Patagonia and Columbia are both popular clothing brands, which many outdoor enthusiasts tend to be loyal to. Though there is no actual beef between the two companies, outdoorsy people have strong preferences and defending their brand is a hill they’re willing to die on. But if you look at all of the facts and information, is one actually better than the other?
Patagonia is generally better than Columbia for those who partake in outdoor sports like hiking or surfing, as they have more technical clothing and gear for these sports. Columbia, however, is well known for its insulation technology that would be beneficial to skiers or campers.
There can’t be an objective answer to the “Which is better overall?” question, as it will widely differ between the people that you ask, and you might even find you disagree with the expected standards of what makes a brand “better” than another. In general, I went about making a comparison by considering the following:
- Brand revenue and history
- Features and innovative characteristics
- Wearability and function for outdoor sports
- Diversity and representation
- Sustainability efforts
Your opinion of what makes a good clothing brand might differ from the above list or weigh heavier in some areas than others.
If you have a big family and a small budget, cost might be the determinant factor when it comes to the purchasing choices you make.
Wearability and function will probably be the most important elements to consider if you’re an outdoor sports person gearing up for a long hike.
Likewise, versatility and style might be the determinant factors for you if you are into athleisure. Therefore, before deciding which of the two is better, you should consider what values are most important to you in a clothing brand.
Below, I’ll dive into a bit of background information about each clothing brand and the type of clothing they sell. Then, I’ll take you through their differences and determine when one brand might have an edge over the other, depending on your situation.
Who Are Patagonia?
You may know Patagonia for its colorful, funky fleece pullovers or its gorgeous logo. The Patagonia brand is marked with a colorful sunset above a dark set of mountains. You might be surprised to learn how involved Patagonia is in environmental efforts beyond its business operations.
Patagonia is a popular outdoor clothing brand known for its sustainability efforts. They were founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, a rock climber, and businessman.
The brand was created by an avid rock climber who fell into the business side of outdoor sports by selling rock climbing gear. Eventually, his brand grew until it became what we know today as Patagonia.
Patagonia made $750 million in revenue in 2015 and donated 1% of its sales as a self-proclaimed “Earth Tax.” This tax goes to restoration efforts. They also are involved in environmental activists groups and fund grassroots organizations. This video gives more information on their sustainability efforts:
Since its opening in the seventies, Patagonia has been making sustainable clothing and giving back to the Earth. However, their commendable efforts aren’t the only draw that attracts such a large number of outdoor enthusiasts to the brand. Their high-quality clothing and gear is their biggest selling point.
What Do Patagonia Make?
If you’ve only seen the classic Patagonia pullovers, which come in a litany of vibrant and complementary colors, you’ll be surprised to know the wide range of products Patagonia actually makes. Mainly, they manufacture apparel, but their clothing is versatile and representative of all people.
Patagonia makes clothing for men, women, and children, as well as outdoor gear. Their clothing is a range of different outdoor apparel for active lifestyles, and their gear includes items for rock climbers and campers. Additionally, all of their products are made sustainably.
Their clothing usually comes in sizes from Small to 3XL and is made with organic cotton or other organic materials. Additionally, their clothing is Fair Trade Certified, meaning it was created ethically. Patagonia will also accept trade-ins of its clothing and sell used wear at a discount price. In addition to their classic pullovers, examples of some of their products are:
Jackets and Vests
Patagonia makes jackets and vests for men, women, and children. You can choose between some pretty unique features, including jackets and vests made from hemp, organic cotton, wool, and recyclable materials. Their website also indicates what activities the jackets and vests you purchase might be best suited for, or you could select your sport before shopping.
Hoodies and Sweatshirts
One of their most recognized product ranges is their hoodies and sweatshirt selection. They offer a variety of choices, all pretty versatile for outdoor and style wear. They have options made of organic cotton and hemp, ranging from small to XXL. Their hoodies and sweatshirts come in pullover, zip-up, and quarter-zip options.
