How To Find The Best Sustainable Outdoor Brands In Australia

The more time you spend exploring the wild and beautiful outdoors, the more you realise how every single decision you make affects mother nature. Luckily, finding the best sustainable outdoor brands is easier than you think because most have begun by an outdoor enthusiast like yourself. 

But unfortunately, just because it’s easier than you think, it still isn’t that easy… 

There are countless factors that contribute to creating a sustainable label and sometimes there are unavoidable situations. Other times, brands bend the truth to portray themselves in a greener light without actually being a sustainable outdoor brand – this is called ‘greenwashing’. 

It’s been a long and persistent journey of ours to search for facts and find sustainable outdoor gear that will also stand the test of time. And while we’re still not using 100% sustainable outdoor gear, we’re getting closer every day. 

In this post, you’ll find a list of the best sustainable outdoor brands of 2022, including what to look for and how to sift through the bullshit to determine whether the brand you’re questioning is actually sustainable or not! 

Hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap during a cloud inversion with Alpen glow lining the horizon

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How To Find The Best Sustainable Outdoor Brands

When you begin your search for the best sustainable outdoor brands, you might notice that most of the posts you find will relate to clothing only. Unfortunately, this is because to make lightweight outdoor equipment such as tents and sleeping bags, sustainability is often thrown out the window as a result. 

However! While it is substantially harder to find a sustainably made hiking backpack or pair of hiking boots that last, more and more recycled options are becoming available so don’t lose hope. 

Before we get into the list of the best sustainable outdoor brands of 2022, let’s take a look at what sustainability is all about and how you can conduct your own research in the future. 

What Does Sustainability Mean?

The definition of sustainability according to the Oxford Dictionary is “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” and “the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.

And if we look around us, at the rise in natural disasters and global warming, we have evidence that we are not maintaining a safe rate or level. 

So what does this mean for outdoor brands? It’s common for people to assume that if a brand simply uses recycled material, it’s a sustainable brand. However, there are many other factors that contribute to whether a company is sustainable such as:

  • Their energy consumption in the manufacturing stage
  • Their energy consumption of the offices and headquarters
  • The durability of their products
  • Their waste management
  • Whether they use ethically sourced raw materials
  • Whether they use recycled fabrics or virgin plastics
  • What they offer for used products and repairs
  • How they treat their staff throughout the entire process
  • Whether they use sustainable packaging for their products

Luckily, if you do enough digging you can find out most of this information through a company’s sustainability report. And if you can’t find one, that’s a huge red flag!

And due to the way we live and how we’ve previously lived, it’s unrealistic to expect a brand to tick all the boxes perfectly. All we can do is look for brands that have an active action plan in place that strives for higher sustainability.  

Candace standing in the Australian Alpine equipped with all the essential hiking gear

Why Is Supporting Sustainable Outdoor Brands Important?

There are many reasons why it’s important to support sustainable outdoor brands, but perhaps one of the most crucial is to encourage other brands to continue down the same path. As a united force of consumers, we have a say in which companies are successful and if we choose to only shop sustainably, then the brands that are lagging will need to do better in order to succeed. 

But the most crucial reason of all is to save our planet in any way we can. The clothing industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions which may not sound like much but it’s actually more than all the international flights and maritime shipping combined! 

Just by choosing recycled or organic, we can help save precious water, and reduce plastic and pollution. To quote the legendary Sir David Attenborough, “It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.”

Choosing Ethically Sourced Gear

Adjusting Osprey Aether pack strap under Hartz Peak

To us, it’s not enough to simply choose a brand that’s sustainable. The ethical side of a business is a huge factor that we consider before making a purchase as well. 

Ethics in an outdoor brand relates to human and animal welfare. A brand that is ethical will be doing its best to ensure no animals are subject to unnecessary harm and any parts of the animal used is a by-product of the meat industry. 

In regards to human welfare, an ethical brand will ensure their workers throughout the entire process are treated fairly with decent working conditions and wages. 

Unfortunately, it’s even more difficult to determine whether a brand is ethical because most often, the manufacturing is done in developing countries where sufficient information is hard to come by. 

Fairtrade Mark for ethically sourced outdoor gear
Fairtrade Mark

Where you can, choose a brand that has a Fair Trade label or that’s made in your own country. 

How Do You Know If A Brand Is Sustainable?

It can be difficult to determine whether a brand is truly sustainable and ethical. I briefly mentioned the term ‘greenwashing’ before which refers to when brands convey a misleading or false impression of their sustainability.

