Take on the Outdoors with This Inclusive Women's Clothing Brand

alder apparel is here to welcome women into the outdoors.

alder apparel clothing
Photo courtesy of alder apparel
Photo courtesy of alder apparel
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If you’ve ever entered an outdoor retailer and felt an immediate wave of imposter syndrome, you aren’t the only one. When National Geographic Explorer Mikayla Wujec first approached childhood friend and fashion marketer Naomi Blackman about creating an outdoor clothing brand, she had long struggled to find technical, functional women’s gear that fit well and looked stylish. The pair soon found that the women in their lives hesitated to call themselves “outdoorsy,” despite their love of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.

“We realized not only were outdoor products lacking in style, but they also weren't making everyday, outdoor-loving women feel represented by their single-minded, hardcore version of being outdoorsy,” explains Blackman.

The result? “We started alder,” says Wujec, “to be a more welcoming, inclusive outdoor apparel company that celebrates the many, many ways to be outdoorsy.”

This philosophy is apparent in everything from the brand’s XS to 6X sizing—“Part of welcoming women into the outdoors means actually outfitting women who want to enjoy the outdoors,” says Wujec—to its range of pants, skorts, shorts, tops, exercise dresses, and jackets, all of which are designed for adventure. It also feels relevant that alder provides information about how the clothing is made, including factory conditions and details about the largely sustainably sourced fabrics, so customers can make informed decisions about their purchases.

As someone who loves the outdoors but feels incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of rugged zip-off trekking pants, I’d consider myself part of alder apparel’s target audience, which is why I was eager to try out the brand. I’ve been testing alder’s bestselling Open Air pants for more than a year now, and recently brought a suitcase full of alder to Acadia National Park, so I could put a few of the brand’s other pieces through their paces.

Here are my thoughts on some of alder's styles:

The Take A Hike Shorts

alder apparel Take A Hike shorts
I climbed a few mountains in alder's Take A Hike shorts. | Photo by Tim Nelson

At first, I wasn't so sure about the cargo pockets, but after summiting multiple mountains in alder apparel's Take A Hike shorts, I'm absolutely sold. The recycled nylon and spandex fabric is super sturdy yet incredibly stretchy, and it moved comfortably with my body as I lifted myself up nearly-vertical sections of granite, without any tugging or pilling. The elastic waistband and removable belt gave me a perfect fit that didn't ride up or down. I sat in the dirt in these shorts many times (hiking is exhausting!) and it didn't show at all—and when I spilled my water bottle in my lap, the water-resistant material felt relatively dry to the touch at first, then fully dry within 20 minutes.

While these shorts are fairly technical and definitely look like outdoorsy shorts, they're a lot cuter than I expected; I'm not sure if they fit into my everyday city-person wardrobe, but I'd like to think I'll be able to throw them on for dog walks and casual outings.

The Open Air Pants

alder apparel Open Air Pants
alder's stretchy, versatile Open Air pants are ready for anything. | Photo courtesy of alder apparel

I've been wearing alder's bestselling Open Air pants for more than a year, and I will not be parted from them. With a fitted design and soft modal-spandex fabric, the pants don't necessarily feel right for a serious hike, but they're incredibly comfortable for walks in the woods, park hangs, and everyday wear.

While they aren't marketed as travel pants, this is actually my favorite way to wear them. The elastic waistband and multiple zip pockets are comfy and convenient for long days of flying or driving, and they basically never look wrinkled. Once I reach my destination, they can be dressed up to look business casual, or down to look legitimately casual—which absolutely cuts down on what I need to pack.

The Be Free Joggers

alder apparel Be Free joggers
I hiked miles in alder's Be Free joggers. | Photo by Tim Nelson

If the Open Air pants are for casual walks in the woods, the Be Free joggers are alder's take on a more technical hiking pant. They have a looser fit that makes movement truly comfortable, with elastic at the cuffs and waist. A drawstring helps keep them in place, and zips at the cuffs are nice to have when you need a little airflow (and I imagine they'd help these fit over bulky boots, too). I wore these for a lengthy hike on an 80-plus-degree day and longed for something a bit lighter, so I wouldn't recommend them for truly steamy weather, but thankfully my sweat didn't soak into the fabric too intensely, nor were there any visible damp spots. The recycled nylon, lyocell, and elastane material is designed to be a bit more rugged, and it definitely delivers on that front, holding up nicely when scraped against rocks and tree bark.

Also, it bears mentioning that these pants come with pockets galore, enough to make me squeal with excitement and point them all out to my partner the first time I tried them on. They have two hand pockets and two side pockets set below them, plus two back pockets—all of them roomy and secured with zip closures. You can keep your phone and trail snacks in these, and still have multiple other pockets available—most women's clothing could never!

The Get Dirty Skort

alder apparel Get Dirty skort
You truly can get dirty in alder's Get Dirty skort. | Photo by Tim Nelson

alder's Get Dirty skort is the most comfortable skort I've ever worn. The recycled nylon and spandex fabric feels as rugged as the Be Free joggers, but the fabric liner is soft and stretchy enough to allow for any movement—or for lounging around at home. Like all of the brand's offerings, the pocket situation here is better than average, with two pockets in the liner and two zip pockets in the skirt. I had no trouble clambering around on seaside rocks in this skort, and any sand or mud seemed to brush off easily. It felt cute enough to wear into town for dinner, too. 

One thing to note is that this skort seems like it might be a better fit for someone with thicker thighs (we love to see it!). The liner rides up on my thin legs; it's not an issue for short outings, but I wouldn't want to wear it on a more serious hike.

The Rain Or Shine Coat

alder's rain coat is packed with features. | Photo courtesy of alder apparel

"I'm so proud of our Rain or Shine coat," says Wujec, who considers the coat her favorite item from the brand (Blackman's is the Go Far Fleece). "It's our most technical piece - fully waterproof with a three-layer bonded fabric and taped seams, with lots of breathability vents and openings baked in and of course in signature alder style - a ton of pockets. It's one of our pricier pieces, but when you compare it to other similarly technical raincoats out there, it's a steal!"

I have this coat, too, though summer drought conditions have gotten in the way of testing plans. It's a hefty piece, made entirely from recycled materials, and not something I'd choose in place of a lightweight Gore-Tex number. However, the thicker fabric will be perfect for chillier weather. It's undeniable that this coat is chock full of features, from the underarm vents to the truly remarkable pockets (two front, two side, two interior, all so roomy). Drawstrings at the waist can dramatically change the fit of the coat as desired, and drawstrings around the hood ensure it stays on in windy weather. Side zips increase mobility, and a reflective strip on the back is great for safety. There are also adjustable cuffs and wrist liners to ensure no rain gets up your sleeves. I'll leave this in the closet for the summer, but I can't wait to wear it for every single rainstorm in the spring and fall.

The Verdict

Blackman tells me that "alder is for women who love to spend time in the outdoors, who want clothes that stand up to the elements and move with them on their adventures, without sacrificing their style," and I think the brand has truly accomplished what its founders set out to do. The pieces are cute enough to wear on any adventure (outdoor or otherwise), but most of them feel rugged and functional for spending time in nature. I'm sure I'll be wearing my alder items for years to come.

As for Blackman and Wujec? They just had their first major U.S. retail launch at REI and have new products in the works, along with pop-up shops, collaborations, and outdoor meet-ups. "It's a joy to work on alder," says Wujec, "and to work on building a better, more welcoming outdoor industry every day."

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