Taiga, Taiga, warm and light

Fleece: once upon a time it was the light, quick-drying new kid on the block which largely supplanted fibre pile and woolly jumpers. With the advent of ultralight down gear and quality synthetics like Primaloft it’s perhaps not quite the outdoor essential it once was…but it still has a part to play.

But there is fleece, and there is fleece. And what we use is fleece.

Clear?

OK, OK. The major difference between our Taiga fleece and the vast majority of fleeces that you’ll be used to is that it’s ‘warp knit’. That means the yarn zig-zags back and forth through the fabric like this:

The loops are secured by the zig-zagging yarn
Photo: Ryj/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

rather than following the simple line found in more common ‘weft knit’ fleece, like this:

The loops are more free to deform as the fabric moves

But so what?

Well, warp knit fleece is more robust: the fibres lock together to form a dense, abrasion resistant fabric that stands up to wind and wet far better than the more open structure of weft knit fleeces.

The point of fleece was originally to ape the effects of wool, but to be lighter and quicker drying. The most practical woolly jumper for outdoor use would be something like an old-fashioned fisherman’s sweater – like a Guernsey – as it’s warm and very dense (so it protects against quite a bit of weather before you need to wrestle on your oilskins) but most knitwear is softer and flimsier than that. And so it is with fleece: most fleece isn’t that dense and protective, but Taiga isn’t most fleece.

So that’s why we use it.

Somebody’s getting a Christmas present…

There were arty shots, silly shots, action shots. There were shots from remote peaks on the other side of the world, and shots from a couple of hours away. Close ups, long shots, and and, actually, more than one of folks enjoying celebratory pies. Oh, and one of our Office Manager’s mum, which unfortunately therefore we had to disqualify.

But it was this shot of a beaming Barry Payne in the Highlands which took the £50 voucher in our “Me & my PHD” photo competition: it’s very clearly him, it’s very clearly his PHD, and he’s very clearly very happy!

Barry Payne

Doesn’t need to be in the Himalayas or at the poles: if we’re helping you take delight in what you’re doing, then we’re delighted too!

So, what is his PHD? It’s the Mountain Marathon version of our Wafer Jacket (so a limited edition Wafer jacket made with water-resistant fabric, essentially), which we designed as a warm layer for athletes in damp cold. He wasn’t doing a marathon, but he was in the mountains in Scotland (where there’s quite a potential for damp cold), and told us “I used this jacket every day on my Highlands trip and I can honestly say it’s one of the best pieces of kit I’ve bought.

So, one or two of the runners up…

Ruben Nev: Poon Hill, Nepal

Ruben Nev

There was more than just a little umming and ahhing about this one.

It’s a lovely picture…but in the end, we thought it’s maybe not that obvious to the untrained eye that it involves PHD.

So, much as we liked it, it possibly doesn’t hit the nail on the “Me & my PHD” head as some of the others did; we had to pick just one winner, and we had to make the decision somehow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antony Crook: New York school run

Cook NYThis one came pretty close too, for entirely different reasons!

It could maybe have been a winner…and maybe there are those among us who’d like it to be…but maybe it’s not actually this person’s PHD kit? Is that horribly picky?!

Again though, we had to decide on just one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Harris: unexpected weather for August

Janet

This wasn’t ever going to be eligible as it’s Emma’s mum…but still, it’s nice to get a bit of feedback about our waterproofs.

And not that we openly endorse nepotism or anything…but if your daughter’s the Office Manager, you should be able to get an honourable mention!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Mercer: “Me & my Pie-HD”, wild camping in the Lakes

Sarah MercerWhose wild camping experience isn’t enhanced by the addition of a pie?

The caption wasn’t Sarah’s…maybe if it had been, that could have swung it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a great response, so a huge thanks to all of you who entered – whether you’re mentioned here or not – and congratulations once again to Barry.

Down in history: PHD’s 2019

You know, it’s been a pretty busy year! New sleeping bags, new clothing…and yes, OK, we make sleeping bags and clothing so that shouldn’t be all that surprising.

The thing is though, because we’re our own shop, we don’t have to make sure we’ve got a new collection together for the retailers’ new-season ranges, which means we can launch our new ideas whenever we like…or not, if we want to keep testing and tweaking them for longer.

