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    The Big Secret to Being Awesome

    The Big Secret to Being Awesome

    “All you need is a roll of duct tape and a plane ticket,” said Jim Donini as he dunked a tortilla chip into a deep dish of salsa.

    Donini, an American alpinist with a long history of cutting-edge climbs in Alaska and Patagonia, sat with a crowd of young climbers. The table was littered with salt-encrusted margarita glasses. Donini looked over the glasses and into the eyes of each young climber. “That’s right,” he said. “You just got to go and don’t forget the duct tape.”

    Donini was talking about commitment and perseverance.

    A plane ticket is commitment. You’re going!

    However, lucky us—we have the Canadian Rockies—we just need a tank of gas and enough momentum to break free of the inertia of everyday life.

    Okay, say you’ve done that, you’re committed. You’re driving out to the mountains.

    Now, think about this:

    Together, Jim Elzinga and Steve Swenson have over 80 years of climbing experience. Jim is The Original Canadian Hardman and I like to call Steve The Karakoram Kid because he has spent over 1500 days just on expeditions to the Karakoram alone.

    Early last winter, Steve and Jim went to the Waiporous to climb Hydrophobia, but they found the road blocked with snow.

    No big deal. They walked, sinking sometimes up to their thighs in the deep drifts.

    When they finally got to the drainage they realized they were out of enough time to do Hydrophobia.

    So, they decided to go to the next drainage where there are some easier and shorter climbs.

    Four hours of walking later, Jim racked up for the first pitch.

    When he got to the top, Jim saw that the second pitch was running with water. He thought they would go down.

    But Steve said, “Let me have a look. I think it might go.”

    He went up a foot and said it again, “I think it might go.”

    Water saturated Steve’s gloves, turning the leather into wet sponges.

    Then, water ran under the neatly Velcroed sleeves of his jacket.

    Jim watched the water bounce off of Steve’s helmet.  

    Steve moved up another foot and said, “I think it will go.”

    Water filled his boots.

    He moved up again, and then again.

    Each time Steve said, “I think it will go” until, eventually, completely and ridiculously wet, he reached the top.

    This is the duct tape. The idea that if something breaks (or is not quite right), slap some duct tape on it (“I think it might go”) and keep moving, a foot at a time, and eventually you’ll get there.

    Get it?

    The Secret to Being Awesome is a tank of gas and a roll of duct tape and don’t forget your attitude: flexible, tenacious and as ubiquitously useful as duct tape itself.

    Have fun out there!

    Swing a tool and carve a turn for me,

    Best, Kim Csizmazia

    Kim Csizmazia is a writer and guide with a notable mountain past as a world champion ice climber, dedicated back-country skier, mountain bike racer and member of the U.S Junior Nordic Ski team.

    Spirit West Presents Steve Swenson

    Spirit West Presents Steve Swenson


    Get Your Eyes Lit Up!

    When: February 15th 6:30 Doors 7:00 Start

    Where: Fort Calgary Burns West Theatre

    Who soled the North Ridge on Mt Everest?

    Who climbed K2 via the North Ridge?

    Who did the FA of the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat?

    Who made the second ascent of Mount Alberta?

    Who’s won the Piolet d'Or?

    Who doesn’t need oxygen on the world’s highest peaks?



    Who is Steve Swenson?

    Steve Swenson is one of the greatest North American climbers ever!

    Meet Steve and hear Steve’s stories.

    AKA, The Karakoram Kid, Steve Swenson, has a list of climbing accomplishments that might as well be written in Balti and a recently published “memoir of adventure”: Karakoram: Climbing through The Kashmir Conflict.

    As one of the most influential climbing-tribe elders today with over 40 years of prolific climbing experience, take this opportunity to learn from one of climbing’s greats.

    Whether you are of the climbing tribe and identify with his wife’s summary, “Fish gotta swim, Steve’s gotta climb” or you want to immerse yourself into a deeper insight of a place and people that is often written-off to Bin Laden and the war on terror, Steve’s epic tales are sure to entertain and inspire you to follow your own life of adventure.


    Even better, this event is a fundraiser. Help support a great cause.

