The Cleanest Line

Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit Patagonia.com to see what we do.

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    On Tumplines

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    Today’s post – about one of the simplest pieces of gear we’ve ever made – comes from Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. It originally appeared in the 1980 Chouinard Equipment Catalog. [Photo: Yvon Chouinard screengrab from The Simplest Solution and 180° South.]

    When I was at a ski show recently, walking by the booth of one of the largest pack manufacturers, a salesman/designer insisted I come in to look over his new pack design. He was terribly proud of it. We spent twenty full minutes going over its sophisticated load distribution features and anatomically S-curved frame, welded with tungsten/inert gas and its wonderful bag made of 420-denier Super-K-coated eight-ounce parapack nylon held together with 18 stitches per inch of cotton-wrapped Dacron thread. Finally, after reaching a fever pitch of enthusiasm and exhausting every aerospace term he knew, he stepped back beaming proudly. As his eyes gradually returned to their respective sockets he asked, “Well Mr. Chouinard, how do you like it?” I shrugged. “It looks like you’ve put a lot of thought into this thing,” I said, “and it certainly looks and feels good with all this display foam in it. But I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. I carry all my loads with a tump line now. And with one of those it doesn’t matter what you have on your back – a fearsome astro loader like this or a sack of potatoes.”

    That riled him a bit, but he didn’t know how I’d reached my tump line conclusion. In 1968, in the jungles of Colombia, I injured my neck while diving into a shallow river. Shortly after that faceplant, the muscles on one side of my neck atrophied, which in turn, has caused me classic back problems – nagging lower back pains and various muscle spasms. I’ve seen orthopedists and chiropractors and I’ve read every book I can on back problems. The consensus is this: most back problems are caused by a weak back or stomach muscles. Great. So how do I exercise muscles that have nerve damage? And I can’t stand to do any sort of exercise for exercise sake anyway...

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    Travel Riding

    The Patagonia crew extends a hearty welcome to Josh Dirksen. Josh joins fellow snowboarders Ryland Bell, Forrest Shearer and Taro Tamai in our ambassador lineup. Josh is widely known as one of the great understated riders in the sport. With over 20 years snowboarding and a pro career spanning over a decade, Josh is one of the few athletes in the circuit who's been riding professionally longer than he can remember. We caught up with Josh recently in Europe, where he spends part of the year, the other parts being spent in the search for snow and surf. He can still be found in his long-time home base of Bend, Oregon a few months out of the year.


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    [Josh Dirksen, enjoying home-sweet-tent - his living quarters during 3 weeks of filming for Deeper in Alaska. All photos courtesy Josh Dirksen collection.]

    TCL:  You have a home in Oregon, a wife in Switzerland and travel all over the world each year. Do you have a favorite place to come back to?

    Josh: These days it does not really matter which place I head back to. It is more important who is around when I get there. I always look forward to seeing my wife, family, and friends wherever they are at.

    Continue reading "Travel Riding" »

    The 48-Hour Dress

    by Brittany Griffith

    As the sun heated up our little apartment, I drifted out of my dream and awoke to a bizarre scene: people sprawled all over the floor, futon and tiny twin beds…I could hear chatter in half a dozen languages, clinking plates and glasses… the faint smell of tobacco, espresso and butter… a marching band playingoutside the open window. We had all really tied one on last night (and a chunk of the next morning) for Zoe and Max’s wedding in Chamonix, France. My muddied mind failed to function. I tried to assess the situation. What time was it? What felt worse: my jetlag or my hangover? Why had I slept in my dress? Who… the… hell… was typing?

    I rolled past JT, got out of bed, stepped over the floor-bivied Janet, turned the corner, and there was Kelly, on the futon, typing away. Kelly! Was he already writing a TCL post about the wedding? That sneaky bastard!