Brands will do this through exaggeration and by bending the truth. But luckily, there are ways that you can sift through the lies and find as much truth as possible. A great resource to use for clothing brands is Good On You. Unfortunately, they have a small number of outdoor brands on their list but they do have some of the major ones such as Patagonia and Arc’Teryx.

Check For Eco Labels

In recent years, more and more organisations have surfaced that are dedicated to exposing the truth of a brand’s sustainability and human and animal welfare. For a company to access such labels from these organisations, they need to be transparent and show they’re holding a high standard in all areas of sustainability and human and animal ethics.

These are the major labels to look for in the outdoor industry from organisations we can trust.

  • B Corp – This certificate shows a company demonstrates high social and environmental performances, you can Find a B Corp brand through their website 
  • Fair Trade – The Fair Trade label demonstrates a company is using products that are ethically sourced
  • Bluesign – This label shows that the textiles used in a certain product are safe and sustainably made and sourced, look for brands that are a Bluesign Systems Partner 
  • Textile Exchange – Textile Exchange has a number of standards and certificates that relate to sustainably sourcing raw materials such as down and wool, their most relevant standards for outdoor gear are:
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) – GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres including ecological and social criteria, you can browse their list of certified suppliers although it’s a little clunky 
  • 1% For The Planet – To be a partner of 1% For The Planet, a company donates 1% of their sales (not profits) to support environmental solutions
Bluesign Logo, sustainably sourced fabric checker
1% for the planet logo, an organisation that donates 1% of sales to better our environmental sustainability
B Corporation Logo, an organisation that enforces sustainability on companies

Read The Brands Sustainability Report

If you are in love with a brand but can’t find the above labels, then you can always read their sustainability report to see whether they’re trying to reach the standard necessary to achieve an eco-label. 

But beware, this is where greenwashing can occur so make sure you’re reading between the lines! And if a brand doesn’t have a sustainability report on its website, that’s a huge red flag. The most common location to find a sustainability report on a brand’s website is in the footer (bottom of the page).

How Can You Help?

Hiking through Barron Pass towards Lake Tahune Hut

Hopefully, you’ve not lost hope, because there are ways that you can help and ensure you’re having as little impact as possible, regardless of whether a company is doing the right thing. 

Do You Really Need It?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you really need a new product or if you can continue using the one you have. It’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the constantly changing fashion industry but as we’ve learnt, it’s one of the most significant contributors to global warming! 

Buy Second Hand

If you’ve decided you do need a new product, check whether you can purchase it second-hand first. There are plenty of ways that you can find second-hand gear these days, including directly from some of the larger outdoor companies. 

Here is a list of places where you can find second-hand outdoor gear:

Walking down a staircase made from logs on Frenchmans Cap Tasmania

Repair Your Gear

There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to help you repair almost anything! And if in doubt, duct tape always works…

But seriously, some companies, such as Patagonia and Osprey, will repair your gear throughout its lifespan with only a small fee if it’s out of warranty – although often there will be a lifetime warranty on some products.

Look For Recycled Or Organic Material

When all else fails and you’re looking for a brand new product, check the materials to ensure they’re recycled, organic and/or have one of the eco-labels listed above. Of course, this isn’t always possible but even a small percentage of recycled fabric is better than nothing. 

But just remember, don’t forego durability… 

Choose Durability

Scarpa Delta Hiking Boots on a cold morning hiking in Tasmanian's South West National Park

It’s not simply enough to choose a product that’s recycled or organic, for it to be sustainable it also needs to hold up to the test of the wild. There’s no point in buying a recycled or vegan product that is going to wear out within a few months, as waste is another of the world’s major issues. 

The best place to find out whether a product is durable is through reviews and word of mouth. There are plenty of Facebook groups or forums where outdoor adventurers are more than happy to share their experiences and offer advice. 

9 Of The Best Sustainable Outdoor Brands Of 2022

We’re lucky to live in a time where there are more and more outdoor brands striving to be sustainable and ethical. And with the help of eco-labels, we can easily make a more sustainable choice when we’re looking for outdoor gear or sustainable gift ideas

These brands are some of the best sustainable outdoor brands of 2022 that are excelling in both ethical and sustainable practices. 

Patagonia

Sunrise shining on the peak of St Patricks Head Tasmania

You could say that a fair chunk of the change we’re seeing in the sustainability of outdoor brands is thanks to Patagonia

This California-based brand has been fighting for our environment and ethical work conditions since the 70s, all the while creating clothing that is innovative, durable and as good for the planet as can be. 

Patagonia offers lifetime repairs for a reasonable price and if you have a product of theirs that is at the end of its life, you can return it to their Service Centre for it to be recycled or repurposed through their Patagonia Worn Wear collection. 

