Living in Canada has its perks. Universal healthcare, mostly very nice people, a penchant for apologizing for everything, the best hockey players in the world, and of course, copious amounts of maple syrup. But the one thing that’s not so great is the weather. It gets cold up here. It’s not just a trope or stereotype. And since we still have to go outside, and not just to engage in winter sports or adventures, we’ve become well acquainted with buying and wearing apparel from some of the best outdoor clothing brands in the world. Despite being a relatively small manufacturing country on the world scene, we’ve even managed to start a few outdoor clothing brands like Arc’teryx, Canada Goose, Roots, and Sorel that have become well known internationally.
Suffice to say that whether you’re heading out to ski, hike, snowshoe, trek through a frozen, godforsaken tundra somewhere, or you know, live in Canada, you’ll need the proper gear to get you through the bitter wet and cold. Whether you’re looking for something that you can wear daily or some more advanced technical clothing, I’ve got you covered. And suppose you haven’t guessed by now many of these brands produce and carry all manner of accessories. These include hats, gloves, hiking accessories, skiing and snowboarding accessories, daypacks, waterproof backpacks, and more.
Here are the best outdoor clothing brands for men and women. Be warned; however, when you see some of the amazing apparel these companies have to offer, your credit card may take a bit of a beating.
THE NORTH FACE
The North Face may be the grand Pumba of all outdoor clothing brands. Maybe it’s not the most prestigious or the most exclusive, nor the most expensive, but there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most venerable and best-selling American outdoor brands. Founded in 1966 in San Francisco, the North Face is now headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and has, in recent years, become somewhat of a status symbol amongst teenagers and adults alike in the Western hemisphere.
Now known as a purveyor of apparel and accessories for outdoor adventures and practically any outdoor activity you can imagine, The North Face has one of the largest product catalogs of any outdoor clothing brand for men and women. And while they offer plenty of professional-grade apparel, their products run a wide range of price points, thus making many of their items accessible to the average consumer. The company is also one of the world’s leaders in technical apparel research and development, often relying on world-class athletes for feedback on materials and performance. Using some of the world’s most advanced materials also comes with a mantra to produce their products in an environmentally sustainable way, because after all, without the great outdoors to explore, this company would cease to exist.
This is the outdoor clothing brand that broke all the rules. And they started with their name. I mean, who sticks an apostrophe in the middle of a brand name. That’s normally a big no-no when it comes to the branding world. Located a mere stone’s throw away from where I lived for nearly 21 years, Arc’Teryx is a global outdoor clothing company headquartered in North Vancouver, British Columbia. With a particular specialty in creating technical and high-performance apparel and outdoor adventure equipment, this company has been around since 1991 and now has over 80 branded retail stores worldwide. Their brand name and logo mark are based on the Archaeopteryx Lithographica, which was the first reptile to develop feathers for flight.
Now owned by Finish sporting goods company Amer Sports, which also happens to own a few other amazing outdoor clothing brands including Salomon, Atomic, and Suunto, Arc’Teryx currently makes over five-hundred items. Interestingly enough, Arc’Teryx is only one of a handful of leading outdoor clothing brands that have spun out a separate line of products designed specifically for Law Enforcement and Armed Forces. This product line is called LEAF.
While Arc’Teryx still produces about 10% of its outdoor apparel for both men and women in their manufacturing facility in Vancouver, BC, the rest is now produced around the world in various facilities. Priding itself on how they design their products, Arc’Teryx uses the rugged British Columbia coast mountains’ wilderness as a proving and testing ground for all its gear. That’s quite handy, considering mountainous landscapes are a mere 15-20 minutes drive from their North Vancouver head office.
Most of Arc’Teryx’s products are made possible because of a relationship they’ve cultivated with W.L. Gore, which is a raw material supplier and maker of Gore-Tex. Part of that Gore-Tex membrane embedded in so many of this outdoor clothing manufacturer’s products is a unique property. That property is over nine billion nano-holes per square inch. This provides a shield against water while allowing moisture from the body to escape. That’s what I’d call some pretty awesome material science.
