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Great Changes Coming to Outdoor Gear

Two of our Walk2Connect Cooperative Member-Owners, Chris and Darcy, dove into the giant Outdoor Retailer show in Denver the last weekend of January to check out new trends in active living gear. Three major themes jumped out at us as we explored hundreds of booths at the Colorado Convention Center: urban hiking is on trend, sustainability sells, and finding clothes that fit is about to get easier.

Theme 1: Urban Hiking is On Trend

Look for new colors and styles in Keen’s Terradora and Targhee models. Photo by Chris Englert, urbanhikingden.com.

Shoe retailers Keen and Dansko are onto the hottest and fastest growing segment in the hiking niche of the outdoor space: urban hiking! Keen even had a special display called “Urban Hiking for the Family.” Watch for new colors in the Terradora line, a push of their EvoFits for the summer, and a new style in their Targhees.

Dansko has a super line for hard surface walkers and hikers. Photo credit: Chris Englert, urbanhikingden.com.

It was great to see Dansko breaking into the urban hiking space with their Paisley line. We’re most familiar with Dansko as a comfortable clog preferred by the allied health industries, but their urban hiker is striking and ready to take aim at real city, street, and hard surface walking.

Theme 2: Sustainability Sells

One of the greatest benefits of walking, as compared to other outdoor pursuits, is that it’s affordable. All you really need for a walk are the basics: comfortable shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, maybe a hat and some sunscreen, and a few snacks to keep you moving. And while there’s no shortage of new performance fabric layers and high-tech outerwear on the market, it’s encouraging to see many companies returning to basics and advocating reuse, repair and reduced waste of outdoor gear. That mindset meshes beautifully with the walking lifestyle, embraced by many who want to decrease their impact on the planet while reaping the rewards of outdoor activity.

Reduce, Reuse, Fix!

Patagonia is perhaps the best-known clothing company to actively assist customers in extending the life of their gear. At Outdoor Retailer, the Patagonia booth featured an employee with a sewing machine, fixing damaged clothes on site. In addition to fixing anything customers want repaired, the company also offers a Worn Wear program, which puts gently used Patagonia clothing back on the market at a reduced price.

Patagonia fixes your stuff and recycles it too! Photo credit: Darcy Kitching.

Patagonia co-founded the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which supports environmentally sound materials sourcing and supply-chain practices in the apparel, footwear and textiles industry. The banner in the Patagonia booth seemed to speak to both levels of the company’s philosophy, from individual pieces to industry practices writ large: “If it’s broke, fix it!”

Even smaller companies can have a big impact on the way we use our active gear. Invented by accountant and outdoor enthusiast Kelli Jones in 2015, Noso Puffy Patches offer a fashionable, no-sew solution perfect for fixing jackets, backpacks, pants and outdoor fabrics of all kinds. They come in many shapes and sizes, from lightning bolts to lions, stars to hearts. The company advocates repair and reuse over replacement of gear, aiming to help customers keep clothing out of landfills for good. Best of all, Noso patches are made in Wyoming, reducing not only the number of jackets that get tossed out, but production emissions, too.

Get Comfy!

Locally sourced bamboo clothing is great for walking. Photo credit: Darcy Kitching.

 

Of course, staying comfortable in your outdoor gear is key to making walking a natural way of life. We loved meeting Roxi Suger, owner and designer of the Angelrox clothing brand, and learning about her American-made, sustainably sourced bamboo basics. Angelrox features simple, beautiful pieces women can layer for walking just about anywhere. The soft fabrics pack well, too, making them ideal for active vacations or work trips. Roxi and her team design and manufacture Angelrox clothing in Maine, reducing emissions and keeping waste to a minimum. It is available online or in select boutiques around the country.

Other brands that source and produce outdoor gear sustainably right here in the United States include sock companies Darn Tough and Farm to Feet – two top-notch partners for all-weather walkers. Both brands focus on durability, aiming to keep their wool-blend socks out of landfills and on your feet as long as possible.

Theme 3: Finding Clothes that Fit is About to Get Easier

Back in 2012, Business Insider reported that 67% of women are plus-sized. But if you walk into your local outdoor retailer, their inventory certainly doesn’t reflect this statistic. Typical stores have racks and racks of colors, cuts, and shapes for the 0-14 sized women, but when viewing the plus-sized category, it’s slim pickings. That’s about to change.

Good Job REI, Columbia and Prana

We’d like to throw major kudos out to REI for leading the charge with their women-focused marketing campaigns and for their leadership in encouraging outdoor apparel companies to serve women who want to look great while urban hiking.

REI will be coming out with an expanded selection of REI-branded apparel in the spring for their plus-sized customers. And what we love is that they aren’t calling it “Plus.” They just want to you to “Find your Fit,” and – double bonus – they will NOT charge extra for larger-sized clothing.

Kudos also goes to Columbia for being a leader in this space for over 20 years. They, too, are expanding the colors, shapes and styles for their plus-sized customers, not limiting choice to particular sizes. And let’s not forget Prana. Starting next year, they, too, will expand their product lines into the plus category. And get this: they will not just upsize their current fits. They’re using real models with real proportions wearing real clothes. Isn’t that refreshing?

Overwhelmed, Yet Excited

Even though the Outdoor Retailer show was overwhelming, taking over the entire Colorado Convention Center, the three themes of urban hiking, sustainability, and fit came through clearly. We were thrilled to attend, and more importantly, we were super excited that the show has come to Denver and will be back in July. We can’t wait to see how these themes grow and how Keen, Patagonia, Dansko, REI, Angelrox, Prana, Farm to Feet and all of the other great outdoor-industry brands include walking and urban hiking in their future plans.

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One Response to “Great Changes Coming to Outdoor Gear”

  1. Thanks for making time to attend this event and then share all the great information!

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