Waders and Fishing Gear
One thing you may not have been aware of Patagonia selling is waders and fishing gear. If you are into fly fishing, you know how difficult it can be to find quality, affordable waders and boots. Patagonia sells waders and boots that are handcrafted in Portland, Oregon. The boots come in rubber, felt, or aluminum options and are sold in sizes 5-14 for women and 5-14 for men.
Patagonia sells all kinds of kidswear for boys, girls, and babies. They offer base layers, gloves, hats, sweatshirts, and jackets ranging in different sizes for your kiddos. They don’t offer a lot of options when it comes to gear for kids, but it’s probably better that way, as any gear would be expensive, and your child would likely grow out of them pretty quickly.
Additionally, Patagonia also offers high-quality backpacks, duffle bags, sleeping bags, and water bottles
Who Are Columbia?
Columbia is best known for its heavy-duty yet light-looking winter jackets. Their clothing is exceptionally warm but doesn’t look unflattering or bulky when you put it on. But what does the company stand for, and where is it located?
Columbia is an American clothing brand that sells outdoor clothing and footwear. It’s headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and was established in 1938. Columbia brought in 2.8 million in revenue in 2018.
Columbia sells just about anything you would need to partake in winter sporting besides the gear itself. Beyond jackets, they also sell a wide range of other clothing items and attire that’s functional and stylish.
They test their clothing in the Pacific Northwest on mountains and hiking trails to ensure that it’s wearable and functional. Columbia is one of those brands made by outdoors people for outdoorsy people. You can find their clothing at just about any sporting goods store in America.
Recently, Columbia has created new insulation for coats backed by Omni-Heat Infinity science. It’s been created to use body heat and reflection to warm you up through both the gold color and lining shape of the coat. This video explains their new product a little bit more in-depth
Their clothing campaigns and commercials are often starred in and supported by athletes who believe in the Columbia brand.
What Do Columbia Do?
Columbia is an American clothing company that’s been around for almost eighty years. They are known for their high-quality clothing and as the creators behind the Omni-Heat insulation technology.
Columbia sells men’s, women’s, and children’s outdoor clothing. You can shop filtering through activity on their site, with clothing items specifically curated for fishing, skiing, rock climbing, hunting, and more. Columbia also sells footwear specifically for hiking.
Examples of some of their products are:
Patagonia has tons of different options when it comes to footwear. You can find winter boots, boat shoes, hiking shoes, running shoes, and even shoes made specifically for warmer climates. They sell clothing for women, men, and children. Their sizes typically range from 7-17 for men, 5-15 for women, and 1Y to 7C for kids. They also sell socks. Their best-selling shoes include their hiking shoes, which have omni-heat and are also waterproof.
Columbia coats come lined with Omni-heat on the higher-end budget items and are extra warm on the lower end of budgets. They have options for outdoor, snowboarding, hiking, or just casual wear for nearly every budget and clothing category. Their coats range in sizes of extra-small to 2XL. Most are made with polyester and nylon.
Fishing and Camping Gear
Columbia does sell fishing gear, but not a ton of it. You can not find fishing poles, overalls, or waders. You can find bait and tackle boxes, coolers, and thermostats for anglers on their website. However, they have a wider selection of camping gear for purchase on their website, including sleeping bags and outdoor kitchen needs.
Columbia bottoms, specifically their leggings, are great for activity or athleisure. The products are made of high-quality and breathable materials that will help you sweat less and move more while you are outside but are still stylish enough to wear on any given day. The bottoms come in tons of designs, from plain to patterned.
What Is The Difference Between Patagonia & Columbia?
Patagonia and Columbia are very similar brands, and their headquarters are even close in proximity, both on the pacific west coast. Though you may have thought their products were interchangeable–and some, essentially, are–hopefully, through the above descriptions, you’ve spotted some differences. If not, I’ve compiled a list of the main differences between Patagonia and Columbia.
