View Full Version : Is ‘high end expensive’ clothing really worth its price?

01-08-2011, 00:01
I am all about buying quality gear and don’t mind spending my hard earned money on quality gear. I see a lot of discussion about Patagonia, North Face Products and some others. I am a fan of Columbia products, which I usually pick-up on sales and clearances and rarely pay retail for any of Columbia products. I even came across a soft shell jacket at WalMart in the Nashville, TN area that I get comments about if it is one of the Under Armor jackets. While in an outfitter store in my area recently, I got to put my hands on some Patagonia and North Face products, which included:

· Patagonia Rain Jackets, at least 2 different models.
· Patagonia zip on sweaters and pullovers.
· North Face zip on sweaters, jackets and vests.

So, I got to touch, feel and fondle these products, look at their tags for their materials and observe their features and quality. And yes, Patagonia is nicely featured and appears to be of high quality, but $120, $150 and $200 for a Rain Jacket?
I have a zip on sweater by Columbia that I bought from GSM Visitor Center with a GSM logo opposite the Columbia logo for $30. And, I bought a Columbia vest from Sam’s Club for like $11 a year ago. These are made of 100% polyester just like the Patagonia and North Face products. The weight and material feel the same. Are they really the same? Or, is there something special about the other brand’s polyester?

Is a $80 NF vest any better in function and quality than a $11 Columbia vest?

Regarding the WalMart Soft Shell jacket I got for around $30-35, it is also made of like 85-90% polyester and the rest a spandex material. I will admit, the only less quality feature in the Wal-Mart jacket is the zipper set-up. The zipper doesn’t catch as quickly as my Columbia products. This results in connecting the zipper pull to the zipper track slowly to make sure of a good connection or else it gets off track. I have even considered seeing about replacing the zipper and zipper track, but I have no idea of that cost. Surely the cost of the original jacket purchase and the replacement of the zipper wouldn’t come close to it’s ‘high end expensive” twin with North Face and/or Patagonia label.

Regarding the Patagonia rain jackets, I did notice that the seams inside the jacket were sealed. The zippers operated well and appeared to be of good quality. The higher cost rain jackets had a pit zips. But still, are they really worth $200 a pop?!

Am I just old fashioned and getting old, or am I being sensible?

Somebody give me some insight here……………


01-08-2011, 01:42
Go to Sierra trading post. Sign up, and then sign up for Daily coupons emails. Close webpage. When you get the first coupon, click the link and search "Mountain Hardwear Epic". Look at the line under the price, "view price with coupon".

I did that on Monday and got that $140 Rain Jacket for $54.00

I get alot of gear from my Sierra trading post coupons.

01-08-2011, 02:39
It all depends, are you a label whore? If not, you can get functionally identical products for a lot less money. The same factories in China make multiple brands. Or it's easy to shop on the web and get big discounts. Personally, I don't consider North Face high end any more. Maybe 10 years ago. Now they're just Chinese crap for the label sensitive, (usually) non-hiking consumer. Patagonia is just outrageous. I get a pro-form from them, and still wouldn't pay those prices.

If I get a piece of trendy label gear, it's usually due to STP, or it popped up on SACalerts.

Jim Adams
01-08-2011, 02:39
I will never go back to polypro....wool just rocks no matter what the price is.


01-08-2011, 03:00
I agree NOrth Face is just for people who like to be seen in it.
Patagonia is good stuff and sewn as good as can be done, but to have to pay 4 times more for it doesn't always justify it.
Depends how many thru-hikes you want to do and how often you want to buy new stuff.
Patagonia will guarantee there stuff for life i believe. (at least a long time)
North Face has been bought and sold numerous times over the year and the quality suffers a little bit each time (but the price seems to go up, go figure)

I buy cheap and usually it lasts long enough.
Shorts and raingear, i buy from Patagonia.
Other stuff, i look for deals.

I found out that a $179 jacket from North Face costs less than $5 to produce in CHina.
They should be ashamed.

01-08-2011, 04:48
I am not into having a certain label. I'll have to take a pic of my Wally Soft Shell Jacket I mention above. Sad thing is, Wally World no longer carry's them.