So, let’s a have nosey at what new things have made an appearance this last year.

M.Degree° K Bags

M.Degree FB4

It’s difficult to show off just how light it is with a picture: it looks like a sleeping bag. Here though it’s showing off the optional waterproof foot cover, which is not an everyday thing…

Back in the spring, we brought out this most PHD of PHD ideas. The original PHD Minimus took a sleeping bag and radically lightened it; for the M.Degree° K we took the Minimus and lightened that. PHDPHD: PHD to the power of PHD!

A range of four bags rated to 10°C, 4°C, -3°C and -9°C, with an Overbag available to boost them by 20°, they’re racing bags through and through but are already gaining a following among lightweight backpackers. Each one is in seven denier ‘7X’ fabric and filled with 1000 fillpower down; these lightest of materials are then put together in the lightest, warmest way. The top is box-walled for maximum down loft, but as your bodyweight compresses the down beneath you, the base can be stitch-through: the fabric ‘walls’ can be removed, and with them the weight.

Semi-Rectangular Bags

Greenlandic vs. Minim

A Greenlandic (“Bluelandic” doesn’t have the same ring to it) with a Minim for comparison.

This is both the same approach and the opposite, depending on how you look at it! This July saw us throw our PHD-ness at a very different type of bag: we took something that’s not inherently lightweight, and lightened it.

Our (hoodless) Icelandic and (hooded) Greenlandic bags are roomy, comfort-focused bags for those who don’t like the feel of a snug fit, those who sleep on their sides, or those who just want the wriggle-room. It’s unusual to find a broad-toed lightweight bag: it seems to make sense to capitalize on lightweight materials with lightweight designs.

Well, up to a point. If you think about it though (and we did), it’s heavy things that need to be made lighter! The demand for wider bags may be quite niche, but niche is our…niche. Wide and luxurious, small and packable.

Wafer Ultima Pullover

Warm down to zero, packs down to nothing

Wafer Ultima K Tops

Back to more familiar territory: when the M. Degree° K bags debuted in May, they were joined by clothing which took the same approach.

In this case, we started with the Wafer K clothing, and pruned away whatever weight we could. The result was the Wafer Ultima K Pullover and Vest. Where the Wafer K Jacket is 190g, the Ultima Pullover is just as warm but 155g. That 35g may not sound like a lot, but it’s an 18% saving. Imagine you’re running a multi-stage desert ultra…and now your kit is 18% lighter! That would feel like a lot, wouldn’t it?

Troms Jacket

Once again, we veer wildly away from what we just mentioned!

Troms

The Troms landed in March, as part of our Ventile® Outwear collection – Ventile® being a very different sort of fabric from what you’ll find above. Its fine (in both senses of the word) cotton fibres swell when damp, tightening the cloth and rendering it waterproof. It’s not as light as modern synthetics, but its combination of breathability, durability, weatherproofing, soft handle and lack of ‘rustle’ means it has a very strong following, from polar explorers to foul-weather commuters.

The Troms has the styling cues of a climbers’ jacket, is shelled in Ventile® and filled with 900 fillpower down for warmth down to -10°C. The idea was to make a jacket that’s great for the winter day-to-day, but which is still no slouch in the mountains.

Minimus K Tops

Minimus Charcoal

Still very much a Minimus. Even more Minimus than ever, in fact…

Well, OK, the Minimus is hardly a new name for PHD: the Minimus Jacket, Vest and Pullover have been around for decades. But not like this they haven’t!

The Minimus began as a shockingly lightweight down jacket, which really changed the whole concept of packable insulation. It’s still shockingly lightweight – it’s actually even lighter now – but things have evolved. In July, the new versions of our Minimus K tops arrived: more featured, general purpose all-rounders given the PHD treatment: gathered sides for a snugger fit, slimmer baffles for a less bulky feel (and look), and the addition of an insulated chest pocket – we’re all carrying electronics these days, and batteries don’t like the cold.

Absolute, shave-away-the-grams minimalism is still available in the shape of our Ultra K, but the Minimus K is hardly a heavyweight: it’s comfortably below 300g.


So, we’ve taken the absolute heart of what PHD has always been about and refreshed it, updated it, made it better.

