I remember when I first stumbled across Purple Rain Adventure Skirts on Facebook a couple years ago- I was obsessed. They have pockets, are lightweight, have a waist like yoga pants, come in multiple colors, and are handmade in Oregon by the seriously talented Mandy Bland. Mandy is also an amazing hiker who has hiked multiple thru hikes including the PCT and AT, so not only does she know her stuff, she’s a badass. I ordered my first one, and discovered they’re an authentic, well made, functional, and comfortable hiking skirt and felt proud to support her small company. Since then, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts has been growing, and has been featured in multiple blogs, magazines, and gear reviews, with her biggest feature in Backpacker Magazine. I now own several of the skirts, and consider them one of my “go to” hiking staples- and I am not alone. I cannot tell you how many women I have high-fived on the trail wearing one of these skirts- especially the PCT hikers that come through my neck of the woods every year. I highly recommend adding one (or three) to your gear. Not only will you be getting a handmade skirt that is absolutely amazing, you’ll be supporting a small company, and Mandy’s dream.
I have been lucky enough to connect with Mandy, who has been somewhat of a mentor to me when HIO was first starting out. She has never hesitated to guide me when I needed some help- and we’ve never even met in person. That’s just the kind of person she is and I am grateful for her guidance and friendship. If you’d like to order your own skirt, please check them out here: http://www.purplerainskirts.com/
You can follow Mandy, and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts on Facebook here:
and Instagram here:
Let’s get to it!
Jaime: How did Purple Rain Adventure Skirts begin?
Mandy: My partner and I were planning a section hike of the PCT. I wanted to try hiking in a skirt, but didn't want to spend $80 on something I didn't know if I'd like, especially since all I could find were skorts. I scavenged thrift stores for old hiking pants, cut them up and made my own skirt. A few miles into our hike I knew I was on to something. Looking back, there was a lot of naivety involved in starting my own business. If I knew then what I know now, I may not have gone for it. But I really didn't want to write another cover letter.
Jaime: What makes your skirts so unique?
Mandy: They are smart, comfy and practical. Good pockets, performance fabric and a stretchy waistband that will take you from trail to town. I'm not reinventing the wheel here, just making it more comfortable.
Jaime: Are all your skirts handmade in Oregon?
Mandy: Yes, I have handmade every skirt for the past 3 1/2 years. Wow, that's nuts now that I think about it. I've been working on making the transition to production, but dang is it a long painful process. I am currently working with a local woman here to produce the skirts. I want to keep it small with a close eye on detail and quality.
Jaime: After hiking a few long distance thru hikes including the PCT and AT what one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to do a long distance thru hike?
Mandy: Make a list of the reasons why you want to complete a thru hike. On your worst day take it out and read it. There's a million good reasons to throw in the towel. The rewards of hiking may not seem obvious at the time, but it will make you stronger than you ever thought possible. And take care of your feet.
Jaime: What is your favorite "go to" hike in your hood?
Mandy: Pilot Rock near the CA/OR border is a great hike. It crosses the PCT north of Ashland and is a lovely walk through the woods until the end. But the scramble is so worth the views, Mt. Shasta looks pretty amazing from up there.
Jaime: Now that you're a Mom- how has that impacted your hiking life? Or has it?
Mandy: Oh absolutely! We were getting pretty good at the Ultralight game before the kiddo, but there's no way to be UL with 20lb baby on your back. We are heavy and we move slowly, but we still get out there! There's a lot more base camping with day hikes up to mountain lakes. More early camp set up days to spend time playing in the meadow or splashing in the river. We've learned to slow down and enjoy the smaller details in nature. It's pretty rad.
Jaime: What does Hike It Off mean to you?
Mandy: Hiking has become a form of therapy for me. Nature provides a sense of solace you don't find elsewhere. Life is simple and easier to handle in the woods. Two months after I finished the AT my brother passed away suddenly. All I wanted was to be back on the trail, back to that simpler life. The next summer we took off for the PCT. That trek was very healing. I cried and I hiked and I kept going. Kind of my mantra for life now.
Jaime: Who is someone you look up to in the hiking world and why?
Mandy: Jennifer Pharr Davis is such an inspiration. She is hiking the Mountains to Sea trail with her family and making me want to do it to! She is a great person who genuinely wants everyone to have access to wilderness.
Jaime: What's next for Purple Rain Adventure Skirts?
Mandy: Get this production thing figured out! Then I can start working on the other design ideas I have. I'd love to have a small line of hiking apparel. Baby steps...
Jaime: Anything else you'd like to add?
Mandy: You're awesome Jaime, thank you for being such a great advocate for my skirts. And thank you for bringing the hiking community together.