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Meet Merrit Geary, entrepreneur, founder, outdoorswoman and the kindest person you’ll run into on the trail (and the dreamer behind Alpen). 


 “What you wear affects how you feel, how you perform and how you show up outdoors. I truly believe the internal impacts the external and I want to design apparel that supports women not only in their physical pursuits, but in their mental wellbeing too.”


It’s not often you meet someone like Merrit– full of ambition, curiosity and a heart of gold. When I first met her I was instantly drawn to her and her ability to trust. She trusted the process, the road, and the need. She didn’t have a death grip on all outcomes– she operated gracefully and with intention. She empowered people around her while encouraging collaboration and constructive thought - through that, Alpen was born. A brand backed by an incredible community of powerful women. We took a little time away from our screens and she shared her story with me.




K: “So when was the moment you realized you had to start making apparel?”

M: “Roughly two years ago. But the desire to create and foster a community was years prior. I’ve worked alongside some really smart and creative people. I’ve watched as companies started and grew, witnessed as businesses elevated themselves into an acquisition, and sadly watched as some ended. The entire process from ideation, which, if done well, turns into execution intrigued me. Alpen started as something completely different in the beginning though. I was going to create an e-commerce brand - both content and product full of quality brands and highly rated gear for women. I researched everything, every last product I could. The price, the quality, if it was durable enough, how it fit - I mean you name it. Hours in REI, hours in local shops, hours on gear review websites, reaching out to my network and pitching the idea - all of it. Quickly, I realized most products truly just fell short. There were a few brands that stood out in one way or another, but overall there just wasn’t the same selection that was available to men.”

Of course, I had to agree. For years I would find myself forced to wear mens coats or pants, because they actually, somehow, worked better for me. It does feel like finding the right fit and something that you actually want to wear is borderline impossible. We’re always sacrificing one way or another. 

M: “This is exactly why I decided that I could make things better. So many women have shared this frustration with me and it’s time - I mean in what world should clothes made for women not fit women? I have to laugh a little, because I remember the day I decided I was actually going to do it, make technical apparel, and now we’re here. From the first time I  even pitched the idea, learning from small mistakes to the big ones - I feel like it’s been a million tiny steps leading to a massive jump. It really has been incredible to build something I am so proud of, with the help of so many amazing people in my circle.”

As we headed up the trail chatting, Merrit and I talked about certain items in our closet that we love and why. Different brands like Kuhl and Patagonia came up along with the other classics and some newer brands too. With mention of how community and quality materials were important elements in creating a company both in their products and their brand values. One true difference always stood out between Alpen and any other brand. We are women first, always - top of mind, and only priority. 

Merrit shared, “Most of these brands have truly ventured into non-technical apparel. Obviously not all, but most. I do want to stay true to the idea of being strongly technical in our product and delivery.”

One answer that really stuck with me was when I asked Merrit why she decided to design a technical pant, and what makes the Ridge Pant different from what else is on the market.

She answered, “It was the biggest gap - and the biggest complaint I constantly heard. The Ridge Pant has multiple fit features, they’re cut true to size and the entire team behind them is women. Every last part of the pant was considered, discussed, and thoughtfully crafted. Of course, our designs will grow and evolve, just as Alpen should do, but I am so proud of our first product and how it’s constructed. Knowing the heart and deliberation behind our products, I can’t think of a more meaningful way to encourage women in the outdoors than to release apparel that makes us feel like we belong here.”

I got chills when she answered, because, as a brand designer and strategist, the WHY behind the brand is truly what inspires me the most– and having the opportunity to create with someone who knew so clearly what this was about is an absolute dream. 

K: “Was there a moment in the outdoors that you remember distinctly feeling uncomfortable?”

M: “I mean absolutely. The outdoors is there to test you. Right? It’s vast and constant while being different each time you embark on something. It’s the whole point and the whole challenge, wrestling with the unknown. A distinct feeling though, that’s tough to directly pin-point unless you want to launch into storytelling, ha. To answer your question, though, I would say finding independence out there. Not having  your dad or boyfriend or friend in tow that knows more than you. Learning by mistake, learning by repetition, and not making excuses. My most formative years were spent in the backcountry, months at a time - I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be the adult I am today without those moments or memories. No matter what the backcountry shows you, you always find your way back.”

Naturally, I’m curious about how an English major found her way into the outdoor industry and more specifically what it was like designing technical apparel for the first time. I asked Geary about what the process was like and what major hurdles she encountered early on.

M: “One of the first things I did was focus on finding a fit model that could remain consistent.” Merrit said. “But what I didn’t realize was that there were so many different size 8’s out there, and that started to become one of my biggest challenges.”

K: “So how do you feel you solved that problem?”

M: “Features and materials that allow for that natural difference. During our photoshoot this year, 3 or 4 of our models all size 8’s and all different body types tried the pants on and they fit every single one of them. From models who are just about 6 feet to models who were 5’3”. Which was potentially the best damn feeling, ha.”

Merrit started prototyping with a well seasoned outdoor apparel designer and since then has iterated through 4 different prototypes. This November will mark 2 years of ideation to full execution for Alpen. If you ask me, this process really emphasizes the intentionality behind the collection & Merrit’s commitment to a solution. Each sample was tested on the same fit model with new or updated features before landing on version #5 of the Ridge Pant that will go to market this year. 


The Ridge Pant by Alpen Outdoors


“We started the pant with a hook closure and built in waistband, but soon realized that a snap closure was the better fit– especially considering that most of the time we have layers around our waist, from capeline to backpack belt clips, bear spray and who knows what else. I wanted the mid-rise waistband to feel secure without any unnecessary pinching or digging in. That’s when we decided to increase the width of the waistband and pivot to the snap closure.”

Merrit explained every feature and update they made during the process, and I’m truly confident that the diligence and attention to detail that has been poured into the Ridge Pant will make for stellar performance, fit and style. You can read the full product description, see the Ridge Pant on real women, and pre-order your own pair on Alpen’s online shop.

The Ridge Pant is slated to arrive late October. Available in two colorways– Canyon, an earthy brown & tan and Midnight, a light navy & gray combo. 

Merrit wrapped with one last sentiment, “Businesses aren’t built alone, I know that. To every person who has listened to my pitch, extended a network connection, helped design my vision, and walked this crazy road with me - I am so grateful. And to the soon-to-be owners of technical apparel from Alpen - thank you. You are what makes this all possible.”

Interview and article by Kaylee Litle, Graphic Designer at Alpen Outdoors

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