Fancy seeing what we’ve got planned for 2020…?

Do we really make everything in the UK?

P1220491

This really is how we start making a sleeping bag. Fabric, with stitch lines hand-drawn in chalk, cut out with shears.

This may seem like a simple enough idea but, to be fair, it’s a pretty unusual one so we can see how it would be questioned. It is actually as simple as it sounds though: we make everything to order, here in the UK.

Recently, it was suggested that the reason for an order taking a few weeks to arrive was that it was coming from overseas. Again, that’s not an unreasonable thought to have: a great deal of manufacturing happens offshore nowadays, and it’s so easy to get next-day delivery that waiting a few weeks is not a normal experience. And although we say we make in the UK on the website, maybe that’s just for some of our really specialist gear?

Nope!

Every single thing is made in our workshop in Manchester. The reason for the wait is that the overwhelming majority of what you see on the website simply doesn’t yet exist when you order it: it’s bolts of cloth, pairs of shears, sewing machines, sacks of down.

So, why do we make everything here? We’re obviously not averse to the concept of a global economy: we make gear for conditions that are impossible to find in the UK so, without the wider world, much of our range would be pointless! And we buy materials from overseas: we use the best available, not just ‘the best that’s available nearby’. If there’s good fabric in Japan, we’ll go to Japan; if there’s good goose down in Poland, we’ll go to Poland.

43c

There are ways to machine-fill with down. But we don’t.

Well, manufacturing here makes a lot of sense, when you’re small and you make to order. We can see everything that’s happening. We can discuss little tweaks and amendments and try them out: we can have an idea in the morning and have a sample made by the afternoon. If we get a report from an expedition that a suit’s pocket fastening is fouled by an oxygen hose (for example), then the next one – not the next season’s version, the next one – can be altered.

Recently, we were looking over the prototype of the Slit Mitt in our Winter Sale, and there were half a dozen changes to make before it was ready for production…and that was no problem, because going to the workshop and making another one had a timescale counted in hours, not days, weeks or months. And that was a fleece mitten; imagine if you’ve got to tweak an expedition jacket! It’s very useful to be able to just crack on with it.

And then there are the skills. There are literally billions of possible combinations of features, given all the different customized options we offer, so we need to know the people who craft each item are able to adapt to every variation – none of them know exactly what they’ll be making till the order lands on their bench. Obviously those talents exist outside the UK too, but that doesn’t mean they should die out here: we feel there’s a value in preserving and using the very real skill base which still remains in the UK.

We started out here, our craft was honed and developed here, and although there’s potentially a financial advantage to mass manufacturing overseas, mass manufacturing is the opposite of what we do so really, it’s not an advantage to us! So, we see no reason to up sticks and start again elsewhere.

Everything’s made in our workshop in Manchester; when you do what we do, that’s really the only way to do it.

 

Broadly speaking

Ryan Minim 400

Nice and snug. But to some, this level of snug is only appropriate before birth.

Anybody who’s ever worked with sleeping bags will recognise this question:

“Have you got something that’s wide around the feet?”

The answer generally involves explaining that wider designs are less efficient because it takes more heat energy to warm up the extra space, as well the fact that they’re obviously heavier and bulkier. So if you’re using top-quality insulation and fabrics to insulate and save on weight and bulk, it’s a bit of a waste to sew them into an inefficient, oversized shape.

And anybody who’s ever given that explanation will recognise this response:

“Yeah, makes sense I suppose…but I just hate being hemmed in.”

And that’s absolutely fair enough. After all, the entire point of a sleeping bag is to allow you to sleep, but if you can’t get comfortable then that’s not going to happen. Of course the reasoning behind snug, tapered bags is sound…but sound reasoning doesn’t necessarily mean sound sleep.

So it occurred to us that actually, rather than considering it a waste to use decent materials on a less efficient design, if somebody’s unlucky enough to really need wriggle room then they really need those materials to mitigate that compromise. And even if somebody just happens to prefer the idea of a wider bag for stretching out or curling up, why should they heft around masses of extra bulk?

