For the Seattle-based apparel company, Beyond Clothing, knowing how to properly layer your clothing is more than just throwing a raincoat over a sweatshirt. It’s about “survival.” Considering Beyond’s biggest clients are United States’ special ops teams, it doesn’t just throw the term survival around to give the brand an edge; it’s the backbone of the company’s existence. What’s more is each product manufactured by Beyond is Berry Compliant, meaning each thread, fiber, shirt, or otherwise, is American-made and American-built. Simply put, its product line is, without a doubt, the most durable, high-quality line of apparel you’ll find anywhere.
A purveyor of custom clothing for the past twenty years, Beyond Clothing has only been in the layering system industry for the better part of the past three years. Purchased in 2012 by 5.11 Tactical, the company wooed former Army Ranger Rick Elder from Smith Optics and appointed him as the lead to head up Beyond’s new direction. Born from this partnership was the innovative new layering philosophy known simply as the AXIOS layering system. However, until recently, few outside of military circles had actually heard of Beyond and those who did essentially viewed it as a “Big & Tall” shop for outerwear.
“Last year (2015) was a big year of growth for us,” Beyond Clothing’s Jay Neely tells The Manual. “We always had a cult following from the tactical crowd, but we’ve been trying to make our systems more palatable for everyday people.”
Beyond Clothing achieved this wide sweeping interest by making its innovative layering system about more than just the clothing itself by offering training and future-use concepts. The way Neely sees it, it’s one thing to sell something, but incredibly more valuable to offer a resource for information. In this vision, Beyond becomes a viable source of knowledge even if someone doesn’t purchase an item from its product line. While this opens Beyond up to a wider customer base (even if some of those customers aren’t actually spending any money), it’s the actual system itself where the company shines brightest.
“For a long time, people would see our system and say ‘I don’t need to know how to put my underwear on,'” Neely adds. “But after actually testing and using the apparel, they’d come back and say, ‘Holy shit, maybe I do.'”
Self-described as “the most complete, technical survival system ever developed,” the AXIOS system is made up of a seven layer arrangement: base-layers, mid-weight base-layers, active insulation, wind protection, softshells, rain protection, and static insulation. Based on your preferred location of adventure, Beyond Clothing’s System Builder clearly lays out what layers work best for what temperatures.
Live in the typically rainy Pacific Northwest? Opt for the Cold/Wet setup that excels for temperatures between 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit and focuses on keeping you dry. What if you live in a frigid area like upstate Alaska? Beyond’s Extreme Cold system protects for temperatures as lows as negative 40 (this has been tested, too) and against harsh wind.
For added comfort, Beyond Clothing also offers Active or Static layers designed specifically to work in conjunction with one another. Meant for those times the wearer intends to exert a bit of energy while on an expedition (i.e. breaking a sweat), Active layer setups are designed to wick and evaporate moisture while offering a high level of breathability.
On the other hand, Static layer arrangements are manufactured to trap body heat and keep any outside moisture from getting in — i.e. those times at the end of a long hiking day where energy output is minimal. As one would reasonably expect, being based in Seattle is tremendous for Beyond because it offers the perfect proving ground for the company to put its system setups to good use.
“Seattle is huge for Beyond. It’s incredibly advantageous for us to test our gear here,” says Neely. “Our photo locations are inspired by the area and it’s really the image of our brand. The Olympic peninsula is incredibly close; we’re near beaches and mountains. Washington is really unique.”
While Neely acknowledges the uniqueness of the Pacific Northwest is important to the company, the dynamic, American-made manufacturing process, innovative layering system, and ongoing support resource really allow Beyond to stand out among its peers. Sure, Columbia Sportswear or Mountain Hardwear make an abundance of heavy-duty outdoor gear — at cheaper price points, no less — but the quality of both the product and information Beyond Clothing offers is matched by no one.
It’s not just about learning how to properly put on a pair of its durable underwear, it’s about “survival.”