    “Whatcha writin’, Kelly?” I asked suspiciously. He and I both frequently write posts for The Cleanest Line and I was sure he was trying to beat me to the punch and be the first to write about the wedding. He looked like a little troll, propped up on a cushion, salt-and-pepper mullet wildly disheveled and wearing an unbuttoned rumpled dress shirt and Cap 2 Boxer Briefs (shudder). He was squinting intently at his laptop screen while furiously pecking at the keys. He looked up at me without moving his head, kinda like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

    “Ah… no, no… I’m not really doing anything,” he muttered unconvincingly as he slowly continued to type.

    Damn it! He really was already writing a TCL post about the wedding! Not only was he a better writer than me, he could get up with a Level-10 wedding hangover three hours earlier than me and write! Damn alpinists – why can’t they sleep in like normal people?

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    [Kelly, telepathically dictating to his laptop back down in town, and I on the train up to the reception. Photo: Jen Olson]

    Continue reading "The 48-Hour Dress" »

    Tenkara USA Joins in Sharing Time-Honored Fishing Techniques with Patagonia Japan Employees

    Fishing has always been about being simple, but 15 minutes of trout talk with a czech-nyphing double dropper can sometimes be enough to have you thinking precisely the opposite. A masterful style of fishing recently brought to Western rivers from the mountain waters of Japan presents a welcome antidote to the elaborate (and oftentimes extravagant) style of fishing that's come to dominate the image of fly fishing. Tenkara USA is a company dedicated to this style of fishing, and today's post, from company founder Daniel W. Galhardo, is about sharing the simplicity of fishing with others. - Ed

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    [Dr. Ishigaki doing a tenkara demonstration for Patagonia employees of different Tokyo stores. Photo: Daniel W. Galhardo]

    Today tenkara, Tenkara USA and Patagonia once again crossed paths, this time in Japan with staff from a couple of Patagonia stores in Tokyo.

    At the moment, I am sitting in my tatami room in the town of Kaida Kogen, Nagano prefecture in Japan. We just finished a hot-pot dinner, which topped off a day of teaching tenkara to four Patagonia-Japan employees. Over the next couple of days more people will join the tenkara class.

    Continue reading "Tenkara USA Joins in Sharing Time-Honored Fishing Techniques with Patagonia Japan Employees" »

    Interview: Snowboard Ambassador Ryland Bell

    Gen4_ambass_bell_f11 We're pleased to welcome Ryland Bell to the Patagonia Ambassador lineup. Ryland is a snowboarder who has spent all the summers of his life on boats in the Alaskan village of Elfin Cove (population 20), where his parents fish commercially. He can't think of a winter growing up when he wasn't riding on sleds, skis, inner tubes or whatever could slide downhill, preferably fast. When Ryland was first strapped into a snowboard at age 12 though, he knew he had found it. The 25-year-old rider now spends winter in Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley and spring in Haines, Alaska. We caught up with him to find out more about what it was like growing up on a boat in Alaska - not to mention riding some of the steepest, most remote lines being ridden in North America today, some of which were featured in the film Deeper.

    TCL: What stands out the most about your life growing up in Alaska?

    Ryland: The amount of wilderness, and wildlife.

    TCL: What's your favorite and least favorite thing about life as a fisherman?

    Ryland: Favorite thing, being on the water, and the amazing views. Least favorite thing, getting up at 3 in the morning for weeks on end.

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    [All photos: Abe Blair, courtesy Ryland Bell collection]

    Continue reading "Interview: Snowboard Ambassador Ryland Bell" »

    From the Trenches series - Caring for your Down Clothing

    Trenches Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these more popular questions.

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    How Do I Wash My Down Jacket?

    Ws down sweater Perhaps it due to all the warnings about the perils of wet down, but it seems a lot of people are afraid to wash their down jacket. Down is remarkably tough stuff and though wet down has virtually zero insulation properties, getting it wet doesn’t hurt it in the least. Washing a down jacket is not much harder than washing a pair of jeans. 

