It’s starting to seem like Spring is the new Winter, not only when it comes to climate change, but also in some of the top outerwear brand names you’re likely to come across while playing outdoors.
Are these brands really inspired by the everyday mountain lifestyle, or are they trying to hedge their bets against lamer winters, like Vail Resorts did last week as it opened the first of its massive summer adventure infrastructure on the top of Vail Mountain’s Game Creek Bowl? It must be a burgeoning market though, because even Laird Hamilton jumped in on the trend with his uber-lifestyle inspired apparel this year.
Of course, it’s not to say we don’t love this casual wear, as it’s perfect for hiking, climbing, fishing, mountain biking, bopping around your favorite mountain hamlet in flip flops, and hitting up bonfire parties and dive bars. In other words, it’s all about the lifestyle — in the same way TNF and Patagonia have been making casual wear for 20 years, only now brands are looking at a much younger consumer. And we’ve heard that other core micro-brands like Voormi might be getting into streetwear as well.
Having been doing its own thing for the last seven years in performance ski wear, TREW, Inc., designed a new collection of summer products the company says “live up to the standards of the Hood River lifestyle,” where the company was founded, and mark TREW’s shift from a winter-only brand into a year-round outdoor company. In 2015, TREW moved to a direct-to-consumer model it says was intended to improve its speed to market, maintain a high level of customer engagement, and allow them to introduce new technologies at lower price points.
New products include the men’s and women’s superlight 3-layer BeWild Rain Jacket and the Up Jacket Wind Shirt. The BeWild fabric is packable with lots of stretch, and because of the 3-layer construction, it offers a high level of durability. The BeWild was designed to be a year-round, go-to rain jacket and active shell for mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, trail running, windsurfing, kiteboarding, etc., at $229. The brand was able to work directly with a Japanese mill (Toyota Textiles) to develop a brand new 3-layer fabric. But the unique feature of this piece is the backing: an 8-denier circular knit, vs. the 20-denier tricot knit backing typical for 3-layer shells, thus reducing weight and increasing breathability. The lining also has a smooth and silky hand feel, similar to GORE’s new C-knit, but even lighter.
The Up Jacket wind shirt, $119, is being called by company founder Tripp Frey, “the most versatile garment we’ve ever made — a three-season, super-light nylon rip-stop jacket that blocks wind and fits in your pocket.” Ideal for touring and climbing, Frey took a non-laminated version of the face fabric and added a breathable polyurethane coating to make the ultra-thin fabric windproof but breathable by way of vapor diffusion. The PU coating gives the garment thermal storage capability without adding weight.
And after months of testing, the Superlight NuYarn Merino Pocket T is officially now one of our favorite travel pieces, and an optimal layering piece for outdoor adventure year round, not to mention looking good afterwards. Relatively new to the market, super-fine NuYarn Merino knit is just a little bit stretchier, stronger and faster-drying that other Merinos on the market.
Another cool thing about being small and direct-to-consumer, TREW can do projects like its Chop Shop Softshell, made from upcycled materials off its cutting room floor. The limited edition Chop Shop ($129) came out last fall in a polyester/sorona double-weave fabric that is eco-conscious, high-performance and stylish for a balance of comfort, breathability and weather protection. Sorona is a biopolymer comprised of renewable plant-based ingredients, using 30% less energy and releasing 56% fewer greenhouse gases compared to the production of nylon. The sorona fiber is known for its soft hand-feel and quick drying capability. “When combined in a double-weave with polyester, we can create a high-performance fabric with the softness and touch of natural fiber,” Frey said.
Not to be outdone, ski bum favorite Flylow also came in with a Spring/Summer apparel line this spring (which will expand to Women in Spring 2017), aimed at its same core demographic, just trying to keep the dough flowing all year round. Again, these pieces are made for climbing, biking, and kicking it after a trail run, but without dorking out too much around the campfire or at the pub.
The Anderson Shirt ($60) is already a GI staff favorite, because you can work, ride and party in this thing in the same day, all in an unassuming short sleeve collared shirt. You can even skip the shower between play and work, due to its blend of anti-microbial bamboo and wicking polyester the brand is calling Intuitive IQ fabric, boasting 50 UPF. Metal snaps are guaranteed to drive the ladies wild.
The light, packable and millennial influenced Maclean Windbreaker ($90) comes in handy on mountain bike descents, at the top of a hike, or while trail running during summer thunderstorms, featuring a very basic 100 percent poly fabric (25 denier, DWR treated) to block rain and wind without taking up much room in a pack, and then keep you looking cool afterwards at the watering hole.
Also from Flylow, the Templeton Riding Hoody ($130) is technical enough to bag a peak, but has enough urban style for an après gym or park workout. The polyester hard-faced fleece is breathable and water repellent with a helmet- or trucker hat- compatible hood.
Bottom line is, outdoors folks like us don’t have to rock the zip-off travel pants and photographer vest look after we get off the trail, as more and more of our favorite brands are extending their mountain sensibilities into year-round product offerings.