To supplement her writer’s income and keep the vampires at bay, editor Clare Menzel works on a garlic farm. So we asked her to put Patagonia’s new workwear line to the test. Here’s her review.

Last August, Patagonia launched Iron Forge, a line of workwear for men and women made with a blend of industrial hemp, recycled polyester, and organic cotton. “With farmers, builders, ranchers, foresters and environmental activists in mind, Patagonia set out to build a collection of superior, function-specific workwear that uses less harmful materials and withstands the rigors of the field or the job site,” the brand said. Sign me up, I said! This is the revolution! Hallelujah!

Snapshot: Patagonia Iron Forge Workwear

Patagonia Iron Forge
Metal buttons are a classy, sturdy touch
  1. Pros: The Iron Forge Hemp canvas blend is soft like butta and tough as nails.
  2. Cons: There’s a handful of fit and design issues that could be ironed out. More on this below.
  3. Price: $113 Cdn for Women’s Farrier’s Shirt, $100 Cdn for Women’s Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants.
  4. Who Should Buy: This line will serve anyone doing manual labor in the field. In particular, I think folks who travel long backcountry miles in sturdy workwear will appreciate this line.
  5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: If you’re currently happy with your Carhartts, I’d hold out for more dialed iterations of the line.
  6. Helpful Hack: It gets softer with every wash
  7. Author’s overall rating: 8/10 for the shirt, 6/10 for the pants

The Test

I work on a small garlic farm in Northwest Montana. It’s not as demanding as commercial fishing or building tread, but the work still requires a durable, sturdy pant that can get down and dirty. I wore both the Iron Forge pant and Farrier’s shirt in the hot, final days of summer, and through the winter’s first cold snap.

The Verdict

Patagonia’s Iron Forge Hemp canvas is made with 55 percent industrial hemp for durability; the 27 percent recycled polyester and 18 percent organic cotton lends a “soft hand.” The brand says the blend is 25 percent more abrasion resistant than conventional cotton duck canvas, yet it still makes for a “supple fabric” that doesn’t need to be broken in. I’m a believer. I’ll say it: the Iron Forge blend is stronger and softer than my Carhartts.

So the fabric is stellar. The fit and design, however, is a slightly different story. The Farrier’s shirt scored some wins with me—its shoulders fit well, and the body was boxy but not loose, meaning it has a functional range of movement.

The Iron Forge pant design let me down. Instead of tailoring a fit for a woman’s waist, Patagonia threw in this cinching buckle mechanism that I found uncomfortable and bulky, and I think it reduced mobility. While I appreciate Patagonia making women’s specific workwear, this buckle is not the final solution to the design challenge of women’s diverse hip and waist measurements.

The Iron Forge pants are also lacking on utility pockets, and I’m confused about why the back drop-in pockets are are shaped like front pockets. The knife wedge is in located in a front pocket, where even my small Leatherman gets in the way if I bend over. Lastly, there’s no hammer loop. What gives?

Yes, these products are more expensive than Carhartt—about twice as much—but I think they’re still fairly priced, and I’ll always fork over more for a product that is environmentally savvy. In terms of sustainability, organic cotton and recycled polyester reduce dependence on petroleum for raw fabric materials. Hemp, which can be grown without pesticides, enriches the soil and reduces erosion. It’s also been used as a textile for centuries, favored for that world-famous strong-but-soft-ness.

Despite my gripes, I’ve still been wearing the kit pretty regularly, which is a huge testament to the hemp blend, the true foundation of the Iron Forge line. The stuff is good. Besides, everything I took issue with could be updated or amended, and Patagonia is the kind of brand that builds classics—just maybe not on the first try in this case. I’m glad to see environmentally kind workwear on the market, and can’t wait to see where it’ll go next.

Patagonia Iron Forge Workwear: The Deets

  • MSRP: $113 Cdn for Women’s Farrier’s Shirt, $100 Cdn for Women’s Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants
  • The Farrier’s shirt comes in Mojave Khaki and Ink Black, the Iron Forge pant comes in Coriander Brown and Ink BlackM 6-13, W 7-14
  • The Farrier’s shirt comes in XS through XL, and the Iron Forge pant comes in sizes 2 to 15, with short, regular, and long length options.
  • The Farrier’s shirt is 17.3 oz., and the Iron Forge pant is 30.4 oz