The Cleanest Line

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    What Inspired You?

    We recently received this email from Ross Curwen, a reader from, as he says, "rainy old England."

    RossJust a letter saying thanks to The Cleanest Line community from rainy old England. About a year ago I injured my shoulder. This meant I had to cut right back on two things pretty huge to me: surfing and climbing. I was a bit mopey for a bit.

    I needed to have something to maintain my fitness. Gyms, road running, cycling are all good but they're missing something. That's when I found trail running, through the Patagonia site. I don't have the huge expanse of mountains and national parks but I am spoilt with miles of cliff paths and dartmoor close to hand.

    A year later and I am hooked. I love the rhythm of the trails, the temperature changes on your face emerging from dappled tree lines onto exposed cliffs. Like a lot of people in the community it becomes a bit of obsession. I'm at work knowing I've got shoes and a head torch waiting for me and trails to conquer later.

    I wouldn't have this drive without reading the submissions on The Cleanest Line. I read the stories of all the different sports, trips and adventures and it inspires me to make my own. So all in all thank you to all of you and keep going as you are.

    This short letter got us thinking about how we got started doing the things we love to do. Surely, we thought there are lots of interesting stories out there among our readers and we thought it'd be cool to hear some of them. If you have a story to tell, by all means chime in!

    I'll go first...

    Continue reading "What Inspired You?" »

    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" »

    R.I.P., Shoe Tree

    Shoe tree Back in 1986, Life magazine christened the 250 miles of US Highway 50 between Fallon and Ely, Nevada with the moniker “The Loneliest Road in America.” In a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade the Nevada Department of Tourism seized on the title and began a marketing campaign complete with loneliest road signs, survival guides and passports that could be stamped at various destinations along the route. Whether because of that marketing push, or simply the increased popularity of the American Southwest, Highway 50 isn’t nearly so lonely anymore. I count myself among its more frequent travelers.

    To be sure, Highway 50 in central Nevada is still wonderfully desolate and real landmarks are few and far between. One of these was the Shoe Tree. As trees go it wasn’t all that spectacular; a lone cottonwood standing next to a perennially dry creek bed 110 miles east of Reno. What made the Shoe Tree special is that it was festooned with thousands of old shoes either hanging off the branches or just as likely, lying in a massive pile below the tree. As is often the case for such things, the origins of the Shoe Tree are apocryphal. All the stories are similar, starting with a couple, either recently or about to be married, and either traveling to - or maybe from - Reno, and an argument that ended or began with shoes being thrown into the tree, ostensibly so the bride wouldn't be able to run away.

    [The Shoe Tree frames central Nevada's Desatoya Range on a chill winter day. Photo: Kirsten Mashinter.]

    Continue reading "R.I.P., Shoe Tree" »

    Product Testing - New R1 & R2 at the top of Colorado

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our Athletes & Ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear.
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    P8280700 Field Report: Climbing Mt Moriah, NV & Mt Elbert, CO
    Conditions: Cool & Windy
    Products Tested: W's R1®, M's R2®
    Tested by: localcrew and Dr. Liz

    With help from our friends at Polartec®, we've recently updated our Regulator® fleece. The information we have on our website says that this new stuff is warmer, lighter, and more compressible than the Regulator® fleeces that came before it. This is all true. But I’ve always wondered what phrases like “29% more breathable” (the R2® ) or “23% more compressible” (the R1® ) mean. How do you turn stuff  like that into something that makes sense? If my new R1® is 23% more compressible than my  old one, will I have space in my pack for another Snickers? (yippee!) Will 29% greater breathability on the R2® mean a 29% greater chance that my sweetie will smell my too-often loved, too-seldom washed Capilene® underlayers when we go hiking? ....Yippee!

    It was time to find out. OldSchool had picked up a box of some of the latest and greatest Capilene® and Regulator® stuff. It was only right to offer him a little help getting familiar with all these redesigned products. My little margarita and I had some hikes coming up, so I roped her into the deal. Old School handed us our goodies and our assignment: for Liz, the ladies' R1® Jacket; I got the men’s R2® Jacket. Ladies first . . .

    Women’s R1 Jacket
    W's R1 I, like many women I know, tend to have a very sensitive internal thermostat. I can go from chilly to burning alive in moments. For that reason, I am a fan of layers and I have a wide variety of layering options. The Capilene® 2 and 4 as well as the stretch velocity pullover are a few favorites for chilly outdoor running and hiking. For even cooler hikes, I always pack my Down Sweater and Houdini. When I was recently given the opportunity to test the R1® jacket, I was not sure that this addition could add a significant contribution to my array of layers. But I was wrong.