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, also created 1% For The Planet which is an organisation where businesses donate at least 1% of their sales (not profit) to environmental nonprofits that are working on defending the earth’s air, water and land.

If you want to learn more about Yvon Chouinard and his epic journey with Patagonia, check out his book Let My People Go Surfing

Eco-Labels:

  • B Corp
  • 1% For The Planet
  • Bluesign Systems Partner
  • Responsibly Sourced Down

What They’re Doing Well:

  • 98% of products are made with recycled materials
  • 88% of products in their line are FairTrade certified sewn
  • 100% of down is responsibly sourced
  • 100% of their cotton is organic
  • 100% of electricity needs in the US were met with renewable energy
  • Self-proclaimed activist company supporting the environment

Zorali

Zorali is a small Australian brand that was started a few years ago by a couple that feel strongly about the outdoors, the environment, and making clothing that looks good! 

In their few short years of business, they’re already kicking sustainability goals with recycled clothing and the B Corp label. Not to mention, they plant 10 trees through the Eden Reforestation Projects with every product purchased. 

I think we can expect to see great things from Zorali, who are focused on bringing more people outdoors. Their products are predominantly geared toward the outdoor ramblers rather than the hardcore hikers and are designed to be worn on and off the trail. 

Eco-Labels:

  • B Corp
  • 1% For The Planet
  • Climate Neutral Certified

What They’re Doing Well:

  • 10 trees are planted with every product sold through the Eden Project
  • They’re completely carbon neutral
  • Their products are made from hemp, organic cotton and recycled fabrics
  • Zorali are planning to create a community where they’ll run experiences for all levels of adventurers

Kathmandu

Hiking in the snow in sustainable outdoor gear

Originating out of New Zealand, Kathmandu is a well-known brand among fellow Australians and Kiwis. In 2019, they officially became part of the global B Corp movement and have a strong focus on recycled products. 

While not all of their products use recycled or organic fabrics, they’re on their way to increasing the amount. Other sustainable goals that they’re aiming to reach by 2025 include reaching zero waste and becoming carbon neutral.

Kathmandu seems to have a bad rep in the hardcore hiking scene but our experience with their products has been a positive one, with Dylan’s down jacket lasting over 5 years without much wear and tear – not without a lack of trying on his part!

Eco-Labels:

  • B Corp
  • Bluesign Systems Partner
  • Responsible Wool Standard
  • Responsible Down Standard

What They’re Doing Well:

  • 100% of cotton used is sustainable
  • All wool and down are responsibly sourced
  • Kathmandu has a large focus on social inclusivity

The North Face

While The North Face isn’t quite there yet with sustainability, they’re on the right track. The North Face has set ambitious goals to reach by 2025 that will see them using 100% responsibly-sourced fabrics, reducing their environmental footprint, eliminating single-use plastic packaging, and recycling and re-using previously-owned gear. 

The reason they make this list is due to The North Face Renewed where they give old gear a new life. They’re also very transparent with their sustainability status and allow you to shop only sustainably made products via the collection named ‘Sustainable’ which also includes a variety of backpacks and sleeping bags.

Eco-Labels:

  • Bluesign Systems Partner
  • Responsible Wool Standard
  • Responsible Down Standard

What They’re Doing Well:

  • The North Face Renewed sells pre-loved gear that’s been re-purposed or re-vamped
  • They’re on track to using 100% responsibly-sourced fabrics by 2025
  • They have a collection named Sustainable to make it easy for you to shop sustainably
  • The North Face uses PFC-free waterproofing

XTM Performance

Hiking to the peak of frechmans cap in a short sleeve thermal base layer

XTM Performance was the first Australian sporting goods company to become carbon neutral way back in 2008 and is aiming to halve its emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2040. 

We’ve worked with XTM and are proud to wear their outdoor gear that’s not only sustainably made, but has shown its durability time and time again – and let me tell you, we’ve put it to the ultimate tests! 

Within their product range of base layers, hiking shirts and much more, you’ll find gear that uses sustainably sourced wool, organic cotton, and recycled fabrics. In their dropdown list, you can even choose to only shop recycled or organic cotton. 

Eco-Labels:

  • Certified Carbon Neutral
  • Responsible Wool Standard
  • Responsible Down Standard

What They’re Doing Well:

  • Every XTM product made is Certified Carbon Neutral
  • Their entire company has been carbon neutral since 2008
  • XTM uses sustainable packaging
  • PFC-free waterproof and water-resistant products

Nemo Equipment

Nemo Equipment has recently hit my radar with its innovative designs for sleeping bags and sleeping mats. But not only do their products close a few design gaps, but they also strive to make any part they can out of recycled fabric. 