Now what you’ll notice pretty quickly about the Arc’Teryx lineup of apparel is that it’s not cheap. But because it’s the result of decades of refinement, you can be assured that you’ll be buying some of the best outdoor technical clothing that money can buy. And because of their commitment to sustainability, Arc’Teryx has also developed a used gear program where they encourage previous owners to bring in their old Arc’Teryx gear that is then refurbished and re-sold at a deep discount. This not only increases the usable lifespan of their products but also provides a pathway for someone to own an Arc’Teryx product that can’t afford to splurge thousands of dollars on an outdoor jacket. You can read more about their sustainability efforts here.
Columbia Sportswear is one of the most venerable outdoor clothing brands in the world, with its roots reaching back to the year of its founding in 1938. Columbia sells its outerwear and outdoor adventure equipment in over 72 countries with a massive global reach and counts 129 brand retail locations. Its flagship store is in downtown Portland, Oregon, and its products are available in over 13,000 retailers.
Powered by the technical prowess and technologies either licensed or developed, Columbia rose to prominence off the back of their incredible outerwear and sportswear jackets. That trend continues today. Those technologies have included Omniheat, a technology designed to reflect and retain body heat through a series of silver dots that are breathable. HeatSeal technology is a method of stitchless baffling that prevents down migration and increases wind and water resistance. In other words, it doesn’t put any holes in your fabric. Omni-Shield technology is a stain and water-repellent technology that resists moisture and dries quickly.
The company is often compared to the North Face as its prime competitor, the primary difference being that Columbia gear tends to be a bit cheaper than North Face products on average. Columbia sells a massive variety of products, including jackets in various categories, shirts, pants, and on and on it goes. Focused on creating products that push the limits, Columbia’s product designers, engineers and scientists continue to push the envelope by creating gear and equipment for ski & snow sports enthusiasts, hikers, anglers, hunters, trail runners, golfers, and more!
The brand known as Patagonia is another American clothing company that sells primarily outdoor clothing and accessories. Founded in 1973 in California, the company was founded by a man named Yvon Chouinard, an accomplished rock climber. While the company’s roots are firmly planted in the past that focused on rock-climbing gear and accessories, today, the company sells a wide variety of equipment for snow sports, surfing, mountain biking, trail running, fly fishing, kitesurfing, and of-course climbing.
But beyond a focus on those sports, there is a remarkable lineup of clothing and accessories like backpacks, laptop bags, workwear, sleeping bags, and more waiting for you to discover. Patagonia’s secret to success has laid in their deep belief that corporate wellness is directly tied to how the company treats its employees and how well it participates in protecting the planet that we all inhabit. In addition to having a goal of being 100% carbon neutral by the year 2025, Patagonia has been giving 1% of total sales to various foundations working on the restoration of the natural environment. Like a few others on this list, the company has now also recognized the value of accepting lightly used Patagonia gear to refurbish it and sell it at a discount while keeping it out of landfills. They now repair over 50,000 garments per year and keep them in play so-to-speak.
Regardless if you’re looking for a highly technical jacket, a down sweater, merino socks, alpine snow pants, a wetsuit, board shorts, or just an awesome flannel shirt, Patagonia is a great choice for men’s and women’s outdoor clothing. And if you’re not convinced this company has a soul, consider that in 2018, the company pledged to donate the $10 million it received from Trump’s 2017 tax cuts to groups committed to finding a solution to climate change.
Founded in 1877, Helly Hansen was started by a Norwegian man named Helly Juell Hansen, who began producing oilskin jackets and trousers soaked in linseed oil. After being at sea since the age of 14, Helly, along with his wife Maren, began to find success, and nearly forty years later, after Helly Juell Hansen’s death in 1914, the company’s leadership was passed down to his son, named, yup, you guessed it, Helly Hansen.
Through decades of solid leadership and technical innovation, Helly Hansen has become known for its prowess in developing highly capable outdoor gear. Their ski jackets, rain jackets, footwear, and sailing gear have become famous for their features, technical fabric innovations, and incredible style. Helly’s logo has become somewhat of a cultural symbol around the world when it comes to outdoor clothing. If you see a Helly logo, you can trust that it’s a highly capable piece of clothing.
