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    Product Testing - Hiking Matanuska Peak

    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: Hiking Matanuska Peak in Alaska June 2010  Matanuska peak 2


    Conditions: about 45 degrees at the bottom of the mountain and 35-40 toward the top. Light breeze and some drizzle for a bit.

    Products Tested: Women’s Release, Rock Guide Pants, Merino 3 Zip-Neck, Down Sweater, Houdini.

    Tested By: Maggie Robinson, Patagonia Customer Service

    My boyfriend Josh who grew up in Palmer, AK has wanted to climb Matanuska Peak (6119') since he was a kid. So on a pleasant but somewhat chilly Alaska day, Josh and I decided to give it a go. With a trailhead elevation of only 750 feet, we climbed and descended about 5,400 feet. Unlike most trails here in Reno, the trail up Matanuska Peak had no switchbacks and instead opted to go straight up. The last 1500 feet involved making our way through slippery shale and over unstable boulders. I have to admit that by that point I was both fairly scared and exhausted but I made it!

    W's rock guide Even though it was 45 degrees the steep trail meant I was fine in just my Merino 3 Zip-Neck and Rock Guide Pants. The Merino 3 Zip-Neck felt comfortable against my skin, didn’t get too hot while hiking, and  breathed really well. I liked the option of zipping it down for more breathability or zipping it up for warmth. The cuffs were also not too tight so could easily pull them up to cool off if needed. I hiked most of the climb in just my Merino 3 and my Rock Guide Pants and was very comfortable. The only time I put anything else on was when we stopped to eat lunch and towards the breezy and chilly summit, when I pulled out the fabulous Down Sweater and Houdini.

    [Above: Maggie on the way to Mantunuska. Photo: Josh Hejl]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Hiking Matanuska Peak" »

    Product Testing - Spring Skiing the Tahoe Rim Trail

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and 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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    Rose Knob Product Report  - The outfit: Traverse Pull-Over, Backcountry Guide Pants, Merino 1 Tee, and Ultra Heavyweight Socks
    Activity: Backcountry Ski Traverse - Lake Tahoe Rim Trail
    Tested by: Adam Bradley, Patagonia Mail Order Customer Service

    The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165 mile trail around Lake Tahoe that  “passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas” along the mountain crests above Lake Tahoe. Skiing the Rim of Lake Tahoe has been a goal of mine since becoming more adept at snow- camping over the last few winters. I altered the official route to minimize exposure to avalanche terrain and shorten the trail in the Carson Pass/ Meiss Meadow area, so my route was approximately 145-150 miles. The elevation of the trail ranges from just under 10,000 ft to 6,400 ft. The scenery was, as expected, stunning and took me through places that are way too brushy to access in summer.

    I like to snow-camp as it keeps my skills sharp and compared to the summer's masses, this time of year offers true solitude. I wanted to do this trip unsupported and without any re-supplies. This meant I set out with all my provisions on my back and had to have the willpower to not purchase anything additional along the way (ed note: the trail crosses 6 highways, giving the non-purist many opportunities for re-supplies).  Food packing and planning would have to be dead-on or I wouldn’t make it the whole way around. Of course this made the pack heavy setting out from Tahoe Meadow, but it was worth it knowing I could just move forward and not be delayed by having to pick things up along the way.

    [Looking south from Rose Knob Peak. photo: Adam Bradley]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Spring Skiing the Tahoe Rim Trail" »

    Hiking Down Memory Lane

    John ken tony It's been said that if you remember the 60s then you weren’t there. But if, like me, you grew up in the 60s and 70s and were into backpacking or climbing, there is actually a whole lot to remember. Like many of us, I got my start backpacking in the Boy Scouts. I remember our troop had a bunch of army surplus tents called "shelter halfs" which were heavy canvas tents that came in two pieces. They slept two people so each person would carry one half the tent and then you’d button them together in camp. Even though you only carried half the tent and it didn’t even have a floor, it still weighed in at 5lbs per half. My first ever backpacking trip combined this tent with a cotton sleeping bag and a old scout pack called (I think) the Trapper Pack, an L-shaped torture device/pack frame that lacked both padded shoulder straps and a hip belt. I think we went three miles, and to this day it remains the longest trip of my life.

