One of the greatest things about the great outdoors? It’s largely free. It doesn’t cost a thing to walk your dog or hike a trail or run through a park. But that doesn’t mean everyone has equal access. Barriers exist. Some are cultural, some are physical (are there even trails nearby?). And then there are economic barriers, like the often prohibitive cost of high-quality outdoor clothing. There are no easy fixes, but Free Country is doing something about the last one. The family-owned company has been producing quality technical apparel at an affordable price for more than 30 years, helping to make the outdoors more accessible to all.
Ironically, outdoor gear can be too expensive and too cheap. The market is saturated with waterproof rain jackets that work fine but cost as much as a car payment. At the other end of the spectrum, you can find plenty of cheap apparel that can’t handle real weather, and will leave you cold and wet and ensure your first trip outdoors is your last. This is exactly the problem that Free Country’s founder Ira Schwartz set out to solve three decades ago. While skiing in Colorado, Schwartz was dismayed at the prices of ski jackets in retail stores. So, he decided to do something about it, making a puffer jacket and a shell that he hoped more people could afford.
Affordability is an even bigger issue today. The gap between the needs of people who want to get outside and the cost of apparel necessary to enjoy the outdoors comfortably has never been more apparent. Millions of people are discovering—or rediscovering—the outdoors thanks to a global pandemic. And they need apparel that won’t let them down.
“We’re not about climbing Mount Everest. We’re about getting the everyday person outside.”
Free Country delivers, with water- and wind-resistant softshells that have four-way stretch, quilted puffers loaded with synthetic down, fully waterproof jackets—all at prices that other brands typically charge for long sleeve t-shirts. And Free Country is dedicated to sustainability, offering market-leading tech like recycled poly shells and insulation that saves water bottles from the landfill. As for versatility, look no further than Free Country’s reversible vests, which give women an outer shell that’s water and wind resistant and an inner shell that’s supersoft and cozy. Flip it inside out and you have a completely different look. Or the Systems Jacket, which is really two jackets in one, with an inner puffer and an outer shell that can be worn separately or zipped together for particularly cold days.
This commitment to performance, style, and affordability runs across the brand’s entire line. “The general public might not have $600 to put into a jacket to go skiing,” says Ronna Wolf, VP of Merchandising for Free Country. “But people are still looking for quality, value, and layers that have versatility. We’re not about climbing Mount Everest. We’re about getting the everyday person outside, walking around the block, exploring the trail, no matter what the weather.”
To that end, everything Free Country makes is at an entry-level price point. “Why does anything have to be so expensive?” Wolf wonders. “It really doesn’t. Our puffers are just as warm as the competition for a quarter of the price. And our jackets last just as long.” The brand’s most expensive item is around $250.
Free Country’s commitment to accessibility goes beyond the price tag. The company partners with The Fresh Air Fund, which helps get underserved youth into the outdoors by facilitating a summer camp experience near Sleepy Hollow, in upstate New York. The staff at Free Country helps prep the summer camp for the kids and volunteers as counselors (Covid notwithstanding).
“We truly believe the ‘outside is ours’ and we want that to resonate with a lot of people,” Wolf says. “We don’t see this new interest in the outdoors as a trend. We see it as a movement. The way we see it, Free Country is situated to democratize the outdoors.”
Free Country is an American lifestyle brand that values family, friends, and shared experiences. We embody the spirit of adventure and empower our community to lead a fun, active, outdoor lifestyle. From peaks to parks, from woods to backyards, we all belong outside. Discover the best value on quality outerwear, activewear and accessories at FreeCountry.com