One of Helly Hansen’s latest innovations is the new collaborative technology they’ve dubbed as LIFALOFT. It’s a new type of insulation that is more effective and lighter than Polyester. This insulation structure can produce more air pockets that provide and retain more warmth at about a 20% lower weight than competitive insulation.
Passed around a bit like the red-headed stepchild of outdoor clothing for men and women, Helly Hansen has seen its ownership change hands a few times over the last decade or so and is now owned by Canadian retail conglomerate Canadian Tire. Helly Hansen is perhaps the #1 brand for ski professionals worldwide and prides itself on creating some of the most versatile sailing apparel worn by world-class sailors across all five oceans. And while the company is also known for its technical clothing for challenging outdoor work environments, its consumer lineup consists of everything from rain jackets, mid-layers, pants and shorts, base layers, footwear, tops, accessories, backpacks, and more.
Aside from having a pretty cool brand name, Outdoor Research is one of those companies that truly lives up to its namesake. In fact, it was borne of research done by founder Ron Gregg. Not only was Ron a nuclear physicist, he was also an avid mountaineer who in 1980 joined an expedition to the top of North America’s peak, Denali. His climbing partner suffered from frostbitten feet and had to be evacuated by helicopter when his poorly designed gaiters allowed snow between the gaiter and the boot to enter, thus causing the frostbite. As you can imagine, this inspired Ron Gregg to create a gaiter that would overcome this design flaw, and a company was born!
With its headquarters in Seattle, Outdoor Research uses real-world testing from ambassadors and professional skiers, climbers, and other outdoor sporting enthusiasts. These real-world tests provide valuable insight into the company’s design and product development process. Their products are highly regarded amongst casual and professional users. They are more than accustomed to winning multiple awards from publications such as Outside Magazine, National Geographic, Runner’s World, and more.
In addition to being highly conscious in thought and deed when it comes to sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, Outdoor Research is also committed to a variety of non-profit alliances and donation programs. Today, this highly innovative outdoor apparel brand sells your usual standard fare of jackets, hoodies, fleece, shirts, base layers, gloves, hats, headwear, and gear such as dry bags and packs.
Skipping across the pond to a Swiss multinational mountaineering and trekking company, Mammut has a rich history of product development founded in 1862. Without a doubt, Mammut is world-renowned for their climbing equipment, particularly the quality of their climbing ropes. And while that’s the heart of their expertise, don’t doubt for a moment that they don’t produce some of the world’s finest outdoor lifestyle apparel.
In 2012 the company introduced one of the most innovative products for skiing and backcountry exploration enthusiasts. It was the integration of an airbag system developed by the Swiss company Snowpulse SA into its already proven snow backpacks. Designed for the needs of mountain guides, skiing, and snowboarding adventure seekers, and other professionals, this removable avalanche airbag system has been shown to increase the survivability chances when trapped in an avalanche. In 2019, the company introduced its Delta X lineup of stylish outdoor clothing that maintains its mountaineering heritage but is designed squarely at those that prefer to stay warm, dry, and look good during the cooler months urban environment.
Today, Mammut focuses on five key areas of product design and development, including substantial research in each domain. Those fields include mountaineering, climbing, hiking, skiing, and urbaneering. (I had no idea that was a word). As a result, the company sells a wide variety of jackets, vests, pants, shorts, shirts, mid-layers, base layers, shoes, backpacks, climbing equipment, avalanche safety devices, sleeping bags, and more. If you want Swiss quality, you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Mammut is the little Swiss company that could!
This Swedish company’s name and logo translates to “Arctic Fox” and is immediately recognizable due to its stylish logomark adorning many of its products. Specializing in various upscale outdoor clothing and equipment for men and women, Fjällräven was founded in 1960. Today, the company sells its products in over 40 countries and has a retail presence with its stores in many places, including the U.S. and Canada.
In 1978, the company produced perhaps its best-selling product, the Kånken, a lightweight and rectangular backpack designed for school-children. Created in reaction to reports that Swedish school-children were developing back problems due to their increasingly heavy book-laden bags, the Kånken has been sold by the millions and is now offered in over 54 different colours. This is all very fitting from a historical perspective considering Fjällräven’s first product was a backpack! The Kånken backpack has been so successful that it has spawned a massive variety of different variants, including:
True to Swedish design sensibilities, Fjällräven is a company whose aesthetic is simple, practical, and minimalist. That comes through in all of its outdoor clothing and equipment, which tends to favour single-colour designs. The company works very hard to use natural materials such as wool, cotton, and down where possible. Where it’s not possible, the company has focused on developing synthetic materials in the most sustainable way possible across its supply chain. Additionally, Fjällräven has developed the Arctic Fox Initiative that funds non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting the natural environment.
