Old Classic Gear a few favourites. Dachstein Mitts, Tartan Shirts and Curly boots. 1970 – 1980.

Name that gear 1978 Walk – West to East. Modified Henry Lyodd with map pocket.

How the gear has changed from nearly 40 years ago and how many favourites have gone. I asked yesterday if folk could name some of the gear in the photo  above.

Dachstein Mitts still loved, by many.

dachstein-mitts – They are not modern and hi-tec but still one of the best winter mitts available. Warm and virtually windproof – completely so when covered in frozen snow – they also provide excellent grip on snowy/icy rock.

The finger-less mitts, Helly Lloyd and Hanson jackets, MacInnes Peck ice axe, hairy balaclava, Karrimor canvas rucksacs with no padding or waist belt, Karrimor gaiters,Dolomite boots, Helly Hansen fleeces/ and sallopettes (what a break through on that walk they were) Woolen jumpers and patches on the Breeks taken from sling leather protectors! Hairy breeches  when wet were so rough they gave you a rash on your thighs and legs and froze like armour in winter. The hairy breeks. Underneath we had long johns RAF issue, huge always size Large. I wore pajamas underneath in winter as everything was so big.  A headband  was usually home made and with the hairy balaclava that at times itched the head like mad.


1968 with my Blacks jacket bought with my paper run money so proud of it. Dad with Hairy jumper and nothing else in his old shoes in Galloway. Clothes and gear were not that important.

The kit I was issued with joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team in 1972 was to me an eye opener . To me it was an Alladins cave of gear and we were fitted from head to foot but it was all so big for a 5 foot 4 midget. We ended up buying most of our gear over the years bit by bit and I hate to think how much we have spent over the years. The boots were the famous Curlies a simple leather book that froze in winter. They were quickly changed for bought boots especially in winter for others like Hawkins and various foreign makes.

The famous gear Curlies  boots the issue of RAF MR. Mine were two sizes bigger from a 7 – 9 and I wore in winter 3 pairs of socks.

Curlies were incredible and what I wore for several years.  Above is the Curlies boot a really light and comfortable boot in summer but very cold in winter. I wore an extra 2 sizes in winter with 3 pairs of socks. I still have cold feet thinking about them. They were wonderful for big long walking days, like the Mamores, Fannichs ridges, so comfortable and light. Crampons were heated and bent to the boots for winter in workshops and we climbed in them, things like Tower Ridge, Red Gully and various other climbs.  We used them to rock climb as well and you were not allowed rock boots until you climbed at least very difficult climbs in Curlies! After two winters I bought my own boots well worth the cost and also a lot of my own gear, from jackets, crampons and clothing, I spent a lot of my wages on this great sport.  Yet I kept my Curlies and did my first traverse of Scotland in May 1976 wearing them, they were soaked most days like us and the cold feet in the morning still gives me the shivers. No decent insoles and the odd nail came through but on a good summers day they were a grand pair of boots and I wore many pairs out.

1976-Ben-Nevis-CIC-hut call -out – COLD DAYS AFTER A NIGHT ON THE HILL!

We wore smocks that were made from Canvas and had not changed from the early days and we modified our gear with our pals from Safety equipment and they had map pockets added and simple things like canvas crampon bags were made as were early gaiters.

1976 Knoydart trip – String vest, Tartan shirts, Dolomite boots, breeches, canvas rucksacks gaiters and daft hats. We always carried a rope!!!

We had a bit of spare gear as we were out most weekends but regularly went out on call – outs after a day on the hill with wet gear all night. We were issued with an aircrew shirts that was useless when wet so many bought the tartan shirt that was the thing at the time as were nylon breeches.

1973 Ben Lawyers the big yellow Smock and tartan hat, red socks breeches.

The rest of the kit was basic the Yellow Cagoule was so big and never kept the rain out but it was light! just been told by that RAF MR Legend Ray Sefton the Laird of Aviemore that the yellow cagoule was developed by the civil servants for the RAF. It was designed to fit over your rucksack as a hood? I was never told that and if the wind caught it it filled up like a balloon and off you went.   It was designed by a Service Defence Agency who did such things, there were far better jackets on the market but this was 1960 -70’s. There we go a bit more to the gear tale.   As was the Pixie smock a relic from Scott’s travels in Arctic a very thin canvas top with a huge hood that fitted over a helmet. I still have one I loved that piece of kit!

1973 Ben Dorain classic Curlies boots on me Tom with the posh ones. Of course the Woolen Jumper

We also had Ventile jackets which were heavy but very effective at the time, with good pockets for maps and bits and pieces.  The aircrew socks were huge as well about 2 sizes too big and caused big problems when wet. The dye ran out into other clothes, great days and the aircrew shirt that froze on you was also part of the layering system.

Kintail the Willians rucksack and  red gaitors nylons with the Willians sack the yellow one. Photo Terry Moore.

Rucksacks changed and many came on the scene, like the Willians and the small Karrimor nylon one that is in the photo above.

Do you have many favourites ?

1978 Ben Nevis Avalanche basic gear! With Lochaber MRT

Tomorrow climbing gear and equipment.

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection has all the gear and a great web site have a look and maybe donate to them?


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Old Classic Gear a few favourites. Dachstein Mitts, Tartan Shirts and Curly boots. 1970 – 1980.

  1. Bill Rea says:

    I had an early Karrimor nylon sack- the Tatra, as I recall. Superb bit of kit that lasted me for many years, only to fail catastrophically on a river crossing when the bottom of the sack just fell out.


  2. Fellbound says:

    Brilliant! Really took me back. Why did we think shirts had to be tartan????? I still pack my hairy balaclava occasionally. Foolishly my Dachstein mitts went to a charity shop about 5 years ago.


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