The outdoor industry has spent millions of dollars creating technical fabrics that are designed to wick moisture, control temperature, and generally keep us comfortable in a variety of environments and weather conditions. But, it turns out that a material that can trace its roots back to the 19th century is one of the hottest fabrics going at the moment as a variety of companies look to create the perfect pair of blue jeans for use on our adventures.
Denim isn’t exactly known for its ability to breathe in warm conditions, it doesn’t have any quick-drying properties, nor does it stretch and move with the body all that well. But, like most cotton-based clothing, it is durable and comfortable to wear, and its use in jeans and jackets has made it one of the most iconic clothing materials ever created.
Over the past couple of years, a number of companies within the outdoor industry have begun exploring denim as a possible fabric for use in active apparel. This has led to a more technical denim that doesn’t hinder movement quite as much and includes some of the features we’ve come to expect from our adventure apparel, most notably improved breathability and a measure of resistance to moisture.
If you’re looking for a pair of active jeans to wear while hiking, traveling, or climbing, here are a few options that are currently or nearly available.
Available in both a slim and athletic fit, Boulder Denim jeans were amongst the first to hit the market after a successful crowdfunding campaign back in 2015. The idea for these pants came about when the founders of the company struggled to find good, durable apparel that they could wear to the climbing gym and then out for drinks and dinner afterwards. These jeans feature excellent stretch retention, hydrophobic properties, and reinforced stitching where you need it most. They are also stain resistant and include a zippered trap pocket to keep your valuables safe, even when hanging upside on a bouldering problem. Price: $148
Dish & Duer
Dish & Duer was founded back in 2013 on the idea of creating athletic blue jeans that could be worn while cycling. Since then, the company has gone on to create a full line of products for both men and women, although its catalog of denim jeans remains at the core of its business. D&D offers a variety of excellent blue jeans with different cuts, colors, and technical properties to meet the needs of its customers. The company says that its proprietary fabrics make its jeans 30% lighter than traditional denim pants, while remaining more durable as well. Those same fabrics also feature wicking and cooling properties, as well as antimicrobial elements to help fight odor. Price: $129-$139.
The new kid on the block is Backcountry Denim, which recently launched its blue jeans on Kickstarter. Like similar products from other companies, these pants offer plenty of stretch capabilities to enhance mobility when taking part in an active outdoor sport. But what truly separates these jeans from the competition is the use of Dyneema, one of the strongest fabrics every created. With 15 times the strength of steel cables (by weight), this gives the Backcountry jeans a level of durability that should be above and beyond what you’ll find elsewhere. They’ll begin shipping in September at a price of $160 but can be preordered now for $99 exclusively through Kickstarter.
Like other brands using denim to create outdoor-focused jeans, reDEW is incorporating four-way stretch fabrics, organic cotton, and advanced construction techniques to offer a better product. But beyond that, the company is also highly focused on making garments that are good for the planet too. The reDEW manufacturing process uses less water and chemicals, and dramatically reduces the amount of waste that typically comes with making a pair of blue jeans, of which 1 billion are made each year industry wide. The company has also pledged 25% of its annual profits to support international conservation efforts. The jeans will begin shipping in the fall of 2017 with an MSRP of $150.
Proving that a great pair of jeans doesn’t have to be made just out of denim, Thunderbolt Sportswear offers the Original Jean – Mark II. This pant utilizes Shoeller Dryskin soft shell fabrics instead, which deliver a high degree of breathability, quick-drying properties, and wind and water resistance too. The four-way stretch material is a nylon, polyester, and spandex blend that is bluesign certified to be ecologically friendly. Price: $200.