The Best Sustainable Sweaters for Outdoor Adventures

Sustainable Sweaters - Mom walking with her kids wearing her Abode Outside Lakeside flannel

Let’s face it. The outdoor clothing industry does not get high-regards when it comes to sustainability. Almost every garment is petroleum-based, and those fabrics just don’ thave the longevity of traditional woolen-based materials.

Every year there is a newfangled performance fabric, and not a single one is truly sustainable. Manufacturers talk a lot about recycled fibers, renewable energy, and plastic-free packaging. But are they really that good for the environment?

In this article we’ll focus on knitwear and explore what makes a sweater sustainable, why it matters, and we’ll give a shout-out to one of our favorite new brands that is paving a new way towards truly sustainable sweaters and knitwear, Abode Outside

You can even save 25% off of your first order with coupon code FROMTENTTOTAKEOFF! (we may receive a small commission from purchases made using this code).

What are Sustainable Sweaters?

Sustainable Sweaters - Dad walking his dog in the woods with Abode outside sweater
Abode Outside Lakeview Sweater

A sustainable sweater is a knitwear garment that is made with the smallest environmental impact possible and serves a long useful life. 

While there is some disagreement on what truly qualifies as sustainable, minimizing environmental impact and promoting ethical practices throughout the production process tend to be generally agreed upon. 

Here are the key factors that impact the sustainability of a garment in our minds. 

  1. Eco-Friendly Materials:
    • Organic and Natural Fibers: Using organic cotton, wool, or other fibers grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers reduces environmental harm.
    • Recycled Materials: Incorporating recycled fibers, such as recycled polyester or reclaimed wool, diverts waste from landfills and decreases the demand for new raw materials.
  2. Low-Impact Dyes and Finishes:
    • Natural Dyes: Utilizing plant-based or other non-toxic dyes reduces the ecological footprint associated with traditional dyeing processes by avoiding toxic chemicals
    • Water Conservation: Implementing dyeing methods that use less water and minimize pollution contributes to a more sustainable water footprint.
  3. Closed-Loop Production:
    • Circular Economy: Embracing circular production models, where materials are recycled and reused, reduces waste and promotes a closed-loop system.
    • Zero-Waste Design: Designing knitwear with minimal waste by optimizing pattern cutting and minimizing excess yarn or fabric contributes to sustainability.
  4. Ethical Manufacturing:
    • Fair Labor Practices: Ensuring that workers involved in the ethical production of knitwear are treated fairly, paid a living wage, and work in safe conditions promotes social responsibility.
    • Transparency: Brands providing transparency in their supply chain, from yarn sourcing to garment production, allow consumers to make informed choices about the ethical aspects of their knitwear.
  5. Longevity and Durability:
    • Quality Construction: Knitwear crafted with high-quality, slow fashion techniques and materials tends to last longer, reducing the frequency of replacements and, consequently, the environmental impact.
    • Timeless Design: Opting for classic, timeless designs over fast-fashion trends encourages consumers to keep and cherish their knitwear for longer periods.
  6. Sustainable Certifications:
    • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS certification ensures that textiles are produced using organic fibers and meet strict environmental and social criteria.
    • Fair Trade: Fair Trade certification ensures that workers are paid fair wages and work in safe conditions.
    • Responsible Wool Standard:  RWS farmers and ranchers must meet animal welfare, land management, and social requirements while producisng ethical wool.

While this list is not a be all-ends-all, it is a good starting place if you are serious about finding better options for your outdoor pursuits. 

Why Does Sustainable Knitwear Matter?

Sustainable Sweaters - Abode Outside Huntsman being worn while starting fire
Abode Outside “The Huntsman” Sweater

Ok. So we agree that the list above generally defines sustainability as it relates to sweaters and knitwear. So what? Why should we care about sustainable fashion for outdoor adventures?

If you are reading this article, then my guess is you love being outdoors and appreciate wilderness areas as much as we do. We’ve always thought it was strange heading out on a weeklong backcountry canoe trip carrying plastic backpacks, in a plastic canoe, eating freeze-dried meals out of plastic bags, and wearing plastic clothing.

It’s almost like there was an invisible barrier preventing us from being a part of the wilderness around us. Not only does that barrier exist, but it is extremely degrading for our environment and wilderness areas around the world. 

One way we can start to bridge that gap is by choosing sustainable clothing, and a quick and easy place to start is with sustainable sweaters and knitwear. By choosing responsibly sourced, often recycled, merino wool warmth layers, we can limit our impact on the world around us and make sure we’re wrapping ourselves and our young ones in non-toxic materials. 

