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.
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.
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 !
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?
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.
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.