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Why is outdoor gear so ugly? The weird world of performance outerwear
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eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Why is outdoor gear so ugly? The weird world of performance outerwear on 12/13/2010 07:37:41 MST Print View

a few choice excerpts ... gear as substitute for our abilities???? ... NEVER !!!!

Adventure gear deploys the classic trick that marketing plays on the consumer, that sense that only certain equipment will do. We buy into it so readily that we convince ourselves we need things that we don't – especially men, who are natural gear que-rs. Is the equipment a substitute for our physical abilities? Here I am with a mountain to climb. I'm togged up in technical gear. I haven't done any exercise in two years but – technically – I'm ready.


Of course, the excessive detailing on that shoe, indeed on much adventure clothing, is a form of decoration. Those ribs, stripes and seams are meant to connote performance. They aim to awaken in the potential buyer a sense of his latent potential. And that psychological effect should not be underestimated. You want to buy something that makes you feel like you can take on the wilderness, that you are protected and empowered.


Part of the problem is the heavy branding – we look owned. The adventure clothing industry is years behind the fashion world, which has long since recognised the seductive appeal of non-conspicuous branding, subtle details such as the four stitches that signify a Martin Margiela jumper. By contrast, adventure clothing brands have information that they are desperate to convey. A good deal of clever design has gone into these clothes. The evidence of it is daubed on sleeves, lapels, trouser legs and shoes: Polartec, Titanium, Paclite, Pro Shell, Soft Shell, Triclimate, Windwall, eVent, Power Stretch and – my favourite – HemLock. Each of these is a registered trademark, each one a patented material or system. Technical clothing comes with its own language, the language of performance. The marketing strategy revolves around presenting clothes as engineering. Sometimes, though, I suspect that we are being blinded with pseudo-science.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: ugly gear on 12/13/2010 07:51:50 MST Print View

While I agree with the writer's overarching thesis, the examples he uses betray a rather substantial lack of actualy knowledge. I can call a building ugly, but I'm not a qualified architecture critic, and shouldn't be allowed to publish as one.


patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
Re: re: ugly gear on 12/13/2010 08:30:32 MST Print View

I would not say should not be allowed to comment.. but in al reality who is going to listen to you if you have no credentials? I cant say i don't also agree to an extent with the thought behind the writers rant. However i think some of this stuff really does work and makes life much more easy. The real question is when is enough enough and when does it stop. The way modern day society is set up and with people being so motivated by STUFF it never does! Gear dorks label whores and un fit men unite lol.

Oliver Nissen
(olivernissen) - MLife

Locale: Yorkshire Dales
Re: Re: re: ugly gear on 12/13/2010 08:52:44 MST Print View

A small part of me wishes the author of this article was right, but so little of what he says has any grain of truth to it at all...

Fortunately the comments left by most readers put him right, which made for much better reading. Journalism at some of its worst.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Outdoor Gear on 12/13/2010 09:41:07 MST Print View

I don't really agree with this on the grounds that branding like what is discussed is much more pervasive throughout the clothing industry than the writer suggests. Yes, these garments are technical in nature, and might therefore label one of those branded technical aspects in addition to the brand of the manufacturer (ex. integral designs + eVent), but I hardly think it's out of character compared to a lot of "everyday" clothing items. Last I checked Ralph Lauren is still putting a little polo player on almost every piece of clothing they make. And when is the last time you watched a sporting event where a team wasn't plastered with the Nike swoosh, Reebok, or UA? Or saw a woman's purse with an LV stamped all over it? I've seen quite a few pieces of technical gear with branding subtler than these examples. Montbell uses a basic, color-matched, stitching from what I've seen that blends in quite well; I've seen TNF doing this on some items too.