    Although some of the younger folks I work with seem to think trips like that epitomize backpacking in the 60s & 70s, it was actually an era of huge advances in lightweight equipment. With the “back to nature” and “anti-establishment” sentiments of the 60s, backpacking became the ‘in’ sport, and suddenly trailheads were overwhelmed with hikers seeking out their very own wilderness experience. This popularity spawned a rush to create lighter and more durable backpacking gear. The people who started these companies were true pioneers and all of us who enjoy the great gear of today owe them a huge debt.

    Indeed, so much of what we take for granted today came about during this period of innovation.Old gear As writer and industry historian, Warren McClaren notes “The 70s seem to be when everything happened. MSR stoves, Therm-a-rest, Gore-tex, Geodesic domes, Friends, Fastex hardware, Pit zips, internal frame packs, etc.”  All these things came about within a few short . . .



    [Top - Jon, Tony & Ken, about halfway through the PCT, 1974. Photo: Ken La Russa. Above, right - A collection of some of Bruce Johnson's vintage gear. Photo: Bruce Johnson]

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    Product Testing - Cool Weather Cycling

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and 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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    Mtbtahoe Products Tested: Capilene 2 Bottoms, Shelled Insulator Pants, Simple Guide Pants, Windproof Gloves, Socks, Nano Puff, Alpine Wind Jacket, R2 Jacket, Integral Jacket

    Activity: Cool Weather Cycling in and around the high desert

    Average temperatures: 20 - 30ºF

    Testers: Jim A. & Suzanne K., Customer Service Representatives

    Jim & Suzanne are our itinerant customer service reps. For the past 11 years they have been spending their summers in Skagway, AK and their falls and winters here in Reno, NV. They're avid cyclists who don't let the cold slow them down. It was a chilly December here in Northern Nevada with temperatures rarely rising above the freezing mark, but Jim & Suzanne kept on riding. Here's Suzanne's take on what works for them:

    In our never-ending quest to find the perfect layering system for winter cycling here in Reno, Jim and I have determined that men and women are indeed different species.

    [Just because it's the desert, doesn't mean it's dry and warm. Winter comes early to the high desert and brings deep snow and regular rainfall. Snow and ice persisted on most surfaces throughout the period of Jim and Suzanne's test.]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Cool Weather Cycling" »

    Product Testing - Dressing Right for a Windy Hike

    Whitejones We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and 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. _____________________________________

    Product Report: Nano Puff, Merino 1 T-Shirt, Nine Trails Jacket, Simple Guide Pants, Lightweight Travel Tote.
    Activity: Hiking - Jones-White Trail, Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada
    Tested by: Patagonia Customer Service reps OldSchool, Cory E., Andrea W., Dave S., Kevin L., and Megan B.

    Twice a year our happy little work group gets to cut work and take a day to test gear, get a bit of exercise and share some lies. It had been beautiful weather for weeks prior so of course once the appointed day arrived it was howling windy. We had planned to climb Mount Rose but we were overruled by our boss Tammy who was quite worried about being blown off the summit, ripping her Nine Trails Jacket and mussing her hair. The rest of us love being pelted mercilessly by 80 mph winds, but in the name of group harmony we all acquiesced to a somewhat easier (and lower) nine mile hike known as the Jones-Whites Loop. There’s no such thing as a free hike here at Patagonia so all of us were required to fill in our coworkers on just what we chose to wear…Below are some excerpts from these reports:

    First me:

    Merino 1 t Gearing up for any wilderness trip requires the utmost in planning and this trip was no exception. From my vast array of old and new Patagonia stuff, some dating back to the previous century I picked clothing suitable for a summit bid. I went with the Merino 1 T-Shirt, quite possibly the best athletic t I’ve ever worn. It's  light airy, quick drying and incredibly

    [Whites Creek, Mt. Rose Wilderness, Nevada. Photo: Ken Larussa]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Dressing Right for a Windy Hike" »

