Recognizing a champion in the industry for more than the standard of their releases, this award goes to the brands pushing beyond product and profit – the brands who genuinely engage, educate and inspire.
But what do these three key criteria for Brand of the Year really mean? Let’s break it down:
Do they present in public forums? Dive into 1-on-1 conversations? Ask questions of us, playful and meaningful? Connect with events and content? Connect with people and causes close to heart?
Do they teach us things that will make our lives better? Or bring light to causes of significance that make the lives of others better? Are they open and transparent about their business practices and their place in the world?
Do they spur us into action? Be it grabbing our skis or signing a petition. Are they catalysing change by their actions? Do they lead by example, pushing for higher standards in business and sustainability?
And lastly, have they made significant progress in the last year, to make sure we all continue to push?
From Kickstarter brand to global powerhouse, Peak Design have gone from strength to strength during this past year, using their success to not only continue to push their product improvement and manufacturing standards, but to lay the foundations for some seriously awesome sustainability and responsibility initiatives.
In 2017, they launched their Give A Shot platform, connecting volunteer photographers and videographers with grassroots environmental nonprofits, thus serving those nonprofits with the resources to tell epic visual stories of their inspiring work. Moreover, the Give A Shot program also supports creatives with special grants. Each year, on a rolling basis, awarding a number of photographers grants to complete Give a Shot projects.
Via their 1% For The Planet pledge Peak Design have donated $230,000 to environmental nonprofits. And last year, they boycotted OR in Utah related to the Bears Ears reduction, forming and leading a coalition of small brands to follow them.
Voted the 12th best place to work by Outside magazine, the brand takes employee satisfaction just as importantly as responsible manufacturing. Third party factory analysis and a manufacturing partner code of conduct ensures fair pay and safe conditions for their factory workers.
And with their flagship store launched in San Francisco, they’re now fostering a creative, outdoor and environmental community hub right on their doorstep, with an events schedule ranging from photo walks to book tours to gear clinics.
Tortuga’s mission is to help you live, work, and travel on your terms. And creating great travel bags isn’t the only way they do this. A keen focus on education, both in terms of providing travel knowledge and scholarships, helps people go further and experience more, enriching their lives and the lives of others in the process.
The Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship has been set up to help young people experience the world. The scholarship is awarded twice per year for the spring and fall semesters, with winners receiving USD 1000 and a Tortuga travel backpack to help them study abroad.
Additionally, Tortuga has been working hard to build a world-class blog (one of the most helpful we’ve seen) and it’s packed full of information, from travel and packing tips to gear reviews, to help people travel more efficiently for work and play alike.
Their dedication to one-bag travel and its philosophies, and guiding others on how to embrace and benefit from it, is admirable. Especially when it’s delivered from such a small team of dedicated folk!
You’ll find it difficult to come across a community stronger and more devoted than the one Triple Aught Design has built. The small San Francisco team has laser-focused their energies on their community, and are, without a doubt, ‘plugged-in’ to the hearts and minds of their loyal followers.
Win an invitation to the fan-built TADjunkies Facebook group, and you’ll soon become aware of the passion of those who swear by TAD gear. Triple Aught Design engages with the members here daily, answering questions and Facebook Live streaming to give Q&As and updates.
Triple Aught Design also conducts monthly YouTube briefs to answer general questions they receive across the board and to enhance community engagement. TAD’s Facebook and Instagram content is now 50% user generated, providing a platform for customers to share stories and insights on how they use their gear and embrace adventure.
And embracing adventure being key, TAD also began to play outside of digital in 2017, launching a slew of in-field experiential events across the country, from desert to backcountry missions.
They also launched their Film Festival open to amateur and professional filmmakers alike. And most recently, the triggering of TAD Foundry, a special platform that provides fans exclusive access to special fabrications, unique colorways, and product experiments that would usually never see the light of day.
Swedish giant, Thule, do a whole lot more than put out great value and super well-built products, there’s a philosophy and drive to make this world a better place that pushes their brand forward.
