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Reviews

Jan 25, 2019

Wild Goose: A Visit to Canada Goose in Toronto

The Outdoor Journal travelled to Toronto to get a behind-the-scenes look at the brand that builds the world’s warmest jacket - and is also 100% made in Canada.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

This article originally featured in the Spring 2015 print issue of The Outdoor Journal.

During yesterday’s morning coffee meeting, The Outdoor Journal’s editorial team discussed the growing number of Canada Goose jackets, to be seen on the streets of New York City. A fashion statement, but not just a fashion statement, a well-tuned piece of technical equipment too. Our Editor-Chief reminded us that a member of our team visited their offices in Toronto a few years ago, and prompted us to revisit the following article.

Scientists wintering in Antarctica wear it. Barack Obama wears a custom-made one. So does top adventurer Ray Zahab, who in 2008 walked unsupported to the South Pole in just under 34 days. Canada Goose makes the warmest jackets in the world. One of their proudest statements is that they’re “100% made in Canada and sold in China”. The country’s minister of finance called the brand a national treasure. So with all the hype, we acceded to their invitation to fly to Toronto to check out what is arguably the best cold-weather clothing anywhere.

I didn’t go to design school, I have a degree in outdoor recreation

Behind a showroom front with displays on the wall including Laurie Skreslet’s Everest jacket from 1982, was a factory floor lined with women behind sewing machines. Swatches of fabric lay in marked bins, and the din of stitching and cutting filled the air – as well as wisps of their eponymous down feathers. Canada Goose was started in 1957 as Metro Sportswear by a Polish immigrant, Sam Tick. Today, it’s run by his grandson, Dani Reiss, and in the last thirteen years their business has gone from $3 million to $200 million; and got invested in by Bain Capital. Reiss’ controversial decision early on to retain manufacturing in Canada is evidently paying off in spades. With international growth, they’re “rebuilding a manufacturing industry that was decimated years ago,” says Kevin Spreekmeester, the brand’s marketing head. This year they’re also planning to be available in India.

We met chief designer Spencer Orr, who calls himself a “professional camper”. “I didn’t go to design school”, he told us. “I have a degree in outdoor recreation”. It shows in their products, which while are popular as fashion statements, more importantly, do the job better than any other.

The heavy-duty – and heavy – Snow Mantra Parka is the warmest in the world, for example – built to withstand a mind-boggling -70°. It’s actually too warm for Antartica summers. If you’ve ever worn one, you can tell it’ll help you survive. The Parka is cut thigh-length for maximum coverage, the coyote fur-lined hood ‘tunnels’ out, and the whole thing is made with what they call “Arctic Tech” fabric, a cotton-polyester blend. They state that the fur is used only when dictated by function. But we ask him, what about the adage – cotton kills in the cold? Spencer tells us that in extremely cold conditions this works fine because there’s no moisture it can absorb, and the fabric is more durable and resistant. From this heritage, you get an entire line of parks and jackets, from the Expedition Parka to the Mountaineer Jacket. Each piece is developed in consultation with staff and Goose People, from its original utility into something that can be worn from the high street to the high mountain.

“Dad, we have the world’s toughest musher in our living room”

“Goose People” are athletes and adventurers who fit the soul of Canada Goose, people like Lance Mackey, champion dogsledder, winner of the gruelling 1000-mile Yukon Quest, and the classic Iditarod. Their selection may seem a bit idiosyncratic, but Spreekmeester explains that the person should fit the soul of the brand and be like a member of the family – Lance, for instance, ended up staying at his place when they were discussing his booming a Goose Person. Ray Zahab is incredibly easy-going in person, when we go for a short hike with him. He explains how he was a fat slob sitting on the couch when he decided to get fit, run across the Sahara Desert (yes, all 4,300 miles of it) before founding impossible2Possible to inspire youth through adventure education.

So what’s in the future? As we watch a parade of products from older to recent lines; it’s evident that Canada Goose is evolving from a highly desirable brand with roots in cold-weather survival, into a more technical, outdoor sports brand. The team works on an 18-month development cycle, and the newer lines of flexible, lightweight down jackets like the Hybridge Lite won the Backpacker magazine award. Their new waterproof-breathable shells with a unique four-way stretch, which we reviewed in the previous issue of The Outdoor Journal, won best in show at Outdoor Retailer. We’re keenly awaiting their upcoming soft shells while sending our assistant editor off to Antartica to test this stuff for real.