    From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. 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 popular questions, straight from the trenches.
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    In my last post, I tackled a couple of "Why do you use . . .?” questions. In this post, I'll answer a couple of "Why don't you use . . .?" questions. Being a company known for environmentalism, we often get questions about why we don't use certain fabrics, especially when other companies tout them as being the latest and greatest, or at least the ‘greenest.’ In the cases of bamboo and PLA (polylactic acid), both sound pretty green at first glance but in the end aren't all that they seem.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?" »

    From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. 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 popular questions, straight from the trenches.
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    Patagonia has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely picky about what materials go into our products. Often, the materials we choose are exactly the same as those used by our competitors. But just as often, we insist on different materials even if we have to encourage our suppliers to make the material we're looking for. Below are two common questions we receive about natural fibers we use in our clothing; one is virtually identical industry-wide and the other is a fabric we insisted on tweaking because of environmental concerns.

     

    So why do you use down?

     

    Feather

    In the outdoor clothing industry down insulation is ubiquitous. Almost every company sells a puffy down jacket and I often wonder if these other companies get the same ethical questions we get about using down. We continually find ourselves fielding questions about how a progressive company like Patagonia can, in good conscience, use down. The answer to that is simple, Patagonia’s mission statement begins with "Build the best product..." For us to do this we need to use the highest quality materials available. Right now when it comes to insulation, down has no equal; it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any insulation and is highly compressible as well. Both properties are highly prized attributes in mountain clothing. That said, we do believe in the humane treatment of animals, and the geese that provide our down are no exception.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?" »

    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 3

    Today, we've got the final installment in Old School's Toiyabe Trails series (previous posts: Part 1, Part 2).

    Audio_graphic_20pxWe personally believe any trail story is best served up with a cuppa steamy brew (or a frosty barley pop, your discretion) and the right music. Find your trail traveling theme music right here, courtesy of the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot's weekly podcast.
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    1_Camp4 The morning after our unplanned layover day dawned clear and sunny, and while there was still a stiff breeze, it was nothing like the howling winds of the day before so we packed up and headed north. The TCT is split neatly in half by the Ophir Creek Road and the three of us have been backpacking long enough to never pass up the chance to lighten our load – we took advantage of the road to drop a food cache at the top of the pass before starting our hike. By lunch we were at the cache and by dinner we were enjoying cold beer and hamburgers.

    [Flat spots are a rare treat along the northern stretch of the trail. Photo: OldSchool]

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 3" »

    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 2

    6a00d8341d07fd53ef011570c281bc970b-800wi Welcome! We're pleased to bring you part two in this series. If you missed Part 1, no worries, you can find it right here.
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    Nevada is smack-dab in the middle of the Basin and Range topography of the Great Basin so every mountain range is an island poking up out of a sagebrush sea. These ranges are generally quite narrow, so driving from west to east is like driving across a giant washboard. Coming from Reno, our first view of the Toiyabes left us awestruck, not so much from the beauty of the range but the amount of snow that still covered it. I knew it had just snowed a foot and a half the week before but we still weren’t quite expecting the amount of snow still left up high, and we weren’t too psyched (or prepared) to hike in snow for any length of time. Luckily we had planned our route from south to north, giving the higher and snowier northern section 3 additional days to melt out.

    [A view of the Toiyabe Range's high point, Arc Dome. Photo: OldSchool]

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 2" »

    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 1

    Cview Mention Nevada to most folks and what comes to mind is Las Vegas glam and desert heat. Truth be told, many Nevadans are more than willing to let you think that but for the record, with 313 named mountain ranges, Nevada has more mountains than any state except Alaska. Since moving here five years ago, I have been trying to wean myself away from the Sierra Nevada by exploring some of Nevada’s more remote ranges. The Toiyabe Range, which is nearly in the middle of the state, more than fits that definition. So when my friend Chris called me up asking for ideas for a good late spring backpacking trip I not only suggested the Toiyabe Crest Trail, I invited myself along as well.

    [At 10,000' for a stretch of nearly 50 miles, the crest of Central Nevada's Toiyabe Range is well-situated to catch snows that would otherwise miss the arid valleys of the Basin and Range territory. Photo: OldSchool]

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 1" »

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