Part of the reason companies like Patagonia and Arc’teryx are so successful is because they were started by people who wanted to make the best clothing for their own adventures. Today, that same entrepreneurial spirit lives on with a new handful of boutique brands. Here are six we recommend keeping an eye on.
Bill Amos launched NW Alpine during the height of the economic recession in 2008. His motivation was two-fold: bring manufacturing back to the U.S. and produce bomber climbing clothing. He’d noticed how large brands were moving toward lifestyle apparel and away from technical gear, and he wanted to bring the focus back to the high-performance stuff. He started with just 100 climbing pants. Sales took off and before long he moved from his apartment to a 3,000-square-foot warehouse. Today, NW Alpine makes everything from base layers to insulated belay jackets, along with the original climbing pants. All the manufacturing is still here in the U.S.
Colorado-based Bambool makes base layers from a blend of bamboo and merino wool. Husband-and-wife team Craig and Jessica Woods started the company last year after stumbling onto bed sheets made of bamboo. They loved the soft, anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking characteristics of the bamboo fabric and decided to combine it with merino to create undergarments targeted at skiers that are even warmer than 100-percent merino.
In the small Canadian town where Bubba Albrecht spent time growing up, he often heard the term “give’r,” which meant “get after it.” A few years ago, Albrecht made a hat featuring the phrase and an outline of the Tetons (he now lives in the area). People regularly stopped to ask him about the hat, so he decided to start making them, and in March 2012 launched Give’r. The line has since expanded to include tees, hand-branded leather gloves, and high-performance base layers great for backcountry ski laps or practicing downward dog at your local yoga studio. Give'r is also a 1% for the Planet member, which means one percent of its profits support environmental work.
Hailey DeMarois and Hans Howell launched Roscoe Outdoor in 2008 from their homes in Montana because they wanted to create great climbing apparel. DeMarois has a design background, while Howell studied finance, so they were the perfect match. Their premier product these days is the Washakie pant, which features reinforced knees, a gusseted crotch, chalk-bag loop, a built-in waist belt, and cuffs that come with a reflective lining and a cinch to ensure they never creep down your leg.
When Jeff Russell was a product director at Armada, he noticed that most athletes stayed away from synthetic base layers because they tend to stink after a few uses. So when he started his own base layer business, he knew he’d only design with merino wool. But here’s the problem: merino is expensive, and he wanted to create well-made products that wouldn’t cost a fortune. To keep things affordable, he and his wife decided to launch Ridge Merino last December as a direct-to-consumer business, which means you can only buy the products on their website (they're also a 1% for the Planet member).
American Mountain Co.
It would be easy to mistake a jacket by The American Mountain Co. as vintage winter clothing. The Michigan-based company makes technical jackets, sweaters, and pants that all have a retro appeal. The men’s clothing is so stylish that people often don’t realize it’s designed for outdoor use, but climbers have used it for ascents in the Dolomites and on Mount Hood. Founders Chad Caudill and Brad Sawdon debuted American Mountain Co. at Outdoor Retailer in 2012, and everything is still made in the U.S.