    All proceeds benefit Streets to Peaks to enrich and empower at-risk, aboriginal girls and young women through mountain challenges and exposure.

    Do you want the Best Performance with your Waterproof Breathable Jacket…Layer with Wool!

    Waterproof breathable fabrics have come a long way in the past decade and, when coupled with design features like venting and a good fit, the garments performance is definitely optimized…

    Often, as outdoor enthusiasts, we concentrate on the technology that delivers the attributes of waterproof protection and comfort of breathability.  More often however, we don’t take the time to consider what we are wearing beneath our outerwear.  But we should…because the base layer, insulating midwear, and outerwear work together as your comfort and protection system…  Remember the adage that we all learned early on in our climbing days, the one about the weakest link…  For this blog I am going to make the assertion that the weakest link is actually the base layer and mid wear, more so the assumption that we have all bought into the mainstream thought that synthetics are the best choice for breathability in garment systems which include a shell.

    Wait a minute though we know synthetics are breathable right, I mean the Brands tell us that, and they have the tests to show it don’t they?  Well yes…and no…

    Most times the test used to measure breathability in synthetics is called a RET test or Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer test. Evaporative is the main word here.  Synthetics do better with this test than wool because unlike wool, synthetics do not absorb moisture, making it easier for the evaporative process to occur… therefore achieving better test results.  Great, except where does that moisture evaporate to…remember we are in a closed system with the outerwear shell fabric still in place…a barrier that the moisture vapor has to be transported through…

    Wool on the other hand transports moisture through its filament utilizing a physical process called sorption and then releases it through the process of desorption. In the process of desorption hydrogen molecules bang together, generating heat.  When heat is generated there is an increase in driving force.  It is the physics of driving force – the difference between the temperature inside of the jacket to the outer environment -  that transports the moisture vapor through the pores in your waterproof and breathable garments fabric.  The greater the temperature difference, the better the breathability! 


    Synthetics allow for moisture build up to occur underneath the shell garment slowly making it’s way through the pores that allow for the breathability…if you stop or get buffeted by wind you get chilled because the moisture that is close to your skin leaves you wet, clammy, and cold….causing conductive heat loss…

    Wool absorbs moisture, and then releases it, keeping you comfortable along the way.  Most importantly the buffering that the wool filament provides allows for an increased rate of breathability when coupled with waterproof and breathable jackets.

    So…if you want the best performance with your waterproof breathable jacket…layer with wool!

    Spirit West makes the cover of Sporting Goods Business Today

    Spirit West makes the cover of Sporting Goods Business Today

    Ramtect Wool Batting Ready for Retailers



    At the top of the escalators across from the Salt Palace business center at ORSM, many attendees may not have noticed the unassuming Ramtect booth, one of the unsung innovations entering the apparel market this fall.

    The company, which has been in the incubator stage for a couple of years now, launched a “Wool Demonstration Development” project at ORSM, along with a limited line of garments produced by Canada’s Spirit West, whose Owner Steve Bommer was on hand from Calgary, Alberta, to speak with international retailers. Ramtect USA has attended previous OR markets with its ecological-minded wool insulation product, but this was the first time craft jackets, vests and pants were ready for immediate order.

    Doug Hoschek is Ramtect’s outdoor director and one of the original co-inventors of Polarfleece in 1981. “Whatever the customer wants, the retailer will soon be told and asked to find it,” he said of the company’s come-to-market philosophy. Its development program focused on “average human beings” from three generations wear-testing the first line of “Essential” styles, primarily in high elevation forests and deserts surrounding Bend, OR.

    Both Polarfleece and Spirit West wool insulated garments stem from being ecologically minded. Their creeds are also concerned with the relation of living organisms to one another and, in turn, to their physical surroundings. Bommer and Hoschek both believe that the “locavore outdoorist” movement is increasingly important in the outdoor industry, and more specifically with Millennial consumers. This movement acts under the principle that the byproduct of wool is “as close to a food as possible,” and should, “be raised on a sheep that is allowed to live a very long animal life, properly cared for by human beings (ranchers),” said Bommer and Hoscheck.

