Don’t Shoot Me! Red Katherine Smith, Keene Valley, New York
“Don’t Shoot Me! Red” is actually a color rather than a garment name. But whenever hunting season in the Adirondacksrolls around, I get out that old reliable red jacket that I bought more than 23 years ago so that I could walk my dog without being mistaken for a deer.It was so comfortable and good in the wind and cold that it morphed into my winter ski jacket, and so roomy and adjustable that it accommodated my big pregnant belly.My son Tiger took his first run down an Adirondack slope called Skyward while snuggled under that bright red jacket a few weeks before he was born.
On Tiger’s 1st birthday we drove from New York to Homer, Alaska where his Dad had a flying job.In the backcountry I always felt better having that red coat on—years earlier wearing high visibility colors while x-c skiing outside Anchorage had saved me.Beacon-bright colors brought help from afar when I spiral-fractured my leg on a remote mountainside.Lucky for me, backcountry skiers on a distant peak had noticed a bright color moving slowly across a white slope.With binoculars they were able to see my friend Vinny pulling me like a sled by the shoulders of my jacket through the deep, rotten snow.He was working hard to get me and my shattered limb off an avalanche prone exposure.Those good people went and found a rescue sled at the Hatcher Pass hut a few valleys over, and came back to help haul me out.I made it to the E.R. and Vinny went on to open a mountaineering store in Keene Valley, NY that sells Patagonia.
So my story comes full circle.I am back in the Adirondacks again, and two free Patagonia zipper replacements later (I had another son, Cougar, about 14 years ago) I’m still wearing my old red Patagonia jacket during hunting season, for skiing Eastern ice, on trips to the woodpile, and for dog walks on blustery days.Son Tiger, who often burrowed my coat growing up,is 21 now and just as dumb as his Mum when it comes to breaking bones, but my old reliable Patagonia jacket is still washing and wearing remarkably well.Sorry Mountaineer Store, I’d buy a new coat from you, but this one has plenty of life left, and that bright red, “Don’t Shoot Me” color may yet save mine!
I first discovered Patagonia during my college days. A blue pullover, stand up shorts, pink pile pullover and a purple synchilla pullover were my first purchases. They were purchased at a Patagonia outlet store and quite the score for the student. It was an investment in longevity and durability. They became my standard attire in the outdoors and through college, medical school, residency and beyond.
I remember wearing the blue pullover into the operating room during medical school as it was the identical color as my scrubs. In my nervousness, I forgot that I still had it on. The nurse quickly ‘kicked me out’ of there. The stand up shorts were worn until threadbare and I am now on my second pair. I wish I still had the pink pullover as I gave it away in a moment of youth inspired naive foolishness.
Thirty years later my purple synchilla pullover still looks new. This is my pullover of choice and has been with me thru my life’s ups and downs which have shaped me into the person I am today. It has seen many days of work in the clinic, delivering babies, skiing, hiking, travel in multiple states and foreign countries and 3 relationships. It is unlikely that I will be able to wear it out. Nor do I feel that I will ever “outgrow” it as it has become a fixture in my wardrobe and life.
Patagonia is my outfitter of choice and I am a lifelong customer.
Papi’s Red Fleece Fannie Watkinson, Lincoln, Massachusettes
This story is part mine, part my dad’s.The red marsupial fleece came into my Papi’s life just before I did.My dad, that fleece and I have been linked ever since.In one of the first pictures of my dad and me together, we are ready to head out to “Special Place” where he used to lullaby me to sleep every day.He is holding me, swaddled in layers of material while he has his red fleece snug up around his neck.
Growing up, I have no memories of a time when that fleece was not in the picture: hiking in the Whites, splitting wood in the backyard for our stove, cross country skiing under the stars, during bleary-eyed Christmas mornings…Papi’s Red Fleece became inseparable from the person I knew as my dad, Papi.It was only a matter of time before I got my hands on his fleece and wore it myself.Knobby-kneed and probably younger than ten, I felt grown up and invincible when I wore Papi’s Red Fleece draped over me like a dress.It was warmer, softer and more comforting than any other garment I owned and it had all of my dad’s memories laced into its fibers.
We now wear-share the red fleece that is almost 25 years old.He was sporting it the day he spotted the four wolf pups in Yellowstone two summers ago and I was wearing it while applying to college.Papi’s Red Fleece was on him when he finished his third Pan-Mass Challenge and was out with us on the Haute Route in the Swiss Alps.It kept me warm in the fierce wind of Boulder, CO while my ultimate Frisbee team fought at Collegiate Nationals.This red fleece has been a constant in both the day-in, day-out moments and the bigger milestones we have shared.Even though it has been around forever and been used and abused endlessly by two generations simultaneously, it shows almost no signs of aging. That small hole in its sleeve?It was acquired before I was born during his friend’s riotous bachelor party when someone set off fireworks indoors…
Intertwined in the memories are the values I’ve been taught through the years.They parallel those that I have learned Patagonia embodies: honesty, integrity, love of the outdoors, attention to detail, dedication to quality and, above all, fulfilling our responsibility to better this world.I cannot imagine sharing my life with a better fleece or a better dad. It is an enduring celebration of the times we have been so fortunate to have together and the miraculous grounds we have stomped.I am in a relationship with Patagonia for life!
