This story was published in partnership with CRAFT Sportswear
When it comes to performance wear for training and races, we don’t mess around. And neither does our partner, CRAFT Sportswear. Making legit gear that can hang in all workouts, all weather conditions, takes utter mastery. It’s about fit, form, comfort, moisture transport, breathability, versatility, durability… our list of priorities goes on, and NOTHING (we repeat, nothing!) can be sacrificed.
“CRAFT has taken their proven apparel fabric blends from other endurance sports and tailored it specifically for OCR,” says Spartan World Champion Robert Killian. “I would guess that MOST people choose clothing based on the way it looks, fits, and unfortunately, not so much on functionality. But we’re not MOST people are we? Spartan Athletes are a different breed. We choose our gear based on what advantages it can provide so we’re able to maximize performance.”
That’s why we’re pro CRAFT all the way. This company packs a punch in way of decades of gear testing, product refinement, serious in-the-field R&D, you name it. Here’s why CRAFT workout essentials top all others in the endurance sports market. And why we, at Spartan, stand with them to bring you only the best. Because, through all of the sweat, pain, mud, rain, hail, sleet, snow and sun, over miles racing and training on rugged terrain in backcountry wilderness or urban jungle, you deserve it. Why settle for less?
The Backstory: Base Layer Underwear in ‘73 to Now
In 1973, Anders Bengtsson had finally, finally done it. He had made the optimal, moisture-wicking base layer underwear for endurance athletes, at the time. After a test trail run near his home in Borås, Sweden, he measured the moisture content and to his satisfaction, it worked.
As a textile specialist by trade, he had been intrigued by the Swedish air force’s exploration of functional textile fibers. He was also an avid endurance athlete, frustrated with the lack of moisture transport in outdoor gear. So (like a true Spartan, before Spartan ever existed) he did something about it.
“From what we heard, [creating functional outdoor wear] was almost like a side-project from the beginning, and became his personal mission to solve,” says Daniel Högling, CRAFT Product and Marketing Director.
Bengtsson has since passed away, but his children tell stories of going for runs around a local lake nearby with their father before evening meals. “All [of the children wore] different base layers, then he measured the weight of them pre and post run to fine-tune details fiber-wise,” says Högling. “Then he brought all that data back to his work place and continued to fine tune the garment there.”
Unlike other clothing companies, it was as much about the design as it was about the fabric itself, for Bengtsson. “Anders was all-in on a fiber level in order to find the optimal setup,” Högling says. “From what we know, not many other brands worked with functional garments at that time.”
Bengtsson became a pioneer for outdoor-apparel technology when apparel companies were more interested in fashion than functionality. Thus, the foundation for CRAFT was set. Four decades later, it continues to develop and manufacture cutting-edge apparel and accessories for world champions and everyday athletes across the globe.
The Evolution of CRAFT to What It Is Today
Until the early 2000s, CRAFT mostly produced apparel for cross-country skiers, runners and cyclists. But almost 20 years ago, they pivoted to a more sport-specific approach to become so dialed in each sports’ arena that everyone who worked there internally had to live their sport, according to Högling.
The trick to designing apparel and accessories that truly held up under pressure? “It’s all in the details and knowing what your target group of athletes needs,” he says. “One side of that coin is the hard-core textile technology and innovation [around functionality]. The other side of that coin is the fit — how the garment feels when athletes are wearing and using them.”
Why CRAFT Puts Its Gear Through the Ringer — Before It Ever Gets to You
CRAFT performance wear is made for endurance athletes, by endurance athletes. Everyone in-house is an avid athlete who lives and breathes sports. They know, by experience, exactly what gear demands to operate at optimal performance — and where apparel can inevitably fall short. That’s why CRAFT takes field-testing seriously. “We don´t think there will be an easy way out [to creating functional gear], and we are very, very true to ourselves, focusing on detail-oriented tweaks to boost the user-experience,” says Högling. “We live-test everything on the best athletes in the world to collect their feedback [before we ever manufacture and sell to the masses].”