Sure: small, light, efficient bags are still the first choice for a lot of people, so the wider bag is currently – ironically enough – quite a narrow niche. But as luck would have it, we just so happen to have a workshop dedicated to making sleeping bags to meet individual needs…

It’s from this obvious-after-the-fact idea that our semi-rectangular bags grew.

These comfort-focused bags have been made with plenty of wriggle room, and use the same high-end goose down and fabrics as you’ll find on the bags we’d send to the Cairngorms or the Himalayas.

Greenlandic vs. Minim

Spot the difference. Yes, alright clever clogs, one’s black and one’s blue…the black one is our classic Minim, the blue one is the Greenlandic.

While they do taper towards the feet, it’s a much more gentle narrowing. The point about thermal efficiency is still true, and cold feet are an easy route to a bad night’s sleep! We have to balance space and warmth, but our in-house design and manufacturing setup gives us the luxury of being able to skew that balance towards…well, towards luxury.

So where are these bags to be used? Polar explorers, ultra-runners, alpinists and high-altitude mountaineers are all still likely to opt for our more form-fitting bags, so in the semi-rectangular bags we’ve concentrated on more ‘general purpose’ camping and backpacking sort of temperatures. The shoulder-length Icelandic 200 and 300 are rated to 5°C and 0°C respectively, while the Greenlandic 400°C goes down to -5°C.

That said though, the range has scope for use in some pretty serious conditions: the Greenlandic Overbag (also rated to -5°C if used solo) is shaped to go over the top of the others, where it gives a 23°C boost and creates a very versatile Sleep System. That’s a pretty wide range of temperatures as well as a pretty wide range of movement…and lest we succumb to any more laboured puns, it’s probably as well to wind this up here.

Suffice it to say: if you’re after a warm, lightweight bag, but you’re also after a roomy, spacious bag, you no longer have to choose.

 

The whys and wherefores (and a how thrown in for good measure)

We had a query recently about the way we’d put together some of the bags in the Mountain Marathon Collection, and why we’d done it. We explained, and it occurred that the answer was rooted in our very PHD way of doing things – we know we’re a bit unusual – so it feels like as good a time as any to go through it.

Let’s have a bit of backstory then. The Mountain Marathon Collection consists of familiar designs from our range in not-quite-so-familiar trim – tweaked for the demands of multi-day stage racing in potentially rotten weather – and offered at a discount. The question was about some of this non-standard spec – the discount seemed to be accepted quite happily…

Rain is coming

Look at that sky. 35g extra for Ultrashell doesn’t seem so terrible now, eh?  Photo – Peer Lawther / CC BY 2.0

The clothing spec is simple enough to explain: the standard versions of the Wafer kit use really light fabric so they’re very packable, but the Mountain Marathon versions are a tiny bit more weighty (only about 35g more, to be fair) because they use Ultrashell (water resistant fabric). Adding a water resistant coating adds more weight to the fabric so it’s slightly at odds with the original Wafer concept, but if you’re racing on autumnal Pennine moorland, water resistant fabric is well worth having. So, yes, that’s simple enough.

The M.Degree° sleeping bags were the subject of the question though: specifically, why does the M.Degree° 400 use Ultrashell when the 200 and 300 use Hypershell? They’re both lightweight ripstop nylon with a water-resistant coating, but Hypershell is lighter. So why the difference?

Good question.

When we offer a discounted collection like this, we’re up against the fact that our very PHD way of doing things involves making everything to order, and that’s a pricey way to do things. We offer 16 different sizes of sleeping bag, for example, so we really can’t just make a load of stock and hope we’ll be able sell it all!

Snowhole.jpg

So, tell me again why you wanted the water resistant fabric…?

One of the things we can do though is streamline production by not offering the usual wide choice of fabrics. Ordinarily we have loads of options, and we get asked about all sorts of non-standard possibilities too. It’s not uncommon for us to be asked for slightly heftier fabrics for more demanding conditions and, at the warmest end of the Mountain Marathon Collection, the M.Degree° 400 may well end up being used for more than just cold-weather racing: a 570g -8°C bag will probably find itself in many an alpinist’s bag.

Essentially then, we have to second-guess what spec is likely to be the most useful, and go with that.

And that brings us round to the most fundamental part of what we’re about. Woven into the very fabric of PHD (even more than the water resistant treatment) is the idea of nattering to people about what they’re doing, so we can come up with ideas for kit that will work.

