Keep warm with the recycled material movement this winter
Long gone are the days when outdoors gear was designed purely for function, with complete disregard for style and impact (although, you do just need to take a quick stroll down an aisle of hiking pants and you might beg to differ on the style side).
Now, you can actually look good when exploring. And do good.
The best way to avoid contributing to landfill is to simply not buy new. The golden rule is to reuse and repurpose. However, in all honesty, sometimes, you’re just gonna want to buy new. These days, there are a plethora of brands and products that actually have a conscience about their impact on the environment.
As temperatures drop downunder, we know you’re sussing out your options to stay snug on your winter adventures.
Here are our top picks to deck you this season, head to toe, in a way to protect what we love.
Everyone knows that the best baselayers are made of merino wool so it’s no surprise that we’re looking at Icebreaker and Smartwool for the layers that will be closest to our skin.
Icebreaker started literally to offer a natural alternative to synthetic clothing so you know that they bleed environmental sustainability from their core. In 2010, they introduced a “Baacode” which means you can trace the fibres in Icebreaker clothing back to the farm. In 2012, they developed Cool-Lite™ – a breakthrough blend of merino and plant-based Tencel®, a natural fibre made from eucalyptus. Then, in 2013, they developed an alternative to duck down, made from merino. Okay we need to stop here and get on with it.
Smartwool is another innovative outdoor brand. They have salvaged the fabric scraps from the production of their merino base layers and turned it into Smartloft, a powerful form of insulation. One season of scraps from Smartwool baselayers is enough to fill all of Smartloft wool jackets for the next season. So whether you turn to Smartwool for your baselayers or fleece mid-layers, you can be proud of supporting a company committed to reducing their waste and environmental impact. And also, their socks are darn good and come in an array of fun colours and patterns - who doesn’t love a silly sock day?
Learn more: Saving Merino Wool from Waste
Writer’s disclaimer: When I first started researching for this article, it was quite overwhelming because pretty much every outdoor clothing manufacturer uses some recycled material in some of their products. However, after hours (literally) of online window-shopping, it became difficult, near impossible, to look past Patagonia. They are a a name synonymous with sustainability. They were the first to embrace post consumer recycled clothing in 1993. Today, you will find a large percentage of recycled polyester, nylon and wool in almost all their products. Every item also has its own “Footprint Chronicles” which is a list of suppliers that impact the product - this transparency is testament to the Patagonia's commitment to not only environmental sustainability but also fair labour and safe working conditions. So please excuse me as my touted mid-layers and outer shells are all from Patagonia!
The Woolyester Fleece Pullover is a Patagonia classic that looks like a hug personified. But the best part? It's made of 46% recycled wool. We love their loyalty to their heritage design lines but also their ability to keep it fresh. Patagonia collects and shreds individual threadbare woollen items back into fibres, sorted by colour. They then select and blend colours to completely eliminate the dyeing process, saving on energy and water and reducing chemical waste. Cool right? The ribbed cuffs and hem and hip-length all come together to keep you snug, making it the perfect mid-layer for this winter.
Psst! This North Face Glacier Alpine Pullover is also lush. It’s made of recycled polyester - TNF have pulled over 72,000 kilograms of single-use plastic bottle waste from National Parks and recycled them into quality lightweight tees and soft fleeces. The sizeable three-piece hood and drop-tail hem makes it pretty high up on our mid layer wishlist too.
We’re sticking by Patagonia for our outer shells. Their upcoming Winter 2019 Recycled Rainwear Collection includes 3 different shells, ranging from entry level to highly technical so that no matter your skill level, you can stay out of the rain and wind in a way that minimises your environmental impact.
The Stretch Rainshadow is a packable, versatile waterproof shell made from 100% recycled nylon made from yarns from such sources as discarded fishing nets. The hood has a laminated visor and is alpine helmet-compatible which means it is sizeable and effective - literally, nothing worse on a rain jacket than a hood that is so shallow it might as well not exist.
And it self-stuffs into the chest pocket and has a a little carabiner clip-in loop! Win.
Pair it with the Torrentshell Pants which are made of 100% recycled nylon and are also self-stuffable into a pocket.
If you’re looking for a rain pant with more pockets though, consider Marmot's PreCip EcoPants; a lightweight, waterproof, breathable pant to keep you adventuring even in the wettest of weather. Seams are fully taped and all pockets (two sides, one back) are zippered as well. These pants are made of 100% recycled nylon which also features an advanced technology of microporous coating…which basically means that the fabric will last longer.
TREAD LIGHTLY WITH MERRELL GRIDWAYS
And when it comes to shoes, tread lightly with Merrell Gridways, an elegant shoe that can transition effortlessly from trail (it has a Vibram sole) to town (the Glacier Grey colour is soft, fresh and just beautiful!) The knit upper and laces are made of 100% recycled material. And what about the sole? Fret not, both the midsole and Vibram outsole are made with 30% recycled content.
I was given a pair to test out for my personal work, independent of She Went Wild. Environmental conscience aside, these shoes are amazing. I live in Queenstown where you can be standing on a peak of over 900 metres to having a quality Kiwi pinot noir in a chic bar within thirty minutes so trust me when I say that these shoes have got you covered from trail to town.
A GOOD BACKPACK THAT LOOKS GOOD AND IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Ever heard of United by Blue? We’re in love. This outdoor brand practices where it preaches, getting its hands dirty with conservation work by organising and hosting its own ocean trash and plastics clean ups. For every product sold, United by Blue claim they remove one pound of trash from our waters. It’s worth having a wee browse of their apparel collections but what we are the biggest fan of is their 45L Range Daypack.
This Daypack is seriously cool. It wouldn’t look astray in the most urban of environments but it also has all the functions of pack needed for backcountry adventures. You’ll find the usual padded, adjustable straps here, a water-repellant finish…as well as a laptop sleeve AND front access to the pack.
Materials-wise, it’s constructed of 100% recycled polyester and the leather has been tanned using vegetables, not chemicals.
Are you a climber?
The Edelrid Boa Eco is a 9.8mm single climbing rope made of yarns leftover from the rope making process, minimising waste. Because the yarns are essentially recycled (though not form old ropes - big no no!!!), each rope has a unique colour pattern - which is kinda cool! These ropes have an excellent rating in terms of handling - and we would expect nothing less from Edelrid.
A micro note on microplastics
Whilst we think an effort to wear clothing made from recycled materials still deserves a pat on the back, we want to be mindful of micro plastics as well. And there are a lot of products that still combine natural and synthetic fibres. When we buy synthetic garments, we are releasing plastic fibres from our washing machines into our rivers and oceans with each wash. Our sewage treatment plants do not effectively filter out all of these micro plastic fibres.
So what can we do? There are still a lot of missing gaps in our knowledge. But what we do know is that garments of a higher quality shed less in the wash and whilst our sewage treatment plants catch up, we can improve filtering at the washing machine-end by laundering in a filter bag. We’ve also read that front-loading machines are favourable.
Once again, we want to reiterate that the best way to minimise our impact on the environment is to consume less; to not buy new in the first place. But if you choose to buy new this winter, we hope this list inspires you to research your gear and check its recycled material content.
We weren’t paid to do this post. We just think the recycled materials movement is only gaining more traction and wanted to delve a bit deeper into it and share the findings! However, Thuc has since received a Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow Jacket to do a separate gear review on.
Thuc is a lover of beautiful words, grand landscapes and meaningful relationships. In addition to manning the She Went Wild digital desk, she is a freelance content creator in the outdoors and fitness spaces. You’ll likely find her in the mountains with her camera and a notebook and pen!
Follow Thuc’s adventures on Instagram at @thuc.creative