california ecology outdoors

Mommy, where does Capilene come from?

I tend to obsess over out­doors gear. The pin­na­cle (or nadir, as the case may be) of this obses­sion was the spring/summer of 2001, when I hiked the Pacif­ic Crest Trail. Over four months, I sam­pled a ton of gear — six pairs of shoes, a few dif­fer­ent shirts, jack­ets, socks, shel­ters, cook­ware. I had dozens (maybe hun­dreds) of con­ver­sa­tions about this stuff, spent hours dis­cussing the var­i­ous qual­i­ties that dis­tin­guished some lit­tle piece of back­pack­ing equip­ment or appar­el as the light­est, strongest, dri­est, most com­fort­able, most long-last­ing, most whatever.What did I take away from these dis­cus­sions? Two things: (1) At some point, ratio­nal eval­u­a­tion becomes reli­gious debate. Gear nerds have deep, com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with their hard­ware, and we have a hard time remain­ing lev­el-head­ed about the stuff saves our butt dur­ing a thun­der­storm, or keeps us con­sis­tent­ly com­fort­able as tem­per­a­tures change. And, (2), for me, Patag­o­nia appar­el last­ed longer, bounced back bet­ter, fit bet­ter, dealt with rain bet­ter, and just gen­er­al­ly worked bet­ter than the oth­er stuff I tried. Oth­ers poo-poo-ed it as "Pata-guc­ci." Froofy, high-end cou­ture pos­ing as out­door gear, i.e. stuff that "real thru-hik­ers" wouldn't be caught dead in.All of this is good and well, but I recent­ly came across anoth­er excel­lent aspect of it. (And I still wear it).

Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano Puff - OverviewCalled the Foot­print Chron­i­cles, they're a series of detailed accounts of how indi­vid­ual pieces of their gear are made — where the mate­r­i­al is sourced, how fair labor prac­tices are ensured, how the gar­ment is assembled.
Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano PuffThis exam­ple takes you through the design and con­struc­tion of the Nano Puff Pullover, made from recy­cled polyester.

This is a dif­fer­ent kind of mar­ket­ing, clear­ly: Doc­u­men­tary accounts that high­light the qual­i­ties of the com­pa­ny, rather than the per­for­mance of the gear. I'd be inter­est­ed to know how (or if) they mea­sure the return on invest­ment of this kind of thing.