L.L. Bean vs Columbia: Which Brand is Better?

LL Bean vs Columbia outdoor gear comparison

L.L. Bean has been around since 1912 and is known for making durable, classic-style clothing and gear. Columbia focuses more on technical, high-performance equipment for active lifestyles.

Both companies make clothing and gear for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.

In this article, we’ll compare their histories, reputations, styles, prices, and notable products.

Whether you need a warm winter jacket or a backpack for your next hike, read on to learn if L.L. Bean or Columbia is the right brand for you!

Contents:

1. L.L. Bean Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

LL Bean official website
L.L. Bean’s official website

L.L. Bean‘s origins date back to 1912 when it was born in Freeport, Maine, where it’s presently headquartered. The founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, initially crafted and marketed the Maine Hunting Shoe, a waterproof and lightweight rubber boot ideal for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.

Over time, the product line expanded to meet increasing demands for top-notch quality. Today, L.L. Bean operates a network of over 50 retail outlets in the United States and Japan, in addition to global online stores.

The brand has gained recognition in various television programs and has established the Outdoor Discovery Schools, aimed at providing outdoor education and organizing nature excursions. Renowned for its innovation and superior craftsmanship, L.L. Bean offers a diverse range of unique products not readily found elsewhere.

Don’t miss: 9 Quality Brands like L.L. Bean: Our Top Picks

Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

The L.L. Bean brand prioritizes high-performance products and integrates cutting-edge technologies into its designs, rather than relying solely on conventional materials like polyester or nylon.

They utilize top-tier fabrics such as Gore-Tex, renowned for its exceptional durability, weather resistance, and breathability, as well as materials from Loomia and PrimaLoft.

Next, they incorporate waxed cotton to enhance weather resistance in some of their lightweight, comfortable jackets, and employ natural down and PrimaLoft synthetic insulation in their winter coats to ensure reliable insulation in extreme weather conditions.

L.L.Bean 100th Anniversary

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Read also: Eddie Bauer vs L.L. Bean Outdoor Gear: A Comparison

Where is L.L. Bean outdoor gear made?

L.L. Bean produces numerous items in the United States, particularly in Maine, including iconic designs like their boots. But, a significant portion of their other gear is manufactured in various facilities worldwide, predominantly in Asia.

Recommended Products

L.L. Bean Men’s Maine Warden’s 3-in-1 GORE-TEX Parka

LL Bean Mens Maine Wardens 3-in-1 GORE-TEX Parka
Image: llbean.com
Check it out at LLBean.com

The Men’s Maine Warden’s 3-in-1 Parka represents a robust and versatile jacket crafted to endure harsh temperatures, drawing from the knowledge of Maine wardens. It showcases a durable GORE-TEX outer layer for reliable waterproof and windproof shielding and features a detachable, down-insulated inner jacket to maximize warmth.

This parka is tailored to offer coverage, extending past the hips, and comes with an array of pockets for convenient storage. Constructed from ripstop nylon, the parka’s outer shell is complemented by inner elements primarily composed of nylon and polyester, with the entire garment being machine washable for easy maintenance.

With a classic fit intended for wearing with midweight layers, it has practical features such as a removable hood, side zippers for increased mobility, and a drawcord waist for heat retention. The 3-in-1 design of the parka enables the layers to be worn together or separately. This parka maintains a not-too-heavy weight, rendering it suitable for outdoor pursuits.

Don’t miss: Lands’ End vs L.L. Bean Outdoor Gear: Which is Better?

L.L. Bean Women’s Ridge Runner Backpack, 48L

LL Bean Womens Ridge Runner Backpack 48L
Image: llbean.com
Check it out at LLBean.com

The Ridge Runner Backpack is a durable pack tailored for the weekend backpacker. It provides a comfortable, women-specific fit with two sizes to accommodate different torso lengths. The backpack’s 48-liter capacity is practical yet remains lightweight, suitable for various hiking trips.

Made from durable 100D triple ripstop nylon with a 210D nylon lining, it’s designed to endure the demands of the trail. The backpack’s framework is upheld by the back panel, and comfort is ensured by a mesh-covered foam back panel and shoulder straps that encourage airflow.

The pack includes a spacious main compartment with an easy-access zipper, stretch mesh water bottle pockets, and extra gear loops.

For convenience, it features a front shove-it pocket, a fleece-lined pocket for delicate items, and an interior pocket with a key fob. The hydration sleeve supports up to a 2-liter bladder, facilitating easy hydration on the trail.

Read also: L.L. Bean vs The North Face: Which is Better?

Prices

L.L. Bean stands out as an interesting brand in terms of pricing, offering one of the most extensive price ranges available. Their jackets can cost from $70 to $500, while their backpacks are priced between $50 and $220. This makes L.L. Bean a company that has many options for all types of clients.

Are L.L. Bean products worth the price?

L.L. Bean is a well-known brand with a strong reputation for the comfort and quality of its products. Depending on your needs, the price of their designs is usually worth it for the quality you get in return. Their jackets are comfortable, perform well, and have beautiful styles.

