Where to Find Great Sustainable Cold Weather Gear, According to Avid Hikers

Outdoor enthusiasts John Larracas and Julie O’Boyle share their favorite sustainable brands, where to shop secondhand, and their go-to fall and winter pieces.

From left to right, John Larracas and Julie O'Boyle | Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
From left to right, John Larracas and Julie O'Boyle | Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
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The arrival of fall and winter brings cooler temps, and subsequently all different kinds of outdoor adventures. Whether you’re climbing your way up to a mountaintop or simply hiking through a backwoods trail, al fresco outings this time of the year require extra layers to ensure that you can still enjoy your time soaking up some fresh air without freezing your butt off. And while reliably warm jackets and insulated underlayers can get expensive—especially if you insist on both quality and durability—there are two distinct ways to save some money in both the short and long term: finding secondhand pieces and shopping from sustainable brands.

To help you get started, we reached out to John Larracas, an athlete and adventure storyteller, and Julie O’Boyle, blogger and avid hiker, who shared their favorite sustainable brands, their tips for finding secondhand gear, and their go-to pieces for hiking in the cold weather. Both take sustainability very seriously, “As an athlete and adventure storyteller, sustainability is important to me because it greatly affects the environment where I spend most of my time—nature,” says Larracas while O’Boyle adds that “It blows my mind how, knowing what we know about the universe and other planets, we don’t actually take better care of the one we’re on—the one that’s proven to actually sustain life, where oceans and forests exist.”

If you’re trying to both stick to a budget and become a more conscious consumer, check out their recommendations below.

Thrillist: What’s your favorite shop to find second hand gear?
John Larracas: I mostly go to local thrift stores in Northern California. For online purchases, Patagonia’s WonWear section is my go-to.

Julie O’Boyle: Besides keeping an eye on our local thrifts, some of my favorite sources for secondhand gear and equipment include apps like Poshmark and Depop for clothing, shoes, and packs; Facebook Marketplace for equipment; and TheRealReal for higher-end goods, like snowboarding jackets and pants, goggles, etc.

I’m also a member of Cairn, an outdoor subscription box, which gives members access to their used gear auction site, Unstacked By Cairn; and I’m a member of the REI CO-OP as well, which gives access to the REI Garage, their members-only in-store selection of used, slightly damaged, and returned gear. My membership at REI also gives me access to their used gear trade-in service, where members can trade in used gear in exchange for gift cards.

Can you share your tips for people looking to buy second hand items for the first time?
Larracas: An important tip that I can share is try finding a thrift store located in a town where there are snow sports. Most of the time you will find second-hand winter gear gems there from locals who are transitioning to a new set of winter gear. Most of the leading outdoor brands these days are selling used gear as well.

O’Boyle: Buy a measuring tape from the craft or fabric store and when you’re considering purchasing a secondhand item off an app or online, compare your measurements to the item featured. If they’re not listed, just ask! The one downside of purchasing secondhand is that in most cases, you can’t return it if it doesn’t fit or you don’t like it, so it’s super helpful to know your measurements before you make a purchase. Similarly, it can be helpful to know how a brand fits since they all fit so differently.

For shoes, I don’t recommend buying any that are super heavily used, since everyone’s footprints are so different, so always look carefully at the inside for signs of heavy wear. That said, for equipment like snowboard boots and ski boots, you can actually purchase new liners and heat mold them yourself to save some money. One other tip is to get comfortable making simple repairs. Lots of little imperfections can be mended easily.

What are your favorite brands to shop from that follow sustainable practices?
Larracas: I personally like to shop for products from Patagonia and Arc'teryx. Their sustainability efforts run globally and they keep on setting the bar high to make sure other brands would be motivated to do the same thing. It helps to educate the people about why fast fashion is incredibly bad for our environment. My go to fall/winter gear are the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody Jacket, Patagonia’s Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover,Arc'teryx AR Pants, and Patagonia’s Long-Sleeved Organic Cotton Mid Weight Fjord Flannel Shirt.

O’Boyle: I appreciate that Picture Organic acknowledges they’re inherently part of the problem by manufacturing apparel, but actively work to do everything they can to offset the effects while working towards a more sustainable future. I’m hoping to replace my super old snowboard jacket and pants this year (we’re talking 2004) and I would love to replace them with gear from Picture Organic. TREW is another rad one. They’re doing a lot in the conservation space while also advocating for backcountry safety and education, and they recently launched a circular commerce program called Afterlife where used gear can be traded in and recycled or repaired and resold. One other brand I want to mention is Alder Apparel. They partner with ethical factories to manufacture their apparel and their sizing is super inclusive, ranging from XS through 6X. We hear companies touting the phrase “the outdoors are for everyone” quite often—only to see their sizing go to an XL. I love that Alder is truly creating apparel for every [type of] body, and I would love to see more outdoor brands follow suit.

I love the retro styling of the Week End JKT and EXA PT Pant from Picture Organic, and the Chariot Bib from TREW would be great for backcountry riding. They’re more of a summer/fall item, but I’ve been eyeing the Open Air Pant from Alder Apparel. Fall is my favorite time to hike, and these pants are actually cut nicely while being super functional.

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