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Featured

May 21, 2018

Then & Now: The Evolution of Outdoor Gear

The Outdoor Journal decided to raid their attics, storerooms, and basements to show how gear has changed over the years- from retro to metro.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Who says the seventies didn’t have style? Check out this groovy ski onesie. Whether it’s alpine or Nordic skiing, it didn’t matter back in the day. Retro skiers wore oversized, brightly colored dungarees, fluorescent spandex, a whole lot of flannel, and sometimes, nothing at all.

“Long’s Peak”, pictured above, is a Hong Kong-based brand from the 80’s that doesn’t even exist anymore. Fluffy, oversized, and warm, it did the job. Established in 1979, Nikko Sport is a combination of Japanese tradition, aesthetics, and technology. One of Asia’s pioneers in outdoor equipment, pictured above are the old school ski gloves. An outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer headquartered in the UK, Berghaus was founded in 1966 by climbers and mountaineers Peter Lockey and Gordon Davison. Pictured above are the brightly colored (apparently a prerequisite for all equipment manufactured pre-21st century) Berghaus gaiters.

Canada Goose Men’s Ridge Shell Jacket: Best known for being the de-facto parka for South Pole explorers and scientists, Canada Goose products come with a lifetime warranty. The Ridge Shell is a hip-length, waterproof and breathable jacket with a 3-way adjustable hood.

Lowe Alpine Velocity XC Gloves: The Velocity XC gloves have ceramic-reinforced ‘Armortan’ leather palms made by Pittard leather, for better abrasion resistance. They’re also incredibly well-fitting softshell gloves for cool weather work. Possibly the best gloves in a category you can buy today.

Patagonia Men’s Snowshot Freeride Pants: Fully featured and focused on utility, these H2No® Performance Standard 2-layer shell pants have an articulated fit for freedom of movement and a smooth mesh liner for comfort and ease of layering.

Marmot Kompressor Summit: Marmot designed the Kompressor Summit Backpack for serious wilderness go-getters seeking a balance between lightweight packability and multi-season durability. This backpack weighs in at under two pounds and uses multiple small-storage options and versatile packing capabilities to ensure a well-balanced, well-organized load.

In the 1970’s, few pockets of climbers who were passionate about the sport, would strap on their colorful harnesses, which looked like they belonged at Woodstock, recruit their buddies, and climb a peak. They were the pioneers; the hipsters, the innovators, and they didn’t even know it. The adventurists of the 70’s are always viewed in awe- for being daring and adventurous, with limited means and awareness. Here, their climbing gear illustrates just that.

Created in the mid-1970’s by cave explorer Ferdinand Petzl, their climbing equipment has come a long way since the old-school, brightly colored harness pictured above. Founded in 1975, Boreal specializes in climbing and mountaineering shoes. Pictured above are Boreals’ big wall shoes, launched in 1984- the “Boreal Fire”. Founded in 1972 by research chemist, Paul Howcroft, Rohan is an outdoor clothing and footwear supplier. Pictured above is their first product- quick drying mountaineering salopettes. Founded and based in England following WW2 by Charles Parsons, and originally called the Karrimor Bag company, it made its reputation in the 60’s and 70’s. Pictured above is the retro Karrimor supercool climbing rucksack.

Lowe Alpine Crag Attack II 42: This is a pack obviously made by climbers for climbers. There’s a haul loop, easy-opening winter buckles, gear loops on the padded hip belt, ice ax loops, a bivi mat and ski loops.

Lowe Alpine Grid Pull-On: Made of ‘Aleutian fleece’, Lowe Alpine’s proprietary extra-durable and stretchy polyester fleece fabric, the Grid pull-on can be worn as a base layer next to skin, or as a simple mid-layer depending on the weather conditions.

[Check out Lowe Alpine products in India on Trekkit. A young company based in India, Trekkit empowers enthusiasts with state of the art outdoor equipment, with high-quality brands like Lowe Alpine, Rab, Craghoppers, amongst others.] 

Petzl Sirocco: The world’s lightest climbing helmet is such a featherweight that you won’t even notice it’s on your head. At a ridiculously light 168 gms, it’s got headlamp clips, a one-handed magnetic buckle, and visor attachment points.

La Sportiva Katana: La Sportiva’s Katana is a slightly LA extreme and stiffer version of the ever-popular Muiras. They fit the feet better, but are cambered and advanced enough to climb hard routes, yet be manageable for multi-pitch trad.

Metolius Safe Tech All-Round Harness: The Safe Tech harness lineup has two belay loops, both as a backup to the most crucial part of your harness, and to make rappels and belays easier. The brand also has a unique adjustment system.

Black Diamond ATC Guide: The Guide version of this belay device has that extra hole for the leader to use it in auto-blocking mode for one or two followers on a multi-pitch trad climb. It’s also burly and durable, and has those v-notches for added friction.

Omega PacificLink Cam: A revolutionary camming device from this US company, the Link Cam extends the range of one unit by nearly three times thanks to its single-axle trisected lobe with a camming ratio of 2.5:1.

This Gear Section was originally published in Issue 06 of The Outdoor Journal.

Photo Credits: SRI AUROBINDO CENTRE FOR ARTS & COMMUNICATION

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Reviews

Jul 03, 2019

Gear Review: Dark Peak NESSH Jacket

Buy one, give one. A Sheffield, UK-based startup outdoor brand brings the one-for-one business model to outdoor clothing.

