There is nothing like buying top quality gear for whatever crazy weather New Zealand chooses to throw at us. It’s even better when it’s locally owned and operated, keeping Kiwis in good paying jobs and getting gear that’s relevant to the country – not just the activity. We’ve spent time buying and testing what we think are New Zealand’s best outdoor clothing providers.
Let’s get straight into it, here is our list of the best clothing providers in New Zealand (in no particular order).
Cactus Outdoor Clothing
It kind of goes without saying that Cactus should be on this list. These guys have awesome values, a great team culture and gear that can last decades. Check this out:
Cactus specializes in outdoor clothing for New Zealand, but also ensures that people who are venturing into tough parts of the world like Alaska or Cuba are well equipped. They service the outdoor world in many ways from hiking gear, bags, clothing for men and women, face masks and even tradies gear.
Their incentive, Upcycled Clothing is a fresh take on recycled gear, with the waterproof cycling pack one of their fasting selling items.
What we love about these guys is their values. They know they won’t take on those big, asain-made brands that saturate the market with poorly made clothing, and they’re not trying to. They know their “legion of satisfied users” will make up the difference and continue to place them as legitimate, good quality providers.
You can’t go hiking in New Zealand without finding an older tramper who swears by them, and has done so for the last 25 years. With that sort of passionate following, they’re clearly going to remain as one of the best outdoor clothing brands.
Check out the Kiwi Original podcast where Ben Kepes, co-founder of Cactus talks about where they’ve come from and where they’re going.
First Lite (by Points South)
Although technically not a New Zealand brand, the First Lite hunting apparel has been praised by Kiwi and Aussie hunters as amongst the best outdoor clothing suppliers available. It’s the boys over at Points South that offer our southern hemisphere audience the chance to get their hands on all the goods.
Points South is run by our very own Bushman, Shaun and his business partners, Luke Potts and Cam McKay (of the Hunters Journal). They built on the need for hunters to obtain gear for hunting, not for mountaineering. Gear that was lightweight, breathable, and durable – perhaps the three key ingredients for true outdoor clothing.
New Zealand was being saturated by the mountaineering and foreign made clothing range and something needed to change; cue the First Lite and Points South partnership.
The apparel provided by First Lite is so sought after, Adidas and Billabong are among the suppliers also using the merino made clothing. We’ve always said, if you want the most reliable gear for the New Zealand backcountry, get hunting gear.
Points South offers a range of blogs, content, clothing, news and tours but makes the apparel at First Lite front and centre. When you email them for help, it’ll be one of the founders that reply. You’ll get advice and an honest set of opinions by seasoned, kiwi hunters – not staff working 9 till 5 who barely know a sika from a fallow!
These guys keep popping up during hikes throughout the warmer months, and every time we ask where they’re from, the wearer will proudly say Zeenya.
If you’re looking to go the complete opposite direction to hunting gear, then Zeenya gear will have you standing out like a hut fireplace during a blizzard.
A proudly NZ made business, these women provide bright, exciting leggings for the active, sporty kiwi woman in mind. The leggings, skirt and short varieties are awesome and each come with their own unique pattern that will have you standing out in any tramping club.
What we love most about this company is perhaps less the clothing, and more the passion for what they believe in; being New Zealand’s happiest activewear. They reiterate this throughout their blogs and messaging that is always focused on the inspiration and power of women around the country.
We wouldn’t ever recommend this sort of clothing unless you have a quickly accessible, warm layer you can chuck on at a moment’s notice during an NZ hike. In New Zealand, these wouldn’t be a full-time attire. However, we once spoke with an American tramper who was doing the Te Araroa through our Edwards Hawdon Route.
“A friend brought these for me because I just completely forgot my last pair. They’re like walking with energy and good vibes around ya legs”.
Despite the 3,000km she was undertaking, this positive adventurer got up early that day, chucked on her Zeenyas, and began running the next leg – all while looking absolutely fabulous!
‘You’re in Swazi country’ is a classic bumper sticker here in NZ. It’s what New Zealand should look like when it comes to fashion and apparel.
If you want clothing that looks bloody good, and as solid as Kieran Read’s chin, it’s Swazi.
They’re so inherently kiwi, their boss is about as Bushman as they get, alongside a website has a tab that just reads “cool sh*t”!
The clothing has become a New Zealand icon in it’s own right, even Taika Waitiki wears it during his shoots in New Zealand, but why is this?
First of all, they’ve been around since 1994, provide jobs in NZ, and make all their clothing here. Secondly, it covers a range of needs from ultralight rain gear, to staff wear, hunters and mountain wear.
It’s their waterproof jackets that take the cake for us.
Spending hours on the coast hunting some big stags requires grit and a good bit of hearty patience. That’s quickly dampened without the correct gear. The Swazi jacket is the perfect companion; not to mention how bloody good they look.
On December 23rd, 1913, William Bloome trademarked Swanndri. At the age of 21, moving from the UK, Bloome created – by hand – one of the most iconic tops a kiwi has ever worn; the Swanni.
He added a liquid formula (secret to this day) that helped keep the material weather resistant and tough in all of New Zealand’s conditions. From blistering sharp winters, to burning summers, Bloome lived them all and knew the country needed something reliable. By 1927, a tailor named John McKendrick added a hood, a laced front, and long sleeves to the original bush shirt design and introduced the classic olive green we still use today.
Over 100 years, the Swanndri collection has cemented itself into New Zealand’s outdoor, farming and hunting community. It’s managed this by remaining reliable and tough in conditions when you need what you wear to outlast your own hearty ambitions.
Their jackets and hoodies, for example, can get weighty. With a bit of rain, you don’t want to be trailing a six day hike around Southland with that sort of extra load. But, if you’ve got a day in the Canterbury Plains, or setting some traps in Manawatu, then there simply isn’t anything better.
Born in a Christchurch garage (like any true Cantab), these guys have humble beginnings that now make them a serious contender for those looking for the goods. You’ll be hard pressed not to find a ute somewhere in Canterbury without their large deer logo stuck across the back.
After a quick browse of the website, you’ll see plenty is covered for your outdoor needs at reasonable prices. Gators, tents, armor (our personal favourites), hats, merino…the whole catalogue. They even have their sister brand, Seabuck which providers the same quality you’d expect for underwater adventures.
There is something about Bushbuck that inherently feels outdoors. It’s got an armor of its own where we’ve failed to find anyone who has their ‘negatives’ about the brand. An almost military looking design that feels useful to all kiwi hikers and hunters. It fits well with all the other brands mentioned in this article, but equally, it’s recognised across the globe as a brand that’s meant for the adventurous type, the ones that will probably get their shirt snagged on a tree, covered in the day’s winnings, or scraped across coral in the sounds.
The people we know who own Bushbuck praise it for the thought that’s gone into the design of the clothing. Our mates over at Early Bird Media are constantly on about these guys, and doing some pretty cool, meaningful videos too. It’s this sort of rep from those out there doing it that is growing this brand to being one of the critical choices for a Bushman’s wardrobe.
Well, they are our picks, but no doubt you’ll have your own! Where possible, always try to avoid the big corporate brands found on the high street. Most of this stuff is made overseas and lasts less than a season. Shop local, shop with manufacturers who actually get out there, and enjoy some quality gear.