In the RAF we were lucky we had always a contact or folks in the team who could make things. The Safety Equipment could turn and old parachute into a basic wind – top or suit if you chatted to them and provide Zips and some cash. I had some great gear made in my many years with the RAF MRT. They made so many other bits of kit but that’s another tale. The Marines had wind – suits and there were a few swaps made for them. Also some of our team members were part of big long expeditions to the arctic and came back with many prototypes. Gear was developing . My first sight of a real Wind – suit was meeting Pete Boardman in the Northern Corries in the mid 70’s. He was not famous then just another climber who was always helpful when we chatted, We met a lot and marvelling at this light piece of gear his wind – suit that he put on so quickly. We were struggling with trousers and zips. The wind – suit had huge zips it was also bright and light. I had seen the early wind suits that were designed by the Everest Team Don Willians on some of the massive expeditions of the 70’s.They were iconic.
They were great for snow-holing easy to put on with lots of zips and pockets. You could just wear them with your underwear when digging a hole and keep your gear dry.
The great Slioch one we got made to our spec was lightweight yet was superb for winter climbing. Made from Pertex I loved it. Even a midget like me got it made to measure as my short legs were always hard to get the right length of material. I loved it I think I had it for years but gave it away in the end after several patching due wear and tear.
I loved my heavier wind-suits for the big call outs in the Winter. Keela a local company sponsored us for an Expedition and we helped design it. We bought many for the team. Okay you could sweat a bit but they were ideal for the wild weather you get on a wild winter day. I loved the pockets for maps, spare food and other items. I bivied in them at times. They came into there own when hanging about I still have a Keela suit . They were robust!
We wore them a lot for winter climbing in Canada and Scotland. They were light and even better bright for the photos that meant so much to us then. We were so vain.
Wind-suits/ down suits have come on a long way the Suits we wore on Everest were well over £1500 each but for a different job. We did not buy them we were loaned them from the Military Expedition Store and returned after the trip.
I think I gave my red Slioch wind-suit away to a pal I had overgrown it ! I still have another one I carry in the car in winter, its still great gear. I miss the red Slioch it I wonder if it’s still about? It was so light and easy to wear.
Terry Moore my mate was climbing last year in winter in the Lakes he is still wearing his white wind – suit that he wore on Denali. He was climbing with another pal Brian Kirkpatrick who took these photos. I have a photo somewhere of Terry on Hells Lum in his white wind – suit. I must find it.
Andy Kirkpatrick wrote a great piece on Peter Hutchison the founder of PHD it gives and early insight into Down Suits its on phdesigns.co.uk Its called Down all the days : A profile of Peter Hutchinson by Andy Kirkpatrick, its well worth a read.
Also the incredible smhc. co . uk The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection has some great photos of down/wind suits always worth a look.