The outdoor clothing and equipment industry has taken a huge hit during the Covid-19 crisis, like many other business sectors, but, just like a mountaineer having to adapt to new and unexpected circumstances, some companies have started ‘pivoting’ (to use a current buzzword) their production lines to make desperately needed Personal Protective Equipment, from face shields and masks to surgical gowns and ventilator parts.
Not only are these brands contributing to the virus response efforts in their respective countries, they are also protecting their own businesses and employees by producing product that is in high demand at a time when outdoor retailers are struggling due to lockdown restrictions. So who’s doing what?
Seattle-based Outdoor Research have purchased four high-speed automated machines that can be used in the production of N95 respirator masks, and are aiming to produce 200,000 masks a day by the summer. Initially they are supplying government agencies to get PPE into the hands of frontline workers, however OR have recently announced details of a washable, re-usable mask, the Essential Face Mask (see pic opposite), that will be available for the general public to buy direct from the OR website. The mask kit costs $25 and includes the Essential Mask itself, a three-pack of filters and a protective storage pouch.
Meanwhile another North American brand, Arc’teryx has been working to solve the medical gown shortage in their home province of British Columbia. In collaboration with key industry partners, the outdoor apparel company has prototyped and developed a medical gown for frontline healthcare workers. The pattern, design and technical specifications of the medical gown have been made open source so other manufacturers around the world can access them. In the weeks ahead, Arc’teryx are expecting to deliver 30,000 medical gowns to community hospitals.
Closer to home, in North Wales, climbing hardware specialists DMM have switched some of their machines from making climbing equipment to ventilator parts, and they are also producing face shields (see pic, right). According to their FaceBook page, their sewing team has been responding to requests from local healthcare professionals for more protective equipment to enable them to work safely.
Elsewhere there are numerous stories of other outdoor companies working to produce PPE, including Cascade Designs, Osprey, La Sportiva and Keela, while waterproofing experts Nikwax have been testing a new cleaning process that could be used to re-use disposable PPE such as face masks and medical gowns.
Main image: Arc’teryx medical gown