The difference between Patagonia and Columbia lies in their manufacturing process, design, and brand characteristics. While both sell outdoor gear to an active audience, they each have different designers and manufacturers. Their design features come from two different entities.
Below, I’ll dive into how Patagonia and Columbia match up in the categories discussed in the beginning of this article. If you’ve already made your list of your clothing values and are ready to make a choice based on them, read on.
Types of Attire
Patagonia and Columbia both sell similar types of clothing. You can find bottoms, base layers, coats, hoodies, jackets, and sweatshirts at both companies. However, Patagonia offers a wider range of technical gear that you won’t be able to find at Columbia.
You can purchase waders, overalls, and even dresses from Patagonia. Columbia mostly sticks to outwear, baselayers, and bottoms. You can also find hats, gloves, and other accessories in both stores.
Features and Innovative Characteristics
Columbia has more specialized shoes, with categories for outdoor shoes, hiking shoes, snowshoes, boat shoes, and more. Additionally, Columbia is well known for creating a new insulation technology for their clothing.
Ten years ago, they came out with Omni-Flex, which uses your body heat to warm you up. Now, they have Omni-Flex Infinity, which is gold and shaped differently to further optimize the use of your body heat.
However, they do not have fly fishing shoes as Patagonia does, and Patagonia has more options for organic and Fair Trade materials.
Wearability and Function For Outdoor Sports
You won’t hear many complaints on either side when it comes to functionality and wearability. What the companies do, they do well. If you’re on the market for snowboarding, skiing, or surfing gear, Patagonia is more likely to have what you’re looking for. However, this is not to say that Columbia’s outdoor gear doesn’t work well.
Wearability and functionality come at a cost. Patagonia is slightly more expensive, but their most expensive clothing is made out of premium-grade materials. They ensure their clothing is made ethically through Fair Trade certified organizations and use organic fabrics in most of their clothing.
Though Patagonia is slightly more expensive, they also make buying used items easily accessible. You can send back your old Patagonia clothes for store credit, and if you’re looking for high-quality attire on a budget, you can check out their stock of used clothing.
Versatility and Representation
Both clothing brands are equally representative of different sizes. They both only go up around 2XL, but they may expand their range in the future as more brands are starting to do so. Their clothing is pretty versatile, as most items are technically wearable in sports situations but look stylish in casual settings.
Patagonia definitely wins in the sustainability department. They are active in donating to organizations and grassroots groups working to support the environment. They also try to find sustainable clothing options and certify 87% of their clothing is Fair Trade, which means the clothing is made and manufactured ethically.
Which Is Better, Patagonia or Columbia?
Whether you think Patagonia or Columbia is better will vary depending on the characteristics you deem most important. If you are not convinced one way or another by now, you might need some support in coming to your conclusion. Therefore, I’ve compiled a general summary of the above findings that might help you decide.
Patagonia is better for outdoor sports, and Columbia is better for cold weather wear. Patagonia and Columbia are both multi-million dollar companies with plenty of happy customers. Therefore, your choice will depend on your preferences, budget, and the sport you partake in.
Again, your preferences are going to vary depending on your values. Consider the facts listed and decide for yourself which brand you would prefer. Sometimes, you may not know what matters the most until you experiment with the brands and see which ones fit your body and lifestyle better. You can look for used items from both brands at thrift stores and online.
Patagonia always sells recycled and reusable versions of its clothing on its website, making the second-hand shopping experience much more accessible to its customers.
Additionally, while Patagonia is more gear-focused, Columbia sells mostly clothing or footwear, so if you’re looking for your next high-quality sleeping bag or fishing gear the former might be your best bet. The same goes for those looking to support a brand that partakes in the sustainability movement.
On the other hand, those looking for the warmest, coziest attire might want to give Columbia’s Omni-Flex technology a try.
However, aside from a few differences in types of attire and design qualities, I’d say the brands are pretty much equal when it comes to quality, longevity, and price point. Therefore, I’d suggest basing your decision on whether the purpose of you purchasing these items is more performance or lifestyle-based.