Over the last nine months, we have published on Rohantime three posts from Chris Townsend. Recording some very early memories of Rohan and the Rohan garments used on some of those very early trips. These memories stretched back over 32 years and included his first in-counter with the late Paul Howcroft co founder of Rohan. The three posts recorded not only his experience of using early Rohan garments on the trips but amazing memories of the trips themselves, in particular the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide. The three posts have been so popular on Rohantime, we thought it would be a great idea to collect them all together and ask Chris to round them off with a look back at those very early memories and to put it all into context… now read on.
Rohan: Looking Back
Thinking back to those long walks of the 1970s and 80s reminded me of just how much things have changed. Back then the Rohan clothing I used was cutting edge. So cutting edge in fact that many outdoors people didn’t believe it would work. The fabrics were too thin and too light, they said. The designs didn’t look right for outdoor clothing (i.e. they had some shape!). Stretch materials were too close-fitting and not warm enough. Polycotton was so scorned by the outdoors industry that stores wouldn’t stock it. I’d walked from Mexico to Canada across deserts and mountains wearing it but the retail buyers knew it wouldn’t work. Thin insulation was derided too. I remember being told how it would never keep me warm. But I was never cold walking down the Rockies for 3,000 miles with it as my only warm clothing. Today everything is different. Go into any outdoor shop now and you’ll find clothing made of even thinner and lighter fabrics than polycotton, racks of garments labelled “soft shell” made of stretch fabrics remarkably like the Helanca Rohan was using in 1977 and plenty of thin insulated garments bearing the labels of the leading mountaineering clothing companies. Thirty years ago Rohan’s clothing was revolutionary. Now the ideas, fabrics and designs are the norm. Look closely and you can see the influence of Rohan everywhere. Often now it is third or fourth hand, filtered through other designs, other companies. I wonder how many of today’s designers know the real origin of the ideas and fabrics they use. The revolution in clothing Rohan began all those years ago has made venturing into the outdoors more comfortable and enjoyable. For those of us who were there at the beginning it has been like that for a long time.