It all comes down to fabric quality and new technologies. As well as the creative minds of its design department as they find new ways to build garments with purpose. No piece of clothing is ever made without a serious dose of mindfulness at CRAFT. And thank god, because this matters on the obstacle course.
“Eventually in OCR you’re going to get wet, either from sweat or an obstacle like the swim or dunk wall,” says Killian. “Having the right fabric like polyester, but more importantly, ergonomically placed seams and stitching is key to allow for body heat evaporation. During colder races having a breathable base layer is even more critical, as you’re relying on it to keep you warm, not cool you off.”
3 Reasons Why CRAFT Dominates the OCR Apparel Market
It’s no joke to create performance apparel for athletes, like Spartans, who approach racing and training with unparalleled grit, determination and perseverance. Just as athletes perform, so to, must the gear. No sacrifices, no excuses. Always. Here’s why CRAFT Sportswear can hang in any workout, any weather.
1. Athletes Come First, Always
CRAFT aims to solve problems for athletes. It sucks (and can even be dangerous) training in the elements if your gear won’t hold up. So CRAFT looks for innovative ways to tackle diverse, uncertain weather conditions, and ensure its products are just as functional as they are versatile. For example, compression is key for Killian. “The compression-like fit is critical so you’re more aerodynamic and don’t get clothing snagged on obstacles or trees,” he says. “Having the fabric so close to your body allows it to wick away sweat/water after a water obstacle or if desired, you can keep it wet to help cool you off as you move.”
The company conducts extensive, continuous research with the world’s top athletes in all climates to address their main apparel concerns through new designs. “This might seem given, considering we make performance wear for world athletes,” says Högling. “Still, we need to keep the athletic function close at heart, even when working on pieces with fashionable athleisure wear or casual streetwear.”
2. Advanced Simplicity is Key to Design and Function
The DNA of CRAFT’s design and product development distills down to two words: advanced simplicity.
Advanced, because its textiles and solutions are technically top-notch. The company rigorously tests functionality, quality, durability and ergonomics, both in the field and in its design lab. This includes gear made for everyday athletes, and pros, like OCR World Champions, the German Sunweb Cycling Team and soccer teams in Germany, Holland and Sweden.
Simplicity, because every feature has purpose. Each detail supports the essential, core needs of the athlete to get the most fundamental, simplified version of the product possible — no unnecessary frills or gimmicks. Only the marriage of extreme innovation with practicality.
3. Nordic Roots Make a Strong Foundation for R&D
Shaped by Swedish heritage, CRAFT products are born in a place where vast, unpredictable terrain, long winters and dynamic summers are the name of the game. “Quality is not a unique selling proposition, but rather a necessity,” says Högling. “We are inherently authentic because we live with our products in a harsh climate, year round. Staying true to our heritage, we add a Nordic perspective to the world of sports and active lifestyles.”
Our Takeaway: Why We Dig It
For Spartans who run, jump, climb, hang, roll and seriously abuse their gear, CRAFT spares no expense. “In many ways we recognize the needs of an OCR athlete can parallel other sports,” says Högling. “Maybe not at first sight, but when studying details, they often have similarities.” For example, the Dyneema fabric used in moist-innovative road-cyclist bib shorts matched the need for durable, yet lightweight fabric for OCR runners. Similarly, compression fabrics worn by elite cross-country skiers worked to be adapted for OCR demands. “There are no short-cuts – we are learning from the best and staying open minded in that process,” he says. “Therefore, we´re collaborating with some great world-class OCR athletes to learn more each day, [and make racing apparel based on that feedback].”
Killian, who has put CRAFT to the test in many Spartan Races, can attest with real-time experience. “With CRAFT compression-style and breathability, I’m more confident going through the obstacles knowing my apparel isn’t going to take a beating and still come out in one piece on the other side,” he says. “That’s more focus I can put into the race versus worrying about being exposed.”
Gear should never be what holds you back. Period.
Editor’s Note: CRAFT is a Swedish company, and its gear tends to fit long and lean. (Some say that’s what makes them fast!) If you’re between sizes, we recommend sizing up to ensure the proper fit.