‘There are ten million stories in the naked city. Not all of them have a moral…’ - Garth Ennis
When we think about adventure travel, more often than not we imagine trips to the pointy, sandy, jungly or snowy parts of the globe. But there’s a whole lot to uncover in the cities too.
They’re where you’ll find culture of every kind, nightlife, music, history, art and architecture. Each metropolis is a world of its own with rules and customs that you’ll have to pick up – and sometimes even just getting around is an adventure in itself.
Of course, urban exploits demand urban style, and those garish board shorts and technicolour mountain shells aren't quite going to cut it among the timbered alleyways of old Bryggen or the gleaming skyscrapers of Kyoto.
Fortunately, we've got your back. Whether you're exploring the hidden depths of your own city or getting to grips with a whole new one, read on for our picks of the best urban adventure gear on WildBounds.
The hybrid layer
City life is all about transitions. You can go from sub-zero at pavement level to a baking hot underground train, or from torpid midsummer streets to Baltic air-conditioned office blocks.
Layering is your friend, and few pieces are quite so practical in a city setting as the hybrid jacket. Part down puffy, part stretch hoodie, they’re the perfect mix of insulation and ventilation.
Where Artilect have opted for natural materials like down and wool, Picture Organic have gone 100% recycled with their own synthetic take on the hybrid layer. Their Takashima jacket features Primaloft Eco insulation and long-lasting Polartec Power Stretch fleece panels for flexibility. Not only is the Takashima sustainable, it’s also seriously good value, and it comes in muted tones that'll suit an urban environment.
The outer shell
The thing about technical waterproof jackets is that they tend to come in bright colours. After all, if you’re a mountaineer, being ultra-visible might just save your life in an emergency.
Things are a bit different in the city, where apparel is more about stylish understatement. Sure, you want to keep the wind and rain off, but you also don’t want to look like you’ve just stepped off Skiddaw in your luminous orange jacket.
What to wear...
For something casual, a parka might be the way to go. Cult Japanese favourite, Snow Peak, does some great ones with roomy cuts and high-end materials, but there are also laid-back options from Cotopaxi too.
And we may have claimed above that technical outdoor apparel usually comes in more strident colours, but there’s always the exception that proves the rule. If you want unbeatable mountain performance in shades that won’t look out of place under the glow of streetlights, Artilect has you covered (literally).
Look down the street ahead of you and what do you see? Jeans and joggers, right? But while the common or garden variety look decent and do the job, we’ve got brands that are taking both to the next level.
What to wear...
Everyone loves denim, but you have to admit it’s got its downsides. It takes ages to dry if it gets wet, it’s not very breathable in hot weather, and it could do with a bit more flex – especially if you like to zip around town on two wheels.
Enter DUER ‘performance denim’. Their jeans have five times the stretch of regular denim, with gussets for extra flexibility and anti-odour treatments that mean you can wash them less often. They also produce winter versions, featuring fleecy inner weave and durable water-repellent treatments to combat the drizzle.
If you’re more of a purist, we’ve also got classic raw denim jeans from Snow Peak and &Sons, both of whom are seriously pushing their sustainability in terms of manufacturing and materials.
For the sportier crowd, tentree produces a range of good-looking and practical joggers – but what separates these guys from their fast-fashion counterparts is their outstanding sustainability credentials. They’re constructed in eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester and plant-based Tencel, and Tentree’s profits fund huge tree-planting initiatives in countries like Madagascar and Indonesia.
Casual, practical and warm, the humble hooded sweatshirt is an urban classic – as inextricably linked with city life as Deliveroo bikes and Orwellian CCTV.
But they also come in many shapes and sizes, and a lot of hoodies shout salty surf style or after-work jogger rather than stylish urban adventurer.
What to wear...
If we seem to be mentioning Snow Peak a lot, it’s because their inimitable blend of Japanese street style and minutely engineered performance takes some beating. Their range of hoodies includes stretchy knits, fluffy fleece versions and heavier insulated winter models, styled in relaxed cuts and premium materials.
Elsewhere on WildBounds, we’ve got a huge selection of hoodies from the likes of Amundsen and Picture Organic, but our first stop for city style would be tentree. Not only are their hooded sweaters perfect for the urban jungle, but they’re creating actual jungles too – since the company will literally plant ten trees for every garment they sell.
Funny, isn’t it, what headwear seems to be acceptable in a city setting? For example, even in the height of summer you don’t tend to see floppy boonie hats or those eminently practical legionnaire caps with the sort of tea towel that covers your neck. Ditto ear-flapped trapper caps in winter.
What you do see are baseball caps and beanies, and we’ve got plenty to choose from.
What to wear…
You can’t go wrong with a classic trucker cap, and some of the most popular ones at the moment come courtesy of Goorin Bros. Sported by celebrities from Leo Messi to Tom Hardy, their ‘Animal Farm’ line of lids feature animal patches with cheeky captions.
As for beanies, it’s all about BARTS. Hailing from Amsterdam, their winter warmers come in a huge range of styles, colours and textures – from minimalist watch caps to chunky-knit bobble hats that look like they should be warming a teapot.
Urban travel puts a unique set of demands on a backpack. It’s going to get squished and scuffed, and any trailing straps will be a liability on escalators and crowded public transport. You’re more likely to be carrying tech like laptops or tablets, and you might need attachments for bike accessories like D-locks or helmets.
For the sake of both style and function, you’ll want something nice and streamlined – with bonus points for a pack that’s smart enough to bridge the gap between work and play.
What to carry...
Backpacks don't come much sleeker than the ones from Bellroy. But despite this Australian brand's minimalist aesthetic, these are seriously engineered packs with organised interiors, plenty of padding and ergonomic design. Comfortable enough to take hiking, stylish enough for the office.
Other great options for backpacks come courtesy of Osprey, Cotopaxi, and the popular Mystery Ranch Urban Assault line – with their unusual three-zip design.
For our money, though, the big hitter of urban carry is Chrome Industries. Engineered for people who live, work and ride in the city, their range includes backpacks, messenger bags and some seriously good-looking sling packs. Chrome products have a distinctive, slightly futuristic vibe, featuring premium materials and lifetime guarantees – and some models are specially geared towards cycle commuters.
Your accessories and essentials might look a bit different in the city. Pocket knives and multi-tools, for example, are a big no-no in a world where every club, music venue or museum is going to do a bag check.
An everyday carry load-out is more likely to include umbrellas, notebooks and pens – plus of course a reusable coffee mug for your daily grind.
What to carry…
Truly, what is any commute without at least 340ml of weapons-grade caffeine? Skip the terrible plastic-lined takeaway cup, and opt for a handsome powder-coated one from Hydro Flask. Not only is it infinitely more stylish and sustainable, it'll also keep your morning joe hot for up to 12 hours.
And from putting liquids in to keeping them out, there are times of year when an umbrella comes in handy. You could grab a high-street cheapie that’ll collapse like a bag of old bones in a stiff breeze, or you could invest in a next-gen one from Blunt. Their umbrellas can withstand wind speeds of up to 70mph, offer serious coverage and durability, and even feature rounded tips to stop you spearing people’s eyeballs as you scuttle down the street.
And with that, you’re just about done. Slip a Rhodia notebook and James Brand pen in your jacket pocket, pick up a slimline Bellroy wallet, and charge up your travel card for the next urban adventure…