In the years leading up to 2020, the outdoor recreation industry was experiencing a glow-up of notable proportions. More hikers, climbers, bikers, and campers became indoctrinated nationwide. With the arrival of a pandemic virus that accentuated safety in outdoor spaces and a population with seemingly more time at their disposal, growth charts took another spike.
With the rise of these outdoor activities we hold dear, so came its growing influence on fashion and street style. No doubt this narrative is familiar by now—as is the outdoor-flavored fashion trend that's grown from it: Gorpcore. But even half a decade on (writer Jason Chen first coined the term in an article for The Cut in 2017), it's still oddly relevant. And well, as New York City-based outdoor enthusiasts ourselves here at Field Mag HQ, we figured why not take the time to sum up our interpretation of the ongoing movement. What follows is that.
Firstly, it’s essential to recognize how outdoor wear has ebbed and flowed through recent decades of streetwear, from Nike’s launch of the ACG line in the ’80s, 90’s rappers rocking Vasque boots, to Drake performing in videos and on-stage and in Arc’teryx hardshell jackets. In a world where every movement and fashion trend earns a hashtag and a title, gorpcore was ripe for the picking.
Skibums, dirtbags, and outdoor adventure vagabonds of all walks of life deserve some credit as pioneers here, pairing key pieces of their active kits with around town aprés looks. Readers of Field Mag’s gear coverage will certainly be familiar with our call-outs on various packs, boots, and various pieces of outdoor gear and accessories for their functional and sartorial versatility in and out of the backcountry. Good gear is good gear, so why keep it stowed away until the next outing?
What Is Gorpcore?
Etymology time; the gorpcore trend receives the root of its name from the original go-to trail snack GORP: good ol’ raisins and peanuts. For us, the trail mix acronym harkens back to a time of 60/40 cotton-poly parkas and stout, Italian-made leather hiking boots. A time when Bob Gore’s developments in waterproof textiles were just being introduced to the world. Oddly enough, one would be more apt to label this less-tech-forward lane as granola, though it’s a distinction that might only be made by people who overanalyze this stuff way too much.
Again, the contemporary aesthetic of gorpcore involves a little bit of the retro but leans heavily on advanced textiles like ripstop, Gore-Tex, Pertex, and X-PAC. The style can closely border on techwear, but with some notable differences in palette and theme. Where techwear leans into cold monochromes and overt sleekness, gorpcore keeps it real with both natural and hi-vis tones to complement and accent the colors of the natural world with textures that convey the warmth and comfort of a crackling campfire.
To help set the stage, some essential pieces of gorpcore kit according the editors at Field Mag in include a fleece jackets or midlayer, synthetic or down puffer jacket, hardshell rain jacket, grippy approach shoes with a Gore-Tex membrane, and a flexible pair of climbing pants. Catch us wearing the ensemble together during a hike or camping trip, or while running to the bodega in the big city.
Essential Gorpcore Brands to Know
To help navigate the sea of Gorpcore, we’ve compiled a list of the essential outdoor brands essential to the gorpcore aesthetic. Though many high fashion names have latched onto aspects of the trend, working in cargo pants and notes of hiking gear influence into their lines, we’ll do our best to steer you away from the gorpcore fashion runway. We'll also forgo some (but not all) of the obvious staples like The North Face Nupste puffer jackets, deep-pile Mountain Hardwear fleeces, and the blacked out Hoka Bondi in favor of a selection of brands that more evenly define the trend.
Look to the feet of any diehard gorpcore fit devotee and you’ll very likely spot a pair of sporty Salomon sneakers touching grass. From the brand’s Sportstyle line—the hero of which is of course, the XT-6—the brand releases colorways and models that sell out at hypebeast-like speeds, with less-limited SKUs being sold in select shops that fall well beyond the realm of more regular outdoor gear retailers like REI or Backcountry.
Where other gorpcore footwear brands come to the table with alpine-influenced design, Merrell pulls up with their own unique flavor that melds normcore dad with farmer’s market NPR tote bags. Nonbelievers may find some of their silhouettes downright ugly, but breakout models like the Hydro Moc slides and Moab boots have earned the brand valuable clout outside the devoted audience they’ve cultivated since 1981. Look to their 1TRL line for extra-gorped takes mainline models, like the funked up Hydro Moc AT Cage 1TRL.