In my mind there are two distinctions much clearer than the one the author is trying to make. Bargain brands compared to higher end brands in any clothing genre, and formal wear compared to informal wear. If you look at these two distinctions we find many of our technical garments falling into the higher end range and in the informal range. Both of which already have a propensity for branding. And here I would argue that technical gear is actually more justified in their branding than those non-technical items. Will my eVent rain jacket perform better than a bargain brand rain jacket not using eVent? In many ways, yes it will. But will my Ralph Lauren polo perform better than a polo from Wal-Mart? Maybe, it could have a better cut, or it might last longer, but the distinctions are not nearly as clear. The vanity associated with purchasing branded, non-technical items is much less justifiable and much more prevalent than that associated with technical wear.

Aaron Reichow

Locale: Northern Minnesota
re on 12/13/2010 11:12:23 MST Print View

I agree with some of his points- technical clothes are often incorrectly presented as engineering and that there is a lot of pseudo-science hiding behind proprietary names. That's nothing new, nor is that observation; that kind of hype exists because we are a community constantly looking for the next real engineering improvement.

However, his overall thesis is shallow and wrongheaded. More than anything else, it seems an attempt to justify the fact that he doesn't like the aesthetic of outdoor gear and prefers something more understated and neutral. Fine- if you don't need its functionality, don't wear it for fashion's sake. That's not why it's there. If you want to climb Everest with waxed canvas cut like an Armani suit and layer with a handmade loose-knit jumper, have at it.

Besides, I like lime, blood red, and tangerine. I like Dark Honey, Miro Blue, Fatigue/Forest and Mango. So sue me. :)

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
shoes and color rant on 12/13/2010 11:14:32 MST Print View

"Of course, the excessive detailing on that shoe, indeed on much adventure clothing, is a form of decoration. Those ribs, stripes and seams are meant to connote performance. They aim to awaken in the potential buyer a sense of his latent potential. And that psychological effect should not be underestimated. You want to buy something that makes you feel like you can take on the wilderness, that you are protected and empowered. "

This guy does not know what he talking about The ribs and most of the stripes on athletic shoes and boots serve a purpose of added lateral support on the shoe. For example the Adidas 3 stripe logo serves to functions lateral support in the arch area of the shoe and a logo for the company.

But I would like to touch on the bright colors of old still being used in backpack like hunter orange,reds,yellows. Even the light Grey trim on the Osprey Talon that gets dirty before you walk out of the door of the shop. And other bright colors in backpacking still being used.

The bright colors are like pollution for the eyes here we are out in the wilderness we can see a person 1/2 mile away. I like to have colors blend in instead of color that can be seen from a half a mile away that say here I am.

I sometimes think the Backpacking Industry is in collusion with the state and national park rangers services so they can spot us easily.
I understand the bright colors for rescues purpose or if your hiking in a place were hunter are.

But I wish the backpacking industry would give 4 to 6 choices in equipment colors 2 to 3 in bright garish colors for people who want be seen. 2 to 3 in solid colors[ not camouflage] that blend in with the surrounding of nature for people that don't want to be seen and hike in peace.

Edited by socal-nomad on 12/13/2010 11:15:22 MST.

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
Cover Your Logos! on 12/13/2010 11:19:42 MST Print View

I hate to drag "their" advertising with me into the forest. I'm not a bill board!

I try to cut off or cover the logos. I really don't see them, but if I'm advertising, I want to be paid for with some free gear with the logos on it ! ! ! !!

I'd like to see some labels that say "NO LOGO" with which I could cover those darn embroidered logos! ! !! !

I do love the gear, though, and the obsessive, compulsive ruminating over it!! ! ! !

I'd also like to see more gear made from non-petroleum base, like wool or hemp.

Edited by ftm1776 on 12/13/2010 11:21:31 MST.

chris kersten
(xanadu) - F

Locale: here
I like the colors on 12/13/2010 11:40:02 MST Print View

I hit the dollar menu at mcdonalds yesterday and the girl at the window said I looked cute in my blue marmot beanie. I felt good. In a few years,(when she turns 18)I might ask her out. Thanks marmot.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Logos are neccessary on 12/13/2010 11:54:49 MST Print View

How else are we to determine the outdoor abilities of others?

especially now, that there are no BPL ranks anymore?