We’ve said this before and will doubtless say it again: we thrive on your stories! We depend on them, in fact.The more we know, the more we can make sure we’re putting together the best combinations of fabrics and features when we create these specialised collections.

So there you go. It’s not maybe not unusual for a range of bags to have a set set of specs (try saying that fast), but it is for our range. The majority of what we do revolves around offering loads of choice, so if we limit that, it’s fair to ask why. Do keep telling us your stories though: it won’t feel like we’re limiting choices if we put together precisely what you need!

The Pennington is Mightier than the Sword

Adele climb

Looks fun. Fancy trying it in heavy, bulky, ill-fitting, poorly insulated clothing? No, didn’t think so…

We’ve said it before, and chances are we’ll say it again: if you want to test out some gear, put it on Adele Pennington. She’s no stranger to the Himalayan giants – she has the British women’s record for climbing 8000m peaks (six of them). Including Everest. Which she’s climbed twice (and she was the first British woman to do that, too).

When she’s not doing that she’s…well, she’s probably climbing mountains somewhere else, to be honest (or ski-ing down them): as well as guiding in the greater ranges, she runs her own mountaineering company in Scotland.

So yes, if you want to be sure something stands up to serious use in the mountains, get Adele to check it.

The other thing is, she’s really rather little! Why does that matter? Well, making mountaineering gear in customized sizing is a pretty niche position to be in, but that’s the niche in which we’re positioned. If we’re going to get that right, it’s very useful to know someone whose size and equipment requirements are both a fair distance from being average.

Alpamayo

It really is a very good-looking mountain, isn’t it?

She went to Alpamayo in the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes this year, and she needed some warm trousers: roomy enough to be pulled on over her other gear as the temperature dropped, but not so bulky that they couldn’t be worn under her waterproofs as part of a harsh-weather system. The Andean temperatures vary from 30°C to -20°C; 50°C of variation means adjusting your layers is key.

So, we made her a pair of Sigma Trousers, and were delighted to hear that “From keeping warm at base camps to climbing alpine style on Alpamayo, PHD Primaloft Sigma trousers fitted the bill exactly.”

Something else we’ve said before and we’ll doubtless say again: Adele really puts the gear through its paces, but you needn’t be doing the same to make good use of it. What she does for us proves that it works at the extremes – and we need to know that it does – but you don’t have to be undertaking anything headline-grabbing to need something warm, custom sized and lightweight. You just need to be a cold, human-shaped human who doesn’t want to carry too much, and pretty much every one of us is in that boat at some point!

 

 

The RAF: in for another pass

Full disclosure: a bit of a cheat, this article, as we didn’t write it. We were contacted by John Cameron from the RAF Mountaineering Association, who’d been trekking in Nepal – with some of our gear –  and wanted to know if we would like a write up to share on here. Well, of course we would…

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Tent helpfully labelled in case you forget where you are…

To everyone at PHD, a big thank you!  The RAFMA Expedition to the Rowaling Valley and crossing of the Tashi Laptsa Pass (5755m) in Nepal, with over 75 people involved – from Air Cadets to retired Air Force personnel, was not only a success but was also massively enjoyable, in no small part due to my Rondoy K Jacket and Xero Down Socks!

The extended trek to cross the pass at 5755m, higher than Everest Base Camp (south side), in conditions very similar to full-on Scottish Winter, meant that while being as light weight as possible, kit had to perform to the highest degree.  A trek in the changeable weather of late monsoon brings its own challenges, with unexpected and challenging precipitation as well as the predictable very low temperatures.

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Fair point. Not really a vest-and-flip-flops day, is it?

While the trek began at the start of the classic Everest Trail, at Jiri Bazaar, it meant that conditions were quite warm and very humid due to the still prevailing monsoon.  The leeches were out in force, taking full advantage of damp conditions and the passing of an early trekking team in shorts and T-shirts.  Trekking from sub tropical weather into high mountain and sub zero conditions is a real challenge to the wardrobe, even with the welcome help of porters to load carry: excess weight or kit just isn’t an option.

After Namche Bazaar, temperatures really started to drop and down clothing became very much the vogue.

