When it comes to outdoor clothing brands, The North Face is undoubtedly among the most famous ones. This well-known company offers a very wide range of products – from technical sportswear to casual everyday clothes. In addition, The North Face offers these products at a wide range of prices, allowing all of its customers to find something to their liking without having to pay top dollar for it.
However, if you are, for some reason, looking for alternatives to The North Face, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at 13 brands that are similar to the North Face – from high-end ones like Arc’Teryx to more affordable ones such as Columbia Sportswear. So, have a look at our selection – it just might help you find your way among dozens of different brands on the market of outdoor products.
Table of Contents
- 1 Marmot
- 2 Arc’Teryx
- 3 Patagonia
- 4 Outdoor Research
- 5 REI Co-Op
- 6 Columbia Sportswear
- 7 Prana
- 8 Rab
- 9 Eddie Bauer
- 10 Mountain Hardwear
- 11 Montbell
- 12 Fjällräven
- 13 Black Diamond Equipment
- Where it’s From Rohnert Park, California
- Popular Products: Minimalist, Montreal, and PreCip Eco
- Pros: Great budget-oriented & mid-range products for casual outdoorsmen
- Cons: Can’t match the quality of the collections offered by competitors
For a step down in price from top-notch brands such as Arc’Teryx or the North Face, Marmot’s products provide a great value for the money for those who aren’t that serious about their wilderness escapades. Founded in 1974, Marmot has all kinds of products on offer – from ski shells to sleeping bags to winter jackets. Truth be told, we’ve always been impressed by Marmot’s products that somehow manage to strike that fine balance between quality and affordability.
However, an important thing to mention here is that Marmot does offer some high-end, well-performing garments, such as their Freerider Jacket ($485) or Spire hardshell ($435). But still, the category in which Marmot excels the most is the one catered to those looking to save some money – their budget and mid-range products are something special.
As far as we’re concerned, the best Marmot products include those from their Minimalist, Montreal, and PreCip Eco lineups. We think that it’s pretty safe to say that these garments significantly undercut the competition by providing solid performance for lighter adventures in the Great Outdoors.
Just like the North Face, Marmot has also been working towards making its manufacturing processes more sustainable, with the ultimate goal of decreasing its carbon footprint on the environment. They also use PFC-free DWR coatings and as many recycled materials as possible.
However, if you’re very serious about your backcountry exploits and need all the bells and whistles, as well as bombproof protection in the wilderness, Marmot probably isn’t the best choice out there. If you need casual (but well-made) garments for around-town use and summer backpacking, on the other hand, you won’t make a mistake by visiting the stores and checking out the Marmot products – the value for the money they offer is almost unmatched. I have a separate post on Marmot vs The North Face that you might find helpful.
Best from Marmot: PreCip Eco Jacket
Why buy it?
- Incredibly breathable
- Nice pit zips
- Roll-away hood
- Where it’s From: North Vancouver, Canada
- Popular Products: Alpha SV, Beta AR, and Atom LT
- Pros: Top-notch styling, craftsmanship, and overall quality
- Cons: Trim fit, very expensive
Behind this unusual name hides a Canada-based brand that was founded in 1989 and which is considered by many to be an absolute industry leader when it comes to technical outdoor garments. In fact, Arc’Teryx has a cult-like following and is probably the most revered out of all the outerwear brands that are currently present on the market. From regular and fleece jackets, approach and hiking boots, climbing equipment, daypacks, baselayers, and all sorts of outdoor gear and accessories, products made by Arc’Teryx radiate with quality and expert craftsmanship.
In our opinion, the greatest strength of this Canada-based company is its collection of hardshell jackets, with fan favorites such as the Alpha SV jacket or the Beta AR jacket. However, keep in mind that these jackets, like most Arc’Teryx products, are quite expensive – the Alpha SV jacket retails at around $800 while the Beta AR jacket comes at a price of around $600. You can be sure that these are very well-made, though. They also look very fashionable and can easily handle a lot of wear and tear that comes with regular use.
