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11 cool brands for outdoor clothes and gear

Are these some of the coolest outdoor clothing brands you’ve never heard of? And is that woman wearing a fruit-bowl on her head?

We’ve been testing everything from walking trousers to cycle helmets and from backpacks to everlasting socks.

Latest update: November 2020

Two perfect ponchos for hiking, biking and camping

The People’s Poncho

Brilliantly designed ponchos for cycling and walking .

Clever fastening straps and total waterproofness. They fold up into the front zip pocket for portability, have a peaked hood and weigh less than 500g.

Four colours and cost around £65 at Wildbounds (where there’s also usually a discount on offer too).

The Rubbastuff poncho (and step-mum)

Here I am testing the Rubbastuff Pacmat poncho on a weird walk (and even weirder rest) with my step-mum.

This poncho is pretty perfect. Waterproof, soft inside, straps to keep it attached to bike handlebars or a pram handle, rolls up small, nice colours and you can spread it out for a picnic mat. Great.

You can stash your rucksack underneath, there are reflective bits for night-time…oh, and the hood works. It’s very adjustable and has a peak. Around £45.

 

Baselayers worth showing off

Ziplongs from Northern Playground

A base or mid layer you can take off without removing your boots or outer trousers. Ingenious!

 

So, dress up warm in the morning and then zip ’em off as the hike, ski or cycle heats you up. Ziplongs come in full and 3/4 length, in wool and microfleece and for men and women. From around £40.

Bamboo Clothing

Soft, breathable, environmentally friendly…and lots of great lyering tops, hoodies, running clothes and more.

Clothes from Bamboo Clothing are, as the name suggests, usually made from natural bamboo, but there are also linen and ethical merino mixes too.

We love their cushioned sports socks and their long-sleeved tops. Nice underwear as well, plastic-free packaging and a good clearance section on their website.

For the cyclists

Closca bike helmets

Unlike any other bike helmet, the Closca folds down and opens up to something akin to a horse-riding helmet or even a beautiful Swedish fruit bowl…almost. Not cheap at around £60, but lovely, fits in a bag and very protective.

Ventilated, adjustable, CPSC & EN1078 international safety certifications and a two-year warranty. Available in black, grey or white with contrast accents. Sizes M and L.

Bike ‘sock’ cleverness

Stretchy, beautiful and fits all bikes, these ‘sock’ bike covers are designed to keep your bike’s muck out of the car, the campervan or the house.

 

If you don’t like peacock feathers, there are plenty of patterns and plain colours, plus full covers as well as bottom-half ones.

 

Velosock are the best, but around £65. Go for plainer British-made Bike Bra as a £20 alternative.

 

All the socks you’ll ever need

Horizon Socks

We love Horizon Socks’ bamboo, merino and cotton socks. Have a look at their range at WildBounds.

Horizon Socks are engineered in Italy and tested in Britain.

Skinners

Socks that are shoes that are swimming footwear. All in one clever design.

Skinners are hard-wearing socks with a flexible sole that’s strong enough for you to wear outside and even on rough terrain (sharp rocks will still hurt!). They’re great as in-the-house slip-proof slippers, for watersports, for gym and yoga classes and for just about anywhere. Around £45 and a range of sizes and colours.

Darn Tough

The only socks you’ll ever need. I have to admit I’d stayed clear of trying these made-in Vermont socks because of the price (around £15 upwards). Then I found out that they’re guaranteed for LIFE!

 

And that makes them the cheapest socks you’ll ever buy. With that hurdle passed, you can indulge yourself in their softness, their cushiony comfort and their fabulous range of patterns and colours.

We love the company’s phrase: “Nobody ever outsourced for quality” – says so much about all that cheap and nasty camping gear we come across. Their merino wool is ethically sourced from known suppliers too.

Here are the feet I love most (despite being a bit hobbit-like) in some much-admired Darn Tough socks.

There are ranges for men, women and children, for hiking, skiing, sports and everyday. The “unconditional guarantee” states: “unconditional lifetime guarantee is simple and without strings or conditions. If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair.”

Cool shoes and practical shoes

Vivo Barefoot

The most minimal, lightweight, comfortable and cool-looking shoes just happen to be pretty good for your feet too.

Vivo make shoes that allow your feet to move and breathe as if you were barefoot. There are running shoes, hiking boots, streetwear and all-round trainer types – for men and women.

They won’t suit everyone’s feet. If you have no arches or a serious foot problem that requires a lot of support, you might not find these help. For most of us, though, they give a fantastic sense of freedom that makes you want to hop, skip and jump.

There are some non-leather options for vegans, some that come with a training insole to get you used to the feel and some with a choice of sole for firm or soft ground. Plus amphibious running shoes (for walking on water?!)

Shoes from around £100, but more for the top of the range!

On-off shoes with comfort

We’ve been recommending the Dirt Boot shoes for all that in-and-out of tents and vans, but we’ve just discovered the Toffeln range of professional quality clogs and shoes. Brilliant!

Lightweight, waterproof, proper insoles and non-slip grips. Go for the higher-back clogs with back strap or the closed shoe. Both easy to get on, but won’t leave your feet half way to the toilet block. Around £40 and way better than Crocs. Oh, and men’s and women’s sizes plus lots of colours.

Locally made bags and packs with real class

Restrap

Made by real people in real Leeds, Restrap makes beautifully finished backpacks, bags, cycle straps and more with a thought for sustainable materials.

Millican

Based in Keswick in the Lake District, Millican make backpacks and accessories out of natural and recycled materials.

 

The range is very minimal in style and beautifully made. All hardware is lightweight aluminium – no plastic.

Buy direct from them and support a small business. Prices aren’t cheap but you’re buying long-lasting packs from an ethical business.

Voited…environmentally friendly and VERY cool

We came across Voited when looking for a lightweight insulated blanket for camping trips. 

We were after something that packed reasonably small, had good insulation and withstood damp and drizzle.

Voited’s blankets have it all and more. Use them as a blanket, a wraparound, a sleeping bag and a pillow. Plus they’re made of recycled fabric.

There’s a choice of gorgeous designs and colours (I have the Bahia), as well as models with a fleecy lining. From around £90.

Voited also do camping in-out insulated slippers, coats and caps. Keep an eye on them as they add even more to the range.

A Voited blanket transforms from this…to this…

Got any favourites? Let us know below. And we’ll keep adding as we discover more brands that know how to style as well as keep us warm, cool and active.

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