Sitting in cool teahouses and even chillier tents was made all the more comfortable by being able to slip into super snug Xero down booties and the Rondoy K.  As we progressed up the valley, taking alternate rest days to aid acclimatisation, before a planned early alpine start to minimise rockfall possibilities on the final ascent to the Tashi Laptsa col, we frequently encountered rain, drizzle and snow, all of which the dry treatment of the Rondoy worked well to shrug off, ensuring there was never too much dampness to compromise its warmth.  To finish a day and be able to retreat into a super warm jacket like the Rondoy, with a cup of tea, makes a massive difference to your morale, especially when it’s so very comfortable, light and compressible too!  The expedition was carrying out some extensive medical research into diet and acclimatisation, which involved tests before breakfast and at the end of daily activity; partially undressing in low temperatures to facilitate monitoring was never going to be very popular!

The final ascent to the pass went well, albeit slowly to 5755m, with thankfully little rockfall encountered in the gulley and cliffs under the flanking peak. Once the prayer flags were spread and jubilant pictures taken, it was over the pass and onto the upper reaches of the Rowaling glacier.  From there it’s pretty much “all down hill” into the Rowaling Valley and the beautiful Gaurishankar Conservation Area: except for the remaining ‘uphill’ parts of the trek that are not inconsiderable!  The last night camped on the glacier  at 4800m was one of the coldest I’ve experienced , -15°C inside the tent, and again the booties and Rondoy were invaluable being worn inside my sleeping bag and helping me have a good nights rest.  The view in the early morning, despite the bitter cold, was just phenomenal of course, though the sun seemed to delight in taking its time to flood our campsite with its warmth.  The seracs and glacier surrounding the camp were just awesome in the brilliant sunshine.  It’s times like those that make the hardships disappear and kit like yours that make it possible.

John Cameron IML

Well suited to a life of adventure

Pancoe Suit Everest

Alex Pancoe: “Your suit did great. From the Lhotse face in hot temps to the summit.”
Photo – Roman Tschupp

We’ve been told a lot of stories recently about successes on Everest, with a very pleasing thread running through them about these adventurous folks using our Double Suit – as you’d imagine, when people contact us, they talk about the gear we make.

Is it OK if we just, um…?

Of course, if we tell these stories then it could seem rather like we’re blowing our own trumpet, and it’s probably very British of us to be so concerned about that…but, well, we are, so that’s the way it is. So before we commence tootling our merry tune, if it’s OK, we’ll take a minute to explain!

PHD has its deepest roots in Peter Hutchinson’s climbing shop, where he’d natter with people and make the gear they needed, then natter again when they came back. And broadly speaking, that’s still the way we do things – we love to chat about what you’re doing, and then all the info you give us can be fed back into product development. So obviously we’re excited when people show us their photos and tell us their stories, and we want to talk about it!

But it’s more than that. Peter had some innovative, visionary ideas and, unfortunately, he passed away last year. To hear these stories of his innovations being so successful is, for us, very heartening.

So, what have they said?

Well, for example, Roland Thomas was climbing Everest on behalf on DHL on the occasion of their half-centenary, raising funds for the Direct Relief medical charity, and had this to say about his double suit:

“Although with a wind chill factor the temperature was about minus 40°C, I confess to not feeling cold at any time during my 17 hour summit push. Even in the notorious queue back down the Hillary Step, I did not once feel cold. I give credit to my PHD Double Down Suit for this. Then on the descent to C4 it was a Godsend to be able to remove the down jacket and be way more comfortable than the majority of other climbers on the mountain. In fact, the one-piece base down layer was so effective that I only had to wear the outer down layer on summit day.”

Exactly!

That’s bang-on, and we couldn’t be happier. That’s why the suit was designed – to safely allow climbers to adjust their layering – but it was always possible that people would be reluctant to take a new approach to kit for such a serious mountain, so that’s a wonderful vindication of Peter’s vision. Of course we tested it extensively before making it available, so we knew it worked…but the idea is that everyone who uses the gear is part of the ongoing testing. Yes, it was Roland who actually climbed Everest, but it’s still great news for us!

