Most women would agree that pants shopping sucks. Many of us can recall an experience when we tried on 10-plus pairs and settled on one that still didn’t fit right or serve our needs. This problem isn’t limited to everyday jeans and trousers—it includes technical pants for outdoor pursuits, too. “I can’t even tell you how many times I hiked or fished in pants that weren’t made for that sport simply because I wasn’t going to be comfortable in anything else,” said Merrit Geary, of Bozeman, Montana.
In May 2022, Geary set out to craft flattering and functional women’s apparel under the company Alpen Outdoors, putting an end to our troubles. She confronted her old dressing room woes in her brand’s first product, The Ridge Pant ($149), which launched last winter through a pre-order campaign after two years of development and prototyping.
“I thought it was time there was a brand that matched our innate grittiness and desire to get things done,” said Geary, whose background is in the tech startup space. In addition to running Alpen, she works for a creative brand agency and as a cycling instructor.
The softshell Ridge pants feature two types of recycled stretch nylon fabric with wicking finishes and color-blocked patch pockets for reinforcement in high-wear places, and are built to withstand all kinds of outdoor environments—from fishing blue-ribbon rivers to hiking in the alpine to hunting in scrubby brush. Deep front, side, and back pockets store more than just a slim tube of lip balm, and drawstrings at the waist and ankles further dial fit.
Sizes span from 2 to 12, but Alpen plans to increase the size range to be more body inclusive. Working with a former Marmot designer to bring her vision to life, Geary first wanted to prove they could make a viable product before adding more sizes. Alpen’s fit test includes measuring different sizes and body types to represent as many women in the rugged pants as they can. Patterns are designed and tested in the U.S., while fabric is sourced from Vietnam and pants are manufactured in China.
For design inspiration, Geary turned to vintage photographs of women in the backcountry as well as old-school street style, then married past gear’s timelessness with modern materials and touches. The muted tones—the two colorways are the earth-toned Canyon and steely Midnight—and architectural shapes reflect an ambiguous toughness rather than highlight the wearer’s femininity, as many outdoor pants still do.
Finally it feels like we’re emerging from the shrink-it-and-pink-it era of outdoor gear, and Alpen Outdoors joins the growing ranks of other recently launched women-led brands (Hikerkind, Alpine Parrot, and Astrid Wild) creating multi-purpose but tasteful apparel, and pushing established companies to do the same.
Alpen isn’t adding new products to its lineup just yet (though you can snag brand tees and hats). Maybe next year though, Geary said. The slower production pace is evidence that Geary is being incredibly thoughtful and careful in how she executes her vision, which includes taking into consideration feedback from the community. “I want to nail this,” Geary said. “I don’t want to just be another company."