In addition to these high prices, Arc’Teryx outdoor clothing (as well as boots, for that matter) is often trim-fitting and very technical. A noticeable exception is the Atom LT synthetic jacket, which strikes a perfect balance between casual appeal and high performance. However, it is still quite pricey – you’ll need to fork out around $260 for the hooded variant. For other reviews read Patagonia vs Arcteryx and the best Arcteryx jackets.
In the end, those looking to save some money can do so by moving their eyes from Canada to the US and opting for outdoor brands like REI Co-op, Columbia Sportswear, or Marmot, but Arc’Teryx remains the best option for hardcore folks who need the best outdoor gear and apparel for their outdoor activities.
Best from Arc’teryx: Alpha SV Jacket
Why buy it?
- Easy-to-use zippers
- Extremely durable
- Superior weather protection
- Great hood
- Where it’s From: Ventura, California
- Popular Products: Capilene, Torrentshell 3L, and Down Sweater
- Pros: Focused on sustainability and production of functional, stylish, and well-made gear and apparel
- Cons: Not as innovative as Arc’Teryx when it comes to technical mountain apparel
A company with a long and rich history in mountain climbing, Patagonia is a favorite of many outdoor enthusiasts everywhere around the world. Founded by Yvon Chouinard all the way back in the 1970s, Patagonia is now a renowned, world-famous brand and one of the best in the outdoor clothing industry. They have a massive collection of all types of gear and apparel, including base layers, hardshell jackets, fleece jackets, leather boots, various accessories, etc.
One department Patagonia is particularly good in is insulation. They have an extensive line of both casual and technical outdoor clothing, suitable for all types of weather (including extreme weather). Patagonia is especially well-known for its DAS Parka and Micro Puff technical garments, as well as for their beloved Down Sweater, which is one of the company’s best-selling casual pieces.
As we’ve already mentioned, Patagonia puts a special focus on sustainability and environmental activism. Not only do they use responsibly sourced down and all kinds of recycled materials, but they also use the so-called Worn Wear Program to sell used gear and apparel.
While it’s true that nothing compares to Arc’Teryx when it comes to technical climbing apparel, Patagonia consistently manages to manufacture products that are suitable for both daily and backcountry uses. Price-wise, one can expect to pay a bit more for jackets bearing Patagonia’s logo, but these prices are undoubtedly justified by the quality of materials and craftsmanship.
Best from Patagonia: Down Sweater
- Where it’s From: Seattle, Washington
- Popular Products: Transcendent, Ferrosi, and Helium
- Pros: Genuinely waterproof garments, great value for the money
- Cons: The fit is not as dialed as in the case of Patagonia or Arc’Teryx clothes
Unlike some of the brands mentioned above, the one that we’re analyzing here is particularly popular in one specific area of the United States – the Pacific Northwest. Based in Seattle, Outdoor Research was founded in the 1980s by a climbing enthusiast called Ron Gregg. He has decided to do something about poorly designed climbing gear available at the time once his friend experienced frostbites due to the use of not-so-well-made gaiters.
Ever since then, Outdoor Research has kept expanding its focus and nowadays covers a wide range of outdoor activities – from skiing to trekking. The areas in which they’re particularly good include synthetic and down insulation, as well the design and manufacture of tough hiking jackets.
We like it when outdoor brands (like the North Face, for example) really give their best to make their jackets as waterproof (but also functional at the same time) as possible. However, 9 out of 10 times, the technology used to make a particular piece of apparel waterproof is nothing to write home about. This is precisely where Outdoor Research’s patented AscentShell membrane comes into play. While it’s not as protective as the ubiquitous Gore-Tex is, AscentShell has proven to be impressively breathable, mobile, and weather-worthy. It can be found in many of the brand’s designs, including the popular Skyward II ski shell. Read more on other brands like Patagonia, Patagonia vs Columbia, Thermoball vs Nano Puff, and the best Patagonia winter jackets.