    [The summit trail on the way to the top of Eastern Nevada's Mount Moriah. Photo: localcrew]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - New R1 & R2 at the top of Colorado" »

    Product Testing - Backpacking with the New Capilene® 3

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our Athletes & Ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear.
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    Field Report: Backpacking into the Ionian Basin. Klake11837

    Conditions: Rain, then Sierra sun.

    Product Tested: Capilene 3 Midweight Crew

    This season we’ve revised our Capilene® Midweight Baselayer, long our most popular cold weather Capilene. It’s now made from Polartec® Power Dry® 5.4-oz polyester, a double-knit fabric with 65% recycled content. The bi-component fabric matches an absorbent inner layer with an outer layer designed to spread moisture quickly, and the new fabric also has improved stretch and durability. But the first thing users of the new Capilene® 3 might notice is the feel; it is much softer against the skin than the old stuff. And it doesn’t just feel better, the new fabric dries 130% faster and wicks 38% better as well. Along with the new fabric, it gets new seaming and fit, making what we think has always been the best baselayer on the market even better.

    So, you might be saying, “It all sounds good, but what does this mean for the person in the field? Are these changes really noticeable?” Good question, questions we have asked ourselves. Our products have always been tested by our Ambassadors and product testers. These folks no doubt give outstanding insights but most are elite athletes, a far cry from the rest of us. So some of us Reno folks are giving our only slightly biased field reports on some of the new fall gear. We may not have a fabric lab but we have lots of mountains. Like most of you, we’re not pros, but still love to get out there…

    [Finally, Old School takes in the Ionian Basin. Photo:Sally Loomis]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Backpacking with the New Capilene® 3" »

    From Yellowstone to Reno

    Skye-HOL10 catalogOn the inside back cover of our 2010 Holiday Catalog is an image that originally appeared on the cover of our 1990 winter Kid’s Catalog. Not one person here in mail order even worked for Patagonia back then but nonetheless it’s a picture many of us know well. The photograph is of a little girl looking out her window at a buffalo munching grass on a snowy day in Yellowstone National Park. The reason we all know it so well is that Skye, the little girl in the picture, has worked here since 2004. When the picture reappeared in the current Holiday Catalog, I knew there must be a story behind that Yellowstone childhood and how she came to work here at Patagonia.

    The story begins in England where her mom (a Brit) and dad (an American) met while in college. They married and returned to the US, living in Boston where her dad found work as an operating technician at Massachusetts General Hospital. But the story really gets under way in 1973 with a newspaper ad, an ad for the Winter Keeper position in the Canyon Village area of Yellowstone National Park (think The Shining). Only this job didn’t entail watching over a huge hotel, it involved watching over some 200 summer cabins perched on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. He was offered the job (Skye is pretty sure he was the only applicant) and after talking it over with his wife, she decided that doing it for a year might be fun; because, she figured, you can survive just about anything for a year. So they packed up their old Saab and their new baby (Skye’s sister Emma) and headed west.

    [Photo Top: Skye at home in Yellowstone. Photo: Steven Fuller]

    Continue reading "From Yellowstone to Reno" »

    Product Testing - Paddling Around Old Fanny

    It was just a couple weeks ago that our friends down in Patagonia's Ventura offices were wishing summer a fond farewell. Maybe it's this week's return to splitter blue skies and warm breezes, maybe it's the certainty of winter's descent when the snows finally come, but our Reno-based tribe has been a bit more reluctant to let the summer go. A few weeks ago, some of our Customer Service folks headed up the hill to Lake Tahoe to try out a new sport and explore an oft-overlooked corner of the lake. Sample Coordinator Andrew Marshall files his report:
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    Chip Twice a year, usually once in the winter and once in the summer, our work group gets to spend a day together doing something fun. It's a great way to bond with co-workers, maybe get introduced to a new sport and have a relaxing day away from the office. So far we've skied, snowboarded, kayaked and rock climbed, but our most recent trip was probably the best and most memorable one yet. This time, with the encouragement from some fellow employee-enthusiasts, we decided a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) trip on Lake Tahoe would make for an excellent group field day.

    Perhaps because of the coastal California influence, stand-up paddling has become particularly popular in Lake Tahoe. It is certainly an exhilarating way to take in the beautiful views and enjoy the water. There are several businesses around the lake renting boards this summer and the SUP market has even taken to the demand by developing flat-water-specific boards.

    Fannette Emerald Bay is one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Tahoe. Pristine blue waters fill a perfectly shaped bay that is home to a small island located almost directly in its center: Fannette Island. Even more intriguing is medieval-looking fieldstone tea house situated at the very top of the island - picturesquely perfect in its own right. Despite the fact that nearly all of our group members are natives to the area (or quite nearly so), and despite having driven past it dozens of times, none of us had ever been to this island or even knew the name of it off the top of our head. We concluded it must be "more of a tourist spot" and "not a really a locals' destination." None of us really knew why - likely because it is usually a busy place almost any time of the year. We bashfully concluded that tourists were likely the reason none of us had been here before.

