5 Ways to Make Eco-Friendly Choices with Your Outdoor Gear

As industry professionals, we need to demand sustainable gear. Why? It turns out that most outdoor gear can’t be recycled, uses tons of resources. For example, one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of raw textiles uses up to 600 liters (158.5 gallons) of water! That’s a lot of water to dye your expeditions pack. In order to take protect the natural spaces we hold so dear, we need to consider the environment when we purchase gear. Let’s take a look at how we can make eco-friendly gear choices a habit.

Material Matters: Synthetic vs. Natural Material

We understand that when it comes to outdoor adventure, we want to avoid cotton, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that synthetic is the answer. In fact, synthetic materials are often made with raw (unrecycled) petrochemicals, meaning there are oil-based products such as plastics in your synthetic, moisture-wicking clothing. That’s no bueno for Mother Earth.

Merino, a type of wool, is an excellent substitute for synthetic layers. Merino offers all the moisture-wicking, warming, cooling and odor-resistant properties that synthetics offer, without the use of petrochemicals. It is the more sustainable material choice.

The material originates from Spain (although Merino sheep are farmed all over the world today), by a particular type of sheep. When Merino is gathered raw, the sheep are simply sheared or shaved and then let back out to pasture to leisurely enjoy the rest of their day, no harm done.

Sustainable Outdoor Gear: Merino We Love

We love Icebreaker for their dedication to producing high-quality, sustainable merino clothing. Not only do they create high-quality, natural clothing, but they are innovators in supply chain management and transparency. Recently, Icebreaker released a Transparency Report that covers Icebreakers focus on people and nature, allowing everyone to see how the brand operates behind the scenes. The report sites over 85% of their raw materials coming from natural sources. Now that’s sustainability we can get behind.

Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite Sphere Tees. Perfect for life in the wild to a night on the town. Maximum comfort you can wear year-round and feel good about!

how to chose eco-friendly gear Icebreaker
Don’t let the name fool you. Merino wool works great in both hot and cold climates

The Downlow on Down

When it comes to warmth for the weight, you can’t beat down. Just like synthetic clothing, synthetic fill in sleeping bags and jackets contains petrochemicals. Many of these fills cannot be recycled, making it a wasteful use of resources and putting a strain on the environment.

However, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding down products. Many manufacturers don’t monitor their down supply chain, but the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) aims to change that. More and more outdoor brands are buying into the RDS label.

Responsible Down Standard is a voluntary standard where companies can certify their down products. The certification process focuses on traceable down and ensures that the birds were not harmed during the down harvest process. This is done in the following ways:

  • Holistic respect for animal welfare throughout the life of the animal. Force feeding and removal of feathers from live birds is prohibited.
  • Mandatory supply chain audits and management ensures that down is traced throughout the manufacturing process (from farm to factory) to ensure that non-RDS down are not mistaken for RDS down.
  • Only products with 100% RDS down are allowed to carry the logo.

RDS-certified down products are easy to spot – there’s a blue and white circular tag on the label. If you don’t know, always ask before purchasing down products.

Our Down Favorites

Here at Outdoor Prolink, we love NEMO for their commitment to the RDS. NEMO not only started an energy saving initiative but also all of their down products come with the RDS label. If you’re a side sleeper, you’ve got to check out the Disco 15 sleeping bag. Its unique spoon shape offers maximum comfort. The bag not only features RDS, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down but it is also PFC-free. Now there’s a bag we can get cozy with.

Choose Recycled Content

In the outdoors, there is no avoiding plastic products. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make eco-friendly decisions when it comes to synthetic products. Look for companies that utilize recycled content in their products, such as the Adidas Outdoor Parley for the Ocean.

Diverting Ocean Plastic

Adidas teamed up with Parley for the Ocean to intercept plastic waste that might otherwise make it into our oceans and waterways. Adidas then takes that plastic and recycles it into shoes, jackets, shirts, shorts and other outdoor gear. Shop the Adidas Parley line and help keep plastic out of the waste stream.

how to make more sustainable gear choices
Believe it or not, the upper part of these Adidas Outdoor shoes are made from recycled ocean plastic.

Or Choose Content that Recycles

In the outdoors, we use quite a bit of disposable items. Take fuel canisters for example. These steel containers are chucked into the waste stream each year. But did you know you can recycle these steel canisters? Steel is one of the shining stars of the recycling world. It is estimated that around 69 percent of all the steel in North America is recycled, more than any other material. Most steel contains recycled content.

Recycling Your MSR Canister

MSR makes recyclable steel fuel canisters. The best part? The process takes minimal effort. All you need to do is make sure all of the fuel is burned. Use the canister until it no longer holds a flame. Then puncture the cannister with a can opener or ice tool. Be sure to do this away from any flame source. Next, simply recycle at a metal recycling center. For more info, check out the MSR website.

It’s All in the Label: Bluesign Textiles

The Bluesign label is an independent certification system encompassing several aspects of sustainability. This holistic approach starts with material sources and works its way up to the finished product. In order for a product to carry the Bluesign label, the product and company must pass audits in the following areas:

  • Resource productivity
  • Consumer safety
  • Water emission
  • Air emission
  • Occupational health and safety

Introducing the first Bluesign climbing rope

The folks at Edelrid were the first rope manufacturer to adopt the Bluesign standard. Edelrid managed a 62 percent reduction of the product’s carbon footprint, a 63 percent decrease in overall energy usage and an 89 percent decrease in water consumption. We love the Edelrid Boa Eco for its innovative Bluesign label.

Packaging Counts

Have you ever bought a small item from a large company only to have that item shipped with tons of excess packaging? Opening the package feels like nails on a chalkboard!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 30 percent of our waste stream contains materials that come from packaged goods. It doesn’t matter if you buy something from a brick-and-motor store or online, the items still need to be packaged and shipped.

When it comes to packaging, you may not know until you buy. However, pay attention when your shipment arrives. Were there tons of hanging tags, plastic pieces and excess packaging on the item itself? Was the item shipped with plastic filling, such as poly bags, foam peanuts or any other non-recyclable material? The next time you go to purchase gear, support companies working towards zero-waste packaging.

The Final Word

As outdoor professionals, it’s our responsibility to make sustainable decisions. By opting to support companies making strides in the realm of sustainable products, we are helping to preserve the outdoor spaces that mean so much to us. Your dollar counts and your influence in the industry sets an example for others to support sustainable gear initiatives. How do you make eco-friendly choices when buying your gear? Let us know in the comments below!


Meg Atteberry is a writer, adventurer, and passionate outdoorswoman. Her mission is to empower other women to get outside and have an adventure. She spends her time summiting mountains, overcoming her crippling fear of heights, and traveling all over the world. She’d rather be dirty than done up. Find and connect with her on Instagram at @adventuresoffoxintheforest

One comment

  1. Zach Bollheimer

    MSR isobutane canisters are not sustainable. Isobutane is one of the main products of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Make an alcohol stove from some beer cans if you’re really trying to be sustainable, and stop supporting fracking in our national forest and BLM lands.


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