    There are 3 things you’ll need to wash your down jacket: down soap, a front load washer, and a dryer with reliably low heat. While you can use regular detergents, they can strip away the natural oils in down and don’t always rinse out cleanly so I recommend using a cleaner specifically designed for down. I find NikWax® Down Wash works really well but there are several other effective down cleaners on the market.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Caring for your Down Clothing" »

    Advocate Weeks: Support Local Conservation Efforts with Patagonia Footwear

    Jax-Patagonia Advocate Weeks All 2We’re bringing our partnership with 1% for the Planet to the local level. During Advocate Weeks, the Patagonia Footwear team donates $10 for every pair of Patagonia shoes sold to a local non-profit group whose mission includes environmental advocacy, conservation or education. Today marks the beginning of the program in our Patagonia Retail Stores and select Patagonia Footwear dealers across the United States.

    We piloted this program with a few retail partners last fall to help launch our minimalist Advocate moc co-branded with 1% for the Planet. Some of our retail partners are quite creative with their in-store displays like Jax Mercantile in Bellvue, Colorado (pictured), while others like Mountain Sports in Flagstaff, Arizona went all-out and produced a playful video to promote their program.

    To find a participating store near you, check out the Advocate Weeks microsite hosted by 1% for the Planet. We'll be adding to the list again in late July. Patagonia Retail Stores that carry footwear will run their Advocate program for the entire month of June and have selected local water-based organizations to support Our Common Waters.

    Please note: this program does not apply to online orders.

    It's the Man That Makes the Clothes

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    Sartorialists say that clothing makes the man, and in that spirit – meet Christo Grayling.

    Editor's note: Patagonia clothing designer, John Rapp, shares the type of letter we love to receive from our customers. All photos courtesy of Christo Grayling.

    I recently had a pair of 15-year-old board shorts sent to me from a Canadian who has literally paddled and surfed the world wearing them. Faded, patched, torn and they are replete with a modified "Sunbrella" fabric rear as he lost the trunk’s original undercarriage years ago.

    Continue reading "It's the Man That Makes the Clothes" »

    New Patagonia Surf Digital Catalog for Spring 2011

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    Our latest Surf digital catalog celebrates the 20th Anniversary of The Surfer’s Journal with a full multimedia experience. Catch video of Yvon Chouinard’s visit with TSJ founders plus podcasts and articles from the magazine’s archives. Just like our print catalog, the digital version is loaded with stunning photography and the latest surf gear from Patagonia and FCD Surfboards, along with bonus features like the new preOccupations video from Chris Malloy and Jason Baffa. Have a look. If you like what you see, please share it with your friends and family.

    [Chris Malloy looks into the eye of another perfect storm in Northern Polynesia. Photo: Seth Stafford]

    Sporting-Sails – A Downhill Family Tradition Since 1977

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    When he's not in the office developing Patagonia wetsuits and surf gear, you'll find Billy Smith and his crew carving the hills around Ventura and Santa Barbara on their skateboards. In fact, they're pretty hard to miss. Billy and his brother Nick are the creators of the Sporting-Sail, a parachute-style speed break that was originally conceived by their grandfather H W Smith Jr.

    My brother and I were rummaging around the attic of our grandfather's Colorado home looking for fireworks and schnapps, when we discovered an old carton filled with what looked like colorful kites or capes. Not knowing what they were, we asked our grandfather. He replied, "Ski-Klippers. I made them. They'll slow you down and they're a lot of fun. Back in the day we lit up the slopes, 20 or more deploying at once. We put on a show and people would cheer from the chairlifts. Just weaving in and out of turns, carving lines in the snow and enjoying what the mountain air had to offer. The sun would shine through and illuminate us with various shades of color and light. Against a blue sky and a snowy white backdrop covered in Aspen trees, it was the most beautiful sight you’ll ever see. It’s easy, you boys should give 'em a try.” So we did, and immediately we were inspired. The feeling was as close to human flight as we had ever experienced on land.

    [Patagonia wetsuit developer, Billy Smith, harnesses wind power to control his speed in Hawai'i. All photos courtesy of Billy Smith and Sporting-Sails.]

    Continue reading "Sporting-Sails – A Downhill Family Tradition Since 1977" »

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