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WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

Does the world really need another [insert new clothing or gear item]? After more than a decade as an outdoor journalist and having hit the floor of trade shows year after year, I found it impossible to show any kind of genuine excitement or interest over the latest [insert marketing-driven fancy-word-for-a-zip-or-waterproof-layer]. For years now I’ve been content with a few pieces I’ve acquired over the years that have proven their worth. A bomber Millet down jacket for hardcore use, an Arcteryx ultra-light shell for alpine climbing among others. The cold, hard truth is, apart from the invention of some very lightweight and strong fabrics, incrementally improved waterproof-breathable inserts and coatings; clothing technology has not significantly advanced in the last decade or so. Whatever we do, 99% of the consumer population who buy outdoor gear or clothing don’t need anything beyond what already exists and has existed for a while. Making and buying new stuff simply perpetuates a flawed economic model that encourages consumerism and is bad for the planet.

So what the world does need is a better business model.

When Dark Peak reached out to us to do a review of their Kickstarter-launched NESSH down jacket, we were, therefore, intrigued not because of the impressively complete tech specs of the product itself, nor the genuine credentials of the team – those were a given for any new product today – but by their mission and business model.

  1. A reasonably priced jacket that sells direct to consumers – unlike mainstream brands, built around a lot of marketing and distribution costs, requiring the company to sell even more simply to justify their model.
  2. Buy one, give one away to someone who really needs it. Just like well-known consumer brands Tom’s and Warby Parker, Dark Peak donates a new jacket (via homeless shelters) for every jacket sold on their website.
Press Photo

This model is not new, of course, given that Tom’s has been doing it since 2006. However, the outdoors industry – a USD 800+ billion behemoth – has, for the most part, refused to leverage its size to genuinely do good in the world. So it was a refreshing change to hear Dark Peak’s pitch and note their Kickstarter success.

Cut out the expensive retail spaces, middle-men, third-party licensing fees and so on, and you get a high-quality product (it is made in Asia, like all other major brands) at something like half the price.

The jacket they give away is not the same as the one you buy, of course. It’s non-branded and made with different, less performance-oriented but equally warm, weather-resistant materials. Given our own beliefs at The Outdoor Journal, we felt this deserved a real review.

Dark Peak launched the jacket on Kickstarter, blowing past their goal of £15,000 to eventually raise £107,084.

It took a little while to get my hands on the actual jacket – shipping couriers seemed to have some problem with my address in Helsinki, Finland, which is where I tested it over the winter. In other words, yes, the weather was cold.

I received a maroon colored, lightweight NESSH (UK S, US XS size) jacket that came with some very positive first impressions. The build quality and shape were almost better than I initially expected. But I was genuinely struck by the weight or lack thereof. A 340g winter jacket is very, very light indeed. It comes complete with details that are more common in the higher-end models of more mainstream and expensive brands. Integrated wrist gaiters with thumb loops? Check. Two-way YKK zips? Check. 10D Nylon shell inside and outside? Yep. 850 fill down with hydrophobic coating? Check. (The company says that the down is “responsibly sourced” and certified by Responsible Down Standard). You can also choose to get the same jacket with 3M synthetic insulation too, should you prefer that (or spend more of your outdoor time in wetter conditions).

The jacket is clearly made for outdoors people (in other words, shaped to fit your body, and not built like a rectangular sack, unlike many a brand. I find it almost impossible to fit in many other jackers, which, understandably, seem to be built for people who have bulging middles and larger waists than shoulders).

If you haven’t spent time in Helsinki, Finland, well, the weather in winter is a bit weird. It can go from -20 C to 0 C overnight – and then repeat the thermometer yoyo again and again. It was almost disconcerting to have such a lightweight jacket on while going about daily life, but it worked as long as it was not too deep in the negatives. More importantly, it worked while I was active, including a bit of skiing and ice-skating – in fact, it was a great deal more lightweight, athletic and comfortable than most of the major brand-name jackets I’ve used or own. That may relate to the fit and cut – in general, I fit better in the UK or European brands than US ones, which is a function of body type – but it felt like the Dark Peak team had made an effort to build a product that is genuinely for outdoor enthusiasts, and not the average retail consumer (think about it – bigger brands need to sell to the widest possible audience to maximize revenues and profitability). While I haven’t taken it on an all-day, multipitch climb yet, so far it really feels like this may soon become my favorite warm layer to have with me, assuming the jacket survives the shred. I’m really quite curious to put it through the serious beating in my pack and up a climb, later in the year.

Press Photo

Dark Peak’s jacket genuinely feels like a very high-quality, ultra-light high-end 850 down jacket, the kind you’d usually buy from a well-known brand like The North Face or similar and expect to pay nearly twice as much for. And the fact that they’ve indeed gone with the one-for-one business model, makes Dark Peak’s NESSH a jacket we’ll recommend without hesitation. Go buy yours on their website here.

Pros: A highly affordable, high-quality technical jacket backed by a purpose-driven business model.

Cons: The website feels incomplete and buggy. The athletic cut and shape and technical nature of the jacket may not be for everyone, or appropriate for business meetings!

Rating: 5/5.

Full Disclosure: The Outdoor Journal received one NESSH jacket for the purpose of this review.

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