Must read: L.L. Bean vs Patagonia (Outdoor Gear Comparison)

2. Columbia Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

Columbia official website.jpg
Columbia official website

Columbia, a renowned outdoor gear label, provides an extensive range of clothing suitable for various outdoor activities such as camping, skiing, fishing, and hiking, and also casual everyday wear.

Established in 1938 by Gert Boyle’s family, who sought refuge in Portland, USA after fleeing Germany, the brand evolved from the Columbia Hat Company to the Columbia Sportswear Company in 1960. Currently, Tim Boyle, Gert’s son, leads the company.

Don’t miss: 10 Brands like Columbia Sportswear: Our Top Alternatives

Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

Columbia Sportswear mostly employs its own technologies to maximize the functionality of its outdoor gear. For example, the Omni-Tech technology enhances the waterproofness and breathability of Columbia’s jackets and footwear.

Additionally, the Omni-Heat Reflective technology, featured in some of their apparel, effectively retains warmth while allowing the release of excess moisture and heat. Other notable materials include recycled Polyester and RDS-certified down insulation. The company is also committed to using less harmful DWR coatings.

Columbia Sportswear adheres to Gert Boyle’s perfectionist philosophy, ensuring the creation of high-quality apparel. The brand is widely recognized for its reliable products at affordable prices, offering a commendable quality-to-price ratio.

Omni-Heat Innovation

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Read also: Eddie Bauer vs Columbia: Which Brand is Better?

Where is Columbia outdoor gear made?

Columbia continues to manufacture outdoor equipment in the United States and Europe, but the majority of its products, including its owned brands such as Sorel, prAna, and Mountain Hardwear, are usually made in Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, and India. (source)

Recommended Products

Columbia Men’s Bulo Point II Down Jacket

Columbia Mens Bulo Point II Down Jacket
Image: columbia.com
Check it out at Columbia.com

The Columbia Men’s Bulo Point II Down Jacket is a water-resistant and insulated piece of gear for cold conditions. It incorporates 700-fill power goose down for warmth while featuring Columbia’s Omni-Heat™ Infinity thermal-reflective lining to retain body heat.

The jacket includes a removable, adjustable hood, chin guard, and customizable cuffs and hem for a snug fit and additional warmth. It has an interior security pocket and zippered hand pockets for essentials.

This lightweight and packable jacket is convenient for travelers or those seeking to conserve space. With a 28-inch center back length, it provides substantial coverage, durability, and quality.

Read also: How To Wash a Columbia Jacket (Omni-Heat, Down, Fleece, Rain)

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack
Image: columbia.com
Check it out at Columbia.com

The Atlas Explorer backpack offers comfort and versatility for a range of uses. With a 26-liter capacity, it includes two primary storage sections, a front pocket organizer, dedicated compartments for a laptop and tablet, adjustable sternum and shoulder straps, and dual water bottle pockets.

It’s built with Twin Slot webbing for adaptability, a padded laptop sleeve suitable for 15-inch laptops, a distinct tablet sleeve, front pocket organization, two water bottle pockets, reflective zipper pulls, and a padded bottom panel.

Don’t miss: Marmot vs Columbia: Which is Better for Outdoor Gear?

Prices

Compared to L.L. Bean, Columbia Sportswear items are priced more competitively. On average, Columbia’s jackets are priced from $50 to $300, their backpacks are under $100, and the hiking shoes begin at about $100.

Are Columbia products worth the price?

When it comes to casual outdoor pursuits, we believe the products from this brand offer good value for their cost. Specifically, their jackets offer good protection and are built very well.

For advanced outdoor sports and activities, you may need a more specialized brand. But, even in such circumstances, Columbia will provide you with a few pieces of gear to complete your outfit.

Must read: 8 Best Sustainable Outdoor Clothing Brands: Our Top Picks

3. Which is Better? L.L. Bean or Columbia?

Columbia and L.L. Bean are both great brands for general outdoor use and have extensive product lines. To make your decision easier, here’s what to keep in mind:

  • L.L. Bean has been around longer, since 1912, and has a reputation for quality and durability. Their products come with a solid satisfaction guarantee.
  • Columbia is younger, founded in 1938, but is very well-known for outdoor apparel and equipment. They focus more on technical and performance gear.
  • L.L. Bean tends to offer more casual and classic-styled clothing and gear while Columbia is more focused on athletic and activewear.
  • Columbia is seen as a bit more affordable, especially for very technical gear. L.L. Bean commands a bit of a premium for technical types of products.
  • Both brands offer a wide selection of clothing and gear for activities like hiking, camping, fishing, snow sports, and casual wear. L.L. Bean has also a “Home Goods” collection.
  • For outerwear like jackets, Columbia is known for innovative waterproof and breathable fabrics (Omni-Tech, OutDry), while L.L. Bean uses both proprietary and branded fabrics.
  • Both have a good reputation for customer service. L.L. Bean is a bit better.

So, in the end, if you want durable and classic outdoor gear with great customer service, L.L. Bean is our choice. If you prefer technical performance and innovation at a good price, then Columbia has excellent options.

Read next: 12 American Jackets and Outdoor Clothing Brands that We Love

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