Every one is different, because everyone is different

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Phei Sunn Sim

Making everything to order (another unusual approach that Peter took and that we’re continuing) meant we were able to offer the windsuits ordered by the team of Sherpas in yellow and red: DHL’s colours! That’s a pretty niche benefit though: the real advantage to being able customise is to make sure that the gear fits properly.

Singapore’s Phei Sunn Sim, who finds most gear too big, told us “Just wanted to say that I love my customised PHD gear…the Double Down Suit kept me very toasty on summit push! Thanks!” and rather closer to home (for us in the UK anyway), Rowena Lewthwaite, another lady of slight build, said “I absolutely loved your double suit on Everest and I would recommend it to all my climbing friends especially as it can be made to fit smaller people.”

Whatever you think we need to know

Strohfeldt Suit Everest

James Strohfeld, still not exactly ‘flaunting’ his inner suit…but then you don’t really flaunt when you’re that high up

Like we said, the info gets fed back into product development: we pay attention to whatever you want to point out. When James Strohfeldt climbed the North Ridge of Everest recently, his decades of mountaineering experience meant he was able to pay attention to numerous aspects of the suit’s design and how they interacted with climbing techniques, and give us really detailed feedback: ideas about the hood and the accessory loops, and suggestions about fabric. Some things may be personal issues, some may be general ideas that would work for everyone, but all of it gets stirred into the mix…

One thing that draws comment but won’t be changing, by the way, is the white inner suit: it’s there to reflect radiant heat, so it’s actually very important. To begin with it wasn’t exactly to James’s taste, but “By the end of the trip, I was positively flaunting it, I was so pleased with it. Great suit. I look forward to my next chance to use it.”

At the end of the day, all these stories are yours

So, of course we love to hear about how our gear’s doing, and of course we love to see Pete’s ideas working so well out there. But this only happens because you all put in the effort in the mountains – otherwise there’d be no stories to tell us. So, congratulations and huge thanks to James Strohfeldt, Phei Sunn Sim, Roland Thomas, Kirsty Watson, Rowena Lewthwaite, to Roman Tschupp and Alex Pancoe, to Daniel Wehrly and Thomas Becker, to Sophie Hilaire…and to many more of you who’ve taken our suits out into the world (but they’re the ones who’ve been in touch recently).

 

 

 

Down clothing: not just for the extremes

Summer: time to head for the hills and clad yourself head-to-toe in down clothing.

Yeah, time to dig out the old…wait, what? Down trousers and socks for UK summer camping? Is that not a bit…daft?

Actually, no it’s not.

PHD in the Lake District

OK, let’s approach this from another angle: if your sleeping bag was adjustable for different temperatures, that would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?

So, you take a bag which is lighter than you might need, and add clothing to it. If you’ve not encountered our Sleep Systems concept before, that’s pretty much what it’s about: layering up for a range of different conditions, but in a predictable way. By predictable we mean that instead of scrabbling about in the dark for your jacket because you’ve woken up cold and you hope you’ve got something warm enough, you know that (for example) an outfit of Wafer clothing boosts the bag’s warmth by 5°C.

It makes sense, but it still may not seem like the first choice for temperate, UK camping: it’s all well and good if you’re in the Himalayas and have a suit of down gear anyway, but in the Scottish Highlands? In June?

Well, it’s pretty standard practice to make sure you’ve got a warm jacket with you (and if you want to keep the weight down then something like a Wafer Jacket is a pretty respectable choice). Then you just have to add the trousers and the socks – which for Wafer gear is only 175g in total – and as you’re carrying a lighter bag than you otherwise would, this isn’t really ‘extra’ weight anyway.

So even if you just think about it as temperature-control for your tent, it’s not a bad idea. But the great thing about it is that in the cool of the evening, when you’re tired because you’ve been walking all day, then your insulation isn’t all sewn into your sleeping bag. It’s something you can wear.

And then in the morning (or the middle of the night) when you’re drowsy and it’s chilly and you need to get out of your bag, you’re already wearing half of it, so it feels like much less of a pain.

If you’re going out camping, you’ll be carrying insulation with you. All we’re saying is: you don’t have to carry all of it in one sleeping bag. If some of it’s clothing then you don’t have to go to bed to be warm, and if it’s a warm night, you don’t have to use all of it and overheat. And that’s really not that daft.