How does one compare and/or discern from the materials as being good or bad quality? Is one polyester material from an off brand equal to or better than other high end items?

If only we could get some dirt, meaning the truth, about what polyester material is used in the different factories in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the other countries.

I have had this Wally World soft shell jacket for a couple of years and have used it as casual wear, hiking, backpacking, at the range. Basically, when it's cold enough, I'm wearing and it has performed well.


01-08-2011, 05:27
My answer is... it depends. If something has a good fit made from materials that have the performance characteristics you want, and has been assembled in a way that it was last a reasonable amount of time... who cares what label it has. For example, I really like PowerDry as a material. There are several companies that make light weight powerdry shirts. They are all decent. Some are a bit more refined. Worth 10% more money. I think so. Worth 4x the cost. To me, no.

Other times it really does make a different. Here one specific example. The Montbell ExLight Down Jacket costs $165. That's a lot. You can buy something this warm for a lot less. On the other had, the Montbell jacket weights <6oz and packs tiny, where at least one of the equiv warm jackets I looked at weighted almost 1lb more. Around town I wouldn't care. But if I am carrying this jacket for a couple hundred miles, I will pay the extra to shed 1lb.

There are some brands which I find to be consistently superior in their materials and design. For me, that list includes Patagonia, Montbell, and now maybe Westcomb and Rab.

Is it worth it the cost? It depends. If they provide me with something I need (or is that I want) and no one else has it, then yes, it's worth the money. Some of the time, the differences aren't worth the extra cost... especially with Patagonia. BUT... if I can find one of the manufacturers on sale, some the price is only marginally more than other folks like Columbia, or store brands like Campmor, REI, MEC, then I think it's often well worth the extra money. As others have suggested, Sierra Trading Post is a great place to get good deals. If you can get to a Patagonia Outlet (which will often have their clothing at 60-70% of retail) during their labor day, or president's day sale, you can often get an additional 40-60% off the outlet prices. e.g. Patagonia quality of Columbia prices. It's a good deal then.

More thoughts on my recommended clothing page (http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/clothing.html).

01-08-2011, 05:48
More thoughts on my recommended clothing page (http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/clothing.html).

That's a pretty substantial list there Verber.
I'm glad to see you include the barefoot shoes out there now. (as i'm thinking of trying them and have been researching them)

I may have missed it as i read it quickly but I didn't see any mention of bamboo for a long underwear wicking and odor preventive material for keeping warm.

But thanks for all the info and links.

01-08-2011, 08:01
clothing is the largest organ of the hiking body and must be comfy. it can be burlap saks if that floats your boat.its all about floating.

01-08-2011, 08:18

unless you have a deadline, the best strategy is to glean the web and brick & mortar stores for great deals on superior equipment and buy it when the opportunities present. I scored a new $475 list price Arc Teryx Alpha LT jacket for $130 a year ago. I will admit I don't need expedition quality gear to walk the well beaten path, but the point is, deals are out there for the fast fingered mouse. I usually hike with $20 dri ducks.

And yes, I believe in purchasing well reviewed top rated gear from Shire, 6 Moon Designs, Mont Bell, Western Mountaineering, Arc Teryx, Smart Wool, Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, ULA, POE, Jacks-R-Better, Feathered Friends, Hilleberg, Outdoor Research, etc...but not on full price

One thing to consider is the brand's marketing & distribution. Are they made in an overseas factory for the sheeple, or by outdoors-men for outdoors-men???


Mother Natures Son
01-08-2011, 09:07
All these high tech stuff is great but so is the price. You might want to read, "Walking With Spring" by Earl Shaffer. (1st N.B., 1st S.B. and first ulta-lighter..he started his long walking in '47 or '48!)

01-08-2011, 10:45
Not everything is always the same. I wanted an expedition weight base layer, and the Patagonia R-1 pullover is $120 at my local shop. I found a similar item at LL Bean for $55, and it came in tall sizes, and had thumb loops. Both said they were made of 7.8 ounce Polartec Power Dry, and both described the fabric using the same words. Big win, right?