The best part is these natural fibers last longer, are fire-resistant (no more spark holes in your brand new synthetic sweater), maintain warmth even when wet, and look great too!

There is a reason most winter explorers layer with wool garments and a cotton anorak (outer wind layer). These natural fibers work and do not lose their abilities to trap heat as fast as synthetics do. 

Our Favorite Sustainable Sweater Brand – Abode Outside

Sustainable Knitwear - Man standing on a dock with Abode Outside
Abode Outside Overlander Plaid Shirt Jacket

Thankfully, there are still visionaries out there looking for alternatives. One of our favorite new brands is Abode Outside, which has developed “a clothing brand dedicated to America’s Wilderness.”

They specialized in sustainable sweaters and knitwear and go beyond just using recycled synthetic materials. Abode Outside is an ethical fashion brand focused on having a positive impact by using sustainable practices, natural fabrics, and classic styles.

The Baller family, which owns and operates Abode Outside, is constantly looking for better and more sustainable products. Key pillars of their strategy are:

  1. Solar Powered HQ – Their entire headquarters building is powered on locally installed solar panels
  2. Less Pollution – Made with natural and recycled materials to avoid toxins and chemicals
  3. Avoid Plastic – Avoid virgin plastic at all costs and use biodegradable and recycled packaging
  4. Resource Preservation – Focus on farmers certified and educated in best practices to preserve water and soil health
  5. Wilderness Protection – 1% of all sales donated to Save the Boundary Waters

The list goes on and on. They also only work with factories that provide healthy working conditions and living wages to their employees, use only sustainable yarns, and are constantly improving their craft to reduce their impact even further. 

What are some products that we love?

Sustainable Sweaters - Abode Outside Woodland Hoodie
Abode Outside Woodland Hoodie

Abode Outside has two options based on classic designs with a modern twist: Performance Knitwear and Lifestyle Knitwear. Both are available within a reasonable price range, use eco-friendly fabrics, and are great options for sweater weather!

Performance Knitwear

Performance Knitwear is a great option for your active outdoor adventures. The sustainable sweaters and knitwear products on this line are focused on keep you warm during any activity. As a result, you will not see cotton, but rather wool and recycled materials.

Our favorites:

  1. Campfire Quarter-Zip – Quarter zips are our favorite year-round warmth layer, and this one is super soft and very warm
  2. Woodland Hoodie – This is a unique take on a thin merino layer. The hood and neck gator are extremely useful in cold, snowy conditions and can be used without taking off your gloves
  3. Huntsman – This is a heavy wool blend that is great around the campfire and makes an excellent warmth layer under a windbreaker or raincoat.

Lifestyle Knitwear

Their Lifestyle Knitwear is equally sustainable, but is more focused on cozy sweaters for running around town. Many of these items use a cotton-blend which is awesome in town, but not recommended for the outdoors as it can get cold if wet.

Our favorites:

  1. Lakeview – For some reason, this sweater just reminds us of Christmas. It is super warm and has a beautiful jacquard pattern and thick yet soft feel
  2. Overlander – Think of this as a non-itchy flannel. If you own a cabin, this one will fit right in!
  3. Fireside – This is their newest edition, and it doesn’t disappoint. We love the hood and pockets

A note on Ecosizing

Another groundbreaking technique they use is called Ecosizing. 

Ecosizing is a universal fit for all adults that greatly reduces waste and pollution. All of their classic sweaters come in a wide size range that fit most body types. I generally wear a medium and Kristen a small. They use a generalized cut for their sweaters, so none are too “masculine” or too “feminine.”

It is hard to explain how much of an impact this sizing philosophy has on material usage. It simplifies everything from production to the store shelf and cuts down on waste tremendously.


Sustainable Clothing - Man walking out of cabin with Abode Outside The Huntsman
Abode Outside “The Huntsman” Sweater

Spending time in the outdoors is all about that connection with nature. Unfortunately, we generally like to wrap ourselves in plastic before embarking on that journey, which breaks that connection and limits the ability of future generations to have the same access as we have.

Thankfully there are a ton of great brands out there looking to break our addition to synthetic materials and generally reduce our impact on the environment. These are true visionaries that are using the best options available to produce high-quality and sustainably manufactured clothing.

Abode Outside is one of those brands. We love what their approach and think you will to. So gear up with some cozy knits made with sustainable materials and get ready for those winter months!

Be sure to use coupon code FROMTENTTOTAKEOFF at checkout to save 25% on your first order (we may recieve a small commission from sales made using this code).

Check out these Articles about Canoeing with Kids


The Quill Family

We are the Quills! An ordinary family sharing our extraordinary travel experiences. 


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