylon editions, the original impact of these custom details are continually made through their inclusion year after year.
As a fellow climber of Yosemite and Stoney Point, California, the same spirit of adventure assisted in Yvon Chouinard’s launch of Patagonia. Perhaps best known for their pioneering methods when it comes to sustainability, Patagonia began as a DIY run of rugby shirts and reusable climbing equipment that could be removed from the roc, as opposed to permanent, wasteful and damaging fixtures common of the time. Passionate about surfing, rock climbing and fly fishing, initial designs by Chouinard were brought into production during the 1970’s and offered practical solutions for movement and abrasion resistance that could be worn for a variety of activities. Never failing to impress with an abundance of technically driven designs each season, for challenging weather conditions the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket is one of the best examples of the brand’s commitment to sustainability which they combine with a thorough understanding of the technical needs of outdoor adventurers. Constructed with Patagonia’s own 3-layer waterproof H2No Performance Standard shell and with a ECONYL 100% recycled-nylon ripstop face for added water-repellent durability, the construction follows Fair Trade Certification in support of fair wages and features an abundance of carefully selected details that allow you to lock in the fit during any active outdoor setting. As seen on the left side of the chest, the Patagonia logo shows a stylised illustration of the famous Monte Fitz Roy peak located in Patagonia on the border of Argentina and Chile which is proudly screen printed across a range of Patagonia P-6 Logo Responsibili-Tee T-Shirt designs in a variety of colour tones which are noted as 100% recycled. As one of the most memorable climbing pursuits of Chouinard in 1968, direct inspiration from the summit continues to flow throughout seasonal Patagonia collections and has become an iconic image within both the outdoor and streetwear industries. The first outdoor clothing manufacturer to transform waste materials into fleece- notable on contemporary the Patagonia Better Sweater™ Fleece Jacket - Patagonia continues to take their environmental impact seriously and for Spring 2021 has stated that 84% of their polyester fabrics are made with recycled polyester, resulting in CO₂e emissions being declared by 14% compared to virgin polyester fabrics. Hoping to share their knowledge with others for encouragement and practical expertise, Patagonia also offers a selection of publications that tell the stories of legendary climbers, professional athletes and the business lessons of Yvon Chouinard with titles such as Fred Beckey's 100 Fav North American Climbs and The New Alpinism Training Log - Steve House & Scott Johnston.
Based in Colorado and specialising in backpacks with timeless appeal, Topo Designs was launched through necessity by founders Jedd Rose and Mark Hansen in 2008 following Rose’s experiences creating backpacks at his home in Fort Collins. Initially a bag company with a vision to provide travel basics and essentials that can be taken from the mountains to the city, ongoing inspiration is drawn from the founding duo’s Colorado surroundings, as well as original luggage designs from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Recognisable through the use of bright bursts of colour and clean, contemporary finishes, Topo Designs appeals to those seeking more vibrant outdoor accessories that retain a balance between performance, function and style. Constructed from fabrics such as 12oz canvas and technical nylon taslans with durable water repellent finishes, Topo Designs bags are built using the highest quality materials and talented craftspeople that understand the importance of creating versatile, long lasting goods with as long lifespan as possible. For use anywhere in the world, accompanying apparel styles with the same intention expand upon the brand’s offering with a translated aesthetic and characteristics visible on designs such as the Topo Designs Subalpine Jacket; a twin-layered staple with an integrated grid pattern for a particularly striking effect. As an extension of their love for the great outdoors and support of like minded brands, the recent Topo Designs x Keen Footwear collaboration incorporates elements from two consciously minded labels who have built identities surrounding outdoor activities. Appearing in a familiar turquoise tone paired with bright yellow which have become firm favourites of Topo Designs since their inception, the Topo Designs x Keen River Backpack pays homage to ‘80s era pack gear and mountaineering equipment with a resilient 100D nylon outer, 420D nylon pack-cloth interior and multi use mesh outer pockets.