But the LL Bean top felt scratchy and stiff. The Patagonia top felt soft and smooth. Not sure why or how that can be, when they are supposedly the same fabric, but I ended up sending the LL Bean top back. I'll save my pennies and buy the Patagonia, and keep my eyes open for it on sale somewhere.

I do have a fair amount of Patagonia and Icebreaker, but almost all of it was purchased at end-of-season 50% off sales.

01-08-2011, 10:57
Sometimes the price is worth it. I have some Ex Officio shirts and pants that fit me so much better than a comparable Columbia or REI style piece, that I am willing to pay 50-60% more for them. I also found that Patagonia Capilene wicked better than old-school REI MTS base layers, though in the last 5 years REI's fabric has improved to the point that it is nearly equal (though the price rose as well...). Of course nowadays, as Geek mentioned, I've found nothing beats a good merino wool base layer.

As for The North Face, about the only item the company sells that is competetive for backcountry use is the Cat's Meow sleeping bag (if you insist on carrying a synthetic versus down bag, it is decently functionaly for its price) and their nylon ball cap, which I like because it dries so much faster than a cotton cap and has a stiffness in its brim that I prefer. Otherwise, it's simply a fashion choice.

01-08-2011, 11:08
Every mom at the bus stop has a Norh Face jacket on...enough said:)

01-08-2011, 11:26
For fleece garments, in my experience, price isn't necessarily a good indicator of function, though stitching quality and fit are usually better in "name brand" items.
For shell clothing (windbreakers, pants, etc.) you might get a better thought out item by paying more (pocket placement, fit, etc), and stitching, again, is usually better in the name brands.
For down items I find that that less expensive items, though certainly functional, suffer more from poor stitching, resulting in down loss, heavier fabrics (increasing bulk and weight of the item) and down quality (more feathers, which poke through the fabric because of their quills, and down which is not as lofty, increasing the weight of the item because more down is necessary for the same comfort range).
Personally, I use whatever pants I can get on sale (nylon hikers, zip off and not),
Whatever fleece I can get on sale.
High quality down filled garments (and sleeping bags).
Name brand socks (feet are the most important piece of hiking "equipment",
Name brand (but marked down clearance) long underwear.

01-08-2011, 11:49
It sounds like many, like me, are saying, "It depends". There are a few items made by brand name companies that are unique in the market--they have a different and maybe patented design, a sole source of material, etc. If I really need or want that feature, I'll pay for it.

For me, that's my Marmot Driclime jacket, my perfectly sized New Balance shoes, or the ridiculous amount I pay for climbing skins on my backcountry skis, the flick-locks on my Black Diamond poles, etc.

But to me, fleece is fleece. Same with breathable fabric, wool, polypro, down, nylon.... Patagucci has no appeal to me, but it obviously does to many.

01-08-2011, 13:25
I own stuff from NF, Patagonia, Columbia, Sierra Designs, SmartWool and Outdoor Research. My wife has clothing by Campmor, UA and Mountain Hardwear. (And probably a few others I cannot think of off the top of my head.)

I don't know if I buy the "selling out" bit but I do agree that some companies don't mind catering to more than one group of people. Of all the clothing I have bought, I paid what I paid for it because of one reason or another. Whether that's to wear it while in town or on the trail, I don't see that it really matters. That said, my hiking clothes I wear hiking, but some of my jackets are worn around town as well as on the trail. I do know that some clothing simply fits me better and I also know that some will stand up way better (especially under the weight of a backpack).

That said, just because it is inexpensive doesn't make it bad and just because it is expensive doesn't necessarily make it good. The fact is that both low and high end companies can use cheap crap, can have seams that will not hold up or simply offer a terrible fit and offer features that are completely unfuctional. But not always. There is some inexpensive stuff that will work just fine and may last forever, but I have found that the high end companies usually succeed more often in this aspect.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to how does it fit you and does it have the features you need. If it does, then look at the piece more closely. Check the materials used and do some research on it. Compare it to higher end companies and it may be the exact same stuff. Also, with any of the clothing items, if you can, check the seams and the zippers before you buy the piece of clothing.