It’s not easy to find tents or sleeping bags that are 100% sustainable but Nemo Equipment does its best to tackle this issue while still producing durable and reliable gear. Sustainability has been one of their highest priorities since the beginning back in 2002. As of today, they’re completely climate neutral and strive to cut their emissions in half by 2030. 

Eco-Labels:

  • Bluesign Systems Partner
  • Climate Neutral Certified
  • Responsible Wool Standard
  • Responsible Down Standard

What They’re Doing Well:

  • They’re climate neutral with the goal of cutting their emissions in half by 2030
  • Nemo’s office spaces are powered by 100% renewable energy
  • Use recycled fabrics on any part of their products possible
  • All Nemo products carry a lifetime warranty, keep spare parts for old and new products, and offer to repair any well-loved gear at a reasonable price

Osprey

Hiking in my sustainable Osprey Ariel Pack

Osprey makes the most durable backpack I have ever had the pleasure of owning, hands down! After 5 hard years of use, my Osprey backpack shows little wear and looks as if it will stay with me for a long while yet. Not to mention, it’s as comfortable now as it was on its first outing. 

See our Osprey Aether Plus Review Here

The majority of their technical backpacks are made with a sustainable design and while not all are made from recycled fabrics, they’re PFC-free and Bluesign approved. They may not be just there yet in sustainably made products, but Osprey has a sustainability vision of becoming the most progressive, transparent and sustainable outdoor hardgoods brand worldwide.

Osprey also has an All Mighty Guarantee which sees that your pack is repaired throughout its lifetime free of charge and when it’s unrepairable a replacement will be sent out. 

Eco-Labels:

  • Bluesign Systems Partner

What They’re Doing Well:

  • Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee offers repairs throughout a packs lifetime for free
  • Their packs are made PFC-free
  • All products are made with Bluesign-approved fabrics
  • Their products are highly durable and last a long time

Icebreaker

Watching a sunrise inversion from Frechmans Cap summit in my thermal base layers

Icebreaker is a brand originating from New Zealand that pioneered merino base layers and produces quality clothing that is durable, comfortable and good for the earth. They have strong long-term relationships with their wool growers who are committed to a strict animal welfare code that extends to sheepdogs working at the stations. 

They’ve put a great deal of effort into being plastic-free by 2023 and as of now, 95% of their total fabrics are merino or plant-based. Icebreaker are also part of the ZQRX programme which helps growers work with nature with the goal of restoring waterways, protecting native species, offsetting carbon, and enhancing local communities.

I currently wear the Icebreaker 260 merino base layer top which I use almost every day in winter and it is yet to show any signs of wear. 

Eco-Labels:

  • Responsible Wool Standard

What They’re Doing Well:

  • Their goal is to be plastic-free by 2023
  • 95% of Icebreaker’s total fabrics are now merino or plant-based 
  • Icebreaker has a strict animal welfare code that all their growers must adhere to
  • They’re part of the ZQRX programme 

Amble Outdoors

Amble Outdoors, previously known as Team Timbuktu, is an Australian brand that focuses on producing sporting clothing for all women. From the beginning, they’ve only ever produced products that are made from 100% recycled and organic fabrics. 

Their focus is on providing a safe and inclusive space for all women to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. Right now, their product line consists of a small collection of sporting wear and waterproof jackets which are perfect for a waterfall adventure or a run around the block. 

Amble Outdoors also offers to take back pre-loved products so that they can recycle and re-purpose them. And later in 2022, they will launch a repairs program to properly care for your gear. 

Eco-Labels:

  • Global Organics Textile Standard certified
  • Global Recycle Standard certified

What They’re Doing Well:

  • 100% of their products are made from recycled and organic fabrics
  • Amble Outdoors plants 10 trees for every product purchased through the Eden Reforestation Projects
  • They only partner with manufacturers who have ethical certificates
  • All their packaging is sustainable 

Final Thoughts

Moody Sunset overlooking Strahan and the West Coast of Tasmania from the peak of Mount Tyndall

To be completely sustainable and ethical throughout an entire production is no small feat. And I doubt there is a single company that can honestly say that every single thing they do is sustainable and ethical. Unfortunately, it’s just too hard to trace every step and we shot ourselves in the foot with our early innovations of plastic. 

But, there are plenty of companies out there that are working hard towards becoming as sustainable and ethical as possible and for that, we are grateful! 

Remember to ask yourself whether you really need that new piece of gear and choose second-hand first. Repair your gear before throwing it out and when you do throw it out, try and return it to its makers or send it to a second-hand store. 

It’s not just up to the major companies to do the right thing, it starts with you.