The other day I had a brief Twitter exchange with Chris Townsend (he of TGO fame) on the subject of outdoor equipment…
People who participate in Backpacking and/or love all aspects of The Great Outdoors can’t have escaped his name over the last twenty plus years. If you don’t know the name should just think of any decent piece of outdoor equipment – it has probably been used and/or reviewed by him at some point. Chris is the veritable Backpackers Guru when it comes to the kit many of us chose to use!
The conversation related to his article – How Outdoor Gear Has Changed Since 1978 and the much used (and loved) ‘Moving On’ windshirt; once manufactured by Rohan but sadly, now no longer in production.
I found the article both interesting and heart-warming. Interesting not just because of the many advancements in much of the gear we use, or how it has become ever lighter or more technically improved but also, how ‘fashion’ can sometimes impact upon that equipment. The heart-warming aspect was born out of (a) the nostalgia aspects in his piece (b), the fact that Chris and I are of a similar age and (c), have joint experiences of ownership and use of similar pieces of kit over the years. Perhaps the latter should be attributed to the fact; I (and others) have valued his equipment reviews for many years.
Apart from the informative insight (and the nostalgia fix) provided by Chris, his undoubted passion for being out in and at one with our wild and wonderous countryside shone through, as ever. This was succinctly summed up by his last paragraph.
But my final thoughts are that gear doesn’t really matter. It’s only a tool, a means to an end. The wild places, the glorious hills and awe-inspiring forests through which our narrow trails wind, are still out there, still the reason we carry packs and camp wild. When it comes down to it which rucksack, which footwear and which shelter we use really don’t matter. Being out there. That’s what it’s all about…(Chris Townsend)
For more years than I care to remember now, Chris has ranked highly in my list of outdoor heroes. One that includes mountaineers like Sir Chris Bonnington CBE (conqurer of Mount Everest and Annapurna), Don Whillans (famed climbing harness designer) and latterly Alan Hinkes OBE, the first British mountaineer to have claimed all 14 mountains with elevations greater than 8000 metres.
More recently my list includes the likes of Terry Abraham, a wild camping landscape videographer and Lyle Brotherton, who lectures Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) and Search & Rescue Teams (SAR) throughout the world in the ‘art’ of micronavigation. Along with many others who help to show us the wonders of our natural world but more importantly, how to value and protect those natural resources for all who follow.
Chris was the first person to walk the length of the Canadian Rockies, a distance of 1600 miles. He’s hiked the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, the 3100 mile Continental Divide Trail, Lands End to John o’Groats in the UK 1250 miles, South-North through the Scandinavian mountains 1300 miles, 1000 miles South-North through the Yukon Territory and the 800 mile Arizona Trail.
Between his adventures Chris has authored 17 books including the best-selling Backpacker’s Handbook, now in its fourth edition. He has contributed to The Great Outdoors Magazine as equipment editor for more than 20 years. He is a member of The Society of Authors and the Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild.
Chris also recently starred in ‘The Cairngorms in Winter’, a stunningly good film shot by Terry Abraham and he will also feature in Terry’s forthcoming film, Life Of A Mountain – Scafell Pike (see below).