The fit of the apparel designed and sold by Outdoor Research isn’t the best one out there, but, speaking generally, the gear made by this outdoor brand always manages to nail a good balance between high performance and a reasonable price. In the end, we consider Outdoor Research to be somewhere in the middle between high-end brands such as Canada-based Arc’Teryx and more budget-oriented brands like Columbia.
Best from Outdoor Research: Super Transcendent Down Hooded Jacket
Why buy it?
- Goose down insulation
- Great set of features
- Good value for money
- Beautiful design
- Where it’s From: Kent, Washington
- Popular Products: Stormhenge, Rainier, and 650 Down Jacket
- Pros: A solid balance between good performance and reasonable prices
- Cons: The finish (as well as the fit) is not as good as that of the brands like the North Face or Patagonia
There’s a good reason why so many people in the United States love REI Co-op. With over 160 stores all over the country, this outdoor brand provides a plethora of member benefits (such as various discounts on gear and services, access to special garage sales, and a yearly dividend) and often has excellent sales throughout the year.
Because of all this, REI is undoubtedly one of the more community-focused outdoor clothing brands. Besides that, the brand has a pretty strong commitment to environmental protection – it is involved in a myriad of community and environmental projects, conservation initiatives, as well as various eco-friendly practices within its own range of outdoor clothing and gear.
The brand has been making its own clothes, sleeping bags, and other gear and selling them in their stores since 2014 and now has a wide range of outdoor clothing that includes garments such as winter parkas, fleece hoodies, down jackets, and all-weather hard shells, as well as footwear such as trekking shoes and boots.
Nowadays, REI utilizes top-notch materials and technologies from brands like Gore-Tex, Pertex, and PrimaLoft. On the other hand, some of their most popular offerings include the Stormbolt and XeroDry rain jackets, as well as the well-known Stormhenge down jacket. All of these come at great prices even though they’re made out of premium materials.
Overall, the gear designed and manufactured by REI Co-op can be obtained at surprisingly reasonable prices in their stores, especially if we take into account the fact that these products provide a great performance. While you won’t be getting the high-end finish and fit or great attention to detail of brands like Helly Hansen or Arc’Teryx, you also won’t be paying for it.
Best from Rei Co-Op: Stormbolt GTX Jacket
Why buy it?
- 3L Gore-Tex laminate
- Pack-friendly pockets
- Where it’s From: Portland, Oregon
- Popular Products: Watertight, Steens Mountain, and Bugaboo
- Pros: An admirably wide range of gear and jackets sold at reasonable prices
- Cons: Not the best quality out there; casual appeal only
Founded more than 80 years ago in Portland, Oregon, Columbia Sportswear is now the brand everyone thinks of when someone mentions casual outdoor clothing. Their clothes and gear are a major standout in the budget category. In other words, Columbia is one of those outdoor clothing brands with a genuinely extensive line of footwear, outdoor clothing, and accessories that significantly undercut their competition – their boots and jackets are very affordable.
One of the best examples of this is the Columbia Watertight II jacket. This model can be obtained for as little as $60 and is made out of relatively durable materials that allow it to handle daily wear and tear, as well as mild precipitation.
Unfortunately, lower prices almost always mean lower performance and the overall quality, and the same can be said for the hiking equipment made by this budget-oriented company. In other words, Columbia certainly isn’t a synonym for long-lasting designs or premium materials. The Watertight jacket we’ve mentioned above comes without pit zips and therefore isn’t as breathable as its rivals that come at a higher price. Similarly, this is not one of those jackets that can handle heavy downpours particularly well.
But still, Columbia is undoubtedly one of those outdoor clothing brands that have that special kind of appeal for casual recreationalists. If you’re not interested in technical features and you don’t need a genuinely waterproof jacket made by the likes of North Face, Patagonia, or Helly Hansen, you’ll find that the products of this company are more than suitable for your needs. Read more on Columbia vs North Face Jackets.
Another thing worth mentioning here is that Columbia is one of those outdoor brands with a dedicated line of “tall & big” options for larger folks, which only enhances the widespread appeal of this company.
