It’s not that I’m bored with new gear, but I think it’s time to remind myself how far kit has come, or indeed hasn’t since I first got into techy outdoor gear and left army surplus and Adidas Sambas behind.
So over winter I’ll be pulling out some kit from the early 90’s when I first went gear mental (except footwear, I’d die first…), a lot of it’s Karrimor, a lot of it’s purple and a lot of it is for a much slimmer and younger man.
Ah what the hell.
Designs and fabrics have changed, colour schemes in particular are a dead giveaway to when something was made. Except now when it’s all black.
The Alpiniste fleece here looks very jazzy indeed, it’s from around 1992 I think, and the first version made. It set a benchmark for technical midlayers and was evolved constantly until Karrimor came out with a ridiculous hoodless, baggy, half-softshell version just as they went bust.
The original uses a thinnish stretchy fleece, a bit like a cross between Powerstretch and microfleece, which minimises bulk and means it layers easily. It’s nicely slim as well, a size large normally means a 42″ chest, and that’s exactly what this is.
The arms are long with perfect articulation, and as you’ll see below the cuffs are ribbed and stretchy. Great under a shell, but slow drying and were replaced quickly by lycra binding to match the hem.
The hood here is very different to the later version with four press studs to make it removable, this hood rolls into the microfibre collar (above) with velcro tabs to secure it. I like the simplicity of that, I never once removed my later Alpiniste’s hood so I’d have been happy with a fixed hood later on, especially when they started using Karisma fleece which was (is?) very wind resistant. The Karisma chest panels are missing from the original too, it makes it lighter but less of an outer layer, but I suppose fleece never was the best outer layer.
The four chest pockets which are so recognisable started here, two handy hand-warmers, but why are the two chest ones at different angles? Mike Parsons remembered that when he was designing the Alpiniste with Pat Littlejohn they couldn’t decide which way to put the pockets, so agreed to differ and had one each. A happy accident then and a classic was born!
Going back to the fabric, it’s Polarlite 2 from Malden made with Dupont Dacron. That’ll be Polartec as seen as a young man then.
The fit is good, the washing machine has done a good job (this is an ebay affair, my oldest one is the year after… coming soon) and it’s in usable condition. I think it looks cool as well.
17 years old is hardly archaeology I know, but some fun will be had in this I’m sure.