You’ve got everything planned out for your next winter adventure: hiking trails, transport, sleeping arrangements, etc. But wait, there’s still one more important thing to do: buy suitable outdoor clothing.
Thankfully, there are lots of top outdoor clothing brands on the market to help you get dressed for your next winter adventure. To help you with your search, we picked out the 10 best outdoor clothing brands in 2021. We selected brands with a mix of price ranges, styles, and materials. We selected some of the biggest and best outdoor brands in the world as well as a few niche brands we just had to tell you about. While we deliberately went for a diverse range of brands, we only picked brands offering the best-quality outdoor clothing and avoided low-quality budget options. Why? Because when you’re up the top of a mountain with no signal, you want to know your winter clothing will give you what you paid for.
Founded in 1968 to supply climbers, The North Face has grown to become a fashion label in its own right. These days, it’s just as common to see people wearing The North Face jackets in bars and parks as it is on the summits of mountains. Reasons for The North Face’s mainstream success include the comfort and style of their apparel as well as the familiarity of their logo (which draws inspiration from Half Dome at Yosemite National Park). But rest assured, if it’s high-quality outdoor clothing apparel you’re after, The North Face is as good as any option on the market.
Patagonia was founded only 5 years after The North Face and has been its main rival for the title of best outdoor clothing brand ever since. The debate over Patagonia vs. The North Face is much like those over Coke vs. Pepsi, Nike vs. Adidas, and Nintendo vs. Sony. In fact, Business Wars, the popular podcast on business rivalries, actually did a 7-part series on the Patagonia-North Face rivalry. Truth be told, it’s a flip of the coin between these 2, and ultimately it depends on your fashion preferences. If it’s quality, comfort, reliability, and a growing focus on sustainable manufacturing, then Patagonia has you covered.
The first entry on our list from outside the U.S, Kathmandu is a New Zealand-headquartered company offering the best-quality outdoor clothing at a fraction of the price of its bigger rivals. With almost 200 stores in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, Kathmandu recently announced its first stores in the U.S.–and it already serves most of the United States through its website. While its apparel isn’t as iconic as The North Face or Patagonia, it does the job just as well. Plus, it was focusing on sustainable clothing well before other big names in the industry. Kathmandu is actually a certified B Corporation, meaning it meets the highest social and environmental standards possible for a private company.
Unsurprisingly for a Canadian outdoor clothing brand, Arc’teryx is a specialist in making apparel for technical pursuits–especially winter ones. If you’re looking for an outdoor clothing brand that will fit you out from top to bottom for your next skiing or hiking trip, then it’s hard to look past Arc’teryx. Over the years, Arc'teryx has built a reputation for producing apparel that’s warm, lightweight and also great-looking–a winning combination for an outdoor clothing company.
Columbia actually started out as a family-owned hat distributor in Portland in the 1930s, but gradually morphed into the outerwear and sportswear giant it is today. Not surprisingly for a company from Portland–the city with the third-most rainy days in the U.S., after Rochester, NY, and Buffalo, NY–Columbia Sportswear products do a superb job of shielding you from the elements. The best thing about Columbia Sportswear is that it has pretty much everything you need for the outdoors, from specialist gear for hiking, skiing, and fishing through to everyday gear you can wear in the city. In terms of price, Columbia is a mid-range option.
Jack Wolfskin is in some ways the Columbia of Europe, in that it’s up there with the best mid-range outdoor clothing brands. Like Columbia, Jack Wolfskin covers the whole range of outdoor products–from heavyset jackets and apparel that you can take to the top of a mountain to packable, lightweight jackets you could comfortably wear out in the city. Like many of the companies on our list of best outdoor clothing brands, Jack Wolfskin is attentive to sustainability and the environment. In fact, it has a strong range of sustainable products built on 100% recycled materials from technology developed in-house.
South Korea is a land of high-tech products–from electronics manufacturers like Samsung to hybrid and electric vehicle producers like Kia to high-tech outdoor clothing brands like BlackYak. Put simply, BlackYak is at the cutting edge of outdoor clothing. Its lab-tested, proprietary innovations include the Yax Box-Wall, a construction for down jackets which decouples the cold exterior of a textile from the insulation layer; Yak Flow, which keeps wind-chill and heat loss at a minimum, maximizing the transfer of moisture through the textile; and Yak Hooks, a unique design that adds visual appeal to the cuff area of its garments. BlackYak products are super expensive, but it’s worth it for the best-quality outdoor clothing.
For people who love winter adventures but oppose animal cruelty, most outdoor clothing brands pose a problem. That’s because outdoor clothing traditionally includes lots of materials sourced from animals such as goose down and fur. Thankfully, a range of animal-free clothing brands have popped up in recent years, and Save the Duck is one of the best. Save the Duck has a number of product lines, including Icons, from animal-free high-tech fabrics, Recycled, from 100% recycled plastic bottles, Ocean, from 100% recycled nylon from fishing nets and other waste materials, and Pro-Tech, high-tech clothing for the toughest conditions.
Another of the top outdoor clothing brands making a difference is Sweden’s Houdini, which focuses on developing the highest-standard natural and sustainable materials. The company’s philosophy is “less is more”, and like a true Scandinavian company it uses minimalistic designs stripped of all unnecessary details. In a recent announcement Houdini said it had reached its goal of having 100% of its fabrics come from recycled, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable, or Bluesign-certified materials.
Founded in 1889, Carhartt is the oldest company on our list of best outdoor brands in the world. While it's known as much for its work clothes as its outdoor clothes, the reason for its inclusion is simple: its products have a century-long reputation for durability. Carhartt is renowned for its wind-resistant, heavy-duty work jackets which serve outdoorsmen. More recently, it has expanded into general streetwear that is sturdy, durable, comfortable, and weatherproof.
As this list shows, we are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to the best outdoor jacket brands. We could only include 10 brands in our list, but we considered 20-30 brands overall. The innovations and advancements in outerwear technology are only going to get better–and we as consumers stand to reap the benefits.