Why Can’t I Find Outdoor Gear in Plus Sizes?!?
Posted on October 05 2021
Hi hello everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful Fall so far. So far, we’ve had warmer-than-normal temperatures in Calgary. I love those Fall days when the leaves are changing colours, the sun is out and there’s not a cloud in the sky.
It’s hard to believe our last blog post was in July. I spent a lot of my free time over the summer recharging my batteries, enjoying time outdoors with my pup, Bentley, and taking care of my gardens. I grow a big plot of heirloom tomatoes, which I start from seed, and I’m also on the Board for a Community Garden in SE Calgary, where I grow everything from beets to beans and Brussels sprouts. Every year, I say I’m not going to overcommit, but then I end up with 50 tomato plants growing in my kitchen.
I also enjoyed a trip to Northern Saskatchewan with my parents to our family fishing lodge at Dore Lake. I love telling people the history of my trips to Dore. I am a girly girl through and through, and most people look shocked to find out I’m developing a new love for fishing. Here's me and my dad with my first-ever fish!
My first trip to Dore was in the early 1990’s. My Papa, Malcolm Rondeau, built the cabin and affectionately named it Mobile Mac’s Shack (my grandpa’s nickname). I don’t remember much about our first “family vacation” to Dore (I use the term “family vacation” loosely here), but what I vividly remember was 1) Going swimming at the beach and my mom coming out of the lake covered in leaches, 2) Lighting hitting a tree during a big storm, which landed on the cabin and knocked out the power, and 3) My mom then declaring she had enough of the “vacation,” packing me, my siblings and Nana up in the middle of the night, and driving us back to Regina and vowing never to return again.
We obviously did go back, and Dore has become a wonderful place to relax and recharge. There is no cell reception or internet service up there, so you really have no choice! The lake is beautiful, and I’ve come to enjoy the quiet calm of sitting on the boat, waiting for my next bite.
Before my last trip to the cabin, I wanted to get some new outdoor clothing to wear on the boat. Off I headed to Cabela’s to look for hiking pants and long-sleeved tops. The first thing I noticed was that there was nothing offered in-store for plus sizes. I was fortunate that brands like Columbia and The North Face are more generous with their sizing, so I was able to find what I was looking for, but the selection was pretty limited. My body represents the average sized woman in North America. Certainly anyone in a larger body would not be able to shop there.
I’ve had similar experiences with any sport or movement activity that I have needed new clothing or equipment for. When I wanted to learn how to ski and signed up for ski lessons, I wasn’t able to find anything in stores. I ended up ordering a ski jacket and pants from Columbia, which does offer plus sizes up to 3X in select pieces. Ski boots were nearly impossible to fit into – anyone with larger calves would be VERY uncomfortable in a ski boot!
Finding a breathable top and padded cycling shorts to wear on my road bike? Nope! Again, I ended up looking online and found a few pieces from REI in the US. But in Canada, I can’t go to a local bike shop or larger store like Mountain Equipment Co-op and find anything in my size. This is not specific just to women’s clothing. I know lots of plus-sized men who experience the same frustrations trying to find clothing for outdoor activities. Not everyone who likes riding their bike is tall and lanky!
Why does this matter anyways?!?
Regardless of our shape or size, we all deserve access to movement activities that meet our interests and desires within our physical limitations. I love practicing yoga, barre and Pilates, and there is certainly no shortage of matching leggings and crop top options out there. However, I also love being outdoors, especially in Alberta where we have beautiful scenery like this at our front door! There is a big gap when it comes to anything “outdoorsy.”
When I go into a store like Cabela’s or Mountain Equipment Co-op and can’t find anything in my size, or when LL Bean opens an 11,000 square foot store in my city but doesn’t "have any room" for plus or petite-sized clothing in the store, it sends the message that plus-sized folks aren’t welcome in those spaces. We’re forced to shop from home and dig around online through a limited selection, paying and praying that the items we order will fit and be of good quality.
I also feel that this sends conflicting messages to plus-sized people. On one hand, we are encouraged to “be more active,” (you know, because in Diet Culture, all plus-sized people are lazy and don’t like to engage in any form of exercise *insert my eye rolls here*). But when we try to find clothing to make these activities more comfortable and enjoyable, they’re not available! It’s a very frustrating Catch 22, and one that I would like to change.
My intent here is not to imply that everyone has to or should be skiing, hiking or biking…or even engaging in activity at all. Everyone has the right to body autonomy and to do the things that feel best for them and their needs. My message here is that IF you want to ski, bike or hike, you SHOULD be able to find suitable clothing and equipment to fit your body.
What’s Coming Up…
If you’ve been following us on social media, you’ve noticed that we’re updating the Shop with all of the new Fall things! In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to pull together more outerwear and outdoor activity looks for you. As always, if there are any specific brands or pieces you are looking for, we would love your feedback.
We offer personal, virtual styling year-round and now is the perfect time to book a session for holiday parties! We’re here to help take the guesswork out of shopping online for plus-size fashion, saving you time and helping you live your best plus-sized life, one great outfit at a time.
Until next time – be well!
Hi Nicole! Thank you so much for your comment!
I feel you on the ski boots. I would love to learn how to ski again, but having my calves pinched to the point of cutting off the circulation is so not cool.
You’ve captured so well what I’ve been telling friends and family for years (and really anyone who would listen)! Just because I don’t fit a “standard” size doesn’t mean I’m not active. I want to hike and bike and ski (the ski boots really are awful with bigger calves) with my family and feel comfortable and ready for the climate. It’s an uphill battle but I see more and more retailers listening so maybe things are looking up (also, thank goodness for Columbia)!