The Hand-Me-Down Shari Williamson, Bozeman, Montana
I don’t actually know the original owner of this little red and purple fleece jacket. I do not know several names scrawled on the tag, but I know some of them … We found this jacket in a large ragged cardboard box of hand-me-downs from a family with three kids. The jacket came to them from a co-worker with two boys.
Next, with our two girls, this jacket saw hundreds of miles of trail, many nights in tents, from back roads to back yards, and every other day in between.
We passed on the jacket a few years ago, and saw it in use for two more kids before they handed it down again, in a ragged old cardboard box.
Kids, as is their job, grow fast. And it seems items made for kids these days reflect a similar characteristic―wear fast. But this little fleece jacket is still going strong after 12 kids (maybe more). Thanks Patagonia, for keeping the hand-me-down tradition going strong.
This vest was my first piece of Patagonia gear. I purchased it in the fall of 1979 in Salem, OR, where I lived at the time. I bought it at a hardware store that had an outdoor gear department which had a small selection of clothing. I don’t recall that there existed in Salem at the time anything like a specialty outdoor gear store. Compared to the present, Patagonia was still relatively obscure although already had a reputation for garments noted for quality and durability for the hard core. As a natural gearhead that reputation appealed to me and no doubt helped spur my purchase.
If a piece of clothing could talk, this vest could regale a listener with myriad tales of adventure. It has been on my back from one end of the country to the other, from steelheading in Alaska to fly fishing on the Gulf Coast on brisk winter days. Between those points it has been a constant companion while skiing, back country and resort, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, horseback riding, ranch work, and lots and lots of fishing. In addition to adventuring it has served as a regular wardrobe item for casual wear. Following the purchase of this vest I evolved into a devoted Patagoniac.
Patagonia gear just doesn’t wear out. For example, I still wear a shelled capilene jacket I bought 27 years ago. When the zipper finally failed about 5 years ago Patagonia replaced the zipper at no charge even though I would have been happy to pay.
I saw an article a while back that said some vintage Patagonia articles were fetching very high prices, up to like $4000, on eBay. I briefly wondered what my vest might go for but quickly concluded, no f’n way! Like the commercial says, “Priceless!”
The Consummate Purple Hat Andy Walker, Pasadena California
While there might be Patagonia gear in my collection I love more, this piece wins for consistency.
I received my black and purple fleece hat in the late 1980s as a gift from my mom to keep me warm when I was in high school. I immediately adopted it, as this new synthetic was a cozier alternative to wool. That was over 25 years ago. It has since been with me as far north as the LeConte Glacier in Alaska’s Inside Passage, as far south as Torres del Paine national park in Chile and a myriad of more humble places in between.
I can’t say I would have ever picked purple, but somehow, for work or for play, it seems to go with everything and performs like a champ. It fluffs nicely when I wash it and the fit is still snug. There is simply no compelling reason to replace it. Once in awhile it unsettles me to still have it, as it is such a part of my routine gear that I know would feel a tangible loss without it. My experience with this hat sums up why Patagonia gear is worth it: buy it once; wear it for decades.
Before there was Patagonia, there was Chouinard Equipment. It produced the first climbing equipment for many of us. I bought my first carabiners, nuts, sky hooks, wall hammer, and ice axes from the archetypal Chouinard Equipment catalog.
The Chouinard Equipment Rugby Shirt brings back memories of my first climbs at end of 1960s and the 1970s.
The photo is Gary Lane and me, racked and ready for the NW Face of Half Dome in 1974. Gary’s haul bag was hand-sewn, a knock-off of the one I’m lugging, an original Warren Harding B.A.T. haul bag. My haul bag is now at Ken Yagers’ Yosemite Climbing Museum. I recently dug out photos of the first ascent of the West Face of Mount Watkins, and noted that the rugby shirt made that climb as well.
A few of you may enjoy the recollections - or like me, the mortification of our de rigueur climbing costumes. We really believed that you needed knickers and rugby shirts to be climbers. Some, like Gary Lane in this photo, made his own. I bought mine from Chouinard Equipment.
Could have been worse. The motifs of the time for our urban brethren were tie-dyed Ts, bellbottoms, and platform shoes.
