Decathlon: Why a Brit in the US is happy buying French
#sufferingstickershock seems to be an apt hashtag when I buy outdoor gear these days. As the father of a child who grows quicker than a well-manured sunflower, I struggle. Finding reasonably priced adventure clothing is as unpredictable as the wind on a 14er. But let’s delve a little deeper; there is a way more significant issue than the health of my wallet.
Before I talk about the gear from Decathlon that we have been using, I want to throw out another thought. Since the death of George Floyd, there has been increased momentum to consider the social equity of outdoor activities. The most substantial barrier to seeing a more diverse population in the outdoors is the cost of equipping adventures.
Now don’t get me wrong; I love Patagonia and other standard-bearers for outdoor environmental and social issues. I am enamored with how long well-made gear lasts, how I have pieces that are still performing a decade or more after purchase. I begin to melt when I think of ad campaigns encouraging people not to buy but to repair instead. I go weak at the knees when I think of the tailors sent around the country in a van doing those repairs. (click here for more info) As an industry, we have a reputation for caring and doing our part for various causes. There is, though, so much more we can do, and it starts with equipping people for less.
Ok, the tirade is over. Cai and I have been wearing several items by Decathalon recently, and here is the main reason. They are cheap. The hooded insulated jacket, fleece, t-shirt, pants, and shoes cost less than a down jacket made by most other brands. (A total of $187.95) So how do they stack up?
While a little heavier than my down, this is a workhorse of a packable jacket. Having a well-sized hood and cinches, I can insulate myself from the world. It feels warm, moves well, and has two, well-placed pockets. It is particularly useful to throw on in the evening and is great for sitting around the campfire.
Regular price:$12.99 (Opt for a less popular color, and it costs $5)
This fleece has become one of Cai’s favorite layers. It is soft, light, feels warm, and stretches to move with you. Free up your conscience; this fleece is 100% recycled material. It also packs small and is easy to keep in your pack; if you can resist not putting it on straight away.
Cai has been wearing them for all kinds of outdoor activities, including summer skiing. On the other hand, call me thunder thighs, but these did not fit me too well. I no longer have a mini-me, more a skinny-me, and even though he can choose others, he wears these pants a lot. So how much you enjoy these will be based on fit. Again Cai likes them; they are robust, move with him, and the legs zip off.
Merino is an excellent material for a skin layer. This one has a mixture of 30% synthetic fibers, which increases the durability and is soft to the touch on first use. Wool keeps the smell of the deadly pits at bay and shifts moisture from the skin, keeping you both appropriately cool and warm. This makes this tee ideal for any activity. Again I often find Cai choosing to wear his mainly because it is so soft. I like it’s temperature control properties.
So this has been a little different for me. I have been spending time strengthening my feet and ankles to wear minimalist footwear in the backcountry. These are a very different experience. The quality of the shoes is excellent, though, and while I feel like I am walking on stilts, they are softening the impact of my footfalls. Recently, we hiked and skied Mount Adams in Washington and chose to wear these.
The day involved ascending 7000′ about 3,500 on trail and 3,500 on snow. We opted to wear the shoes for the whole ascent and the exit. Why? These are way more comfortable than I was expecting, and more importantly, they have a rugged sole with good lugs. In summer snow, as long as you are not too early, you can use the sawtooth pattern of the side of a sole to cut foot ledges.
While most people opted to wear crampons, I find it easier to carry an ice ax to cut the occasional step and prevent a slip from becoming a fall. In a few instances, I have seen crampons being the cause of an accident rather than stopping them. Of their type (a hiking shoe), I find these do their job very well.
So what else draws me to Decathlon when I can find other garments at this price? Well, firstly, you are never going to see me shopping at Walmart, but that is a whole different story.
Apart from the price, what I love most about Deathalon is their warranty. A lifetime warranty on a bike frame anyone? All items have different warranties, but they are robust. Decathlon is a company that stands behind its product, and from my experience so far, it is for a good reason. They are also very transparent with their social and environmental targets and strategies. I encourage you to explore their website to find out more.
Creating quality clothes at a more amenable pricepoint is something I want to see all outdoor manufacturers consider. Actually, let’s get real; I want to see them follow through. There can be no environmental justice without social justice. We need to see more people loving our wild places, to do that, they need to access them safely. They need to be adequately equipped and educated. They need welcoming, and they need to be comfortable. Decathlon is playing its part in this movement. Now, I better put my money where my mouth is and play my role in doing the same. Who is joining us?