New brand available from this autumn is designed and made in Nepal and endorsed by the likes of Kenton Cool and Neil Gresham.
The classic outdoors trade show question is along the lines of 'seen anything good then?' This year, for us anyway, the answer was a simple one: 'Sherpa'... Or more comprehensively 'Sherpa Adventure Gear', a new to the UK brand of technical outdoor clothing which is designed and made in Nepal.
Dubious? Well, it's tested and used by a team of sponsored Sherpa mountaineers operating at high altitude in the Himalayas, but not only that, top British mountaineer Kenton Cool was wearing Sherpa Adventure Gear kit when he summited Everest for the first time this spring. The brand also supports top climber Neil Gresham.
Behind The Brand
We'll get to the kit in a minute, but it's impossible to talk about the brand without explaining the basics of its story. It was founded by Tashi Sherpa in Nepal back in 2003 and the majority of its products are designed and manufactured in Nepal where it employs over 150 people.
It's also commited to continued manufacturing in the country, which is crucial, because for all its astonishing scenic beauty and the sheer loveliness of its people and culture, Nepal is an incredibly poor and both politically and economically unstable country, so it needs all the foreign currency and employment opportunities it can get.
On top of that, a portion of every sale is donated to the Paldorje Education Fund, which the company established to impove the education of Sherpa children.
If you've been lucky enough to visit Nepal, you'll appreciate just how unusual and special that is - in truth it's just scratching the surface of the brand's background - it has three stores in Nepal, including a four-storey flagship building in Kathmandu, uses three factories in the country - down-filled garments are made in China - and sponsored athletes include Lakpa Rita Sherpa, the first Sherpa to climb the Seven Summits and Serap Jangbu Sherpa who is close to climbing all 14 8,000m peaks.
At the heart of it all is the idea of marrying Sherpa culture and traditions with western levels of quality, production and customer service.
All of which is lovely and heart-warming, but near useless if the product itself doesn't match up to the standards walkers and climbers have come to expect. Encouragingly, both Kenton and Neil are very clearly excited both by the brand and the kit it produces, which was really refreshing.
It's hard to tell from a quick look at a show how kit will perform in the hills, but it certainly looks the part and there are some neat little touches like the signature prayer-flag zip pulls that set it apart a little.
The Lithang's a full bells and whistles technical mountain jacket made from a proprietary three-layer, PTFE membrane-based fabric and looks to have a great spec. Features include laminated, water-resistant zips, micro-taped seams, pit-zips, and a tapered, athletic cut. The hood is helmet compatible too.
According to Neil Gresham, the fabric has 'industry standard breathability and waterproofing'. Oh, and it looks ace. It looks like the sort of jacket you'd expect from a well-known outdoors brand in other words. And, once it's available in the UK this September, 2012, it'll retail for a highly reasonable £200.
We also got a look at the Kriti Tech, a lightweight, stretch, doubve-weave soft shell top with fully articulated sleeves, a neat cut and an unusual off-set zip design that looks spot on for fast days on the hill and will retail for £80.
And last but not least, we had a quick look at the Khumjung Jacket, a lightweight 2.5 -layer waterproof top with a dry-touch liner print. Think sealed seams, hand pockets complete with storm-flaps and zips, adjustable hem, and a chest pocket with a buyilt-in 'porthole' for your MP3 player. It's made from Nylon too, so should be decently tough. It'll retail for £100.
Over Here In September 2012
Sherpa Adventure Gear will be available in the UK from September this year and we're looking forward to giving it a go. It's great to come across a new brand which is a bit different and a lot positive. On to of that, the pricing's decent. Not dirt cheap, but certainly very competitive. In the mean time, you can find more information at www.sherpaadventuregear.com.