01-08-2011, 14:07
Fiddlehead... Bamboo listed under base layer, paragraph about sustainable options. I haven't been impressed so hard... Continue to use synthetic with silver for odor control.

Big cranky... I don't know for sure, but it might been slightly different power dry. Patagonia and several of the mills have a long standing collaborative relationship. Often Patagonia gets early access and / or special runs. Sometimes patagonia innovates and their partner picks up those changes with Patagonia getting exculisive for some time. This mint be the case with r1 power dry. It was the case with thermal pro a number of years ago. First with Patagonia using their name, and then others had it a few years later.


double d
01-08-2011, 14:18
Every mom at the bus stop has a Norh Face jacket on...enough said:)
True and their young kids as well! But I like some of the TNF gear to hike in (such as my pull over). Buying hiking clothing really has alot to do with how much hiking experience one has, and that is an expensive path to take, as many of us know from years of hiking.

01-08-2011, 14:24
I agree NOrth Face is just for people who like to be seen in it.
Patagonia is good stuff and sewn as good as can be done, but to have to pay 4 times more for it doesn't always justify it.
Depends how many thru-hikes you want to do and how often you want to buy new stuff.
Patagonia will guarantee there stuff for life i believe. (at least a long time)
North Face has been bought and sold numerous times over the year and the quality suffers a little bit each time (but the price seems to go up, go figure)

I buy cheap and usually it lasts long enough.
Shorts and raingear, i buy from Patagonia.
Other stuff, i look for deals.

I found out that a $179 jacket from North Face costs less than $5 to produce in CHina.
They should be ashamed.

I agree, look for fit and your needs, I wear Wal Mart polypro but I like Columbia convertible pants. I have a Patagonia down jacket (discontinued color) and what ever shoe fits best. It really all depends on the person I guess. Is expensive always worth it? NO.

01-08-2011, 14:26
clothing is the largest organ of the hiking body and must be comfy. it can be burlap saks if that floats your boat.its all about floating.
only when you're boating :);).

01-08-2011, 19:22
I agree NOrth Face is just for people who like to be seen in it. .........

Not always true.
I got a nice North Face fleece jacket for $3 from my local second hand store. The thing looks to be almost brand new, I just couldn't let it go for that price.

01-08-2011, 21:19
For me, that's my Marmot Driclime jacket, my perfectly sized New Balance shoes, or the ridiculous amount I pay for climbing skins on my backcountry skis, the flick-locks on my Black Diamond poles, etc.

Another IT ALL DEPENDS vote.

Today I used well fitted leather touring boots, my surplus glove liners, a Montbell jacket, a Costco softshell, surpus wool pants, Minus 33 wool underwear, generic liner and ragg wool socks, a King Soopers (local grocery store) winter hat, OR shells mitts, Komperdell ski poles (yep..I finally bought adjustable ski poles Garlic!), an EMS snow shovel, a $25 thermos and a $1 sports drink bottle... and all hauled in a brand name backpack I am evaluating.

A mixture of name brand and more money along with no-name and cheap.

I guess the best thing is to read reviews of people/sources you trust, find out your own comfort level and get out hiking. :)

01-08-2011, 21:38
Maybe. If you feel comfortable in high-end stuff then you will at least have the peace of mind that YOU did the right thing. I am addicted to some of the expensive stuff such as Western Mountaineering, Arc'teryx, and LaSportiva. My wife says if I buy anymore $800 single pieces of gear that I will become the worlds best gear tester because I will have to live in it for the rest of my life! Cost does indicate quality: to a point. Then it becomes more of label watching rather than function. We all know that the same material is the same material and it's all sewed overseas so as long as you compare apples to apples then get every coupon, sale, clearance, deal, freebie, contest, sweepstakes, and outright theft(just kidding) you can get away with.

01-08-2011, 21:54
"Is high and expensive clothing really worth the price?" Eeee,.... Well, I have two thoughts.