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Athletes & Explorers

Oct 29, 2019

Book Review: Tales from the Trails

From the top of the world to the end of the earth, essays from a marathoner’s odyssey to compete on every continent and the lessons learned of friendship, life and pushing past borders

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WRITTEN BY

Douglas Baughman

In the predawn moonlight, 65 adventure runners, wearing headlamps to hack through the darkness of the dense taiga forest and backpacks outfitted with provisions for survival in the probable—or at least, historical—event of calamity, gathered under a makeshift banner for the start of the annual Sunrise to Sunset Marathon in Khovsgol National Park in the far north of Mongolia.

Read next on TOJ: Solo Running in the High Himalaya

The course would be treacherous. Already a mile above sea level, it skirts the shores of Lake Khovsgol, known as the “Blue Pearl of Mongolia,” one of the most pristine and ancient lakes in the world, estimated to be between two to five million years old, before climbing another 2,400 feet to Chichee Pass. From there, the race heads south along a ridge, drops into a marshy river valley, then climbs again up to Khirvesteg Pass on an extremely narrow precipice, where a few years earlier an unfortunate runner suffered a spine-breaking fall.

View of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo by Sergey Pesterev.

“The pages of Tales from the Trails are packed with adventure.”

For publishing exec Michael Clinton, it would represent the penultimate challenge in a shared quest with his sister Peg to run a marathon on every continent, seven on seven—the first in London, followed by Buenos Aires, the Gold Coast of Australia, Philadelphia, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and finally culminating in Antarctica. He chronicles these adventures, and aside misadventures, in an inspiring collection of personal essays from his latest book, Tales from the Trails, often with self-deprecating honesty and humor:

“My confidence was so sufficiently eroded that I wondered if I would ever be able to complete such a challenging course,” he writes in “Mongolian Madness” on the eve of the Sunrise to Sunset race. “All of a sudden, running Tokyo, a normal city marathon on flat roads, seemed like it would have been a much smarter choice! Maybe I hadn’t done enough research or focused on the details, but there I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to preoccupy my time except getting my head around how I would find the courage and stamina to conquer this newfound feeling of fear that permeated my whole being. …

It became apparent that everyone was feeling a bit anxious, evident when the gallows humor set in. Who would fall down the mountain? When we learned there could be wolves on the course, we identified who would be the most delicious runner to eat.”

From Tales from the Trails: Runners’ Stories that Inspire and Transform by Michael Clinton, copyright © 2019, published by Glitterati Editions.

For certain the pages of Tales from the Trails are packed with adventure and stories about the transformative power of confronting and overcoming challenges, both common and personal, mental and physical. But if would-be readers expect a book solely about running, they may also be surprised to discover a few pleasant sidetracks. Clinton’s brisk narrative pace makes ample time for an occasional “off the beaten path” anecdote, in true travelogue style, such as the all-out city sprint to find the last sports bra in Buenos Aires, or the matter-of-fact rationale for remaining calm in a Tasmanian rainforest whilst picking leeches from one’s private parts, even tricks to survive seasickness on a creaking Russian vessel crossing the Drake Passage.

In fact, with respect to some of the more poignant passages in Tales, running itself is nearer to a middle-distance metaphor, a means to facilitate connection, whether through introspection or a way of threading together generations of family, such as in “The Irish Surprise”:

“More than forty years since there had been any contact with our Irish family, my sister Peg and I decided to search for our roots there. It had all started with our decision to run the Dublin marathon, a stop on our quest to run races around the world from Mongolia to Argentina. Ireland was a natural choice since it was the birthplace of our paternal grandparents. Little did I know at the time that it would have a profound impact on me in ways I could have never expected.”

…or pausing for life’s precious and fleeting moments in “Time to Run for Your Life”:

“Life’s mantra should be to chase your dreams with a vengeance. What is important to you? Does your family want you to be an accountant, but your true passion is working with animals? Does your partner complain that he or she hates the idea of long flights, but your dream is to go on a safari in Africa?

Too many people argue they are too old to start running or to go back to school or change careers, yet there are countless stories of people who started running in their sixties, finished college in their seventies, or find an exciting third chapter that has turned their hobby into a business. Every single day that you ignore the deep dive into the depths of your soul, you are not being true to yourself, and that is what always matters first.”

From Tales from the Trails: Runners’ Stories that Inspire and Transform by Michael Clinton, copyright © 2019, published by Glitterati Editions.

The second half of Tales from the Trails is reserved for an elite group of contributors—Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC Today; George A. Hirsch, chairman of the New York Road Runners and former publisher of New York magazine, Runner’s World and Men’s Health; and Lucy Danziger, former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, among many other distinguished marathoners—each paying tribute to the motivational magic of this oldest and most basic human sport—running.

Tales from the Trails is available at major booksellers and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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