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Though these companies are each only about a decade old, they’ve quickly established themselves as gear gods in the making.
Calling Card: Glue-free waterproof textiles
In 2010, Timm Smith, a former product developer for Gore-Tex; Dan English, an ex-Microsoft techie; and his son, Dustin English, an Alaska mountain guide, walked into a bar—er, Denali National Park & Preserve. The trio quickly realized their cold-weather apparel was flimsy—and not even very warm—and they couldn’t seem to find any high-quality alternatives. “Walking around Outdoor Retailer [the industry’s major trade show] at that time, it was a lot of sameness,” Smith says. They decided to start their own textile innovation company, Voormi, and spent the next three years perfecting their first product, the High-E Hoodie, a merino wool quarter-zip made with a proprietary technology that yields a stretchy, water-repelling fabric. Intent on not outsourcing their labor to Asia, the trio established a manufacturing facility in Pagosa Springs. As Voormi gained traction, winning awards from Skiing Magazine (now Ski Magazine) and Men’s Journal, the three didn’t stop innovating. In 2015, they debuted a technology that yields waterproof fabrics without using glue—which was the industry standard for more than three decades—resulting in a more breathable, less “crunchy” product. When the coronavirus descended on the United States, they pivoted to making neck gaiters that double as masks—just another example of their ability to adapt and evolve.
What’s New: Men’s Access NXT pullover with thermal wool technology and water-repellent finish in harvest, $199
Calling Card: Pure merino wool layering pieces
Peter and Patty Duke’s roles in Smartwool’s story may have ended in 2003, when they sold the merino fabricator to private investors, but their journey with the textile had just begun. After aiding in the widespread popularization of the wool apparel, the couple noticed many of the new companies pushing merino merch were using a blend cut with materials like bamboo or tinsel. That was enough for the purists to get back in the game, and in 2008 Point6—named for the human body’s optimal temperature—was born. Employing environmentally friendly processes like plasma treatment, which uses electricity instead of chlorine-based chemicals to prevent wool from curling, the Dukes started selling top-quality socks and base layers from their Steamboat Springs outpost. For the past three years, they’ve been working on a seamless liner glove, which they released in October–just in time for ski season.
What’s New: Seamless base glove in charcoal, $39
Calling Card: Retro-inspired multipurpose bags
Before founding Topo Designs, Jedd Rose and Mark Hansen were tech workers with no experience making clothing or backpacks. They did, however, have a love of the outdoors and nostalgia for packs like the ones they wore growing up, which sported simple, functional designs. So, in 2008, Rose bought a sewing machine and began working in his Fort Collins basement on what would become Topo’s first product: the Klettersack, a sleek multi-use bag. The brand’s recognizable aesthetic soon became ubiquitous in offices and on trails alike, and in 2013, Topo opened a flagship store in RiNo. Though the founders strive to keep their designs familiar, they’re not afraid to try new things: This past September, they launched a collaboration with Japanese companies Nanga and Natal Design.
What’s New: Topo Designs x Nanga x Natal Design Rover shoulder pack, $189