Increasing our outdoor clothing sizing range to become more size inclusive

A Fit for Purpose: Sizing Matters

By Alex Guerrero

Alpkit is expanding size inclusivity, increasing ranges and leg lengths for men and women, so everyone can "Go Nice Places, Do Good Things."

We’re working on size inclusivity. We’ve been steadily increasing our size ranges and leg length options over the last few years, including launching a men’s XS and women’s 6 and 20. We want everyone and every body to be able to Go Nice Places Do Good Things.

In 2020, Advnture reviewed waterproofs across the industry. Only 2 brands made up to a size 18 – Alpkit and Salomon. Lack of kit should never stop people doing what they love. Ever! Here’s our journey towards being size inclusive.

Our Journey to Size Inclusivity

  1. Our Survey 2021
  2. What Are We Doing?
  3. What Can The Industry Do?

Our Survey 2021

Last year, we worked with Zoe Newham, a kayaking coach based in Scotland, to design this survey. We had an amazing 922 respondents. Thank you, Zoe!

We do recognise that our survey will not have reached everyone it needed to - or been filled in by every outdoor enthusiast who has had difficult experiences finding appropriate kit. The results cannot speak for everyone’s experiences. But they’re a very, very good start.

We Asked: How Does Shopping for Women's Outdoor Clothing in the UK Make you Feel?

  • “Short and too curvy”
  • “Uncomfortable. I'm very happy with/confident about my body but why cant it fit?? If it fits my hips it's too big on the waist, some trousers are really short!? I'd be fine if they were in line with high street fits or maybe need to include slim fit/relaxed fit”
  • “Not great - it’s so hard to find clothes that fit and that are not frumpy and pink!”
  • “Unwelcome” “Lumpy and ashamed to be honest"
  • “It makes me cry. It leaves me upset and embarrassed”
  • "like I don't belong in the outdoors”
  • “Makes me feel like I can't be appropriately kitted out for wanting to get back into the outdoors. Having gained weight through lockdown clothing feels like a barrier to me getting back to the things I love”

These feelings weren’t isolated to customers who buy plus size clothing. It was across the board. We understand that many women and men have a long history of traumatic experiences trying to buy kit that fits, makes them feel comfortable and makes them feel welcome in the outdoors.

We Asked: What is Your Experience of Shopping for Outdoor Clothing in the UK?

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Nearly a fifth of all respondents hated shopping for technical clothing. But a simple ‘yes/no’ question doesn’t represent how complicated these emotions and experiences are.

The lack of choice for women forces some customers to look at men’s options. This experience was most common for plus-sized customers.

Straight-size customers (size 8-14) most commonly have no issues shopping for outdoors kit. This is likely because they can access options in their size across all brands.

What Are We Doing?

Size inclusivity is critical. We definitely don’t have all the answers. But we’re on a journey. Here are the five main steps we’re taking this year:

Extending Size Ranges

In 2021, we added a size 18 to our range. We were one of very few outdoors companies offering this size range in their technical clothing. This year, we’re proud to be adding size 6 and size 20 for women and XS for men with every restock of our product line. Outside of our clothing range, we’re also releasing our Sonder Camino in an XS. Another step in the right direction!

But this isn’t enough for the customers whose sizes are still not included. There are many, many more steps to take.

Every one of our product lines will be available in every size we do. Online and in store. Everyone deserves the same amount of choice. No more rooting around for the one waterproof available in your size!

Product Development

We’ve invested in our product team with a focus on looking at sizing for a broader range of bodies. We’re working hard on the consistency and grading of our fit. And we design our women’s products from the ground up.

We're Listening

Last year, we spoke to one of our customers, Zoe Newham. We had some long chats with her and she helped us design this survey. We’ve also been talking to @every_body_outdoors. They’re a campaign on a mission to fight for representation for plus-sized bodies in the outdoors. Thank you to these women for sharing their lived experience and expertise with us.

Increasing Representation

Alongside our conversations with @every_body_outdoors, we are working behind the scenes to increase our representation of a range of bodies on social media and in photoshoots.

Training

We are implementing training for all staff, including how to make customers of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes feel valued and welcome in our stores and the outdoors.

What Can The Industry Do?

The outdoors is for everyone. There is no place for elitism outside. But how can you possibly enjoy the worst of a Lake District downpour if you can’t find a waterproof that fits?

The solution might seem simple but the majority of women’s technical clothing from retailers and brands comes in just sizes 8, 10, 12 and 14. There is an urgent lack of size- and fit-appropriate options for those who fall outside of this range. We, as an industry, need to do better for both men and women.

In 2020, Advnture.com reviewed the best waterproof jackets from a dozen premium brands. Household names. Just 2 brands made size 18 jackets (Alpkit and Salomon). The others made to size 16.

This should be a call to action for the industry as a whole. Limiting size ranges limits people’s experiences. We need to offer more choice. Be more inclusive. And less elitist.

A big thank you to Zoe Newham who helped and initiated the sizing survey. Zoe is a kayaking coach based in Scotland. And a huge thank you to Every Body Outdoors, who have been instrumental in our approach to becoming more size inclusive.