    Hoschek said back in 1981 he developed Polarfleece with the same “locavore outdoorist” spirit only today Polarfleece is made with a physically more ecologically favorable material. He explained the process to SGB in an exclusive interview saying, “In 1966, I began developing polyester fiber for outdoor insulation as marketing director of Celanese (the largest producer of polyester fibers globally, at the time), thus creating a non-woven batting that became known in outdoor garments and sleeping bags as fiberfill, including the branded Polarguard patented insulations.”

    He continued to explain that batting soon expanded into his developing and marketing nylon fabrics for outdoor insulated products including down-proof fabric technologies for garments and sleeping bags. “The focus was on cloth for warmth with no development of polyester fibers managing moisture during that time. The technology of Polarfleeece moved into a three-layer system, Polartec 100, 200, 300, with the development of using recycled bottles in the knit in the mid-1990s. This was branded as Polartec,” Hoschek said.

    Doug Hoschek, Outdoor Director, Ramtect

    Doug Hoschek, Outdoor Director, Ramtect

    “Whatever the customer wants, the retailer will soon be told and asked to find it.”

    Approaching his 50th year in the industry, Hoschek said his experience with polyester synthetics has given him key insights working with some of the best product makers in the country, who are now following suit and turning exclusively to natural fibers, specifically for the moisture managing wicking technology associated with polyester fibers.

    “A common benefit of wool fiber is absorbing moisture, up to 35 percent of its weight, and then desorbing it through natural evaporation within the wool fiber itself. The process naturally happens in a wool fiber to keep the sheep warm and cool during both cold and warm climate changes. Shearing the wool preserves its ability to work naturally in a machine made insulation,” Hoschek said. He continued by expressing great excitement with the trajectory of today’s wool insulation. “A new natural moisture management is being created without oil-based synthetics and chemicals that use extensive amounts of energy and water now matter how green the chemicals.”

    The end product – Ramtect – is a thin, compressed, bonded batting of merino wool, made exclusively from U.S.-milled fabrics, designed and manufactured in Calgary, the inventors say. As part of their “locavore” inspiration, Bommer explained that his Spirit West brand could deliver booking orders in four weeks and fill-in orders within two. And furthermore, that the product is landing home for buyers. “Consumers rave about the increased temperature range and overall comfort this natural insulation provides,” said Bommer. “Sustainable economics allow for shorter order windows, year-round fill-ins and good margins with unique product that is sure to drive sales in the already-proven wool marketplace.”

    Comparing his company to the craft brewing movement, Hoschek said, “The major difference between craft and factory is simply the purpose of craft is to build at the pace of the workers assembling it, not the speed of the factory machine production line. This allows for a truly healthy environment for workers to not get stressed and become highly skilled and work for decades, instead of burning out trying to keep up with the factory-driven assembly line that asks more than any human can endure.”

    Ramtect-imageHowever, Hoscheck does not foresee craft altogether replacing the faster machine-paced assembly line production. “Although,” he said, “it will allow more creative designs with smaller production runs and faster turns in retailer inventory, giving designs more freedom and retailers fresh new garments several times a year for decades to come.”

    Sitting down with Hoscheck at ORSM, he said, “Retailers are the pipeline to the consumers, and as a supply partner we respect the brands being the focus of the finished product. Many of the major brands and the most exciting retailers were impressed to see the wool insulation in actual garments along with wool insulation swatches and sample yards for testing.”

    But Ramtect is not finished yet. Hoscheck shared that consumer wear-testing has helped, but they will continue testing until the end of 2015.

    Outdoor Approach carries exclusive Spirit West Merino Wool Line

    Windproof, water-resistant and lightly insulated synthetic styles like the Nano Puff® Jacket from Patagonia have been around for a while...but similar styles have never been made with Merino wool...until now...

    Spirit West offers jackets, pants and vests  in American made Ramtect wool! After a full year of testing we have found that this insulation provides the best ability to provide thermal balance...not too hot - not too cold...and its light and very compressible!  But you knew that because you've been using Merino for years in your "go to" socks and base layers.

    Designed in Calgary, made in Calgary, fabrics from the U.S....Try Spirit West products... we really are your local environmentally sustainable alternative!