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
well on 12/13/2010 12:07:37 MST Print View

the author may or may not be correct

but there must be a reason why they put all those big shinny logos on my jackets ... not only "ARCTERYX" ... but also "GORETEX PRO SHELL"

you know the bomber rain jacket i wear to the grocery store through raging sprinkling machines and brave preying (urban) cougars ...

hmmmmm ....

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/13/2010 12:10:35 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Why is outdoor gear so ugly? The weird world of performance outerwear on 12/13/2010 13:56:39 MST Print View

Of course a huge amount of the decoration is marketing, aimed at the wanna-bees. Big market, big dollars, there. So what? As long as it does not actually detract from the functionality of the gear, it does not matter too much, and the increased sales usually mean a lower cost.

There's an obvious exception here: those parts of the cottage industry which are focused on performance and walkers. The difference is visible. That said, there is no reason for their gear to look daggy, and having a distinctive look helps even them.

Does the author of the article have much knowledge of what he is talking about? Probably not, but so what? Who cares? A cheap shot. Ignore, and keep walking.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Logos are neccessary on 12/13/2010 17:27:19 MST Print View

"How else are we to determine the outdoor abilities of others?"

By their deeds shall ye know them. Think Skurka, Sawchuk/Chenault, Dial/Keck, Townsend, and numerous trip reports by others less well known but highly capable nonetheless.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: Logos are neccessary on 12/13/2010 17:35:08 MST Print View

Yeah, when Ed V was with TNF he was the man. Now that he's old and strugglin he's reduced to EBFA gear. HA HA what a wuss!

OK OK I was feelin loose when I wrote this FWIW its tongue in cheek

Edited by WoodenWizard on 12/14/2010 14:17:34 MST.

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Back when North Face was not a logo on 12/13/2010 18:07:39 MST Print View

20 years and still kicking. The only logo is on the sleeve.

20 year north face

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Colors, etc. on 12/14/2010 01:00:21 MST Print View

The main piece of outdoor gear I feel is WAAAAY too flashy are shoes/boots.

Some hiking footwear, usually low cut shoes, are SO flashy they look like clown shoes.Even if they were exactly what I wanted I wouldn't buy them . I'd be embarassed to wear them.

I do have an electric blue EB First Ascent Down Sweater but that's because it was the only sale jacket in my size. Plus it's not a bad color for around town. Normally, on a trip, I'd wear it under a shell or in my sleeping bag anyway.

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
"Why is outdoor gear so ugly? The weird world of performance outerwear" on 12/14/2010 08:37:28 MST Print View

Ugly, weird clown shoes may be some peoples' interpretation, but HYOH.
I live in these and on old pair of sportiva's. If everyone chooses to buy funky colors, then companies will be forced by the demand to make more and more until the world is flooded in fuschia and mint! Horrors! Hello Kitty backpacks on the PCT, YIKES!

patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
5 fingahs guy!! on 12/14/2010 11:47:35 MST Print View

I spent the last 10 months in the 5 fingahs. Yes they are ghey/silly as hell looking but who cares when your feet are cozy and your knees and hips don't ache!! I am def one of those people that could give a crap what other people think about me thought so? If i did care most of my gear would be a problem. People worried about what i or they look like are exactly the kinda people i stay far far away from anyway.

Edited by apbt1976 on 12/14/2010 11:48:38 MST.

William Brown
(MatthewBrown) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mtns
Subliminal on 12/14/2010 21:18:34 MST Print View

I wish the author of the article would also focus on the subliminal messages incorporated into alpine gear. If I hold my Mountainfitter drybags at a 45 degree angle and look at them in the mirror backwards, I can see the word "SEXY" printed into the cuben fabric.


I think not.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Why is outdoor gear so ugly? on 12/14/2010 22:38:57 MST Print View

It's going to take all my control not to hold my Mountainfitter drybag up to the light now, next time I pull it out.