Gear of Desire. A 1980’s retrospective

Back in the 80’s the northern English town where I grew up had an ethnic clothing store.  It was packed with tie dye scarfs, Che Guevara T-shirts and continuously pumped the smell of patchouli oil out of its front door. It was located adjacent to a second hand record shop (bear with me younger readers…I appreciate that these are some alien concepts) where I would browse through the back catalogues of Led Zeppelin, Boston and Dio….does anybody remember Dio?  Really you shouldn’t – they were pretty terrible.

Anyhooo, one day when passing on my way to track down a pre Phil Collins, Genesis 12 inch single picture disc, my eyes fell upon a Peruvian llama wool poncho that the said clothing store was hawking in its shop window and straight away I knew I just had to have it. It’s beige itchy furriness had to be mine. For what occasion I thought a llama wool poncho suitable to wear in a northern mining town in the heartland of Arthur Scargill (does anyone remember Arthur Scargill?) – was beyond my ability to forward think at the time. It was cool and it had to be mine.

Funny thing – kit of desire. Years later I remember scrimping and saving every penny to buy an uber classic turquoise coloured North Face Mountain Jacket to take on my first Himalayan expedition. These days, thanks to the Avalanche Geeks’ association with those nice people at Haglofs, I now wander through the promised land of free technical clothing. Haglofs don’t have sponsored athletes as such, they have ‘friends of Haglofs’ – of whom I am one. Actually I think I’m more of a ‘friend of a friend’ of Haglofs,  but either way my winter officially starts when a big cardboard box of primary coloured Gore-Tex goodies arrives on my doorstep. Let me tell you my friend, this is the only way to get your kit.

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Mike Austin rocks the uber classic North Face Mountain jacket in the Karakoram – along with Dachstein gloves on elastic and a Karrimat. Hidden from view is a Walkman the size of a cereal box playing a bootleg Dio album on a C90 cassette.

In return Haglofs get to have me extoll the fineness of their kit – which as it goes is a pretty easy gig because I’ve bought into the brand with it’s super clean lines and functionality, as well as their iron clad environmental ethos for some time now. For sure the next time I take a 747 across two continents and an ocean to go heli skiing I’ll rest safe in the knowledge that my underwear is recyclable. They also get to associate themselves with the hip skiing gunslingers from Avalanche Geeks (thats me and Bruce if there was any confusion). They like the fact that our company does good and gives back to the mountain community. Last time I checked more people who came on our avalanche education courses were alive than dead, so I guess we’re doing some good out there.

Personally I think the more obscure the clothing, the more desirable and attached to it we become when we finally track it down. My girlfriend is fully aware of what is cool and styling to wear when ripping up the backcountry on her fat skis and what is not. She is familiar with all of the rules: bright colours, white sun glasses, furry bobble hat, and above all; never, ever, wear black. Yet despite this, it doesn’t stop her ongoing search for a down skirt. I mean seriously WTF. A down skirt?

As for the poncho…well as it turned out it got plenty of milage. Initially I cut a daring figure (read git) around the winter Lakeland fells before it accompanied me as I bummed around Africa and Asia for a couple of years. It kept me warm beneath the desert stars in the Spanish Sahara, and I wore it atop Indonesian volcanoes as the dawn broke. It even came on that Himalayan trip as an extra insulating ground layer beneath my Karrimat (Does anyone remember Karrimats?).

So my friends I say to you follow your gear lust this Christmas, hopefully it’ll bring you years of fabulous memories of great days in the mountains. Now if only Haglofs would bring out a synthetic down poncho….

We’re giving a free avalanche safety lecture at the Mountain spirit shop in Aviemore at 7pm on Saturday January 2nd. There’s a rumour that there will be free beer and Haglofs goodies.