A Short Guy’s Guide to Outdoor Gear
Because your clothes should fit, regardless of your height
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If you’ve spent any time at all shopping for outdoor gear and don’t fit into the industry’s accepted size constraints, you know how hard it can be to find sleeves that don’t drape and pant legs that don’t require a cuff.
Barely cresting 5’6” with an inseam under 26”, this has long been a problem for me. Long snow pant legs being chewed up by snowshoes was an annual tradition, not to mention sleeves that engulfed my hands and left my wrist line largely a mystery to those on the outside.
Among the outdoor industry’s (many) inclusivity issues is one of sizing. Archaic guidelines mean small, medium, large and so on really match one scale of body type. Beyond looking disproportionate, poor sizing leads to bad fits and that can lead to a bad time on the trails, the water or wherever you’re headed outdoors.
The good news is, times are changing. Although we’ve got a long way to go, a number of brands are making shorter fits and cuts that actually make sense for non-traditional bodies. The following is a compilation of seven of those companies, along with some specific items to look out for on your shopping journey.
If you have any battle with verticality, Peter Manning should be on your radar. The brand specializes in shorter fits (with inseams starting at 25”!) and re-sized “regular” sizes to support smaller frames. I wasn’t initially convinced on quality, but put a pair of their snow pants to the test this past season and can report they’re now my go-to pants for any snowbound adventure.
For a long time, you’d have to choose between bunching up your joggers at the knee or ankle, and on shorter legs, that’s not doing anyone any favors. Vuori has a couple of jogger options that run a 28” inseam off-the-shelf, which remedies most of that bunching problem. It helps that their joggers are built to last and designed in a timeless way that’s California cool, but not try-hard.
Have you ever felt engulfed by a sleeping bag, and not in a “cozy” way? Mountain Hardwear is one of a small but growing number of outfitters that offers sleeping bags in a “short” length so you can actually enjoy the comforts of the bag as they were intended. This particular option gets its “AF” badging from the use of several recycled textiles, and the absence of dyes, which reduces the amount of water needed to produce the bag itself.
You likely know this Swedish brand, but may have stayed away due to sizing that favors, well, the Swedes. A little-known perk, however, is that most in-store purchases come with free tailoring if you buy at an official Fjallraven store. This extends to hemming pants, shortening sleeves on a jacket and much more. It’s not widely advertised, so you’ll need to inquire with store staff, but expect about a 1-2-week turnaround for alterations.
We’ve written plenty about Kelly Slater’s surf-inspired brand, but something less covered is the short-frame accessibility of many of their shirts. Compared to competitors, their sleeve sizing and overall shirt length comes in a bit shorter. With plenty of wear and a couple of washes, you might find your next favorite long-sleeve go-to. And, yes, this applies to their super popular Blanket Shirt.
Speaking of tees, t-shirts have long been a short guy struggle. The overall fit is typically too long, the sleeves don’t lay right and it all amounts to a bit of an unkempt, unflattering look. Fresh Clean Tees solves this problem with a “true to size” fit that’s actually “true to size,” meaning everything about their shirts are proportional. Beyond the better fit, these shirts come in at a great value and support their ongoing efforts to produce in socially-responsible factories in Latin America and Asia.
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