A Gore-Tex hardshell rain jacket from the cherished dead bird brand stands as one of the most significant signifiers of a gorpcore style enthusiast. It took only a handful of sightings of artists like Virgil, Drake, and Frank Ocean wearing the brand in paparazzi photos to launch the brand into a new stratosphere where exact colorways of the documented toques and Beta AR Jackets sell out faster than you can say, “super rich kids.”
Beyond the rain jackets that bead off water with impunity, the brand’s line includes an extensive catalog of systemically named outerwear and layering pieces teeming with urban minimalist and alpine backcountry practicality. Leaning into their budding popularity in off-mountain environments, Arc regularly collaborates with labels like Jill Sanders and Beams, while also releasing a line of made-for-streetwear pieces under their System_A label. And for the real IYKYK heads, Arc's milspec LEAF line is the real grail, if you can find a retailer.
Just because the normcore and fleece vest chads brought Patagonia into their own worlds doesn’t mean Yvon Chouinard’s creation deserves any less praise. The impact of the brand on gorpcore is easily seen with key items like the Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, deep-pile Retro-X Fleece Jacket, and drawstring Baggies Shorts popping up in looks season after season–all three of which have been in the brand’s catalog for decades.
We yearn for the sub-brand as it existed in the 80’s, when it brought a prototype of gorpcore to the masses in masterfully balanced palettes of dull earth tones with the right hit of purple or orange, in addition to releasing some downright chonky-shaped footwear like the Lava Dome and Baltoro sneaker boots. The relaunch of ACG landed during the techwear boom with sporty ninja-wear, but they’ve gravitated back towards more fun palettes and prints in their current line of apparel and footwear.
What started in 1982 as American climber Mike Graham’s goal of designing a pant specifically for rock climbing continues today as a Japanese-designed streetwear brand worn in New York subways and stocked on the digital racks of retailers like SSENSE, alongside high ticket names like Prada. Gramicci’s line today consists of much more than the gusseted, baggy pants it started with, expanding into retro-flavored graphic tees and playful accessories.
Round these parts, the Snow Peak titanium spork is standard issue camp kit. Hard goods have been a primary focus of the brand since its founding in 1958, but a line of apparel designed with the same clean-line artistry and functionality entered its offerings less than ten years ago. Key pieces that return season after season include indigo dyed apparel and the fire-resistant Takibi apparel.
Unlike the majority of the brands we’ve plugged this far, Japanese label and wander didn't get their start decades way back when as a general outdoor apparel brand. Though very much rooted in themes of gorpcore, you’ll find the clean lines and sophisticated use of high-tech fibers in and wander’s pieces to ride the line of techwear. Expect prices substantially higher than readily accessible brands like The North Face and Patagonia; if you think $445 for a windbreaker is unreasonable (regardless of the Schoeller 3XDRY fabric), then and wander is probably not the brand for you.
The youngest brand featured here began in New York City by a designer with a heavy skating background named Antonio Ciongoli in 2018. By our read, 18 East combines elements from seemingly disparate factions of design worlds: classic outdoor apparel and international textiles, shot through the lens of 90’s skateboarding style that makes us yearn for the stack of Transworld Skateboarding we wish we held onto. Eschewing typical quarterly releases, the brand releases in-season pieces when they’re ready, previewing and announcing their arrival over Instagram, and collaborating with like-minded indies like our homies Earth\Studies.
Gorpcore Brands to Keep an Eye On
We’re not trying to name every name under the sun that touches gorpcore, but these brands deserve your attention for their well-executed style and utility.
- Klättermusen: alpine and casualwear with a techy edge from Sweden. Excellent packs.
- Fjällräven: another Swedish brand with serious history outfitting everyone from school children to bushcraft enthusiasts.
- Manastash: humble beginnings as a hemp clothing brand from Washington state, now it’s a Japanese-designed outdoor lifestyle apparel brand.
- Montbell: understated and just technical enough for everyday wear; they’re like the Japanese L.L. Bean.
- CAYL: Korean gorpcore whose name stands for “Climb As You Love”
- Norda: the most influential footwear brand with only one model, with a second on the way.
The Future of Gorpcore
Trends with little substance tend to burn out and fade away. Given the upward trend of active participation in rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, and beyond, we can’t help but think some aspect of gorpcore will remain present through whatever comes next. Regardless, we hope the new outdoorsy population and gorpcore diehards can make time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
The editors here at Field Mag will continue to work our favorite pieces of outdoor kit into everyday ensembles with a “same as it ever was” type of mentality, regardless of what comes next in celebrity styling and algorithm-based feeds.