It seems like forever that men have been able to jump in the water wearing a pair of quick-dry shorts, then hop out and go about their hike or bike ride without discomfort. But women haven’t had the same high-tech options — until now. Enter Emily McCallister, who was tired of having to change behind a tree on her outdoor adventures, so she spent two years developing and testing this functional, all-purpose hybrid bikini made of quick-drying, recycled, eco-friendly fabric. It’s a technical swimsuit with a classic silhouette that remains secure in any recreational situation.
But the best part of all is that it dries in under 15 minutes, allowing you to cover up without the need to find a private place to change into dry clothes.
Made from RecoTex™, an eco-friendly recycled fabric made from 91% post-consumer water bottle polyester and 9% spandex with a durable water-repellent finish and a thin, quick-dry bra liner. Technical features include a sewn-in foam liner (inspired by ballet apparel) and full-coverage shorts with adjustable waistband (influenced by mountain bike short designs). There’s also an adjustable band with a lay-flat closure, a pocket with key loop, and a snap-closure back pocket.
Before releasing the final version of the suit, McCallister tested the prototype in every conceivable situation. She says, “I hiked parts of the Pacific Crest Trail through the Desolation Wilderness, went on an annual women-only backpacking trip to beautiful Dardanelles Lake in South Lake Tahoe, mountain biked on the Tahoe Rim Trail, went waterskiing, paddleboarding, and canoeing on Lake Tahoe, jumped off cliffs and boulders at DL Bliss State Park into the lake, and kayaked on the Truckee River. I’ve been working on prototypes long enough now that I wore them for a New Year’s Day polar bear plunge in 2019 and 2020, and have jumped in the lake to conduct dry-time tests more times than I kept track of.”
Last summer, she and her husband went on a honeymoon in Bali, so she took a set of prototypes to wear while surfing and hiking into remote beaches.
She says, “Not counting the first hacked-together prototypes made from men’s swim shorts, I looked at 13 different fabrics before deciding on one clear favorite to order enough yardage for an initial round of prototypes. It ended up being exactly what I was looking for, and additional rounds of prototyping centered around designing for that particular fabric. It’s less stretchy than traditional swimwear fabric, which allows for the faster dry time, and so certain design decisions were necessary to work with it, like a clasp-back top instead of something you can stretch and pull over your head.”
McCallister settled on the name Junipers for her brand not only because she is surrounded by the beautiful trees in the Tahoe Basin. She says, “I was impressed to learn that juniper trees thrive in an extreme range of environments — from forming one of the highest treelines in the world in the Himalayan Range above 15,000 feet all the way to Death Valley in southern California. It’s their rugged adaptability that inspired me to name the swimwear line after them. I hope the women who wear Junipers will find themselves ready to take on any adventure, anywhere in the world. Also, it just feels fun to say, ‘Let me just toss on my Junipers and I’ll meet you there.’”
Junipers will be manufactured in St. Paul, Minnesota at a woman-owned factory called Clothier Design Source, which exceeds all ethical production standards. McCallister says they’re also taking all precautions to create a safe environment during COVID-19 and dedicated a large portion of their floor to manufacturing PPE this summer. Sourcing partners are both Clothier Design Source and Sportek Fabric, based in Commerce, California.
The Junipers Kickstarter was fully funded in the blink of an eye, but you can still get in on the good vibes — and a discount on the first shipments of the suit ($ 139 for the two-piece set).
What is McCallister’s vision for the future of the company? “I would love to offer a more inclusive size range so that anyone who loves the outdoors has an option from Junipers,” she says. “As a bootstrapped solo founder, I’ve only been able to design and field test a size set from XS-XL so far, but my vision is to expand that substantially with enough funding. Additional mix-and-match color options are absolutely a part of that vision, as well. One thing that’s been really important to me is integrating feedback from the women who are outside all the time, cooking up their own crazy adventures. Since launching, I’ve been speaking with local rock climbers, from women who work in Alaska on commercial fishing boats, and from young moms in coastal towns. I’ve loved hearing their ideas for expanded styles that fit their needs, like a request for a tankini top or shorts with a longer inseam that’s even more bike-friendly. There’s a huge shift right now in women’s outdoor gear toward functional, enduring pieces, and I hope Junipers can lead the way to defining this whole new category.”