Posts Tagged ‘Rohan’

Bearing up to travelling glories

Friday, June 24th, 2022

Back in the days when I was reviewing clothing and equipment for outdoors and travel magazines, I was sent a lot of products which would be used for the period of the review, and then might end up being stored away somewhere. Ultimately, I gave away piles of clothing items to the likes of Rohan’s “Gift your Gear,” or to homeless charities. There was a point when I wondered whether every homeless person in Norwich was wearing something I’d donated.

But my early 1990s Karrimor Alpiniste fleece jacket kept on going. It travelled extensively over the past 30 years or so, but has also seen vastly more use at home – what these days you might call my “Go To” fleece jacket. Why? It was a combination of the slimline cut in a lightweight Polartec fleece fabric, comfortable across a wide range of conditions, and the pocket layout. It had a very shallow scooped back – just enough to make some difference when in more active use, but not so much to look out of place when worn to the pub! It also had a detachable hood which snapped on to press studs around the collar, although I tended not to use that so much. I suppose I could have kept it going by having a new main zip fitted, along with new Lycra trim on the cuffs and bottom hem, but the fabric itself was wearing a little thin, so it was probably not worth refurbishing.

It’s also taken several years and one or two medical episodes including Covid to make me realise that I’m not going to be travelling up to six months a year the way I used to any more, but it would be nice for that favourite jacket not to end up simply in a recycling bin. So how to draw a line under a particular part of my life without forgetting it entirely? I’m something of an arctophile – whenever I travelled, I always had a small bear called Bill with me. Apart from being my devoted travelling companion, he was a great icebreaker in situations that might warrant a little levity, and on occasion he also conspired to get me into trouble! And so I asked talented bear artist Marcia Hastings of Clumsy Bears to transform my Karrimor Alpiniste fleece jacket into a keepsake bear, something that will sit in my lounge and remind me of extraordinary times past.

Apart from the Alpiniste fleece, my travelling clothes of choice tended to come from travel clothing company Rohan. I was great friends with the company’s founder Paul Howcroft, and pretty much every time I saw him he would thrust a pair of trousers or a jacket into my hands with “Tell me what you think of this.” Rohan’s lightweight, pack small, easy care clothes matched my style of travel perfectly, and there wouldn’t have been a single trip on which I wasn’t wearing something from Rohan. So to complete my keepsake bear, made from fleece which has travelled all over the world, his dungarees have been carefully crafted from a pair of Rohan Bags shorts which no longer fit. Here we have the only Rohan Bags dungarees in existence!

Marcia admits that some aspects of the project were rather more challenging than usual, not least because I wanted to retain a flavour of some of the features of the original garments, including zips and embroidered logos. And the fleece certainly had worn pretty thin – she had to add some subtle reinforcement here and there to ensure the bear kept his shape.

As you can see, the resulting bear is a truly handsome little chap, and a credit to Marcia’s artistic skills. The only thing left now is to come up with a name for him!

Outdoor recycling

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Back in the 90’s, I remember writing about outdoors manufacturers’ early excursions into the realms of recycling. It started out modestly, with a small percentage of material from recycled polyester drinks bottles going into the fabrics used to make fleece or waterproofs. Then gradually as the technology improved, it became possible to get a decent fabric made using 100% recycled material. A defining point for the likes of we journalists, who could now quote one of those “gee whizz” facts – that it takes 26 one-litre drinks bottles to make a single fleece jacket.

Then there was the company taking used aluminium beer cans, rendering them into a gaseous state to spray onto fabrics as a high-performance heat-reflective coating. All of these efforts were designed to reduce impact on landfill sites, as well as make better use of finite resources. Looking at the other end of the life of an item of outdoors gear, more effort was put into making the products more capable of being recycled. Of course, you could have something like a fleece jacket where the fabric could be recyclable, but not before non-recyclable components such as zips and poppers had been stripped off.

The blunt truth is that whether an outdoors product is made from recycled material, or is capable of being recycled at the end of its life, it’s never been a huge part of the decision-making process of prospective British purchasers. But in Germany, for example, where the environmental legislation is the toughest in the world, outdoors companies like Vaude have been pioneers in making outdoors products which are totally recyclable.

Of course there’s always been one form of recycling which I’ve particularly favoured, and that’s re-use. Walking boots are capable of being resoled several times before the uppers fall apart, but an awful lot of gear gets junked simply because the owner wants a newer model. Charity shops will take in clothing – and will either sell the second-hand garment, or dispose of it as scrap textiles if they consider it unsaleable. Whenever I’ve been on a trek, we always ask fellow trekkers if they have anything like gloves or even socks to donate for their porters, and quite often these days you’ll find charities collecting usable clothing to send off to a disaster zone.

The advent of Ebay has seen a thriving market in second-hand outdoors gear, but now, in a new initiative launched by Rohan founder Sarah Howcroft, you can do it for free. Recycle Outdoor Gear is an online marketplace where you can dispose of usable items of gear, and whether you’re selling or giving it away to charity, your listing will be free. I’ve already seen some pretty remarkable bargains on offer, and it’s nice to think that by supporting ROG, you’re helping the environment, helping others less fortunate than you, and maintaining the development and innovation that goes into new outdoors gear. Check out ROG at

Boot on the other foot department

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Years ago, when the late great Brian Redhead was one of the anchor presenters of BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today Programme”, I got to interview him. I met him in the foyer of Broadcasting House just after he finished at 9am, and we went into an adjacent hotel where he bought me breakfast. He was rubbing his hands together with glee because he’d just interviewed Norman Tebbit and “really stuck the knife in!”

But it occurred to me then that while his stock in trade was interviewing people (and making politicians very uncomfortable), he probably didn’t actually get to be the subject of an interview that often. Most of my journalistic career has been the same, but I do very occasionally get to be interviewed myself. Of course, I have a new book “One of our Balloons is Missing” to shout about at the moment, not to mention my participation in another attempt at smashing the round the world powerboat record later this year – that will undoubtedly see me doing numerous interviews.

But in the meantime, if you’d like to see what I had to say to travel clothing company Rohan through their social networking site Rohantime, click here.