Kit with a conscience

Our experts Jen and Sim Benson seek out the best outdoor gear with outstanding ethical credentials.

A range of clothing items on woodchip 

1  Jack Wolfskin Kiewa fleece jacket
£90 jack-wolfskin.co.uk

The Kiewa fleece is part of a new 100% recycled clothing range from sustainable German brand Jack Wolfskin, which also achieved 100% PFC-free clothing and packs this year. The Kiewa is made from bluesign-certified recycled polyester and is great to wear as a mid-layer in colder weather or as a breathable outer. 

2  Smith Lowdown XL2 sunglasses 
£139 smithoptics.com

US-based Smith Optics has the largest eco-friendly sunglasses collection in the world, with 100% of its injection-moulded frames made with Rilsan Clear – a bioplastic made from renewable, non-GM (genetically modified) castor plants. The Lowdown XL2 offers great coverage with polarised, ChromaPop colour-enhancing lenses.

3  Sherpa Suraj tee-shirt 
£25 sherpaadventuregear.co.uk

Tashi Sherpa founded the company in 2003 to provide local people with economic and social stability. More than half the products are made in Nepal, where workers are guaranteed steady employment and fair pay and conditions. The Suraj Tee is made from organic cotton, grown without reliance on pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. The fabric is tough, comfortable and breathable, and ideal for warmer days.

4  Columbia OutDry Ex Eco Tech Shell waterproof jacket 
£180 columbiasportswear.co.uk

Established in 1938, US brand Columbia has a range of market-leading eco-friendly products. This mid-weight waterproof features Columbia’s own OutDry external membrane to keep out the worst of the weather. It’s PFC-free and 100% recycled. The white and grey colours are undyed to reduce water usage and pollution.

5  Vaude Kabru Light down jacket 
£215 vaude.com

Vaude thoroughly lives up to its mission to ‘full-heartedly accept [its] social and environmental responsibility’, winning numerous green business awards, as Fair Wear Foundation members and in pioneering the use of sustainable materials. The Kabru jacket is made with 100% recycled materials, including a durable nylon outer, 800-fill power RDS-certified recycled down and polyester stretch panels for a warm, lightweight and packable layer.   

6  Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion socks 

£20 darntough.com

Family company Darn Tough has been making socks in Vermont, US, for 40 years. Its Merino wool is sustainably sourced, and the brand is working towards 100% Responsible Wool Standard certification. Designed for high-mileage hiking and tested on the Vermont Long Trail, these socks combine cushioning around the heel and forefoot with support, and the naturally antimicrobial properties of Merino wool for comfort. 

7  Fjällräven Keb 52 
£265 fjallraven.co.uk

In 1950, Fjällräven’s founder, Åke Nordin, created a wooden-framed backpack in his basement in Sweden using his mother’s sewing machine and his father’s tools. The Keb 52 draws from that early heritage, its beautiful wooden frame reducing CO2 emissions by 90% compared with similar packs’ production. Designed using tough recycled polyester/organic cotton fabric with recycled nylon base and sides, it’s a joy to carry.

8  Klean Kanteen Reflect bottle 800ml 
£29.95 kleankanteen.co.uk

California-based Klean Kanteen has revolutionised drinking on the go by raising awareness of plastic pollution and creating bottles that people are proud to use. Reflect is designed using sustainably harvested bamboo, food-grade silicone and stainless steel. Klean Kanteen is a certified B-Corporation, ensuring high social and environmental standards, and donates 1% of sales to environmental organisations.

9  Alt-berg Nordkapp boots 
£219.99 altberg.co.uk

Alt-berg is a British company making outstanding boots in its own factories in Yorkshire and Italy. Known for quality and fit, Alt-berg also has good ethical credentials, using European manufacture and sustainably sourced European leather. The Nordkapp three-season walking boot is made from Italian Nubuk, with a Vibram sole and a PFC/PTFE-free waterproof Sympatex membrane.

10  AKU Bellamont II Plus shoes 
£164.95 aku.it/en

#With 30 years’ experience as premium footwear makers, Italian brand AKU manufactures 85% of its products in company-owned European factories with 100% traceability. The Bellamont combines outstanding craftsmanship with top-quality materials in a shoe that’s perfect for less technical walking. The nubuck leather upper is responsibly sourced from Dani, a sustainable Italian chrome-free tannery, while both the midsole and Vibram outsole are made with recycled content.

