January 28, 2009

Gear Review: GoLite brings Style, Sustainability and a new Spring line. [Men’s] ~ via Henry Schliff.

It’s time to get your gear groove on in style and efficiency with GoLite. The Boulder, Colorado based high-performance clothing company that is making major strides in inventiveness and sustainability.

Recently, I tested out several items for elephantjournal.com from GoLite’s 2009 Spring Line of men’s apparel.

First off, the name doesn’t even begin to describe how light this gear is. After ordering several items, a tiny package arrived at my door. I thought there had been a mix up—rather than four items, they’d just sent one. But I opened it up and out fell two shirts and two windbreaker jackets—each capable of being bunched up to wallet size or smaller. Perfect for all you camping, hiking, climbing and running enthusiasts—the stuff is barely there.

And, best of all, GoLite is taking the initiative to make sure their footprint is barely there.

The Product
According to GoLite’s website, they aim “to design and produce unique, technologically superior products that provide maximum performance for minimum weight.” So they skip the bells and whistles, and waste associated with producing superfluous apparel accessories. Luckily, they haven’t skipped style. This gear is bold and elegant in its simplicity—I feel good wearing it.

I put the DriMove (below) shirt and Wisp jacket (above) immediately to the test on a run up Boulder’s red rocks, Mt. Sanitas. A mild January day in the mid sixties with stiff wind proved a good testing ground—by the time I summitted Sanitas, the temperature had dropped five to ten degrees and I was sweating hard.

Positive Attributes: DriMove, Wisp, Ether Jacket
After being put to the sweat test, the DriMove shirt wicked most of the moisture away and the Wisp jacket did not become the least bit uncomfortable (no stickiness) and kept the chill to a minimum. Both were so light I easily forgot I was wearing anything above the waist (DriMove will serve me well at the climbing gym, where you don’t want clothing to get in the way). The material is light, breathable and flexible, providing a full range of movement and comfort. And unlike many long-sleeves, the fabric is tenacious enough that there’s no chance of it breaking down and going loose in the arms for a long time.

A DriMove line ranges in lightness from 2-7oz. Perfect for any kind of athletic activity I can imagine at mild to cool temperatures or as a base layer in colder weather. I’ve used the short and long sleeve for layering and found them perfectly suited to give just the right amount of core insulation, for our balmy Boulder winter. Even better, DriMove is made with recycled products including Cocona, a fabric that “utilizes activated carbon from the inside of discarded coconut shell” and the Ether Jacket, a wicked light windbreaker, utilizes 88% recycled polyester (hooded version below).

GoLite: Practice & Philosophy
The company recently made public all their current initiatives including: undergoing comprehensive carbon footprint analysis through Five Winds International, fulfilling sustainable packaging processes (everything shipped is 100% recyclable) in accordance with OIA (Outdoor Industry Association’s), and becoming a certified B Corporation (companies certified for their efforts in environmental and social change). GoLite is also working on end-of-life innovations to try and reduce future waste. End-of-life meaning, repair, resale, donation, and recycling. GoLite headquarters has been made 100% carbon neutral through the use of Green-e renewable energy, energy efficient lighting, eco-office products including environmentally sustainable printing and packaging, and carbon offsets. But they haven’t stopped there, GoLite has set the ambitious goal of being 100% carbon neutral  (including their headquarters, factories, product, etc.) and zero-waste by 2010.

But, (and there’s always a ‘but’) look at the tag and like many other companies you will see ‘Made in China’ stenciled in. So I actually called up Kim Coupounas Co-founder and CEO of GoLite (who spoke with elephantjournal.com’s Waylon Lewis at Boulder’s recent Bioneers conference) and asked her: why China?

She explained that when manufacturing high-performance fabrics such as those worn by cyclists, runners, etc., there are few places that can produce these garments at an economical price and one of the primary countries for quality is China. Textile manufacture here in the States for such product is mostly tied up with the military and exorbitantly expensive. So the issue becomes one of the global marketplace and a shift of manufacturing priorities.

So perhaps it’s time to ask a question: do we want a competitive high-tech textile industry in this country, when clearly the demand exists? Amidst commiserating together as consumer and producer about the madness of having to ship product half way round the world (and back), Kim said to me “we are changing China.” That is to say, an ethical business model foreign or domestic directly affects the country it is instituted within. Through GoLite’s fair-labor practices across the board and across borders their company, along with other sister companies (like Patagonia, prAna…) maintain ethical labor regulations that have a positive global impact on the conditions of workers and the welfare of the planet.

Where to GoLite & The Final Word
For fellow Boulder locals, you can find GoLite product at Outdoor Divas, Boulder Running Co., Top Sleeping Bags, and Randall Scott Cycle Co. For everyone else, check them out at GoLite.com, which has a list of retailers like REI where you can find ’em.

I’d barely heard of this company before writing this review—as an environmentally-conscious consumer, I am rarely one to buy clothes brand new. But when I do, GoLite will be on my list of companies to look to—for their Fair Labor practices, for striving to protect our environment, and for the quality of their product. So for all you gearheads and outdoor junkies, if you got somewhere to go, GoLite!

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