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A guide to ethical and responsible outdoor clothing

By Montane

Published on 6 min read


How ethical and sustainable is your outdoor kit?

Montane share their expert knowledge on what to look out for when choosing outdoor clothing, so you can become a more responsible explorer.

mountain nature

Ever wondered how your favourite walking gear is made?

We all have a duty to help protect the wild places we love and exploring responsibly should now be a given, whenever you’re heading out for an adventure. But what about the clothes you choose to take on these adventures? How do you know they have been responsibly made?

Whether it’s your trusted waterproof jacket, or your most comfortable walking trousers – a good day out in the hills usually involves outdoor kit that you’ve invested in to help keep you comfortable on the move. Rightly so, more and more of you are wanting to better understand where the kit you wear comes from, so you can have confidence in their origins and make environmental conscious buying decisions.

One company doing what they can to provide more information upfront is clothing and equipment specialist Montane. Specialising in engineering lightweight, breathable gear for a wide range of outdoor adventures – including walking, hiking, running and mountaineering – they’ve spent years developing kit that protects you in harsh environments. Alongside ensuring this enables you to perform when you need it to, Montane are also committed to being transparent with consumers about the origin of their products.

Ultimately Montane believes that understanding the clothes you choose to wear is an important step towards becoming a more responsible explorer of the great outdoors. That’s why they’ve developed a handy glossary to unpack lots of the technical terms. But for those with limited time and unsure of where to begin, here’s a few of the key terms to look out for and the reasons why they are worth considering when purchasing kit…

couple wearing ethical and responsible outdoor clothing

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF)

Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organisation who believe there is a better way to make clothes. They strive for fair working conditions throughout the global garment industry. All members of Fair Wear Foundation, including Montane, ask that the manufacturers they work with agree to FWF’s 8 Code of Labour practices – which cover things like reasonable hours of work, properly managed workplace health and safety, and no employee discrimination.

Importantly, members of FWF carry out regular audits to monitor compliance in the factories they work with – the details of Montane’s annual Social Report can be found published on their website. This report details all the work done over the past year to properly manage Montane’s FWF membership. FWF also conduct their own annual audit of member brands, known as a Brand Performance Check, to check that the work being done is managed in the right way. Each Brand Performance Check Report is also published on members and FWFs website, including the score awarded to that brand.

Responsible Down Standard (RDS)

The down used in your favourite down jacket, or product, ultimately comes from birds that are a bi-product of the meat industry. The RDS certification gives you confidence that the down used has been sourced from birds treated with good animal welfare throughout their lifetime, and significantly that birds were not force fed, or their down live plucked.

You can discover more about this certification, as well as other technical terms related to down jackets, including track my down and fill power, in Montane’s guide to down insulation.

Couple wearing ethical down jackets

100% Organic Cotton

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because cotton is a natural plant-based fibre it is produced naturally. Cotton is actually an incredibly chemical and water intensive crop to grow. 100% organic cotton provides an alternative, which is grown using less water and without the use of harmful pesticides.

Growing cotton in this way helps to protect the farm workers harvesting the crop as well as local communities whose water sources are not contaminated by the pesticides used in regular cotton cultivation. Discover more about why Montane chooses to only use 100% organic cotton.

PFC- Free

PFC-based DWR’s are commonly used acronyms in the outdoor world that stand for Perfluorocarbon Compounds and Durable Water Repellents. They are chemicals that provide resistance to water. As a result, they’re found in a variety of products you’re likely to have come across or own – from non-stick cooking pans to waterproof gear! But because PFC’s are so durable, they do not break down naturally and have been accumulating in the environment around us for years. This in turn is causing problems for the planet…

To stop this environmental bioaccumulation, a move towards being PFC-Free is now gaining momentum globally. Whilst it will take time for the new technology to be fully developed across the products that are currently PFC-based, there are positive steps are underway to eliminate PFC’s entirely from the Montane range by 2026. This includes men’s and women’s legwear and down products, which are now all PFC-Free.

Couple running in Scotland

More ways to explore responsibly

Alongside better understanding where your clothes come from, there are many other ways to get outside responsibly. Here are a few things to help get you started…

• Stick to the paths! Hear from Fix the Fells in this podcast, an organisation based in the Lake District helping to combat erosion in the UK’s largest National Park.
Give litter picking a go… as little as 2 minutes of your time could make a huge difference to your local biodiversity. Why not incorporate it as part of your next walking adventure?
• Fuel up consciously on the move and avoiding geotagging on Instagram – interested in learning more? Read this guide to protecting mother nature.
• Love climbing? BMC share how to respect the rock outdoors and leave no trace.

WIN in our Montane X OS giveaway

Don’t miss your chance to get your hands on £500 worth of Montane clothing and equipment this month, as well as a selection of OS Maps goodies! In celebration of National Map Reading Week, we’ve teamed up with Montane to bring you an extra special giveaway. Enter to win. Terms and conditions apply, competition closes midnight 13/08/23.

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