Best from Columbia: Watertight II Jacket
Why buy it?
- Wide variety of color options
- Includes pit zips
- Functional Design
- Athletic fit
- Where it’s From: Carlsbad, California
- Popular Products: Kanab, Halle, and Stretch Zion
- Pros: An extensive collection of sizes and colors; strong focus on sustainability
- Cons: Not for those looking for technical outerwear
Prana was founded in 1992 by Pam and Beaver Theodosakis, who wanted to make stylish-looking climbing and yoga apparel out of recycled materials. We think that it’s pretty safe to say that Prana has stayed true to these roots.
Nowadays, Prana is probably the most eco-friendly out of all outdoor clothing brands on the market. The company uses materials such as RDS-certified down, recycled wool, and organic cotton. In addition, finding bluesign-approved fabric in their jackets is not a rarity. Another thing we really like about this brand is that most of its garments can be obtained in various sizes and colors.
One particular type of product Prana is really good at making is hiking pants. Their Stretch Zion pants, for example, provide its wearer with a truly excellent combo of performance and comfort. The classy colorways of these superb pants make them more than suitable for traveling and around-town use, but it’s the hiking where they truly excel.
However, hiking enthusiasts looking for top-notch insulation or mountain-ready boots and jackets will have to look elsewhere. But still, the jackets and pants offered by Prana definitely have that casual everyday appeal the North Face is so well-known for, particularly in outdoorsy places such as Seattle, Bend, or Boulder. The last thing that needs to be said about this brand is that it was acquired by Columbia a few years ago, although that didn’t really have an effect on its environmental ethos or the quality of its hiking gear and equipment.
Best from Prana: Stretch Zion Pants
Why buy it?
- Stretchy and comfortable
- Integrated belt
- Excellent pockets
- Where it’s From: Derbyshire, United Kingdom
- Popular Products: Neutrino Pro and Microlight Alpine
- Pros: A nice line of premium climbing jackets and other equipment
- Cons: Their products are not easy to obtain in the US
While it’s not as nearly as famous as the companies like the North Face, Arc’Teryx, or Helly Hansen, Rab is definitely one of those outdoor brands that have a lot to offer. Founded in 1981, Rab is now headquartered in Derbyshire, United Kingdom, and it’s a brand with a very nice collection of warm down jackets and other outerwear that easily rivals the quality of the products offered by the North Face and other well-known brands.
For example, Rab’s Neutrino Pro model is one of the best heavyweight down jackets you can buy on today’s market. With a very generous dose of top-notch down used in its insulation, Neutrino Pro is a perfect choice for long winter hikes and it’s one of those jackets that can and do keep their wearers warm.
Since this model also sports an incredibly durable and weather-resistant Pertex Quantum Pro shell, it’s no wonder that it isn’t exactly affordable (it retails at about $375). But it should still be mentioned that a lot of heavyweight competitors, like the famous Cerium SV jacket made by Arc’Teryx, are even less affordable (Cerium SV costs around $600).
Rab also has a couple of well-made Gore-Tex shells in its line of products, like the skiing jackets from their Khroma and Muztag GTX ranges. To put it simply, those who like to ski or often have to deal with snow and wintery conditions during their hikes, can’t really go wrong by opting for the gear and equipment made by this brand.
What are the downsides of opting for hiking equipment made by Rab? There are two of them – the availability and the cost. Besides the fact that this is one of the least affordable brands, Rab’s outerwear can be quite tricky to obtain if you live in the United States. Make sure to visit an REI shop or one of the Backcountry stores – maybe they do have Rab boots or skiing jackets you were looking for.
Best from Rab: Microlight Alpine Jacket
Why buy it?