11  Páramo Cascada II waterproof trousers 

£155 paramo-clothing.com

Páramo and sister company Nikwax were set up by Nick Brown as a sustainable alternative to PFC-based waterproofing. All Páramo products are PFC-free and Fair Trade certified, and over 80% (including these trousers) are made in the Miquelina Foundation in Colombia, providing safe employment for vulnerable women. The Cascada trousers are durable and well-ventilated, waterproof and comfortable. Páramo offers a full recycling service for its products.

A range of clothing items on woodchip

12  Tilley TMH55 Mash-Up Airflo hat 

£75 tilley.com

This Tilley hat is made from hemp, organic cotton and recycled polyester, all of which are reclaimed waste yarns from the manufacture of other products. Each one is handmade in Canada – a process requiring 23 pairs of hands. They’re individually sized, comfortable, UV- protective, washable and buoyant – and they come with a lifetime guarantee. 

13  Light My Fire Eat ’N Drink Kit Bio 

£40 lightmyfire.com

Founded on fair-trade principles and with all products designed and made in Sweden, Light My Fire’s ingenious Sporks are a favourite with outdoorsy folk. You’ll find four Sporks in this meal kit, as well as four plates and four Pack-Up-Cups. A reusable alternative to single-use kitchenware, it’s made from 100% BPA-free bio-based plastic.

14  Smartwool Merino 250 base layer pattern crew 

£84.99 smartwool.com

Smartwool has been making socks in the US since 1994. Working with its suppliers in New Zealand, Smartwool ensures the best possible animal welfare and is making its range more sustainable through the use of recycled wool and eliminating PFCs. This 100% Merino wool crew is a cosy, breathable and naturally antimicrobial layer.

15  Salewa Ortles Hybrid TirolWool Celliant jacket 

£200 salewa.com

Established in Germany in 1935, Salewa’s eco-friendly headquarters are now based in the Dolomites. Ethical credentials include bluesign system certification and Fair Wear Foundation brand leader status. The Celliant insulated jacket combines TirolWool with synthetic insulation for a warm, lightweight layer that works to regulate body temperature. It’s quick-drying and comfortable, with stretch side panels for freedom of movement.

16  Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell waterproof jacket 
£445 fjallraven.co.uk

Founded by Swedish adventurer Åke Nordin in 1960, Fjällräven has a mission to enable people to spend time in nature. Its products combine practicality, comfort and durability with a strong focus on sustainability. The Keb Eco-Shell is made from comfortable yet highly protective three-layer recycled polyester with a PFC-free water-repellent finish. 

17  Picture Sience fleece 
£119.99 picture-organic-clothing.com

Since 2008, French brand Picture has been creating organic, recycled and bio-sourced outdoor clothing. All garments are 100% PFC-free and offcuts are reused. The soft and cosy fleece is made from a mixture of durable, quick-drying, biodegradable nylon and responsibly sourced, naturally antimicrobial Merino wool. 
It features snug hand-warmer pockets and wooden buttons.

18  Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF -1C sleeping bag 
£220 mountainhardwear.com

The Lamina Eco range combines Mountain Hardwear’s outstanding quality and performance with a vastly reduced manufacturing footprint. Undyed to reduce water usage and pollution, the main fabric is a 20D recycled nylon ripstop, the insulation is 70% recycled polyester and the stuff sack, compression sack and trims are also recycled. Mountain Hardwear has a team of corporate responsibility specialists that carries out regular unannounced audits to monitor factory working conditions.

19 Montane Cygnus Pants 
£65 montane.co.uk

Known for making hardwearing kit for demanding outdoor environments, Montane also takes its corporate responsibility seriously. The first brand to implement the Responsible Down Standard across its entire collection, Montane is involved in research to find more sustainable yet equally effective alternatives to PFC-based water-repellents. Made with durable, PFC-free recycled nylon, the women’s Cygnus trousers are lightweight, super-stretchy and comfortable.

20  Millican Fraser The Rucksack 25L 
£130 homeofmillican.com

Following in the footsteps of maverick Millican Dalton, who, in the 1900s, swapped his life in London for adventures in the mountains of the Lake District, Millican’s founders moved to Keswick aiming to make 
kit in a better way. Fraser The Rucksack combines functional design – including a generous main compartment, internal laptop sleeve and easy-access side pockets – with a hard-wearing cotton/recycled polyester canvas. Made in Vietnam, we’d like to see more commitment 
to humanitarian issues.

