Thats an interesting question, and one that I suspect will increasingly be on peoples minds. In the past 20 years, of course, most outdoor-gear manufacturing has moved offshore, including nearly all apparel manufacturing. A few companiesNike in particularhave taken grief over allegations that they run sweatshops" in China, Vietnam, and other places. In its defense, Nike has joined a Washington, D.C.-based group called the Fair Labor Association, which includes other clothing makers and is aimed at improving working conditions.
But with so much stuff pouring in from overseas factories, your search is not an easy one. A company that got ahead of this curve fairly early, however, is Patagonia. Several years back it started using organically grown cotton in its garments and was one of the first companies to make fleece garments with recycled polyester fibers. Patagonias El Cap Jacket ($90; patagonia.com), for instance, is made with 51 percent recycled fibers, and itself is recyclable through what is called the Common Threads Recycling Program, through which customers can return old and worn garments to Patagonia, either by mail or to stores, for recycling.
Polartec LLC, maker of that well-known outdoor fabric, also has worked hard to bring more recycled products to the market, while also working to ensure its manufacturing plants meet strict environmental and energy-efficiency standards. So purchasing clothing made with Polartec is something of a step in the right direction. I also suggest purchasing from recognizable name brandsL.L. Bean, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, REI, Sierra Designs, companies such as thatrather than bargain"-line clothing makers. I think its fair to say that those recognizable name brand companies are a little less beholden to the absolute bottom line, so can support fair treatment of the people who make their clothing.
Beyond that, there are a few manufacturers still making stuff in the United States. Feathered Friends, for instance, makes its down-filled clothing in Seattle. So if something really warm is what youre after, then you can feel pretty good about buying the Hyperion Jacket ($199; featheredfriends.com)
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