The North Face is one of the most well-known outdoor clothing brands. However, if you are looking for alternatives to The North Face, the following brands are worth looking at.
- Black Diamond
- Mountain Hardwear
- Eddie Bauer
- Columbia Sportswear
- REI Co-Op
- Outdoor Research
- 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 those who aren’t that serious about their wilderness escapades. Founded in 1974, Marmot offers all kinds of products – from ski shells to sleeping bags to winter jackets. We’ve always been impressed by Marmot’s products that strike a 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 it’s safe to say that these garments significantly undercut the competition by providing solid performance for lighter adventures in the Great Outdoors.
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 and bombproof protection in the wilderness, Marmot probably isn’t the best choice out there. On the other hand, suppose you need casual (but well-made) garments for around-town use and summer backpacking. In that case, 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.
- 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 worldwide. Founded by Yvon Chouinard 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 gear and apparel, including base layers, hardshell jackets, fleece jackets, leather boots, accessories, etc.
One department Patagonia is particularly good in is insulation. They have an extensive line of 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 and its beloved Down Sweater, one of the company’s best-selling casual pieces.
As we’ve already mentioned, Patagonia focuses 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 regarding technical climbing apparel, Patagonia consistently manages to manufacture products suitable for daily and backcountry uses. Price-wise, one can expect to pay a bit more for jackets bearing Patagonia’s logo, but the quality of materials and craftsmanship undoubtedly justify these prices.
- 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 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 decided to do something about poorly designed climbing gear at the time once his friend experienced frostbites due to the use of not-so-well-made gaiters.
Since then, Outdoor Research has kept expanding its focus and covers a wide range of outdoor activities – from skiing to trekking. The areas in which they’re particularly good to include synthetic and down insulation and the design and manufacture of tough hiking jackets.
We like it when outdoor brands (like the North Face, for example) give their best to make their jackets waterproof (but simultaneously functional). 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.
The fit of the apparel designed and sold by Outdoor Research isn’t the best, but generally, the gear made by this outdoor brand always manages to nail a good balance between high performance and a reasonable price. Ultimately, we consider Outdoor Research somewhere between high-end brands such as Canada-based Arc’Teryx and more budget-oriented brands like Columbia.
If you are interested in Outdoor Research products, I recommend checking out my comparison of North Face and Outdoor Research.
- 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 many 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 strong commitment to environmental protection – it is involved in a myriad of community and environmental projects, conservation initiatives, and various eco-friendly practices within its own range of outdoor clothing and gear.
The brand has been making 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 and 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 consider 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 won’t be paying for it.
- 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 over 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 and mild precipitation.
Unfortunately, lower prices almost always mean lower performance and 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 with that special appeal for casual recreationalists. If you’re not interested in technical features and 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.
- 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 from recycled materials. We think it’s 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 like about this brand is that most garments can be obtained in various sizes and colors.
One particular type of product Prana is 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 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 affect its environmental ethos or the quality of its hiking gear and equipment.
- 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 famous as the companies like the North Face, Arc’Teryx, or Helly Hansen, Rab is one outdoor brand with 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 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 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 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 many 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 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 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 this being 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.
- 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 over 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 first down jacket sixteen years after the company’s foundation, the brand slowly started evolving and becoming increasingly 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 and mountaineering pioneers used footwear and accessories. The company’s range of products comprises quality apparel, including winter parkas, rainwear, and insulated jackets. They also design and sell excellent hiking boots and many different accessories.
Like the North Face, this brand 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 warm (due to top-notch 800 to 1,000-fill power down) and be equipped with 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.
- 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. The new update is even lighter, more capable, warm enough to keep you cozy during your hikes, and made from 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 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. On the other hand, the brand’s skiing lineup also uses proven membranes provided by Gore-Tex.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Mountain Hardwear focuses on environmental protection – buying one of their products in a shop means buying a product made out of recycled materials or responsibly sourced down, which is always a big plus in our book.
- 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 as the ones made by the North Face or Helly Hansen, Montbell is still a top player in 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 will 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 and 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.
As you may have expected, using fabric that is so lightweight doesn’t come without compromises. These sports-targeted, extremely technical pieces of outdoor apparel simply don’t have any casual appeal. In addition, they’re not durable and should be used only by hardcore ultralight explorers who 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!
- 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 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, the company’s proprietary, hard-wearing material 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 I 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, check out this Swedish company’s products when you hit the outdoor apparel stores the next time.
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 focuses on climbing gear, with their Camalot range being a standout. However, a decade ago, the brand entered the hiking apparel game in a big way. Ever since 2013, BD’s lineup has been growing exponentially. It now consists of some genuinely impressive products – fleece hoodies, durable shells, warm base layers, quality footwear (fantastic approach and climbing shoes), and accessories like gloves and hats.
If we consider the brand’s history, it’s no wonder that many 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 provides breathability, mobility, and protection that rivals Gore-Tex. While it’s true that the brand still has a lot to do 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.
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. However, they make great outdoor gear.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. 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.