One of the things that has changed for me since I got a home base is I do much more writing about gear. It’s not that I didn’t want to before, but it was hard to test gear when you don’t have a home! I couldn’t put it anywhere nor did I even have an address to ship it to for 11 years. So, I just ignored travel and outdoor gear for a long time on my blog.
Fast forward to my new home in Denver; I am an outdoor gear junkie now. This is a bit challenging when you live in a small studio apartment! I will warn you, if you ever come visit don’t open a closet. If you do – you may get a stack of backpacks falling on top of you. Every bit of my closet space as well as space under my bed is filled with travel and outdoor gear I’m testing out!
6 Outdoor Gear Trends for 2022 and Beyond
With this new focus on gear, I have started attending industry events that help me stay up to date on the latest outdoor apparel, travel gear, and the outdoor industry. I regularly attend Outdoor Retailer, a B to B conference for brands and businesses selling outdoor gear (think hiking, camping, skiing, vanlife, and more). And this year I also attended the Big Gear Show which was more cycling and outdoor water sport focused.
After attending these conferences and listening to brands and manufacturers talk about their products, I came away with a few different trends that I think are important for the outdoor enthusiast.
1. Sustainability and Ethical Manufacturing
Actually – this is a trend for everything in our lives, but I think you may be surprised at what is happening in this realm in outdoor gear and clothing manufacturing. I certainly was blown away by the trends in clothing manufacturing alone.
Let me back up a second – while on a trip to Greenland a few years ago I learned about the evil of microplastics that come from our clothing.
“The Arctic is “pervasively” polluted by microplastic fibers that most likely come from the washing of synthetic clothes by people in Europe and North America, research has found.” —The Guardian
I saw it for myself as I spoke to scientists on the ship and looked at the water samples through a microscope. These microplastics were killing the sea life and their habitat, creating a domino effect that has long term implications to our land, oceans, wildlife, and the human race. It was then when I realized how important natural fabrics are.
Sadly the clothing industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution in the world.
The good news is that the clothing brands and manufacturers are also realizing the importance of using natural fabrics (see more on Merino wool below), as well as the importance of sustainability. Why is this important?
“The type of fabric used to make your t shirt or pair of eco friendly socks will determine how much environmental degradation it ends up causing — or the practices that reverse it.” –SustainableJungle.com
In fact – sustainability in clothing manufacturing will actually blow your mind these days. They make stuff from recycled bottles, hemp, organic linen, bamboo, pineapple leaves, mushrooms, and coffee grounds. This is where you stop and consider just how cool science is…right?
Here are a few travel gear products and brands that I’ve been testing out this year that highlight this ‘forward thinking’ about sustainability in manufacturing and business.
Keen Elle Sandals from Recycled Bottles
Featuring stretchy straps made from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles and a jute-infused outsole for less rubber usage. I used the Keen Elle Sandals in El Salvador and Mexico recently and was amazed at the durability and stretchiness of the straps. Plus – they have that great supportive insole that Keen provides. Cute, good for your feet, and the environment…winner.
Royal Robbins ReadyDry Line Made With Coffee Grounds
This new line of underwear, called ReadyDry, from long-time travel clothing expert Royal Robbins is made from S.Cafe yarns. S.Cafe yarns are made from two sources of waste: used coffee grounds and recycled polyester upcycled from post-consumer water bottles. Why not have a little coffee in your panties – after all coffee grounds offer superior odor control!
Lava Linens Travel Towels
When I started traveling around the world in 2006 – I remember buying my first travel towel – it was light and small – but it sort of sucked. There was nothing comfortable about it at all; it was basically a shammy material like what you’d dry your car off with. Not to mention that the synthetic fabric was contributing to ocean pollution.
I met the mother daughter team from Boulder Colorado who has changed the travel towel industry. They created a small, light travel towel made from flax and hemp. Lava Linens provides environmentally responsible outdoor enthusiasts with the most durable and most sustainable adventure towels in the industry. I have the Everything Towel which weighs in at 17 ounces and rolls as small as a 32 ounce water bottle, it’s a hearty fabric that gets better and better with time becoming even more supple, soft and absorbent over time.
The towels are expensive – but the durability of this fabric makes it the only towel you’ll need. Plus they offer lifetime repairs. Check out the Lava Towels for travel, camping, SUP’ing, backpack towel, vanlife,
Branwyn Wool Underwear
Merino wool has made it to underwear. Once again merino is a great fabric for underwear thanks to its natural ability to resist odor. Branwyn has focused on making undies and bras made from this miracle fabric! If you are still skeptical about wool underwear – Branwyn has a ‘First Pair Guarantee’ that allows you to try 1 pair of each unique style/size/color on your first order, and return risk-free within 14 days of receiving your order.
