We have no issue with adventuring in pants or shorts. But we applaud the growing number of gear companies that are making performance skirts and dresses for high-octane women athletes. It's not just a question of style (though many of the below options do look damn good). These pieces also add mobility, boost breathability, and make answering calls of nature easier on the trail. Here’s a list of our five favorite small brands for lady shredders.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
In 2013, Mandy Bland hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in a homemade skirt. The benefits—from increased airflow to fast transitions—were obvious immediately. “A few miles in, I knew I was onto something,” Bland says. Whenever she got cold, she just added a base layer under the skirt. Back at home, she started Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, which turns out products featuring comfortable yoga-style waistbands, large Velcro pockets, and stretchy quick-dry fabric. Bland still makes each piece herself in Oregon.
Ashley Fullenwider and Christine Nienstedt often wore dresses while biking and running, and their gear caught enough attention that the pair decided to start their own company. All their pieces are made in the U.S., with moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric and fun prints exclusive to the brand. Customers share photos and personal stories and ask for support on Nuu-Muu's private Facebook group. “I think the dresses make them feel good about themselves, and that they’re a part of this community that embodies those values," Fullenwider says.
Robin “Athena” Hall was sick of hiking in bland khaki or gray pants. So she started designing bright, colorful skirts. The idea quickly took off. She ran the Arizona-based business as a side gig for a while, but recently quit her job as a paralegal to manage Athena Outdoors fulltime. She sews all the skirts, which come in three different fabric options and feature a unique closure system with a belt that improves fit.
Leah Powell wanted sparkly skirts for her running group to rock at half marathons. But she couldn't find what she needed at retailers, so she decided to make them herself. Fast-forward six years and now SparkleSkirts has 22 employees and a loyal following of “Sparkle Sisters." All the skirts are made in the U.S. We like them for their built-in shorts, two large side pockets, and a third zip pocket that runs across the hips. The skirts come in various cuts and a range of sizes and the brand can accommodate custom orders.
Mother and daughter team Rose and Gretchen Heim live in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border. And their skirts reflect their heritage. Their first product was a knee-length insulated skirt called the Minne that had side zippers to boost warmth and mobility when running, biking, or skiing. The Heim-Made line has since expanded into an insulated vest and scarf, warm leggings, a merino base layer, and jacket. “We set our sights on working toward our very favorite outfit,” Rose Heim says.