The function and form of outdoor gear

Due to the generosity of Rohan customers who donate 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.

Sorting the thousands of donated outdoor garments offers a tremendous overview of how outdoor gear wears.

Co-founder of Rohan Sarah Howcroft, shares her findings upon the big Gift Your Gear sort…

Gift Your Gear delivers few surprising but very valuable results.

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 were represented. 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 Rohan fans 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 future Gift Your Gear sorts.

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 particular 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 manufacturers that 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. Very old Airlight has a Ventile quality. The weave closes a bit 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 - again this made me very proud.

It became very obvious that the fit of jackets, both waterproof and fleece, has got slimmer and shorter over the last 15 years. 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 gear sort would answer for me and I have now added my own answers:

Are the 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.

Are the garments produced today more attractive?

Yes. The work on colour and style shows.

Has modern design become much more anonymous?

I did observe that certain brands hold on to 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. The designers of say 20 years ago tended to pursue their own individual style.

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

Sarah Howcroft, Co-founder Rohan

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