One, I bought some cheap things I loved becaue I didn't need them for long, then when I no longer needed them, I could throw away my ratty _____ (whatever) and not pay to mail it back. Or I could let it get ratty and not care. And usually the things were adequate enough.

Two- good quality things are often expensive, and annoying though it is, expensive things often turn out to be good quality. All my expensive name brand stuff I bought for my thru (and dragged through tons of terrible weather for three months) I am wearing right now, as I sit here and type this. And I look darn snazzy. Seriously? My expensive stuff has still held together and is in wonderful condition.

So are you going to use it ever again? Do you want it to be comfortable or simply functional? (And of course, do you wanna look snazzy with dirt caked into your hair and stench rising from your body?)

01-09-2011, 19:19
Patagonia Capilene. $32. Wasn't happy at all spending that amount on a t-shirt. That shirt currently has 5000 miles on it.

The North Face Canyonlands tent is the best piece of gear I have ever had. Why they discontinued making it, I don't know, but NF can occasionally make a great piece of gear.

01-09-2011, 21:15
I have bought nearly all my fleece, base layers an other hiking clothes at KMart, Target and Wally World and it has been functional, durable and a heck of a lot cheaper than the name brand stuff at the gear store.

But, with rain gear, I laid out some bucks and with with a Precip.

01-09-2011, 21:21
I have found a new favorite Tee shirt. The North Face Velocity, it weighs 3.8oz for a XL. It lays nice wicks well. Go figure its a NF I like the C9 Running Tee's too also very light and dries quick. As far as high end goes Patagonia Capaliene 1,2,3,4 all the way

01-09-2011, 22:12
Some pics the Wal-Mart jacket I have. Made of 95% polyester and 5% spandex. It has all the features I like, is roomy and has held up well. It weighs 25.7 ounces (granted, its a 2XL). Its actual brand in Athletic Works, which is an actual off-brand label that Wal-Mart has carried in the past. Only downside is, is that this jacket is no longer available. So, seems the downside with places like Wal-Mart and such is that they are not consistent in what they sale.


01-09-2011, 23:28
No, name brand do not matter when it comes to clothing in my opinion. You sound like you have a handle on what hiking clothes should be made of and stand up to in the outdoors. With this knowledge in mind, spend as little as possible. I definitely do not plan on spending money on name brand products anymore when I can just as easily hit second hand stores, walmart, value village, rei basement, gear resale ect. for the same functional clothing. And I mountaineer, backpack, thruhike, snow shoe, winter camp, rock climb ect. And this is the conclusion I have come to. So I say, you are right on the mark to not want to pay double/triple/quadruple for products you can find cheaper.

Good luck on your planning and happy trails!

01-09-2011, 23:39
My answer is... it depends.

best answer ever

01-10-2011, 00:19
As you can read in my other posts, most of my equipment is high-end stuff. There is a reason for it.

- Most of it was bought before Internet shops existed of were popular.

- Most of it was bought before forums were popular to share reviews of gear.

- I always lived in area where all the material available was limited to big brands or other "no name" product aimed at hunters or outdoor worker.

I think the most important thing is to know what you want and know how to look for it.

All brands now have low-end and high end products. A great example is The North Face. Most TNF products exist for mainstream customer to walk around in town or to ski a little. However, they have some products that are really high-end and very well made and backed by a lifetime warranty. The Summit Series and Flight Series come to mind. Its the same with other brands. And usually the price goes up with the quality.

Some year you can't find a piece of equipment that you like and some other year you say to yourself "wow" great stuff this year.

High-end gear is expensive and is not always to the taste of the general public. Thats why they are often in sale at the end of the season. Knowing what I want and that I will hike all my life, I often buy off-season equipment at 30-45% discount.

When I was a young hiker I managed to hike with some basic and cheap equipment I found around. Now that I'm old and experienced I have to admit I'm more prone to buy high-end because of the look and feel and the little perks that make the difference. however I can spot a 300$ piece of trash with a bran name on it when I see it.

I think there is some value in technical innovations you can find used in high-end gear.

Now with forums like this you can find great gear for less and new gear makers with great products. Do your research before you buy and you will win every time. Have fun!