Spring's Best Portland Outdoor and Sports Gear

We explore Portland's booming activewear industry with a look at this season's coolest new gear—and the five best locally designed sports bras.

By Zach Dundas With Rachel Ritchie and Rachel Rasmussen April 12, 2013 Published in the May 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Long before the first Nike prototypes sizzled on a waffle iron, Oregon made clothes designed for action. (The Pendleton shirt was just workout wear for ranchers and fishermen.) Today, the Portland-rooted “activewear and outdoors” industry pays more than 14,000 Oregonians about $1.5 billion in annual wages. The business includes megaliths like Nike, Adidas, and Columbia as well as start-ups like RYU—and links the city to global commerce and creativity like almost nothing else. Turn the page for a closer look.  

Image: Josh Ross

(1)  Nike Sport Pocket women’s golf polo, $65

The zippy 100-percent-poly number incorporates the Swoosh’s DriFit wicking technology with a sporty, mod design. 

THE BEST THING A four-button collar allows for different looks depending on whether the wind is whipping or sun shining. 

TAKE IT OUT  By joining the women’s club at Heron Lakes, the highly regarded two-course club tucked in North Portland. 

(2)  Adidas Supernova running shirt for women, $40  

This new line from the Three Stripes emphasizes hot, bright colors and strategically located “sweat zones” aerated by lightweight mesh. 

THE BEST THING A zip pocket with a router for headphone cords. 

TAKE IT OUT  On Forest Park’s six-mile Maple Trail Loop. 

(3)  Rapha short-sleeve merino jersey for women, $165

This 100-percent-wool, midweight pullover is cute enough for a casual cruise to the espresso shop, but brawny enough to fend off Portland’s spring gusts. 

THE BEST THING A back-hip pocket just big enough for cash and cards, with an optional hot-pink “Rapha” tag if you want to parade brand loyalty. 

TAKE IT OUT  On the 12-mile Sauvie Island loop that is a Portland cyclist’s rite of spring. 

(4)  Columbia’s OmniFreeze zero running shirt for women, $55 

Columbia’s new “sweat-activated” fabric technology, OmniFreeze, is a potentially key addition to a runner’s arsenal, especially in schizoid Portland spring. Tiny polymer rings embedded in the fabric swell when exposed to moisture, increasing ventilation as your body heats up.

THE BEST THING Fits well—but chafe-free.

TAKE IT OUT  For the ambitious, there’s the Portland Marathon’s 16-week advanced clinic. For the rest of us, there’s always the Eastbank Esplanade.

Image: Josh Ross

(1) Handful’s Adjustable Bra, $44 

WHO? The petite-busted and those who want a little padding. 

WHAT? Low-impact workouts like yoga or weights.  

WHY?  This all-bras Tigard company offers an alternative to all the unflattering compression bras on the market: a pocketed sports bra with padded inserts that allow users to “amend” anything that nature, surgery, or breast-feeding has taken away. Spindly straps don’t offer much in the way of support, but you’ll be comfortable wearing this bra from yoga to the grocery store.  

BONUS Proceeds go to breast cancer research. Runs large in band and cup.

(2) Nike’s victory adjust u-back bra, $55

WHO? Medium to full-busted. 

WHAT? High-impact workouts, from the courts to the track. 

WHY?  While traditional pullover sports bras demand you fit them, Victory’s adjustable straps and band form to fit you. Nike’s design team consulted 1,424 “average women” and tested 120 versions of the chest band along to achieve a design the truly works.

BONUS A patented under-bust support made of compressed mesh. Runs true to size. 

(3) RYU’s TKO, $45 

WHO? Most sizes. 

WHAT? Just about any workout. 

WHY? This local outfit’s martial arts roots guaranteed that RYU’s foray into bra construction would be intriguing. The result is incredibly functional, too: seaming around the bust and fun woven straps give support without squishing the ladies or restricting the ribcage. 

BONUS A discreet pocket for your locker key. Runs true to size.  

WHO? Most sizes. (4) RYU’s Fierce Bra, $42

WHAT? Yoga or spin class. 

WHY? Crafted from recycled polyester and Lycra with a construction technique that reduces (potentially chafing) seams, this is the ultimate “comfort” sports bra. It may feel like it’s disappeared on your body, but you’ll stand out at the gym with vibrant colors and funky crisscross straps. 

BONUS The inside is pocketed for optional padded inserts. Runs true to size. 

(5) Adidas’s Supernova Racer Back, $40 

WHO? Most sizes. 

WHAT? Low-, medium-, or high-impact workouts, from Pilates to running. 

WHY? Light bust padding offers coverage for the modest and looks great under shirts, while patented materials wick away moisture. Your yoga crush won’t know what hit him/her. 

BONUS   Reflective details for added safety during nighttime runs.  Runs true to size.

Image: Josh Ross

(1) Rapha Windproof shirt for men, $215

The London-Portland cycling brand brings its aesthetic (hard-core bike aficionado meets Euro chic) to a nylon breeze-cutter that fuses roadworthiness with mod tailoring.

