It is not often an opportunity presents itself to examine a large collection of outdoor gear produced over the last 50 years
Stretching from the days when hill-wear was tweed breeches, wool shirts and cotton smocks to todays membranes, coatings, laminates and technically enhanced textiles.
The Gift Your Gear sort of donated outdoor clothing offered exactly that.
Many brands are represented past and present, including a strong representation from Patagonia, Berghaus, Craghoppers, Karrimore, Sprayway, REI, Marmot, Mountain Equipment, Phoenix, Ultimate, Blacks and of course a very strong representation from all the 40+ Years of Rohan.
The striking rise of both look-a-like technical garments from the fashion brands, including a growing number from M&S and Uniglo plus technical garments from discount brands like Lydl and Aldie, in particular cycling gear are a growing feature.
Below are some of the more striking observations during the sort.
Outdoor clothing durability is interesting. Older outdoor gear appears to have greater staying power than the new lighter gear. Time will tell if this is actually correct. Will we see a laminated and coated garment 40 years old still out on the hills?
It struck me before membranes and coatings the integrity of outdoor clothing depended very much on the integrity of the textile weave. Ventile being a great example. I have seen 40+ year old Ventile jackets that have many years of wear left in them. But I have also seen Waxed Barbour type jackets even older still in use.
It may be difficult to say that about a laminated and coated outdoor jacket.
Rohan’s own Airlight fabric, still used in Rohan Bags is now over 30 years old. Airlight garments donated to Gift Your Gear include Pampas, Bags Savannah Moving One, Hyde Herbert, Busker, Olfio, Sohao and many more, all have mellowed well and aged with great dignity.
Will membranes, laminates and coating last as long? Does it matter?
After all gear today offers a very high degree of comfort and safety.
With all the outdoor gear spread out in front on me one striking feature has been garment weight. They are getting lighter. A process that has gathered apace over the last 15 years. Great because we are propelling the gear around the hills and mountains. A striking features of the lighter waterproof gear with the high tech seams, the big uptake of waterproof zips and base, mid layers and outer layers all with a very sculptured look. Giving the overall impression of a much more engineered product rather than a sewn.
Comparing a fibre pile jacket of say 20 years ago, yes there where plenty donated from Helly Hansen and Tog 24 in particular and a fleece today. The weight had dropped and the weave much tighter. Some of the early Helly Hansen fible pile garments had a very futuristic design much more like the fleece of today.
Outdoor gear style comes and goes. Colours come and go but blue green and red have never gone away. Up to 80% of the garments sorted fell into one of the three shades. Although early Rohan and Patagonia broke the mould with the more striking colour combinations of the mid to late 1970’s. During the late 1980 and early 1990 cream was popular with browns also in there. The more striking primary colour of the current gear has starting to come through green and purple being very strong. During the late 90’s there was lots of block colours share the same garment green and brown and red and blue in particular on waterproofs.
O’h and its true girls our fleece and waterproofs are predominately pink and very pale blue if the garment has been manufactured in the last 5 years. Before that, yes its blue green and red.
Here is a question do manufacturers just like making white fleece? Because it was a very popular donated colour. Many not whiter than white.
The recycled fleece is now making a strong representation with Patagonia garments looking very good.
Another observation is the strong thread that some brand have managed to maintain in their garment development and style. Patagonia, Helly Hansen, Buffalo, Paramo, OMM and Rohan to name a few These are instantly identifiable in a stack of loose outdoor garment to the ceiling. Patagonia’s Snap T’s have been donated in notable number stretching over many decades, all have been returned to the beneficiaries for many more years on the hills. Rohan Bags the same and a good few Olfio’s are in the way to a new life on the hills with some young people. All these garments stood out in the piles of used clothing. Speaks volumes.
Logo’s well North Face get this one. It is big.
This is a question. Why do manufacturers vary so much in the locating of a size label in their garments. Some are in the neck, which is the best place when you are sorting thousands of garments. Others hide them in various seams. You get to know which brand uses which seam. But if you are reading this and you are a designer of a brand can you all get together and preferably put them in the neck. Also hears is a tip all the labels do wash and wear out over time.
To the young designers in the brands today please look to the lineage of our industry, it is something we should all be proud of.
A few people will know I am very attached to the UK outdoor industry. To see the efforts of so many of the manufacturers, over so many years, many I have known personally, stretched out in a warehouse full of great outdoor gear makes me feel very proud of our industry. We do produce good gear it does last, keeps us safe and delights us.
All of this would mean nothing without the fantastic support of all the outdoor community during 2018.
Sarah Howcroft – Founder Gift Your Gear.