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.
We don’t mind saying that this North American company make the absolute best outdoor trousers we’ve come across. They fit fabulously (providing you find your way around the US/UK sizing muddle) and many of the styles are as streetwise as jeans, but with all the versatility and flexibility of outdoor clothing
There are men’s and women’s ranges, though far fewer models make it to the UK than are available in the US and Canada. Let’s put some pressure on them to send us UK-ers a bit more choice!! Tops, jackets and brilliant shorts too.
Here are our favourite trousers. You’ll find a selection on Amazon, plus a range at George Fisher and Gaynors in Cumbria.
Oh my, their backpacks are lovely. And there’s something to suit everyone’s style – from quirky to minimalist. Try the roll-top retro or a bright mini. There are drybags, duffels, camera coolers and even a surfboard bag too. Clothes and kit aren’t as inspiring, but bags are great. Ranges start at around £20 for a stuffable pack.
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.
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.”
Love ’em. Here are some much-loved feet in some much-admired Darn Tough socks.
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.
We gave one of our testers a pair of the Primus Trail to test and she won’t take them off. We’ve now tried the boots too and they’re pretty wonderful. (See our feature on lightweight walking boots for more). Shoes from around £60, but much more for the top of the range!
This company just seems to get it right both in terms of style and in their fantastic environmental and ethical stance. The range is huge and includes jackets, trousers, some very nice backpacks, T-shirts and more. All very minimally designed and with flattering fits.
We really liked their jackets when we were researching for our non-down padded jacket feature.
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 £100, but lovely, fits in a bag and very protective.
Ventilated, adjustable, CPSC & EN1078 international safety certifications and a two-year warranty. Available in black or white.
So, you probably HAVE heard of Tilley hats. They’re famously Canadian and even more famously supplied with a lifetime guarantee. I remember my dad’s delight when he got a replacement Tilley hat in the post after his old one disappeared over the side of a ferry. That’s service!
However, we had thought of them as a bit backcountry staid…definitely not cool. Things have changed and there are now some styles we’d say were more boho than boohoo. Plus, the quality is second-to-none as usual and they come in a good range of sizes.
The Wanderer, for example, is a prewashed hat that looks worn-in and characterful. The Airflo series hats are great for hot weather, though a little more on the traditional safari side. Our favourite, however, is the Dakota, a waxed cotton, vintage style.
Based in Keswick in the Lake District, Millican make packs, bags, travel wallets and packing cubes out of natural and recycled materials. The range is very minimal in style and beautifully made. All hardware is lightweight aluminium – no plastic.
The packing cubes (in three sizes) are made from 100% recycled, waterproof polyester. Choose a big backpack, a camera bag or even a Moleskine cover.