Today the company sells various outdoor clothing and gear, including winter jackets, vests, down jackets, shell jackets, trekking pants, base layers, sweaters, flannel, beanies, caps, and hats. Of-course, Fjällräven also retails all manner of backpacks, bags, and accessories, some of which we’ve featured amongst the best minimalist backpacks in the world.
Not to be confused with the similar-sounding Mammut brand, Marmot is an outdoor clothing and sports good company that’s been around since 1974. Founded in Colorado, the company has its roots in a social mountain climbing club started by Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley, who in due time started making their parkas and sleeping bags out of their U.C. Santa Cruz dorm room. The same year they somehow managed to get Clint Eastwood to wear one of their jackets in an action movie, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Except that history features decades of continuous innovation and improvement upon their perpetually expanding product lines. Today’s Marmot features a healthy lineup of technical innovations seen throughout their entire product array. Following the trend of being seen as responsibly in their commitment to sustainable production practices, Marmot attempts to use a combination of recycled materials, eco-friendly fabrics, and PFC-free technologies. Additionally, the company is committed to the Responsible Down Standard, a global standard designed to recognize manufacturers and products that adhere to this strict standard.
Famous for their lineup of incredible jackets, tents, and sleeping bags, Marmot sells a wide variety of tops and bottoms and other outdoor clothing and accessories. And while their clothing is highly capable as far as keeping the great outdoors at bay and keeping you warm and dry, I wish this brand had a bit more design panache amidst its lineup of products.
Compared to some of the other giants of outdoor and recreational clothing retail on this list, Cotopaxi is a relatively small company. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cotopaxi was founded in April 2014 as a Series B corporation meaning that 1% of all its revenue goes to its pledge to eradicate extreme poverty. Founder Davis Smith, a veteran of a few other e-commerce ventures, spent some of his childhood in Latin America. There, he was inspired by the simple but powerful notion that even small contributions to those with less than him could make a huge impact on their lives.
The company is named after an active volcano in Ecuador that is a part of the Andes Mountains. The company’s logo is a playful Llama that harkens back to its original marketing stunt in Salt Lake City. They brought two llamas to local university campuses as part of their company launch and got a ton of free press and social media coverage. Today, the company adheres to a strict policy of ethical manufacturing that requires every factory they deal with to stick to an audited code of conduct. Cotopaxi’s manufacturing ethics also extend to their raw material sourcing that keeps using items that are as sustainable as possible.
Cotopaxi’s outdoor clothing gear design has been clearly inspired by the vivid and lively colours of South American culture, and American consumers have responded very positively to this design direction. The company has grown rapidly since 2014 and, as of this writing, has five physical stores in the U.S. This outdoor retail brand’s products span the range from down jackets, backpacks, fleece tops, mugs, totes, jackets, duffel bags, bottoms, hoodies, windbreakers, vests, beanies, and more.
So if you’re looking for an American outdoor clothing brand that not only sells some stylish and colourful lifestyle gear with a kickass Llama logo but also does some good along the way, Cotopaxi is the brand you’re looking for.
While I’ve already featured a few other European brands on this list, Berghaus is the first of them that hails from the land of the Queen Mother. Yes, it’s a British brand, with, oddly enough, a German name. Berghaus, meaning “mountain house” in German, is an outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer founded in 1966. Headquartered in Sunderland, UK, Berghaus captured the imagination of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts in the U.K. by producing outdoor apparel and gear that was simply better than anything available in the U.K. at the time.
Perhaps most comparable with another brand on this list, The North Face, Berghaus has become well known in the climbing community for the quality of their gear and a wide selection of products. Tending to trend towards relatively conservative designs, Berghaus products fall in the mid-range for pricing. So if you’re looking for some good-old-fashioned traditional design with over 50 years of history in creating insulated jackets, waterproof jackets, mid-layers, footwear, and more, check out this quality outdoor clothing brand.
