Making sense of it all

I’ve been down at Innov_Ex for the last couple of days. It’s a conference at Lancaster University where the outdoor industry concentrates not on who has the best colours this season, but on the issues that guide and shape where the industry is going and therefore what we eventually get to use.
This year the theme was waste, environmental issues, recycling and the current recession added weight to much of what was discussed as its impact is wide ranging, but mostly in ways we can’t see and won’t be aware of, as it’s happening on the other side of the world in the factories and towns of the factory workers.
I got some amazing insights, and I’ll be writing a summary over the next few days.

From a personal point of view I was so impressed by the the whole affair. The atmosphere was different from what I expeceted, open and relaxed, no real posturing and protecting of points of view or brands.
The mix of guests and speakers was wide ranging, from brand representatives, to media, to boffins to folks who’s names we’ll hear more and more of as the industry has to change with the times and put it’s house in (environmental) order. From the start I was engaged.
Meeting and greeting was an interesting part of it too. At dinner the night before the conference I found myself sitting with Mary Rose (who with Mike Parsons organises the event), Jan the 2007 Innov_Ex prize winner, Sam of SheWee, Pete from industry publication Outdoori, Declef from Bluesign and then we had Gore, Backpackers Club and allsorts down the table. It was fascinating stuff, and good to talk away from the conference agenda as well. Folk are never two dimensional, and hearing about families, home towns, previous careers and more is important, as is the humour apparent in folk who are still deadly serious about their work.

On the conference day itself the first person I bumped into was GT from Trail. It was good to catch up, we’ve been having issues of late with the sleeping bag test I recently did (next issue of Trail) where the temperature ratings were all over the place. Some models had different numbers on the bag, the stuffsack, the website and the specsheet that comes with test kit. That’s one area where the industry has to pull its socks up.
I had lunch with the team from Paramo & Nikwax, great folks, and interesting to hear about why they do what they do, and also what’s coming in the future.
The day was jammed with lectures though, all well presented (including a successful video conference), so breaks were short and sweet, but it all flew by.
I’ve taken reams of notes which I hope still make sense to me, there’s changes coming, big changes.

17 thoughts on “Making sense of it all

  1. There has always been a real condradiction at the heart of the outdoors industry. ‘Treading carefully, leaving nature as we find it and treating the environment with respect’ is the cry on ons side. ‘Newer, better, lighter’ is the philosopy on the other, where people are persuaged that the perfectly good piece of gear that they bought last year is useless and that they MUST have the latest version

    As well as being a dubious use of finite resources, promoting such cynical obsoletism while playing the environmental card is hypocrisy.

  2. Persuaged…could be an engineering term that, a military tactic perhaps?

    You guys have kind of asked and answered the question there.
    Raw materials, waste, production costs, manufacturing methods, innovation to make low weight possible with durability. All this is what they’re working on.

    Reading between the lines as well, I can see membrane fabric having to change drastically as you can’t recycle it, apart from Sympatex which is layers of polyester rather than a mix of materials.

    Making plastic and metal components without molding or machining is happening now, it’s basically 3D printing with other materials instead of ink, or as I wrote in my notes “Holy shit, they’ve made replicator from Star Trek”. It’s a waste-free process, no swarf, no sprue.

    The customer is going to have to change as well. Exciting times.

  3. Here is a thought.

    There is much magazine and webspace devoted to shiny new gear. There are also a few websites devoted to making one’s own gear.

    Is there a need for a good website devoted to recycling/refitting/rejigging old gear that might still have a useful working life?

    For example, I had an old Jaguar 90 rucksack, which I flogged on eBAy (a sort off recycling). It was too big, too heavy, over spefified and the waste belt couldn’t take any weight. It had to go…

    But rather than buying another rucksack or two (and thus using up more finite resources), could I have stripped down and remade the Jaguar? Could I have replaced some parts, remade others (e.g. the hipbelt) and lost some features(belows pockets and lower sleeping bag compartment), with the aim cutting out 1kg+ and 30Litres and fashioning a pack that better served my needs for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Never mind the personal satisfaction in managing to do so.

    Now, i don’t have the engineering/ sewing /practical skills to do it, but I’m sure there are those out there who do (especially given the various how to modify a laser comp posts), and who could produce a description + Haynes Guide photos instructions for others to follow.

    Might not work for all kit obviously (sleeping bags for example!), but is it worth considering?

  4. I really wouldn’t knock ebay and friends – yes recycling is great for when things do finally give up but reuse is nearly always better where feasible.

    No problem with buying shiny new things to replace working but non ideal things.

    Where there is problem is condeming perfectly workable stuff to a lifetime of sitting forlornly in a cupboard somewhere.

    That’s just plain cruel :)

    Actually when you think about it really is surprising that there’s no stores offering – maybe with a refurbishing service where needed etc – second hand outdoors clothing. It would fit perfectly into something like the Cotswolds rock bottom stores etc.

    Should be profitable enough – the value seems to hold up quite well on OM/ebay etc and with the chance to check it over/easily return it they could even charge a touch more. If they can do it for computer games then….

    Ok there are charity shops but I wouldn’t imagine them managing to rehome it well enough.

  5. All good points, and all relevant to what was said at the conference.
    I think it’s important for folk to know that the industry aren’t sitting there with their fingers in their ears, it’s more like they’re poised for the new concepts to be right (practically and financially) before committing. I just hope that the brains come up with the good before the last drop of oile gets burned.

    I’ll try and work my way through my notes over the weekend and get the summery up. It’s just such a lot to condense :o0

  6. Thinking back, the only kit I’ve “binned” has been boots and that’s only when they’ve literally fallen to bits. Everything else gets a bit of TLC and then goes on Ebay or OM Classifieds. Somebody gets a bargain, I aquire more shinies and the cycle continues :o)

  7. I’ve “charity shopped” a few bits of older kit (don’t seem to have enough time to ebay things!) but to be honest I keep a lot of it specifically to lend to friends and family when I persuade them out on the hill.

    Using my older kit is far, far nicer for them than using some Millets monster-rucksack or hulking sleeping bag.

    I’ve even made presents of some of the more expensive bits that I’ve only used for a year or so.

    People who are only occasional hill-goers, and who may otherwise have just got a bottle of nice wine, are more than happy to get a hundred quid’s worth (when new!) of second hand kit.

  8. I’m the same, ebayed of passed-on lots of gear, but there’s still a stack of stuff I’ll never part with. There’s the dozen or more Karrimor Alpiniste packs for a start…
    It’s a serious point though, apparently one third of all clothing in the country is in storage, and that’s a huge resource.

  9. Blimey! I must be dragging the average down. None of my “normal” clothing is in storage. In fact I have to keep using it since I spend all my clothing budget on hill kit.

    I sit here in trousers I bought for (and still wear to) work nearly five years ago – and it shows!

    And these days I don’t work on a site – unless you count the fact it’s a “client site” ;)

    Priorities…. priorities…

  10. My Snickers work pants are years old now too, canvas and indestructable. Very expensive too, maybe that’s adding to another another point that came up, buy quality and replace less?

  11. A great idea that for things with semi casual use. Not perfect for everything though – I can’t imagine Oxfam managing to sell something like a quantum wind shirt very often :)

    Durable quality and little replacement seems ideal. Relatively easy to do for most outdoors kit. What on earth are we to do about shoes though?

  12. Marketing pressure, re-use and shoes. All relevant again.

    Shoes? Leather is one of the worst polutants, don’t believe the hype about a leather boot being more environmentally friendly than a synthetic trail shoes, the man from the leather industry had some very revealing info.
    Write-up coming soon!

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