One of my girlfriends was looking to pack light for her Croatia bike trip so I suggested to try the Branwyn undies – here’s what she thought of them:
“I was looking for a pair of undies that would be good for my bike trip in Croatia. I needed them to be comfortable, moisture wicking, and easy to hand wash with a quick dry time. The Branwyn bikini undies checked all the boxes! They are now my go-to for any activity, and my fave to travel with.”
Oboz Footwear Plants Trees
Sustainability can happen in the purchase process too – focusing on reversing the effects of manufacturing, shipping, etc. I was introduced to Oboz about 4 years ago, I slid the Bridger hiking boot on my foot and I never looked back – it was love at first step. This relative newcomer to the outdoor shoe sector has been making a big impact. They were the first company that introduced me to the concept of how my specific purchase could help the environment with their One More Tree Initiative. Since they sold very first pair back in 2007, they had a tree planted, and they’ve continued to plant trees for every pair sold — that’s well over 4 million trees and counting.
They are also known for their proprietary insole, and that’s why I own 4 pairs of their hiking boots and shoes. 2021 introduced me to the Oboz Arete Low that has become my go-to travel tennis shoe. They are great for racing through airports or boulder hopping on trails. In addition, they publish a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Year-End Report that demonstrates their work on making the outdoors for everyone.
Peak Design Photography Gear
Don’t think that the Sustainability and responsible manufacturing is just in the garment industry, even my new favorite camera gear brand, Peak Design, is producing their product with the environment in mind. They have committed to offsetting the entire carbon footprint their business activity generates, from resource extraction to finished product delivery – not just the parts that are convenient to offset. They are using recycled textiles for their backpacks and sling bags, as well as using recycled materials for all of their shipping. So not only do I love their photography backpacks, bags, and straps, but I love them as a company too.
In today’s world savvy businesses know that people aren’t just buying their product, they are also buying into the business’s values. Plus, you’ll see this sustainability trend throughout every trend in this list – it’s here to stay.
2. Women and Peeing
Yes – you read that right…women peeing is a trend right now in gear! It’s about time! I think with more and more women owned companies and entrepreneurs; we are seeing an influx of items made for women by women. Can we have a cheer for that?? Hip hip hooray!
SheFly – Answering Nature’s Call
In the world of Adventure Travel Gear, peeing is a hot topic. SheFly seems to be one of the hot new small companies serving women’s peeing needs. They developed a pant with a zipper that goes completely around the crotch area that easily (and comfortably) unzips so you can pee discreetly. This patented zipper allows everyone to answer nature’s call without exposing skin to the elements, or to other people. Perfect uses while backcountry hiking/camping, climbing, biking, and women who spend a lot of time outdoors. The company is on fire – and last I checked there was quite a waiting list for these unique pants – which is why I haven’t been able to test them yet. They were also a finalist in the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards.
This female owned company is also a hot item right now. Proof leak proof panties for periods and bladder leaks – apparently this panty can handle up to 5 tampons worth of liquid. And it easily washes up to be used over and over again. See…I told you sustainability was the hot topic! I say ‘apparently’ because I haven’t tried these yet – but they are on my radar to try. I’m not exactly sure how important it is to Adventure Travel, but it’s still an interesting concept overall.
3. Bottles…So Many Bottles
At each of these shows I can’t tell you how any bottle/container companies I saw. Everyone is making bottles, insulated tumblers, mugs, and even canisters for storing food. Klean Kanteen is one of the original personal hydration companies that started the re-useable water bottle movement, and they are still going strong leading in innovation in the industry.
In 2004, founder Robert Seals introduced the 27oz Klean Kanteen onto the market to give people a better option than plastic and lined aluminum bottles: a safe, healthy, lightweight, reusable bottle free of Bisphenol A (BPA) and other toxic substances. And now everyone makes personal hydration products…everyone.
Having your own re-useable water bottle for travel is essential these days. It actually pains me to see any tour companies using single use plastic. But there are still plenty of countries where that’s the only option.
One of the things I like about Klean Kanteen is that they have a system where you really just need to purchase one insulated bottle and then use their interchangeable caps for your different needs; caps for sipping drinks, straws lids for cold drinks, or chug caps. One bottle is really all you need! In addition, they continue to innovate making their latest containers with certified 90% post-consumer recycled steel. By using recycled instead of virgin steel, Klean Kanteen will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from steel by 40%, achieve a 30% reduction in energy demand, and a 60-80% reduction in ecosystem impacts.