Through their Thule Pathos initiative they’ve funded many projects, from studying the function of waterfalls in Brazil, to giving bikes to youths in Latin and South America, to helping provide children of Nepal an education.
Many of the above are spearheaded by their Thule Crew, a select group of talented folk with the same values, who achieve awesome things while living active lifestyles, and at times documenting these in inspiring short films via their Bring Your Life Youtube channel.
Thule’s commitment to the environment is also evident through their dedication to sustainable design, including minimal environmental impact in their manufacturing (with a goal of 100% electricity from renewable sources for their plants by 2020), as well as responsible business practices, sourcing and logistics, all openly published and transparent for all to see.
A relatively young brand, Cotopaxi has made great steps since its inception, leading with responsible business and charitable endeavours from day dot. Their tag line is ‘Gear For Good’. And it’s a way of life for the brand, which gives 2% of their revenue via grants to nonprofits to alleviate poverty, working with organizations like International Rescue Committee, Educate Girls, and Proximity Designs to provide health, education, and better livelihoods in developing countries.
Furthermore, they’re certified B Corp committed to sustainable manufacturing and working conditions.
On ground level, Cotopaxi hold some of the best experiential events we’ve seen, further bolstering their enthusiastic and engaged community with their Questival Adventure Race events that encourage teams to complete adventure challenges ranging from fitness to social service to teamwork.
And with the Cotopaxi Journal on hand and packed full of travel inspiration, tips, insights and more, readers are inspired to get out there and explore, while hopefully doing a little good along the way too.
It’s really something when a brand, who has one the world’s most cult bags, can proudly say, that in their business, ‘product’ has taken a backseat. But that’s truly what GORUCK has achieved. GORUCK is so much more than the GR1. They’ve built one of the strongest brand followings you’ll ever see, a community forged through rugged gear, demanding events and camaraderie.
Pick any calendar weekend in the US, and hundreds of people, young and old, will be diving headlong into a GORUCK event led by Special Operations Cadre, fully immersed in the experience of their choosing.
And you can’t mention GORUCK without its core philosophy of supporting servicemen and women, from employing veterans, supplying generous ‘service’ discounts, and working with the likes of Team RWB to enrich the lives of American veterans through helping them engage with their community through physical and social activities.
And they are dedicated to sharing and celebrating inspiring stories of service to encourage others to do the same. The brand’s commitment to American-made manufacturing has won them a loyal following too, and their journal only strengthens this community spirit even further. So it’s safe to say, once you GO-RUCK, you’ll never GO-back.
Canadian carry royalty, Arc’teryx, has a rich history of responsible business. Their commitment to sustainability present from the start, with a deep focus on building products to last and backing them with a world-class repair program to ensure that as little of the Dead Bird winds up in landfill as possible.
Leading by example, they also actively donate to causes close to heart. Most recently to the Public Lands Defense Fund and the Conservation Alliance. And were a major player in boycotting Outdoor Retailer in Utah in protest of moves to rescind protection of Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands.
On a local level, they dish up grants via their In My Back Yard program, in support of projects that champion wild spaces, access, and activity.
And this July, as part of their ongoing academy series, Arc’teryx fans can advance their outdoor skills in signing up to the Arc’teryx Climbing or Alpine Academy. ‘In the wild’ events full of clinics, seminars and speaker sessions, led by Arc’teryx’s seasoned pros, pushing participants to enjoy the outdoors and hone their craft.
When there’s talk about social and environmental responsibility, Patagonia is the first brand on peoples’ lips, period. Their mission is to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,”and this drives their whole business forward.
From reducing environmental impacts throughout their supply chain, to ensuring fair working conditions during manufacturing, the brand is committed to creating awareness of environmental crises through activism, conservation films and more (like suing the US government, so badass!). And importantly, with real intent on finding solutions to these crises too.
Moreover, the certified B Corp donates time, services and at least 1% of their sales to numerous grassroots environmental groups across the globe. They support Fair Trade certified gear and reusing products for as long as possible through their Worn Wear program, a program that has spurred a whole movement of clothing and carry repair, and is the unequivocal benchmark in the industry.