THE BEST THING A hidden patch with this saucy quote from an early French cyclist: “Do you know how we keep going? Look, this is cocaine....” Quel esprit! 

TAKE IT OUT On the 26-mile Springwater Corridor and Powell Butte loop.  

(2) RYU Icon T-shirt for men, $40

This newish Portland brand wants to outgrow its roots in mixed martial arts by chasing new markets. (The company says revenues surged 70 percent last year ... but the Oregonian recently reported it lost almost $10 million in 2012.) But this striking workout tee oozes macho brawn, down to a tag that urges wearers to “keep the spirit of combat in mind.”  

THE BEST THING The airy blend of organic cotton and bamboo-charcoal poly. 

TAKE IT OUT To heave kettlebells at the Pearl District’s Skogg Gym. 

(3) Nau Lightbeam shirt for men, $160

The Portland-founded and -based sustainable sportswear brand combines two kinds of recycled polyester in a versatile hike/bike/barbecue shirt designed to ward off wind and light rain. 

THE BEST THING The feather-light, crinkly, seersucker-like texture. 

TAKE IT OUT For a stroll through Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, 635 bird-swarmed, often-overlooked acres tucked inside suburban Hillsboro. 

Image: Josh Ross

(1) Adidas Haile Gebrselassie men's running shorts, $35

Etched with the profile of the Ethiopian marathon champ, these shorts help raise money for cancer research. 

THE BEST THING Stretchy mesh structural panels along the hems and sides and below the waistband. 

TAKE IT OUT For July’s inaugural Rose City Rivalry 5k at Mount Tabor, a race benefiting city parks that will pit runners from Portland’s five quadrants against each other in mass teams.  

(2) RYU Inspire women’s training capri, $70

The martial arts–based brand breaks into the cross-training market with workout pants featuring a flattering, scooped-front cut.

THE BEST THING  The proprietary TerraWeave fabric incorporates recycled polyester. 

TAKE IT OUT For a free (free!) introductory Iyengar class at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Southwest Portland.

(3) Icebreaker Seeker shorts for men, $130

Icebreaker blends its signature New Zealand merino into rugged shorts suited to trail and travel. 

THE BEST THING A sleek zipped front pocket lends some capacity without cargo-short bagginess. 

TAKE IT OUT Down the steep and dusty trail to the spooky abandoned power station in Central Oregon’s White River Falls State Park.

Image: Josh Ross

(1) NW Alpine Eyebright climbing jacket, $600

This new, climbing-fixated Portland brand makes its ultralight, waterproof jacket out of Dyneema, a polyethelene-based fabric also found in maritime hauling ropes and riot cops’ shields. 

THE BEST THING Weighing just five ounces and highly compactible, the Eyebright was designed to fulfill the climbers’ maxim “light is right.” 

TAKE IT OUT On the dozen cliffs at Troutdale’s Broughton Bluff. 

(2) Columbia Insect Blocker men's full-zip hoodie, $90

This midweight cover-up features the local outdoors pioneer’s fabric-bonded insect repellent—yes, insect repellent is literally woven into the garment. The company says the effect is good through 70 washings. 

THE BEST THING Bugs may not like it, but with its supple, no-fuss adaptability—it comes off, crumples into a bag, whips back out again—you will. 

TAKE IT OUT For June’s annual Free Fishing Day at rainbow-stocked Benson Lake State Park. 

(3) Nau women's Motil trench, $225

Nau cuts water-resistant recycled poly into this sharp, light cover-up for travel, commuting, and vacant-lot wildflower raids. Six snaps adjust the waist; voluminous pockets could banish the handbag.

THE BEST THING  It smashes down into a grapefruit-size ball for instant carry-on storage. 

TAKE IT OUT   When you catch PDX’s new direct flight to Fairbanks (and Denali National Park). 

Nike Studio Wrap footwear system, $110

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Image: Josh Ross

THE BEST THING Ribbons to wrap into additional ankle support or use in those yoga poses when you just ... can’t ... reach. 

TAKE IT OUT If you tackle Barre3’s seven-day “Body Blast” program of workouts and low-fat salads.  

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Image: Josh Ross

Looptworks nansha bag, $80

This local outfit makes all its wares out of “upcycled” material—i.e., other gear makers’ garbage. This vast, multipocketed tote could haul enough organic vegetables to feed a local family for a week. 

THE BEST THING Interchangable handles and shoulder straps let it transition from shopping bag to backpack. 

TAKE IT OUT To the Beaverton Farmers Market’s summer opener, May 11.   

Snow Peak lapel torch, $60

The Japanese cult camping brand bases its North American HQ in Portland. This handy clip-on flashlight, with a design that evokes a certain computer company’s ’Pods and ’Pads, translates into less risky late-night stumbles from fireside to tent. 

THE BEST THING A clever magnetic clasp snaps and unsnaps with addictive springiness. Stop fiddling with it—if you can. 

TAKE IT OUT For August’s epic, rustic indie-rock campout, Pickathon. 

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