    [Above, left - Chip takes a breather during the circumnavigation of Fannette Island, Emerald Bay, California. Above, right - a water-level view of the Old Fanny Island tea house. Photos: Andrew Marshall]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Paddling Around Old Fanny " »

    Winters of My Life, Howard Weamer

    I first met Howard Weamer back in 1977 when a couple of friends and I decided to ski into the Ostrander Hut in Yosemite. Sporting rented wooden 210 cm skis, low-cut Alfa boots and Tonkin Cane ski poles, we waxed up the skis, loaded up our framed Kelty packs and off we went. I should mention that none of us could ski at all.

    At least 10 exhausting hours later we finally arrived at the hut, where we were greeted by John Muir. At least that’s what we thought in our breathless stupor; Howard, with his huge beard, certainly evokes the famous conservationist. Over the years I’ve become at least a bit more competent on skis and I’ve visited the hut a dozen times or more and have gotten to know Howard fairly well. We’ve spent many an evening discussing the merits of the latest and greatest telemark equipment and various ski routes all over the Sierra. Beneath his quiet demeanor lies a gearhead with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Sierra backcountry. 

    I’m convinced that Howard has done more backcountry skiing in the Sierra than anyone alive. Once, while passing through Ostrander on a trans-Sierra ski tour to Mammoth, we stopped in to say hello. Howard asked about our route and offered a few suggestions, upon learning we were headed up to Mt Lyell his eyes lit up and he explained that route could be a bit tricky but all we had to do was head for the sawtoothed ridge and aim for the gap where one tooth is missing. It was the perfect beta.

    Howard is also a highly acclaimed photographer who still shoots in film with a large format camera. To see some of his amazing images, visit his website.

    Filmmaker Jonathan Burhop has just completed a short video on Howard and his 35 years at Ostrander and we're honored to share it here. Enjoy!

    Winters of My Life from Jonathan Burhop on Vimeo.

    Product Testing - Rafting the South Fork of the American River

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our Athletes & Ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear. This June, they headed off to California's South Fork of the American River to raft, camp and well...have some fun. Mail Order Customer Service Representative Laurel Winterbourne files this report:
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    Gg raft grp Patagonia Mail Order's first overnight group field day was a success. No broken limbs, just good times with good friends. Thanks to W.E.T. River Trips and our amazing Pro Team member and raft guide Maggie Mroczkowski we were able to take our crew on a rafting trip down the South Fork of the American River and test some Patagonia gear. Major props to Gary Ghiggeri (“GG”) our team leader, for planning the best field day ever!


    We rolled into Camp Lotus, outside the tiny town of Coloma on the western side of the Sierra, at about 6:30. After some unpleasant haggling with a neighboring camper about who got which site, we set up camp. Who knew we could bring so much stuff for an overnight camping trip? But we do work at Patagonia and own multiple tents, sleeping bags, jackets, baselayers, fleece and other random stuff. We’ve learned to always be prepared for snow in the Sierra, even in June. Better to be safe than sorry. The beer was located and the tents went up. 

    [Team GG checks into Hospital Bar, South Fork American River. Photos: W.E.T. River Trips]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Rafting the South Fork of the American River" »

    Of Marmots and Men

    Julyhike Every year, some friends and I converge on an really cool spot near Yosemite where we hike six miles carrying absurdly heavy packs and eat crazy amounts of really good food. Over the years, the only down side to this idyllic spot has been the parking. And by parking I don’t mean finding a space, this isn’t San Francisco; it’s the local fauna that’s been the problem. We've parked our cars all over the Sierra but for some reason this is the only place where we’ve had a consistent problem with marmots. Oh sure the California black bear gets quite a bit of publicity for its vandalism, but we’ve had more than our share of problems with Marmota flaviventer sierrae, the Southern Sierra Marmot. I, myself have been victimized twice.

    The first time, I was driving out on the lonely dirt road and I noticed that not only was my engine running unusually hot, there was steam pouring out from under the hood. It turns out a marmot had chewed a hole in a radiator hose. Luckily, this marmot was kind enough to chew through it near the end. Also lucky for me, MacGuyver used to be my favorite show, so using my Leatherman (I know, it should have been a Swiss Army Knife) I unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the chewed-up end and reattached the hose. I then filled the radiator with creek water and off I went. Five years later and the hose is still intact. Another time, I started having electrical problems right after returning from the trip. I finally took it into my mechanic for his diagnosis. After a long look he asked me, in the gentlest way possible, just where exactly I lived. I guess he thought I must live in some rat-infested hovel. Unfortunately, this time the marmots had chosen to dine on my wiring harness. This is not an inexpensive repair.

    [Above: Walking away from the marmots. photo: Ken La Russa]

    Continue reading "Of Marmots and Men" »

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