They’ve also gotten into containers that keeps contents hot for 11 hours and cold for 45 hours. I’m trying these out for short
4. Heated Products
In the past 4 years of attending outdoor gear conferences, I am amazed at how far the technology for heated products have come. And the best part is that as the technology gets better, the prices have decreased making heated (battery operated) products less of a high-priced extravagance and getting to be, dare I say it, affordable?
If you are wondering how heated products work – the technology is pretty cool…or should I say…hot. Heated gear has thin wires built into it. These wires heat up when a low electric charge is passed through via a small battery pack. It is designed to keep you warm and cozy, but not to get too hot. Wiring is separated by a waterproof membrane making them safe to use in damp conditions… and you can even wash them when you take the battery out!
For someone like me that has a fondness of traveling to cold places like Alaska, I’m pretty excited about the development of heated clothing. Gobi Heat is a Colorado company that is making heated socks, gloves, vests, hoodies, and jackets. I’ve been testing out these products this winter and so far am pretty impressed. Each comes with a small rechargeable battery pack that is ‘tucked’ away and can provide heat from 4 to 8 hours.
The jackets have heating ‘zones’ in the front and back to keep you warm and the battery for the jackets also doubles as a phone battery charger too. Their heated gloves and socks have warming spots around the fingers and toes to prevent numbness – this is going to be perfect for chasing northern lights this winter! I love the socks so far, and the heated glove liners have been pretty good, however I do find the battery placement on these a little inconvenient and bulky. And honestly so far I’ve just been leaving them in my pockets and that way my hands warm up in my pockets.
The prices for heating clothing and accessories still isn’t cheap, but it is coming down, and I expect that trend to continue.
Ignik Heating Solutions
If high tech heating isn’t your thing (or in your budget), don’t worry they are even improving the lower tech heating solutions like hand and foot warmers. Ignik is making re-useable hand and foot warmers! Each warmer provides up to 10 hours of heat; a reusable AirBarrier Pouch minimizes air permeability and you can save unused warmer heat for up to 72 hours, for intermittent use! Plus – these warmers are 98 percent biodegradable (contents can be composted after use). They also have cell phone warmers that can stick to your cell phone and keep it warm and the battery from draining prematurely.
5. Women Owned Companies
I don’t know if this is exactly a trend – but I know that every year I go to these shows I meet more and more women who have started their own companies. I’m amazed at how they have all come up with ways to make travel and outdoor gear better for women specifically. Most of them started their business because they were frustrated with the current offerings not really catering to women or women of all sizes. I find that gear designed by women or from women-owned brands often fit and move better, and are cuter. Women designing for women just works; they know the female body and needs best.
I love to support female entrepreneurs whenever I can. Here’s a few companies that I met at gear shows and really fell in love with their product and mission.
Chill Angel Merino Sleepware
I love going to sleep every night (who doesnt?), but I love it even more when I put on my Chill Angel pajamas! Chill Angel was created by my friend Betsy in Steamboat Colorado with the intention of helping women control their body temperature. All of the pieces are made of merino wool. And this isn’t you grandma’s scratchy wool…this is beautifully soft, breathable, and comfortable. “This amazing fiber can instantly release excess heat when your body temperature increases beyond normal, and can also insulate you when you start to cool down. There is simply no other fiber that is better at regulating a constantly changing body temperature than wool.”
If you are perimenopausal and are starting to get massive body temperature swings…especially when you are sleeping (if you’ve ever woken up sweaty in the middle of the night you know what I’m talking about) – then Chill Angel is for you.
Betsy put out some new styles last year that I love. They are a bit more feminine yet still athletic in my opinion. I’m in love with the hipster short! Plus, she has also added some new winter pieces. I’m pretty sure a day doesn’t go by in the winter that I’m not wearing my genie jogger. And…this year she also started producing a wider variety of sizes – so there really is something for everyone…except men…sorry guys. Check out her new styles and fabrics at ChillAngel.com and use the code OTTSWORLD to get 20% off your purchase.
Olilta Sun Care Products
I met the owner of Olita last summer and was pretty excited about their line of safe sun care products using organic, natural, high performing ingredients. They basically make mineral sunscreens that are good for the environment, reef safe, and safe for your skin.
