A small sampling from the author’s closetActive adults usually buy activewear: moisture-wicking shirts and shorts, thermal underwear, wool socks, fleece pullovers, wool hats, snowgear–the list goes on. Extensive research and development go into sportwear, making it spendy, with the price passed on to the consumer. And yet, folks always seem to notice how much Patagonia gear I own. Am I a label-monger? No, that peer-pressure habit went out with Jordache jeans. Am I wealthy? Not on a teacher’s salary. If I need something–a new fleece, running shorts, or even everyday, casual clothes–I try to buy Patagonia.

Here’s why:

They care. Patagonia is committed to saving the planet. Even before Google came out with its “Do no harm” motto, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, was thinking of ways to make money and save the planet. They use scraps. They cut down on plastic packaging and opt for rubber bands instead. They donate 1% of their profits to environmental causes. They will recycle your underwear. Ok, that last one’s weird. But still, they try to make smaller the footprint they’re leaving on the earth and are literally willing to pay for it. And they walk the walk by being politically active on environmental issues.

They last. I have a pair of Patagonia fleece pants that I cross-country ski in, take camping, and wear under my snowboard pants. On frigid nights they become pajamas. These pants are still rocking after a decade of use and abuse. No pils, holes, or tears. They’re not even stretched out. (Amazing, considering the weight I’ve gained.) The sports bra and cycling tank are on their way out, but only after a decade of faithful service.

They’re affordable. Patagonia catalogs are shiny and pretty, but I never look at them because I can’t even afford the hats featured there. Instead, I wait for sales. When I lived in Denver I would make my annual pilgrimage to its retail store downtown, where prices were slashed up to 60%. Those $80 hemp jeans are now less than $40 and are hanging in my closet, looking as fresh and clean and new as the day they were born.

If strolling down to your neighborhood Patagonia store is not an option, may I recommed the internet. Sierra Trading Post, which specializes in discount activewear, has become my favorite. I shop in the Bargain Barn section and do a search on Patagonia products. No ancient Chinese secret here. For the best bargains, buy out of season. I just bought a pair of Patagonia snowboard pants for $56; they even match my parka.

Or, attend any SNIAGRAB sale you can. These summer and Labor Day blowouts are the brainchild of the ski industry, who lure customers into their stores with ridiculous savings, usually over 50%. If your local outdoor store carries Patagonia products and you want to test my theory about how durable their products are, inquire about their yearly blowout sale, SNIAGRAB or not.

I don’t work for Patagonia, and I don’t get nuthin’ for extolling its virtues. I just think they’re a company that’s doing it right: putting out quality products that are attractive and functional (imagine), and always with a mindful eye on the planet. I don’t just want to buy their products, I want to hang out with these people.

Maybe the Jordache analogy wasn’t so far off after all.

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