12 comments

  • How about a bit of movement on men’s sizes? Everything seems to stop at 38 inch waist. We’re not all racing snakes. And your XL jackets need to accommodate men with shoulders.

    BOB PITT

    August 19, 2022

  • Thank you so much for asking this question! As a size 18/20 all my life I have struggled to find good kit for adventures. For years I have made do with my husband’s cast off waterproof jacket as I’d given up hope of finding anything better in the women’s section. Occasionally I have had made-to-measure bits of outdoor kit but this hasn’t worked out well, nothing beats trying something on to see the fit and range of movement. With outdoor leadership and coaching awards and a variety of committee positions in outdoor sports clubs over the years, it’s not that larger ladies can’t do all this stuff but not having the right kit, can be a significant disadvantage. Larger sizes can’t come soon enough!

    Sue Walters

    June 04, 2021

  • Make the sizes and the people will come. My wife and daughter have struggled to find outdoor clothing the right size, more often then not having to purchase men’s.

    It has been shown, if folk have the right clothing they are much more likely to want to participate in whatever the activity.

    It is hard to get folk out the door, when the first thing they have to do, (putting on clothes) , makes them feel not a part, second class and decidedly unattractive.

    I would happy pay double what I paid for my outdoor trousers, if I could find good quality ladies outdoor trousers that would fit my family. I would pay double or even more because I know just how good it would make them feel. And that is even before getting outside!

    So yes please, please make the sizes and I can guarantee at least from this family, we will come….
    and you will be amazed at how quickly the message spreads.

    Regards,
    Nat Spring

    Nat Spring

    May 09, 2021

  • My wife plays golf and finds it impossible to get suitable large women’s outdoor clothing. She tends to buy mens or accept that her outdoor clothing cannot be fully zipped up. We are surprised the % hating buying outdoor clothing or having to buy men’s are so low. There also seems to be a belief that good quality clothing is not required for larger women. We think there is a huge opportunity here but it needs careful marketing and to build up the right reputation which might take time.

    Nicholas C Ruxton

    April 16, 2021

  • Good for you. My wife is a size 20 and its been difficult to source good outdoor clothes for her. There’s even a bias in North America. I have ordered trousers from a Canadian company who provide trousers for men up to a size 46 inch waist but for women only go to a size 16! My wife has summited Ben nevis but arthritis means she’s not as active as she used to be, but she still likes to get out into the countryside when she can. Especially as her son and her grandchildren live on a farm.

    Jeffrey Warlock

    April 16, 2021

  • This is such an important initiative. I’m fortunate to fit a 12 in Alpkit (=16 in Inov8!!) but often trousers (& sleeves) are too short. I’m only 175cm. My daughter who is 6’ has to buy men’s clothes purely for length.

    Ilana

    April 16, 2021

  • I am a size 16 now ( lockdowns fault) and find I have to wear a size 18, and they are tight !!!

    Mandy stewart

    April 16, 2021

  • Great that alpkit have put it out there regarding kit fit sizes. I am tiny, a size 6 usually and only 5ft and nothing ever fits me, I have had to buy kids clothes at times which fit ok but aren’t always very flattering! More sizes and better womens colours in clothes, not all women like purple and pink! I enjoy a bit of yellow and orange but rarely find womens clothes in these colours!

    Zoe D

    April 16, 2021

  • Read the bits about larger sized kit with interest. I’m a 16 and feel wholly depressed by what’s on offer…..one company have sorted this out for cyclists – Fat Lad at the Back.
    Stolen Goat have also added some bigger kit.
    Please also consider the larger chested amongst us.

    Rachel Dawson

    April 14, 2021

  • The average women’s size is a 16. this means that most brands exclude half the female population. There are many larger women who would love to have quality outdoor clothing but have to accept either Mens or brands that, while looking ok, lack features such as breathability and pit zips. I am a size 24-26 and whilst my ankle is too buggered to head for the hills, would love good clothing for outdoors in all weathers horse handling.

    Hanora Crowley

    April 14, 2021

  • I found your article about women’s outdoor clothes very interesting. 10 years ago I was a size 6, doing hours of ballet a week plus additional exercise and I had trouble getting sensible outdoor clothes. 10 years and several injuries later I’m a size 16 and still having the same problems. Now the issue is that I’m too short to be a size 16 (apparently) and my thighs are too big and let’s not get on to the size of my hips (yes, let’s say hips, ok?). It’s fantastic that you’re listening but the proof will be when we see the products. Thanks for listening.

    Zoe Maynard

    April 14, 2021

  • Thank goodness someone is recognising and acting on this issue, and thankfully it’s a company with great ethical and sustainability aims – which also makes beautiful clothes… I couldn’t believe how well-made they were – just not made for people like me, who are not already fit and long and lean. I’m having to return my entire online order of 7 jackets and tops because size 16 fits comfortably round but is too long on arms and body – and 14 is too tight – just wrong proportions. I really wish some of them fitted – I really wanted them. :/

    Maja Mihajlovic

    April 14, 2021

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