21  BAM walking socks 
£15 bambooclothing.co.uk

Founded in 2006 by British pole vaulter and environmentalist David Gordon, BAM now leads the way in bamboo clothing. Bamboo requires far less water and land area, while being faster-growing and hardier than cotton. It’s also biodegradable and doesn’t release microplastics during washing. BAM’s walking socks are made using 77% bamboo with nylon for durability and elastane for stretch. 

22  Vaude Green Core Mid boots 
£215 vaude.com

German brand Vaude is run by Antje von Dewitz, whose father founded it in 1974. Europe’s most sustainable outdoor clothing company, Vaude is bluesign and Fair Wear accredited, and partners with the WWF and Greenpeace. Part of the brand’s Green Shape Core Collection, pushing forward the development of eco-friendly materials, these mid-length boots feature sustainable leather, recycled rubber outsole, PrimaLoft Eco (30% plant-based/70% recycled PET) insulation and felt made from cows’ milk.

Two tee-shirts worth considering

A long sleeved topBam Serenity Bamboo Hoody
£48 bambooclothing.co.uk

Made from a bamboo/organic cotton blend, this soft, cosy longer-length hoody is perfect under a jacket for winter walks or as a versatile top year-round. The fabric isn’t quick-drying, so don’t wear it in the rain, but it is naturally good at regulating body temperature and protecting you from the sun (rated UPF50+). Bamboo is biodegradable and a more sustainable crop than cotton, being more disease- and pest-resistant, faster-growing and requiring less water.

A T shirtHoudini Weather Tee
£150 houdinisportswear.com

Established by mountaineer Lotta Giornofelice in 1993, Swedish brand Houdini’s aim is to combine outstanding performance with minimalist design and strong sustainability. The innovative Weather Tee is basically an oversized insulated t-shirt, made in Japan from 70% recycled polyester with a PFC-free DWR treatment. Quite unlike any garment we’ve tested before, it’s fantastically versatile and equally great as a lightweight, packable emergency layer or for an evening around the campfire.

And two jackets

Mammut Convey down jacket
£179 mammut.com

Dating back to 1862, Mammut has established itself as a manufacturer of top-quality climbing ropes and technical clothing. The first outdoor company to join the Fair Wear Foundation in 2008, Mammut still has some work to do to improve sustainability across its range; however, the Convey jacket really stands out. Combining 700-fill power recycled down insulation with a PFC-free recycled polyester main fabric, it’s comfortable, durable, protective and well-priced.

Finisterre Nimbus insulated jacket

£165 finisterre.com

With its origins in Cornwall’s surfing culture, sustainability has always been at the heart of business for Finisterre and all products are PFC-free and made from natural or recycled materials. Being a certified B-Corporation since 2018 commits the company to high standards of social and environmental transparency and accountability. The comfortable, functional and great looking Nimbus jacket has a recycled polyester outer and recycled insulation, ideal as an outer or mid layer.    

Buying tips and eco credentials

Increased awareness is driving corporations to seek better ways of production, reducing harmful processes. To ensure best possible practices, look out for these terms:

Fair Wear Foundation: works with brands within the textile industry to ensure fair pay and conditions for workers.

Fairtrade Foundation: ensures a fair deal for over 1.65 million farmers and workers in 1,226 producer organisations across the Fairtrade system.

Recycled: Polyester or Nylon (polyamide) fabrics made entirely or partly from recycled content, often waste from manufacture, recycled clothing, post-consumer plastics such as bottles or old fishing nets.  

Soil Association Organic/Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): certifies products have been produced organically and adhering to strict environmental and social standards.

bluesign: a complete system for sustainable textile production, eliminating harmful substances and setting and controlling standards for an environmentally friendly and safe production throughout the manufacturing process.

PFC-free: products are free from per- or poly-fluorinated chemicals. These are persistent toxic chemicals that accumulate both in the environment and in the bodies of humans and other animals.  

Responsible Down Standard (RDS): safeguards the welfare of birds used for down and feathers.

OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100: a worldwide, consistent, independent testing and certification system for harmful substances at all stages of textile manufacture.

B Corp: certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

1% For The Planet: A global network of businesses, nonprofits and individuals donating 1% of sales to environmental projects. More than $175 Million dollars have been donated to date.