- Well thought-out features
- Water-resistant down
- Includes dedicated stuff sack
- Where it’s From: Bellevue, Washington
- Popular Products: CirrusLite and MicroTherm
- Pros: One of the most renowned outdoor brands with a long history
- Cons: Its popularity diminished over the years
Founded more than a century ago in Seattle, Washington (but now headquartered in Bellevue), Eddie Bauer is one of the original outdoor brands in the Pacific Northwest area. The brand began as a simple tennis shop, owned and operated by a local fishing and hunting outfitter named Eddie Bauer (hence the name). Once Eddie patented his very first down jacket sixteen years after the company’s foundation, the brand slowly started evolving and becoming more and more popular.
Ever since then, Eddie Bauer has outfitted a lot of famous expeditions everywhere around the globe. It’s one of those brands whose outerwear, footwear, and accessories were used by mountaineering pioneers. Nowadays, the company’s range of products consists of quality apparel, including winter parkas, rainwear, and insulated jackets, and they also design and sell excellent hiking boots and lots of different accessories.
Just like the North Face, this is a brand that provides exceptional products intended for technical use but still has a lot of casual fans. The down products of Eddie Bauer are particularly impressive, like the ones from the company’s MicroTherm range. A shell from this lineup will typically be very warm (due to the presence of top-notch 800 to 1,000-fill power down) and be equipped with features such as underarm mesh sections or stretchy side panels.
While it’s not a world-known brand like Patagonia or the North Face, Eddie Bauer is certainly doing its best to become popular once again and we’re hoping that it will manage to do so.
Best from Eddie Bauer: MicroTherm 2.0 Down Vest
- Where it’s From: Richmond, California
- Popular Products: Stretchdown and Ghost Whisperer/2
- Pros: A phenomenal collection of snow gear and quality shells
- Cons: Its popularity has waned over the years
While it looks like this brand was off everyone’s radars for a time, now it’s finally making a comeback. Mountain Hardwear has made a couple of notable achievements in the fields of sustainability and quality in the last couple of years, and we think that it’s pretty safe to say that it’s now one of the hiking brands that deserve a lot more attention.
Mountain Hardwear is best-known for its well-made snow gear, Gore-Tex shells, and high-quality down products. The newest Ghost Whisperer is a great example of the company’s expert craftsmanship. The original Ghost Whisperer was one of the best ultralight down jackets on the market, and the new update is even lighter, more capable, warm enough to keep you cozy during your hikes, and made out of a quality, long-lasting fabric. If you want to wear something that won’t hinder your fast & light outdoor escapades, this shell is a great option.
The brand has something to offer when it comes to hard shells, too – their Exposure/2 lineup ranges from top-notch Gore-Tex model to the more minimalist Paclite variant and provides a great balance between weight and protection. The brand’s skiing lineup, on the other hand, also uses proven membranes provided by Gore-Tex.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Mountain Hardwear puts special focus on environmental protection – buying one of their products in a shop means buying a product that is made out of recycled materials or responsibly sourced down, and that’s always a big plus in our book.
Best from Mountain Hardwear: Ghost Whisperer/2
Why buy it?
- Great warmth-to-weight ratio
- Water-resistant down
- Where it’s From: Osaka, Japan
- Popular Products: Versalite and Plasma 1000
- Pros: The best brand in terms of ultralight insulation
- Cons: Not for the more casual outdoor enthusiasts
While its products aren’t as omnipresent in stores like the ones made by the North Face or Helly Hansen, Montbell is still a top player in the category of genuinely lightweight hiking garments. While it’s true that this is a somewhat niche area, the number of ultralight hikers rises with each passing year – Montbell is definitely going to experience a huge increase in popularity in the next decade.
One of the most renowned Japanese brands, Montbell is world-famous for its extremely thin shell called the Versatile rain jacket, as well as for its exceptionally well-made down garments, some of which sport the down fill power of 1,000 (very impressive!). As we’ve already said, most of their hiking and sports garments are remarkably lightweight – the Plasma 1000 Down jacket, for example, weighs less than 5 ounces, while the already mentioned Versatile model weighs just a bit over 6 ounces. You’d be hard-pressed to find lighter jackets in stores anywhere around the world.
