***NOTE: I am a Gore-Tex brand ambassador. I’m pleased to be able to support Gore-Tex in their product development and work in the outdoors. It is a nice fit with my own work and my own approaches to activities in the outdoors.
“Why isn’t the Mirka here?”
I was in a remote valley deep within the Himalayas, discussing my list of locally endangered animals with a group of herders.
“They’re difficult to find. But you can if you follow their trails.”
The comment certainly didn’t have all the herders nodding in agreement- there was plenty of animated disagreement and some laughter. Nevertheless, the herder stood by his question.
There was just one problem- I had no idea what a Mirka was. I asked the assembled group to explain the animal.
‘Yetis’ one of the other herders replied.
For me, this interaction highlights something that goes well beyond the work that drew me to this valley in the first place. The Yeti was a reminder of two inherently connected worlds – wild places, and the stories of ‘wildness’ that go with them.
This herder had summed up a very complex relationship, which lies at the heart of the work I do, in one sentence.
And I could have totally missed this Yeti angle. Back in Delhi, when packing for this fieldwork in India’s Himalayan regions, I had to make some calls regarding the gear I took with me. Pack for the wet, cold weather expected in the mountains? Yes, for sure. But I was also working in some of the national parks in the foothills and tiger reserves in central India. So my packing decisions needed to cover a range of potential eventualities in terms of weather, travel and mobility.
I eventually went with a jacket better suited for the lower altitudes on the assumption that the weather in the mountains wouldn’t be unseasonal. It was, after all, trekking and herding season. Knowing that the outer would keep me warm and dry meant I had the option of layering, even if I didn’t have my technical jacket.
Of course the weather was unseasonal, but I was still able to get to the valley because my local guides and I knew the area, and I knew my Gore gear would keep me dry, keep the wind out and keep me safe. Something, I should say, it has always done when I use it.
And use it I do. I work at the intersection point of ecosystem conservation, local people and Government policies – hence my visit to the herders in the Himalayan valley I mentioned above. So my Gore gear does great service across many different landscapes – the Himalayas, the mighty Himalayan rivers of India, the mangrove forests of India, Viet Nam and Thailand, the deserts of Pakistan , the national parks of India and the wetlands of Bangladesh just in the last twelve months. And, I should say, it’s done great service in those ‘not so harsh but important’ environments of coffee shops, travel and ‘life’.
Then there is its recreational use – I’m a big believer in experiencing the contours of the landscape through walking, cycling and canoeing, in Australia and elsewhere. You only really know it when you feel it push against your movements.
So there are a range of uses for my shells, over-pants, shoes, boots, gloves and jackets.
There are two words with prime space in my mind when I’m thinking about my gear – versatility and functionality.
For me, versatility is gear that can work comfortably across a range of landscapes, ecosystems and activities. Typically I work in mountains, coasts, rivers, wetlands and occasionally, deserts. And of course, if I’m working high up in the Himalayas, I’ll use the specialist gear. But in those other diverse landscapes I really try and keep my Gore-Tex gear as versatile as possible.
Functionality means the gear does what it sets out to do, but does it with a design that is simple and straightforward. Functionality has, at its heart, simplicity of design – or it does for me at least.
For me, it’s a balance between being kept safe and comfortable, and carrying so much gear that your arms and shoulders ache…
Across this range of uses Gore-Tex gear has kept me safe and kept me comfortable. I hope you find Gore-Tex as useful and as important to pack for your own adventures and explorations as I do. You and it go to places and have experiences that are, for better or worse, part of your own connections to places, landscapes, cultures and life. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have been fortunate enough to.