When I stop to think, I doubt if there have been 30 days in the last 30 years when I haven’t been wearing something from Patagonia. The 30 years or so in between buying the Snap-T at Paragon Sports in Manhattan, on a visit to NYC around 1983, and the photo my wife took an hour or two ago. In ’83 I didn’t know what fleece was and I’d never heard of Patagonia but I was hooked. Thirty years on and I’m still wearing it. I wish I still looked and worked as good as it does. It has outlasted everything and seen off three pairs of Stand-up Shorts.
The Snap-T has done just about everything I’ve done in the last 3 decades: hanging out, working, hiking, skiing, kayaking but mostly mountain-biking.
In the late 1990s I was living in England, desperate after my divorce, and had lost interest in my corporate career. (Did I ever really have any?) At 40 my knees had gone from so much football (soccer) and I was in the pub most days. A younger friend, Jerry Twigg, persuaded me to buy a mountain bike and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history. He went on to become the British MTB Downhill Champion 2 or 3 times and I went on to regain my sanity, my love of living as close to the edge as I dare, to break numerous bones in numerous falls, and to enjoy 20 years of incredible health.
On that day in Manhattan I unknowingly bought into 1% for the planet as much as the Bauhaus approach, the quality and the function. That ethos, awakened in me by Chouinard’s vision, has embedded itself into my way of life… yesterday UPS returned my Infurno jacket following a Patagonia (free) rebuild, after 10 years of every Winter day wear.
My R1 Pullover provided me with more comfort, both physically and emotionally, than any other piece of clothing I have ever worn.
I purchased my R1 Pullover about the same time I started receiving emails about my upcoming 20th high school reunion. I grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, which I managed to escape thanks in part to Patagonia’s catalogs showing people living a very different life than mine. I continue following that path which eventually led me to sitting in a porta-ledge 1,500ft off the ground in Pakistan. Using our sat-phone, I typed out a short email to the reunion organizer, “Sorry, I can’t make the reunion, I am kind of busy.” I attached the photo of me standing next to Sargent Iqbal and Captain Abdullah and the rest of the special forces (see photo). I failed to mention in the email that I had not been abducted by these stern looking men and in fact they had become our good friends during the course of the expedition. I guess the photo was a big hit at the reunion.
Since that summer, my R1 was my go to layer for a host of crazy adventures and mishaps during the next four years, protecting me from the cold and even some “explosive” conditions.
Some of the expeditions with my R1 Pullover include plunging into the partially frozen Zanskar River during a month-long winter trek in Ladakh, India. Then there was the time in Southeast Alaska, after being tent bound for a month on a glacier, that I decided to celebrate the onset of good weather by dousing some rocks with white gas and showing off my juggling skills (see photo). My R1 did a valiant job protecting me from my poor coordination and I only lost all the exposed hair on my arms. Then, after getting marooned in Lukla, Nepal by a snow storm, I once helped a Nepali friend process some home made Rashki (really strong whiskey). Everything was going great until the ancient still blew up coating me and my R1 with alcohol, causing a prolonged period of intoxication.
My last journey with my R1 Pullover occurred in 2004. Three friends and I embarked on an epic 8,000 mile dirtbag adventure, retracing the route described in the epic survival novel The Long Walk. We traveled along the frozen tundra of Siberia, across the dunes of the Gobi Desert, over the Himalayas into India. In Calcutta, I hand-washed my smelly clothes and hung them on a line to dry. When I returned, all my clothes were there except the R1 pullover! While I was heartbroken at the loss of my constant companion for the last four years, I couldn’t help admire the thief’s taste in outerwear. My R1 Pullover has a unique burn hole (from the fire juggling incident) and I always keep a look out for it, not to get the Pullover back, but to hear about its journeys.
Though my Patagonia men’s Synchilla T-Snap has not had the longest life thus far, it has certainly had an exciting one. I got my synchilla as a gift back in 2008, before embarking on my cross-country bike trip from Savannah to Santa Monica. My synchilla became so much more than just a fleece: it was the only reason I could get out of my sleeping bag on cold Colorado mornings. It was my soft, warm pillow as I collapsed into an exhausted sleep every night. It was my napkin, my tissue, my sweat towel, and often my lunch platter. In my photos from the trip, the scenery changes: from the deep South, to the Ozark mountains, to the Great Plains, to the Rockies, to the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert, over the San Bernardino Range and down to Los Angeles. What remains constant, however, is my faded, sweat-stained royal blue fleece.
Five years later, my Synchilla remains a staple of every bike trip I make. It obediently suffocated under several bungee cords on the back of my bike as I biked the length of Vermont four times, from Massachusetts to Canada. Last summer, it was my sole consolation during long, cold nights in coastal towns of Washington, Oregon, and California. During the day, it uncomplainingly weathered torrential rain and thick streams of mud and grit (on the rare occasions I could convince myself to take it off). Next summer, you can bet it will be strapped on the back of my bike, all the way from Amsterdam to Barcelona. And here I am, lying on the couch, perpetually wrapped in the warmth of my fleece. My most loyal friend, most prized possession: my synchilla.