Icebreaker is an interesting company. On the one hand, it’s pretentious enough to try and spell their name with every letter in lowercase, no matter where their name appears. On the other hand, it’s not a company that tries to do too much. You see, there tends to be a real tendency by most men’s and women’s outdoor clothing brands to extend themselves beyond their core competency. This often results in a product line that becomes diluted and saturated with products that don’t perform too well.
The opposite seems to be true of Icebreaker. Think of this company, founded in 1995 by Jermey Moon, as the ultimate base and mid-layer product company. Sure they sell a few jackets here and there, but this is a company that is almost entirely dedicated to making sure you stay warm by creating and innovating in the clothing layers closest to your skin. Designed for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, Icebreaker products are well on their way to having zero plastic materials in them by the year 2023.
Today you’ll find that Icebreaker sells a wide variety of base and mid-layers made from natural materials like Merino Wool. These include underwear, shirts, sweaters, hoodies, knitwear, jackets, vests, shorts, socks, gloves, hats, and neckwear. So are you currently freezing your ass off somewhere and wish you had just that one extra layer of warmness somewhere in between your body and the elements? Then give Icebreaker a second look; they might have the right item you need to go from freezing to warm and toasty.
Before I tell you a bit about the brand, I have to commend one thing about the KÜHL brand. Whoever is in charge of their website deserves a goddamn round of applause. Clear, easy to navigate, and most importantly, it features their products in clear, beautiful, and defined imagery. The use of video is also fantastic.
Despite its German name, which appropriately means cool, calm, restrained, or passionless (ironic, huh Germans?), KÜHL is an American company located in the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah. With a few retail locations around the U.S. Independently owned, KÜHL has grown significantly in recent years to become the 2nd largest independently owned outdoor lifestyle brand in America. With a terrific selection of outerwear, KÜHL’s mountain wear has become synonymous with gorgeous and thoughtful design along with plenty of technical prowess. And as a bonus, the company’s gear is quite affordable compared to some of the other companies featured on this list of outdoor apparel brands.
I like the KÜHL brand because it’s a company that seems solely focused on its rather great products without much distraction from anything else. Make sure to check out their hiking, travel, and technical pants for men and women. They’re truly awesome. And of course, don’t miss their fun art posters as well.
Salomon is one of the major grand-daddies of the outdoor equipment and apparel manufacturing world. Located and founded in Annecy, France, a few years after World War II, its pedigree for mountain sports is unmatched. Sitting in the heart of the French Alps, the company began its journey when François Salomon started producing skis edges in a small workshop. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today’s Salomon is still considered to be one of the, if not the top brand in the world when it comes to alpine equipment such as skis, boots, and snowboards. Besides selling that type of gear, Salomon has established itself as one of the top outdoor brands by offering a fantastic variety of apparel and accessories. That includes the usual standard fare of jackets, mid-layers, tops, pants, shorts, tights, socks, gloves, headwear, backpacks, and other accessories.
And all those products are quite good, albeit a bit on the expensive side. But an area that Salomon has particularly distinguished itself is with their footwear. Unlike some of their competitors in this space, Salomon has taken a real interest in manufacturing some truly amazing footwear. That includes road and trail running shoes, hiking shoes, winter boots, sneakers, sandals, and more.
I’m starting to detect a trend with a lot of these American outdoor sports apparel companies. For one reason or another, a lot of them seem to be based in Utah. Maybe it’s the combination of the cool crisp mountain air combined with the desert floor’s red soil that simply compels outdoor clothing and adventure brands to sprout from the ground like weeds.
Nevertheless, Black Diamond was founded in 1989 when a group of employees from a bankrupt company formed a new venture and moved the company to the Salt Lake City area to be closer to the climbing and skiing opportunities afforded by the proximity of the Wasatch Mountains.
Black Diamond has a heavy focus on three areas of outdoor activities, including climbing, snow-sports, and other mountain sports. But aside from that, they also produce and sell plenty of awesome apparel for men and women. That includes performance footwear, rainwear, jackets, tops, hoodies, shirts, pants, hats, belts, and more.