Clean up, green up: Sustainable and protective apparel

Brands push toward greater environmental responsibility without compromising the quality of their gear.
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Brands focus on sustainable pieces that protect against foul weather and UV rays — all while fighting stink.

Stewards of our playground
Great news for Mother Nature: For 2017, environmental responsibility is growing. “Younger consumers are increasingly interested in apparel that aligns with their environmental views, like a jacket’s life cycle and its potential environmental impact,” said Woody Blackford, VP of design and innovation at Columbia Sportswear. Building on the brand’s 2016 OutDry Extreme technology, Columbia is releasing its first-ever completely PFC-free apparel. Nau is also adding to its line of PFC-free outerwear this spring. And in February 2016, Bergans of Norway launched a sustainability program, Expedition 2020, which tackles everything from product transportation (air versus freight) to eco-friendly materials.

Here comes the sun
Wearing protective apparel has never felt so cool. As the world gets toastier—2015 was the warmest year on record—the popularity of apparel that offers a chilling effect is rising, too. Brands are integrating fabric technologies that chemically react to perspiration—thus creating a minty sensation on the skin’s surface—or respond to sweat mechanically, pulling heat and moisture away. Fabrics with UV protection are another top priority. “Many consumers are looking for measured, meaningful sun protection, just as they do in SPF sunscreens, which is found in UPF clothing,” said Jason Duncan, senior director of product at Outdoor Research.

Multisport madness 
How many self-prescribed triathlons—think: bike-hike-climb—can you squeeze into a weekend? Brands are meeting the popularity of activity mash-ups and multi-pursuit athleticism with equally versatile apparel. Approaches include fabric hybridization and body mapping to create targeted zones that can handle varied activities and conditions. Take Montane’s thermal imaging research: Athletes exercised in a temperature-controlled room with weather simulation, including rain and wind, to produce zoning data for this year’s climbing-centric designs, said Brand Director Jonathan Petty.

Smelling sweet
Athleisure clothing looks like it can transition from crag to coffee date—but does it smell like it? Brands are focusing on odor control technologies in their textiles, a perk that does more than prevent trail buddies from wrinkling their noses: The less a piece of apparel needs to be washed, the longer it lasts.

Helly Hansen launches the women’s Vanir Heta Jacket (MSRP $160) with a fabric combo that helps wearers maintain a comfortable equilibrium—not too hot, not too cold—in variable conditions. The waterproof 2.5-layer Helly Tech Performance fabric is integrated into the front, sleeve tops and hood, while a double-weave softshell material adds breathability to the center front panel, beneath the sleeves and along the sides.

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Columbia Sportswear debuts the waterproof/breathable, PFC-free OutDry Ex ECO Shell (MSRP $199) for high-performance use like backpacking, hiking and everyday commuting. Plus, it’s dye-free (see: white color), which reduces water use during manufacturing by 13.5 gallons per shell. And the fabric is 100-percent recycled polyester—approximately 21 bottles’ worth. Even the packaging and hangtags are printed with soy-based inks on 100-percent post-consumer recycled material.

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Mountain Hardwear introduces the Thundershadow jacket (MSRP $175), a soft, stretchy, super-light shell geared toward thru-hikers and made from new proprietary waterproof/breathable VaporDry technology. One central goal, said Steve Adams, Mountain Hardwear’s senior product line manager of outerwear, was to get rid of that sticky, clammy feeling that can surface on the inside of a rain jacket (the buildup and non-release of sweat). The result? Rainwear with a buttery T-shirt feeling. Mountain Hardwear also brings out the Super Chockstone jackets in hooded and non-hooded versions (MSRP $120-$135): lightweight, durable softshells with UPF 50 fabric.

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Mammut delivers the Rainspeed Ultralight HS Jacket (MSRP $300), a shell that’s meant for trail running, with Gore-Tex Permanent Beading Surface waterproof technology. The 2-layer construction features an interior woven liner and exterior waterproof membrane. Breathable and lightweight—weighing just 4.8 ounces—the jacket has reflective safety logos, a snug-fitting hood, and a packable shape (it stuffs into its own small pocket).

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Outdoor Research is among the first to use Polartec’s newest cooling fabric, Delta, in its Gauge Tees (MSRP $59). Knit into a honeycomb structure, the breathable fiber wicks sweat and heat away from the body. The shirts also feature a Polygiene odor control treatment and a cling-free fit.

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ExOfficio adds ultrafine, nylon-based Nilit cooling fibers to the Sol Cool Performance Hoody (MSRP $90-$95), which pulls heat away from the body and transfers moisture out. Featuring UPF 50 protection, the odor-resistant midlayer also has a hood, arm ventilation and thumb loops for additional hand protection.

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This story first appeared in the Day 1 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.

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