Whats your best piece of kit from the past?

Things have moved on since my early days on the hills. The clothing and footwear has improved beyond belief. Gone are the “hairy breeks” that many wore. How proud was I that I got a pair then at last I thought I was a climber. Long johns and even Pyjamas were worn under them! The layering system of string vests and “simmits” our cotton aircrew shirts and green pullovers were very basic. Later on came the Norwegian jumpers a famous bit of kit. The tartan shirts a must wear before all the gear changed.

The famous Curlies.

Socks are so much improved they fit now as are the variation in boots. We were issued with sea boot socks usually in only one size: large they were blister machines. My original first bought Hawkins boots were comfy but heavy when wet. The RAF Mountain Rescue teams had an issue boot “the curly”a great lightweight boot in the summer but in my opinion poor in the winter. Later on due to government cuts I am sure they were made of compressed cardboard. Often we were on call outs after a day on the hill when the boots were soaked through. One way to combat the cold was to wear two pairs of socks. These boots were awful to get crampons to fit. Most had to be adjusted by workshops heating the crampon and made to “fit” the boots. Often crampons broke due to metal fatigue from constant re heating ! What a change from today’s lightweight quick release crampon. Who remembers the faff of putting on crampons.

Plastic boots at Shenavall bothy my mate the late Mark “Cheeky” Sinclair”

In later on came plastic boots that were a game changer and nowadays have lead to the lightweight winter boots we have today. Also gaiters arrived on the scene the simple Karrimor gaiter was an excellent addition at the time. Before that it was socks over trousers for many !

Mid 70,s tartan shirts, Karrimor gaiters and String vests.

Looking at waterproofs we are now spoiled for choice and the prices. We had some awful gear early on the yellow smock designed to go over a rucksack by MOD was my first type of waterproof. It was awful and you took off in the wind. Look what is available now and the cost? Yet is any of it waterproof?

The Yellow smock huge and designed by the RAF.

Gloves – they were always a problem but we could not beat the early Dachstein gloves. What a wonderful thing they were and many still use them. A simple design and a good price.

Dachstein Mitts

Polar Fleeces – they were a game changer and I have written about them in the past. It was constantly wearing wet gear after days on the hill and out regularly on call outs later that day or night. Wet gear became the normal.

Nowadays few remember the basic gear we are spoiled for choice today.

The new material Gortex

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Bothies, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Whats your best piece of kit from the past?

  1. Jim Higgins says:

    I am just having a hoot of a laugh remembering some of the cheap or improvised gear I used cutting my teeth on the Scottish mountains. Fray bentos pie tin with two holes punched in the rim and a handle fashioned from a wire coat hanger. My grandfathers old cavalry twills cut at the knee for breeches and the most painful of all, a 2/10’s balaclava from my local factory, robert mackie. I recall my first Beard and a winter day on beinn laoigh. I pulled the balaclava off my head only to realise that it had frozen to my beard. Aaaarrrrgghhhh. It was like velcro only much more agonising. There were many other things we just seemed to survive with


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