As you may have expected, using fabric that is so lightweight doesn’t come without compromises. These are sports-targeted, extremely technical pieces of outdoor apparel that simply don’t have any casual appeal. In addition, they’re not really durable and should be used only by the hardcore ultralight explorers who really want to shave off as much weight as possible. So, if you’re a very committed thru-hiker who wants to move as fast and light as possible, Montbell’s (surprisingly affordable) products are your best choice. And if you can’t find them in your local stores, you can simply order them online!
Best from Montbell: Plasma 1000 Down Jacket
Why buy it?
- Incredibly light
- Highly compressible
- Impressive warmth-to-weight-ratio
- High-quality DWR coating
- Includes stuff sack
- Where it’s From: Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
- Popular Products: Vidda and Greenland
- Pros: A lifestyle brand dedicated to making hard-wearing gear and accessories
- Cons: Overly technical, heavy, and sometimes quite expensive
Founded all the way back in 1960 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, Fjällräven is not a brand most people look for when they enter an outdoors apparel shop. The company came into the world as a manufacturer of backpacks, which is precisely why their Kanken bags and packs remain among their most important (and most popular) offerings even today.
However, Fjällräven has grown significantly since the 1960s and is now well-known for its well-made and stylish hiking garments. From trekking tights to hiking pants, fleece tops, down parkas, and winter jackets, this brand’s products are not only very stylish but also immensely functional, whether you decide to use them for sports like skiing or just for regular backcountry exploration.
No analysis of Fjällräven is complete without mentioning the G-1000 fabric, which is the company’s proprietary, hard-wearing material that they use in most of their products. The G-1000 fabric itself consists of 35% cotton and 65% polyester. And while it’s true that cotton certainly isn’t the world’s most waterproof material, the blend used in Fjällräven garments can become somewhat water-resistant if you decide to have it coated with Fjällräven’s Greenland Wax.
Although we really like the robust constructions and unique fabrics used in Fjällräven’s skiing and hiking garments, some people find the designs a bit polarizing. If you’re looking for something completely different from the North Face, make sure to check out the products of this Swedish company when you hit the outdoor apparel stores the next time.
Best from Fjällräven: Vidda Pro Ventilated Trousers
Why buy it?
- Wind and water-resistant
- Thick and durable fabric
- Many pockets
- True to size
Black Diamond Equipment
- Where it’s From: Salt Lake City, Utah
- Popular Products: StormLine, Mission, and First Light
- Pros: An admirable range of backcountry-ready garments
- Cons: A very narrow skiing/climbing focus when compared to the North Face and other brands
Remember Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia? The same guy founded yet another brand half a century ago – Chouinard Equipment – which was to design and manufacture climbing gear. Unfortunately, Chouinard Equipment had to file for bankruptcy a couple of decades ago, but this event has also led to the birth of Black Diamond Equipment.
Nowadays, Black Diamond Equipment still puts a special focus on climbing gear, with their Camalot range being a standout. However, a decade ago, the brand decided to enter the hiking apparel game and did so in a big way. Ever since 2013, BD’s lineup has been growing exponentially and now consists of some genuinely impressive products – fleece hoodies, durable shells, warm base layers, quality footwear (fantastic approach and climbing shoes), as well as all sorts of accessories like gloves and hats.
If we take the brand’s history into account, it’s no wonder that a lot of its clothes have a skiing/climbing focus. However, BD still has a couple of crossover garments that work pretty well when it comes to everyday use, such as, for example, their StormLine Stretch shell.
The proprietary membrane BD uses to make its products waterproof deserves a special mention – it’s called “BD.dry” and it provides breathability, mobility, and protection that can rival Gore-Tex. While it’s true that the brand still has a lot to do in order to become a well-known name in the stores and a serious rival to the North Face and other famous companies, Black Diamond’s current progress is very promising.
Best from Black Diamond Equippment: Mission 75 Backpack
Why buy it?
- Great weight-to-volume
- Excellent features
- Hydration compatible
One other that might be interesting is North Face vs Canada Goose, this did not make the list as Canada Goose is not primarily a hiking or sportswear company. Though they make great gear.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.