These outdoor brands have the most inclusive sizing for women
The average woman in the U.S. is a size 16. Here are five gear companies that are actually making clothes for her.
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Like many Americans, I gained some weight during the pandemic, pushing me solidly into the “plus-size” category for the first time in my life. As a winter-loving Coloradan who skis at least 20 days a year and loves snowshoeing with my pup, I knew I needed new gear to feel comfortable and protected outdoors. But finding attractive, functional apparel in my size was, sadly, a struggle.
According to a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education, the average American woman is a size 16 to 18. Currently, most outdoor gear companies can only outfit women up to sizes 12 to 14, leaving the average woman out in the cold—literally.
However, outdoor companies are slowly starting to wise up. Here are some brands that carry apparel in extended sizes for multiple outdoor activities, from snow sports to hiking, biking, mountaineering, and more.
This legacy brand is the OG of inclusive sizing, having offered larger sizes for women and men for the past 20 years. In fact, legendary company president “Tough Mother” Gert Boyle, daughter of founder Paul Lamfrom, was the original plus-size fit model. The company carries most of its outerwear, base layers, hiking pants, and fleeces in sizes up to 3X. Andrea Kelly, senior merchandiser of extended sizing, landed at Columbia ten years ago, after several years of working for other outdoor brands. As a plus-size snowboarder, Kelly remembers how hard it was to find gear that fit: “[Columbia] was the first company I worked [at] in the outdoor industry where I could actually wear the product.” Plus-size women aren’t a monolith, and Kelly stresses the importance of offering a variety of products to fit different needs. Columbia is one of the few brands that offers extended sizing at various price points and with different technical features, from basic waterproof pants to high-performance backcountry gear.
I tested some of the most technical snow jackets and pants Columbia offers in extended sizes, the Glacier View Omni-Heat Infinity Insulated Jacket ($250) and Backslope II Omni-Heat Infinity Insulated Pants ($180). Both feature lightweight insulation and two-way stretch for a more custom fit. I’m obsessed with the pants, which feature a comfy adjustable high waist that doesn’t dig in or roll down. I just wish they came in a short length. Apparel is available in sizes up to 3X.
Another heritage brand with a long history, Eddie Bauer has been outfitting plus-size athletes for hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing and riding, and mountaineering for decades. “Eddie Bauer has always been committed to a super-wide range of inclusive sizing,” says CEO Damien Huang. “So, when we introduced high-performance technical gear [First Ascent in 2009], we kept that in mind.” According to Huang, the brand currently offers about 80 percent of its catalog in extended sizes—plus (up to 3X), tall, and petite—and that category makes up just under 20 percent of the company’s total sales.
An ultrawarm yet lightweight down puffy is an outdoor essential, and I loved the versatility of the First Ascent Microtherm 2.0 Jacket ($229). In addition to feeling soft and cozy, thanks to lightweight down insulation, it’s windproof and water-resistant and features stretch panels on the chest and under the arms for added mobility. This go-anywhere jacket stows into its own pocket and weighs only 10.2 ounces, so you can easily toss it in your pack for camping or backpacking or stash it as an additional midlayer on an extra-cold ski day. Eddie Bauer also carries a plethora of fashionable athleisure in inclusive sizing, including a playful collaboration with hip L.A. brand The Great. Apparel is available in sizes up to 3X.
Founder Georgina Terry launched her women’s bike brand in Vermont back in 1985, starting with women-specific bicycles and transitioning to bike apparel and saddles in the 1990s. “We’ve been selling extended sizes for at least 20 years,” said Paula Dyba, vice president of marketing, who’s been with the brand since the beginning. “Because our goal was to get every woman on a bike.”
Ashley Jambor, a die-hard mountain biker who’s in the process of launching her own bike apparel brand, has worn Terry apparel for years, due to its fit and technical features. She recommends the brand’s bestselling Liberty Bike Short ($110), a traditional bike chamois with a fuller leg. “I’m a 22/24 in jeans and have been able to wear their Liberty shorts in a size XXL for the last five-plus years,” Jambor said. Terry also recently launched its popular sun-protective Soleil Long Sleeve Flow Top ($105) in plus sizes. Apparel is available in sizes up to 3X.
Mountaineering brand Outdoor Research has been outfitting athletes for all types of inclement weather and fast-changing alpine conditions since 1981. The company started offering extended sizes (XS and XXL) in fall 2021 and is launching plus sizes (1X to 3X) beginning in mid-April 2022. OR has been working in tandem with plus-size athletes like climber Bennett Rahn to design and test technical gear, including a comprehensive layering system, featuring more than 30 styles of base layers, insulated skiwear, waterproof shells, and sun-protective clothing for variable-weather activities.
OR’s SuperStrand LT line of synthetic down layers is beloved for its impressive warmth-to-weight ratio that keeps you toasty and dry, even when wet. Plus, it compresses down to the size of your palm for easy packing. Apparel will be available in sizes up to 3X starting in mid-April 2022.
Two childhood friends, Mikayla Wujek and Naomi Blackman, launched this inclusive Toronto-based brand in 2020. Their goal was to bring a laid-back, welcoming approach to casual outdoor apparel, eschewing intense endurance gear and aesthetics. The brand’s goal is to promote a sense of belonging and accessibility for the everyday woman. “Inclusive sizing was a nonnegotiable to us from the beginning,” Blackman said. Alder launched with sizes up to 4X and quickly realized that wasn’t enough. The brand now carries all products in sizes up to 6X, while also offering different inseam lengths for its pants to cater to different body types.
One of Alder’s top sellers is the Open-Air Pant ($155), a high-waisted hiking/travel pant made from environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and breathable modal fabric with 6 percent spandex for comfort and ease of movement. It comes in eight colors and two lengths. Apparel is available in sizes up to 6X.