Gift Your Gear Sort May 2013

Gift Your Gear – A Rare Insight into Outdoor Gear Function and Form

Reflection on the Spring 2014 Gift Your Gear event was very successful

Due to the generosity of Rohan customers who donated their gear some wonderful charities working with young people in the great outdoors are now better equipped and their gear pools are looking much healthier.

Gift Your Gear also delivered a few surprising but very valuable results.

Sorting the many thousand of donated outdoor garments offered a tremendous overview of how outdoor gear wears. Never mind what the manufacturers tell us. After all who tests their products over several decades.

I undertook the Gift Your Gear sort to find out not only what had been returned but also the condition of the returns.

This is what I discovered…

In general outdoor gear is built to last. I handled garments ranging from 40 years old and still going strong to ones produced less than a year ago.

Many different brands from all over the world  are  represented at Gift Your Gear sorts.  It became obvious that wear points on garments are the same regardless of brand. I saw very plainly the damage that tough and close type fasteners did to the outer surface of gear when it was introduced all those years ago and how that has been improved in more recent years.

I realised just how much zips have improved over the years. Some readers will remember Rohan’s commitment to RiRi zips all those years ago. That was because the zip quality in general in those days was not good. The life of a zip could not have been guaranteed to last the expected life of a garment. Now they do. Although this thought on zips did strike me. Will the waterproof zip prove to be so enduring? Time will tell in the Gift Your Gear sorts in the future.

I am convinced that a lot of outdoor gear has sustainability built-in. It will last for many decades. None more so than Rohan. This Gift Your Gear saw very many pairs of Rohan Super Striders, Black Striders, Nemesis and other really early examples of Rohan stretch breeches donated. These garments in general looked as good as new. This made me feel very proud. There are few designers who will get to see the garments they made 40 years ago returned ready for a second life on the hills. My guess is many will last another 40 years.

The other testament to durability goes to Airlight™ fabric. Hundreds of pairs of Rohan Bags were donated. Some of them over 30 years old. Whilst it was obvious they have seen many years of wear the fabric and zips were still perfect. Very soft and if you can call a fabric mellow I think that covers it. Mature Airlight™ has a Ventile quality. The weave closes with age, making it even softer to the handle.  Rohan’s Airlight™ fabric has now been in continual use for over 30 years on Rohan Bags. This makes me very proud.

Talking of walking trousers I have seen them all. Trousers with pockets all over them. Often the walking/hiking trousers is so because of the number of pockets it can carry. I have seen 100% cotton trousers full of pockets calling itself just that. These did not go to the outdoor groups.

It became very obvious that the fit of jackets, both waterproof and fleece, has got slimmer and shorter over the last 20 years. But the nations silhouette has got larger.  Round about the time that soft-shell started to gain ground the silhouette of jackets was changing. We are all now used to a more fitted garment. Hold up an early taped Gore-Tex jacket (probably delaminating) and a similar waterproof jacket today. Whilst they might be similar in fabric construction they are light years away in fit.

I jotted down a few questions that I hoped the Gift Your Gear sort would answer for me and I have now added my own observations:

Are the outdoor garments produced today likely to last 40 plus years?

To be honest I think the answer to that is probably no. But then who says they should. It is also import the garments can be recycled at end of life.

Are the outdoor garments produced today more attractive?

Yes. The work on colour and style has worked well

Has modern outdoor gear design become more anonymous?

I did observe certain brands maintained their character through the life of the garment. Others looked very similar to each other after a few years when the logo had faded. This was very much the case with more recent garments. I am not going to mention any particular brand, that would not really be fair, other than to say that the designers of say 20 years ago tended to pursue their own individual style. Examples Helly Hansen, early Patagonia, Buffalo, Rohan and some of the Scandinavian brands all produced highly distinctive garments that stood apart in the mountains of garments in the Gift Your Gear sort.

The Gift Your Gear sort offered a unique insight and education into the function and form of outdoor gear over 40 years.

Sarah Howcroft founder Gift Your Gear