I used the mineral sunscreen and sunstick while in El Salvador surfing twice a day and I never got a sunburn…now that’s the sign of a good sunscreen! One of my favorite things about their sunscreen products is that they come in a light tinted color so that you don’t look like a clown with white face paint!
They also have a unique product that removes pesky sand from hands, feet and other places after a day at the beach! Beach Be Gone is a powder that wicks away moisture and sand from your skin. I love this idea because I’m one of those people who loves the beach, but hates the sand that gets all over after the beach.
Vim & Vigr
This isn’t a new brand but I just want to call attention to how awesome this woman owned company is. Title Nine was the OG of the female activewear world. Just take a listen to this podcast about founder, Missy Park’s, story about how and why she started the company back in 1989. After listening to her vision, struggles and triumphs – I loved the brand even more.
They are the makers of my favorite hiking pant (clamber pants), shorts, and Dream Skort. The clamber pant is also making a big change into sustainability this year. The Clamber Pant 2.0 collection is now made of completely recycled fabric.
Plus – they’ve taken my favorite pants and made them into shorts – so of course I’m loving these too! These shorts are so comfortable with the wide elastic waist band and stretchy material. Plus – the fabric they’re made out of repels water. There’s still a pocket in the shorts too! The pocket will hold a phone and zipper pockets in back that hold things you can’t lose. These are my go-to hot weather hiking shorts.
Tonik Cycling Athletic Wear For Women
I met Kristina Vetter, owner of Tonik Cycling Gear at a show last year and immediately fell in love with her colorful women’s bike jerseys. She focuses on producing two kinds of active wear for real bodies: cycling jerseys and active/travel dresses. Not only are they great technical products with lots of pockets (Have I mentioned I LOVE pockets?), they are also cute. Every time I wear my chevron striped tank top cycling I get complements; the fit is flattering (for curves) and the colors make me hard to miss. And I don’t just wear it for cycling – it’s great for any outdoor activity. Plus, check out her cute wrap skirt too – it’s perfect for surf and beachy outings.
6. Foreign Outdoor Gear Brands Coming to the US
At last year’s conferences I noticed an influx of foreign brands making their debut in the US. My Spidy-travel-sense honed in on these brands probably because I have missed international travel so much during the pandemic! These are brands that are leaders in their own country trying to make it in the US where the competition is tough and consumers are different than Europeans. They are not only bringing their products, but they bring their values that make them leaders in their own countries.
I was introduced to this incredible Swedish outdoor gear company this year, and one of my big accomplishments was learning how to pronounce their name! Fa-yal-rahven.
Ever since spending time rewilding in Sweden a few years ago learning about their incredible commitment to nature, I’ve had my eye on Swedish brands.
The Keb Trousers are so durable – yet comfortable. I love that they have a heavier fabric on the bum and knees. Lord knows I’ve had to slide down a few rockfaces before and these pants can take a beating. I like them for fall and winter hiking and they also have big pockets (yay!). They also have some of the best hiking leggings I’ve seen on the market. I love yoga pants – but they don’t have the toughness for hiking. The Fjällräven leggings made specifically for hiking with a heavier fabric on the bum and knees again – yet it’s still stretchy.
The price point is high, but the quality is there; consider it an investment.
In true Swedish style, Fjällräven focuses on simplicity and practicality and their gear is such a high quality. Keep your eye out for this Swedish brand, they are opening stores all over the US.
Jack Wolfskin is a longtime favorite brand of mine. They are a well-known European brand (celebrating 40 years) that is bringing their outdoor gear to the US Market! I already use a lot of their clothing for hiking and snowshoeing. I really love their retro styles like this cool Flash 365 Overhead Jacket (a great snowshoeing jacket that is on sale right now) .
They have some great basics for hiking – and I fell in love with the Jack Wolfskin Funktional Shirt mainly thanks to the super soft fabric. It is my go-to hiking shirt and travel shirt mainly because it feels so good against my skin! Plus their Tongari Fleece is my new staple in my hiking backpack – perfect for when hiking in altitude and the temperature drops.
Jack Wolfskin also carries backpacks and hiking shoes.
I absolutely love the outdoors, I want to keep it as healthy as we can for future. I think it’s very promising that so many companies (big and small) are starting to step up to the plate and do their share to also keep it healthy. But you, the consumer, are part of this process too. I hope that by getting acquainted with some of these outdoor gear trends, it will make you a more knowledgeable consumer; effecting your purchase decisions.
If you have brands you love in the outdoor space, please share them in the comments!
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Reviewing a piece of gear implies actually using that piece of gear for an extended amount of time. I use the gear I’m writing about, not just once, but many times.