As one of the earliest and most established outdoor brands, Columbia Sportswear provides its international market of fans and adventure enthusiasts with made-for-life gear crafted using industry-leading technologies which are thoroughly tested in relevant situations prior to release. Established in 1938 by Gert Boyle’s father as a small hat manufacturer following his family’s flee to Portland from Nazi Germany, the company was passed to Gert in 1970 which saw her life jump from being a housewife to a business executive with little warning. Holding memorably high standards which have continued to flow through the brand following her passing in 2019, Columbia’s passion for the great outdoors remains, as does their base in the Pacific Northwest where the rich landscape and varied terrain proves to be of constant inspiration. Having revolutionised how alpine skiers dress with their infamous Bugaboo™ parka introduced in 1986, sports such as fishing, hunting, climbing, gold and running are catered to through Columbia products with a baseline encouragement of just getting outside into the fresh air with friends. Taking note from contemporary trends to ensure their performance-focused aesthetic is in tune with ongoing hybrid performance sportswear and streetwear, new styles such as the Columbia Challenger Windbreaker Jacket have stand out appeal in a contrasting panelled design with a wind and rain resistant outer. Easily packable and super lightweight, this particular outerwear design perfectly demonstrates Columbia’s expertise in offering the right level of multifunctional outdoor protection. Tying in with more casual variations on key Columbia Sportswear designs, which for the new season feature further colour block decoration and stylised brand logos, the tonal Columbia Back Bowl Lightweight Fleece is reminiscent of vibrant styles from the 1980’s and early 1990’s with a simplistic zippered chest fastening, signature Columbia lettering to one side and neat elasticated trims that together result in an easy-go to for comfort, bulk-free insulation and relaxed everyday layering.
Giving us a taste of Sweden’s Northern region where snow capped peaks and vast waterfalls make for rich, abundant nature and greenery, Klättermusen was founded by avid climber, cave diver and biologist Peter Askluv in 1975. Using his knowledge of biology and chemistry obtained from the study of plants and physiology, Aslkluv translated this to fabrics to create innovative, technical designs with the incentive of “maximum safety for you, minimum impact on nature”. Perhaps one of the originators of the sustainability movement, nowadays Klättermusen are known for proudly carrying the title of producing ‘the world’s most refined mountaineering equipment’. Familiar with the notoriously harsh conditions that the region is met with throughout the year, Klättermusen remains committed to the creation of hard-wearing outdoor focused clothing and accessories such as duffel bags and backpacks that allow keen adventurers to continue to achieve their goals. Favouring earth inspired tones such as blue sapphire, copper green russet and sulphur raven in homage to the brand’s original influence, a focus on lightweight coverage ensures relevant production through the warmer months with styles such as the vibrant Klattermusen Ansur Wind Vest which can be utilised as a windproof and breathable base layer below the insulating Klattermusen Alv Jacket, constructed using a PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ partly recycled fill. Not ones to over decorate or over fuss their designs to consciously remove themselves from trend driven characteristics, even the name ‘Klättermusen’ was chosen to avoid people buying items from a brand based on a ‘cool name’ and translates to ‘Mountain Mouse’. Dedicated to focusing on the purposeful impact of each individual design as opposed to a fashion statement, Klättermusen select materials that are easy to repair in favour of lessening their environment impact and that of their customers and in 2017 become the first outdoor brand in history to introduce a 100% fluorocarbon-free collection. Having used organic cotton and nylon from recycled fishing nets since the early 00’s, much like the mouse they have based their name on, Klättermusen is quietly creating some of the best goods around and never ceases to waver on quality.
For those that enjoy the nature as much as co-founders and brothers Roy and Ryan Seider do, Austin based YETI has swiftly become an internationally identified outdoor brand that inventively utilises a combination of science and traditional design knowledge to create hard wearing coolers and travel equipment that are not just built to last, but built to thrive. Established in 2006, the brand’s original ode to the remote corners of the wilderness finds itself contemporarily evolved to meet the impositions of modernised city and suburban living. Withstanding repetitive use across a variety of activities and tasks, the ThickSkin™ Yeti Camino Carryall 35 Bag is designed to offer a performative advancement on the iconic tote silhouette to help keep perishables, beachside edibles and refreshments stored in a waterproof and durable manner whilst travelling from A to B, whilst its smaller Yeti Hopper Flip 12 Soft Cooler combines a DryHide™ shell with Coldcell™ and Hydrolok™ technology as a means of honouring the brand’s field sport foundation and the design’s all season, all terrain function. Larger rotomolded and Fatwall™ insulated designs such as the 35 and Tundra 45 Hard Cooler cater to more demanding settings without concession, whilst everyday essentials such as the Yeti Rambler Tumbler 20oz and the 26oz Rambler Bottle keep the outdoor brand’s enthusiasm for explorative endeavours well tuned to the necessities of contemporary living thanks to their double-walled insulation and their compact delineation.
When each individual brand whose historical impact and legacy continues to expand year upon year, the development of new outdoor-driven goods are important not just for business progression but for the sake of inspiring the next generation to get outside, remember those who set the mark for others and share their experiences; all whilst being conscious of nature and the playground it provides us with. Moving forward into the rest of 2021, expect an increase in sustainably driven materials and progressive new ways to incorporate recycled waste, alongside ongoing celebrations to the world these brands create and share with their global communities.
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