When people ask me to name my favourite items of outdoor gear, I straight away think of those faithful pieces of kit that have stood the test of time. I am lucky enough to often be found using the latest clothing or equipment, but that fancy new gear isn’t usually what springs to mind when the question is posed. Instead, it’s the gear I’ve trusted, trashed, used & abused that gets the top vote. Maybe it’s a favourite fleece that’s been my faithful companion on every single longer-than-overnight trip since I bought it, or a sleeping bag that’s kept me warm on the coldest of nights & safe through the most exposed of bivouacs…. So where is this ramble going you might wonder? Well the point I’m leading to is that our favourite gear is often that which is most used. With use inevitably comes wear & tear, or even sometimes accidental damage. When your favourite climbing pants get ripped it’s a real bummer, but such accidents are not usually fatal. A rip, a tear a broken buckle or zipper, these are battle scars, mementos of great adventures & badges of honour to be proud of. Gear isn’t invincible & neither should it be, especially when lightweight & low bulk is a concern.

When gear gets damaged, too often our reaction is to throw it out or just stop using it. But more commonly than not, there is a simple, cheap & pain-free fix or solution. Outdoor gear, good quality gear that is, has been designed to withstand the rigors of many years rough treatment. Provided you care for your gear well, it’ll last. Sure there may be damage along the way, but that’s just where repairs come into the equation.

When it comes to promoting repairs & DIY fix-it solutions, Patagonia is definitely a company leading the charge. Ever since it’s humble beginnings, Patagonia’s mission as a company has been to use their clothing business to promote & incite environmental awareness & action. A big part of this comes in the form of using environmentally sustainable, recycled & ethical materials to construct quality products. Beyond this, Patagonia is also an industry leader in supporting the contentious battlefield of grassroots ecological protest. Inciting change within society is a crusade Patagonia fights on many fronts, from funding environmental campaigns, to simply encouraging their customers to buy only what they need. Then to use those products as much as possible & repair them if needed. Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, explains that “we ask our customers to use the tools we provide to decrease the environmental impact of their stuff over time by repairing it, finding ways to reuse it, recycling it when it’s truly ready. By buying only what they need, customers can reduce their overall consumption in the long run. A purchase becomes an investment that saves money—and helps save the planet—over time.” It’s no secret that Patagonia as a company is fundamentally aligned with combating our planet’s environmental crisis & Worn Wear is another quiver in that bow.

Worn Wear: The Stories We Wear

To give a cohesive name & face to this philosophy Patagonia launched their Worn Wear campaign. Worn wear is basically a means to promote the repair & recycling of Patagonia clothing and other equipment. Further to that, Patagonia have sought to engage with their customers by celebrating the wonderful adventures that their clothing has been partial to. Storytelling is intrinsic to our human nature. It’s fundamental to how we connect with each other & vital to passing on learned knowledge to future generations. Everyone has a story & so do your clothes.

Think of that favourite down jacket, or your long serving trusty pair of climbing shorts. Items that we rely on to make our adventures comfortable & safe can become more than just equipment or products. With usage we create a certain narrative with our gear & it’s this notion that Patagonia call The Stories We Wear. Through their online platforms they have been sharing these stories, not stories about only people, or just the clothing – but how both come together to create something more. If you’re interested in learning more about Patagonia Worn Wear & why as a company they’re so passionate about reducing waste & increasing the lifespan of their products, have a watch of this film:

The notion clothing as a vehicle for narrative is not a new one, we’ve been assigning meaning to worn artifacts for hundreds if not thousands of years. In the outdoor world, clothing is more than simple ornament. These layers of cloth are our armour against the elements, in harsh & uncertain weather we’d be lost without them. It seems only fitting then, that such an important element to our adventures be celebrated & cared for with due respect.  One of my favourite stories to come from the Worn Wear community is this short film about big-wall climber & Patagonia climbing ambassador Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll. Sean certainly embodies the Worn Wear spirit, always using his gear to breaking point & as you’ll see, often well beyond. Plus he’s a rad climber & entertaining to boot!

Closer to home

But how can I be part of all this you’re thinking? Well for starters Patagonia here in Australia have set-up a Worn-Wear hub based in their Sydney store. There you’ll find Jamie, who is quite handy with a sewing machine & complete on-site repairs & modifications. For Patagonia clothing the service is free, whilst a small fee requested for repairs to other branded clothing.

Every piece of clothing that ends up in the worn wear universe has a story. Below you’ll see a pair of 34inch Patagonia board shorts that were ripped, had a busted pocket zipper & even a missing piece of fabric (used for another repair). These had been donated for spare parts, but the story didn’t have to end there. With some love & clever sewing skills, Jamie transformed these nearly lost (but not forgotten) shorts into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Complete with a change of size to a 32inch waist, along with added fabric (from another pair of damaged shorts), a new pocket zipper & waist cord. Finally they were adorned with a coveted Worn Wear patch, a badge of honour among clothing! These loud & proud shorts have now found a new home with Nick from the Paddy Pallin Fortitude Valley store, as a substitute for his faithful Patagonia shorts that were unfortunately sucked into the Australia Post vortex en-route to Sydney for some TLC. A happy ending to an almost sad tale!

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Jamie 01

Aside from the hub in Sydney, the global online community has made the world a smaller place in many ways. If you’re sitting on a great Worn Wear story, Patagonia have made it super simple to share it with the world. Just head along to this link: http://wornwear.patagonia.com/submit

DIY Fix-it Solutions

For those feeling handy enough to try some at-home repairs ,Patagonia have developed a great resource for DIY tips online: http://www.patagonia.com/us/worn-wear-repairs

Caring for & repairing your outdoor clothing & equipment can be fun & will give you much more use out of the gear. Over the last couple years we’ve also posted a series of care guides here on the Paddy Pallin Blog. Check out How to care for your Rain Jacket , How to care for your sleep System , Care tips for Tents & Outdoor Footwear Care

For myself there are a couple of basic repair items that always join me on extended adventures. The first & by far my favourite is Gear Aid Tenacious Tape. This simple but very effective roll of self-adhesive fix anything patching tape has saved my gear on many occasions. To date I can recall patching 3 down jackets, a synthetic fill jacket, 2 hard-shell jackets, 2 sleeping bags, a dry sack & an air mattress. Not all of this injured gear was mine, but that’s part of the joy of it all. I love the sense of satisfaction that comes with a simple patch-job saving a mates down jacket from spilling valuable down whilst deep in the wilderness for example. Simple cut a patch from the roll (rounded corners), clean the surface to be patched, peel off the backer & stick it on. For a stronger bond, you can also paint a Seam Sealant around the edge of the patch.

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Beyond that, a basic sewing kit (needle, thread & knife/scissors, etc) can go a very long way for in-field repairs. A few other essentials for me are – tape (strapping tape, duct tape, etc) & spare boot laces or some accessory cord (also a great improvised belt!). Most of these simple items just live in my first aid kit & are always there just in case.

If you’ve got a gear repair project & need some materials or even just some advice, always feel free t pop into your local Paddy Pallin store. Either we’ll be able to help you out in store, or can point you in the right direction for those more involved undertakings. Just remember… if it’s broke, fix it. If it’s worn, wear it!

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About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. He loves spending time in the outdoors whenever possible - be it hiking, mountaineering, climbing, or just being on the road - He'll take any excuse to get into the mountains! He also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude valley, Brisbane. Drop in and say hi!

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