Patagonia is one of the most popular manufacturers of outdoor gear. They make jackets, pants, backpacks, duffels and pretty much anything you might need in your outdoor adventures. Lots of people recommend Patagonia and even more people buy their stuff, despite the sometimes ridiculously high price tags.
Why is that? Why should you buy a $200 jacket from Patagonia, when you can get practically the same item from a different brand for at least half that?
Because it’s not the same performance or quality. Because it won’t last you nearly as long as the Patagonia jacket would, and because you don’t always know what kind of business practices you’re supporting with your money.
And that’s just the start. There are lots of other reasons why Patagonia items are so pricey, and we’ll cover all of them in the rest of this post!
Patagonia is a member of the 1% For The Planet organization. Every year they donate at least 1% of their annual sales to various environmental causes. The company has been doing this since 1985, and in that time they have donated some $89 million to different causes.
Giving away 1% a year might not seem like a lot, but you have to remember that Patagonia is a massive company with a huge amount of annual revenue. In 2017, their annual revenue surpassed $1 billion and 1% of that is $10 million. And that’s a lot of money to give away to charity.
This is an excellent reason to shop Patagonia items – you can be certain that at least a percentage of your money is going to a great cause. As consumers, it is crucial that we encourage brands that promote such practices, in order to get more brands doing the same thing.
The main benefit of this is raising awareness. Maybe you had no idea that Patagonia donates a small portion of their profits to worthy causes every year. But now that you do, you might be encouraged to shop their products more often. The next time you’re trying to decide between Patagonia and a different brand, you can look at their business practices and decide who deserves the money more.
Quite a lot of Patagonia items are made from either eco-friendly or recycled materials. And they’re trying to increase the number of such items annually – in 2020, 72% of their line was made with recycled materials. They hope to bring that number up to 100% eventually.
The brand uses both pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled materials, including wool, nylon, cotton, down, polyester and more. If it can be recycled, you can bet that Patagonia is going to find a way to use it when they’re making their new best-selling jacket.
Now, compare this with the practices of Nike and Burberry who have been called out for destroying millions of dollars’ worth of product every year just to retain the exclusivity of the brand. And it’s not just those two – a lot of brands destroy excess products every year instead of recycling or donating them, which is absolutely ridiculous. The main purpose of this is to reinforce the image of scarcity and exclusivity of the brand, so that people are inclined to buy their stuff because it’s ingrained in their subconsciousness that it will sell out fast.
Instead of recycling and reducing their footprint they are only creating more waste. It is absolutely disgusting, and it’s a practice we should not encourage. But the problem is that we as consumers don’t know this is happening – people who have come out with this information were labelled as whistleblowers, and we all know just how damaging that label can be.
And on the other hand, you have Patagonia reusing scraps of fabric that are left after manufacturing items and reclaiming goose and duck down from old products. It’s a massive difference, so the next time you’re in a market for a brand new jacket, think about the kind of business practices that you want to support and encourage with your hard-earned money.
One of the best things about Patagonia is that they are very transparent about their business practices. It’s easy to find locations of all of their factories worldwide, and they tell you exactly how they source the materials they use in their products.
Why exactly is this important? Because you can be certain that you are not supporting modern slavery or human trafficking when you’re buying Patagonia items. And that can’t be said about all the brands out there – quite a lot of the big names in the industry have factories overseas because labor is only a fraction of what they have to pay in the US. And sometimes, the factory workers who are practically the backbone of the entire brand don’t even get paid. You’ve heard stories about child labor, human exploitation and horrifying workplace conditions – the thing is they’re not just stories. They are facts. And the worst part is that we don’t always know if we’re supporting this horrible behavior by purchasing certain products.
Patagonia is super transparent about all of this, which makes it so easy to recommend them. They are one of the very few brands that actually reduced the number of factories they worked with because they couldn’t keep track of all the people who were working for them. They make it a point to know exactly who is sewing their clothes, partly because they have extremely high standards even when it’s something as simple as underpants, and partly because they want to guarantee that they are not participating in exploitation of child labor.
Patagonia uses only the best materials and technologies in their items, which guarantees that you are always getting the same premium quality. Perhaps the best examples of this are Gore-Tex waterproof membranes and PrimaLoft synthetic insulation – both of these technologies are top of the line, and they are often found in Patagonia products.
The brand does have in-house alternatives for both, and they frequently use them in some of the more affordable products. But if we’re talking about a $300 jacket, it costs that much precisely because it is using the best and the most expensive technologies that exist on the market. Bear in mind that Patagonia can’t use either of these free of charge, so they have to put higher price tags on products that utilize them.
On top of that, when you actually start looking at the prices of other brands for the same technologies, you immediately see that it’s not just Patagonia’s fault the prices are so high.
One of the reasons why it’s so easy to recommend Patagonia to others despite their high price tags is their insane warranty. They call it the Ironclad Guarantee, and basically it means that they fully stand behind every single item they manufacture.
If you get something from Patagonia and you’re not satisfied with its performance, you can return or exchange it without any hassle. On top of that, they have an excellent repair policy that covers practically anything they ever made. If a product stops working as intended (think broken zippers, damaged buckles etc.), Patagonia will gladly repair it. And the best part is they will charge you nothing for most of the repairs, except for some really technical items like wetsuits and waders.
They also do repairs for regular wear and tear, but those aren’t always free of charge. On top of that, Patagonia actually has a self-repair guide, to make things even more convenient for people who don’t live close to retail stores. The brand also accepts mail-in repairs, but they’re not going to cover the shipping fees.
If you live in the US, you’re in luck! Did you know that Patagonia actually has a van that drivers around the country repairing clothes and picking up pre-owned clothes for their Worn Wear programme? And you can submit a request that they come to your town! However, it is worth noting that this service is not fully operational in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which just serves to prove exactly how responsible they are.
Worn Wear is Patagonia’s hub for reselling used clothing and gear. You can buy second hand items at a significant discount, which is really good if you’re short on cash but still want that signature Patagonia quality.
Whichever Patagonia item you own, once you get tired of it you can bring it to a Patagonia store and they will take it off your hands. The only catch is that the item needs to be in good condition – you can’t bring them anything that’s unusable, destroyed, ripped etc. You won’t get any cash in return, but you will get in-store credit that you can use in their retail stores, including the web shop and WornWear.com. You can get anywhere from $10 to $100 of in-store credit, depending on the item you are trading in and its exact condition.
The whole point of this program is to extend life cycles of their products. By doing so, Patagonia tries to reduce their carbon, waste and water footprint. This is absolutely amazing, and it’s something that more brand should be doing. Not only does it help the environment, but it also makes the brand approachable to more people, including those who can’t usually afford to spend $300 on a jacket.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.