Monthly Archives: August 2010

PHD Factory visit

PTC asked me to ride shotgun with him on a visit down South to visit PHD at the factory and also for KORS.

We trundled down the motorway which was surprisingly clear which made the going good for a change.

As always cuppas and food were on our minds after a couple of hours of in car banter.

The services were the usual overpriced, overcooked and underweight foot but the coffee wasnt too bad.

Onwards we continued South and when we were just outside Manchester PTC’s phone rang ” here answer that it’s probably Pete ” said PTC.

I answered with a joyful “Hello” which brought the response of ” Hi Phil its Pete how far away are you ? ” instantly a grin was on my face, I have only talked to Pete Elliot a couple of times on the phone !

As we neared Stalybridge the I phone was brought into play and it did us proud apart from not keeping up with PTC’s speedy driving.

The Factory is in an amazing old Victorian building that just seeps of industrial history.

We climbed the well-worn steps and entered the factory to be greeted by Pete Elliot who introduced us to the legend that is Pete Hutchison.

We took a trip to the “directors dining area” where we bantered about the outdoor industry and the like then it was back to the factory .

We were taken through the process of how the equipment was made starting with meeting the real boss Margret who keeps the manufacturing process the tight ship that it is.

Above you can see PTC, Pete and Margret at the cutting table, all the cloth for each bit of kit is marked up and cut here it’s also worth noting that most of the time it is one garment cut at a time unless there is a run for an order.

Next once all the bits of cloth are cut this bagged and marked and taken through to the stitching room, the girls had been pre warned that there were visitors in so it was very quiet when we were there !

We saw a sleeping bag being stitched up at one of the machines, untill you see one inside out you don’t realise how much material is used to form baffles and shapes which all finishes in a piece of kit that is the lightest and the warmest it can be.

Onwards to another machine where a Delta Belay Jacket was being made.

This starts it’s life as the front panel and pocket and is built from there !

Again an amazing process to see, the machinist might not make another on of these for 6 months so they all have their little books of notes to ensure everything is exactly the way it should be.

Next we left the manufacturing process to visit the best room.

The samples room really is the sweet shop !

It’s also where the photo’s are taken for the web page and houses a rather interesting machine which we will get to later.

PTC and I jumped in out of various bits of kit, of which I was surprised to find I fit into mediums !

A real amazing bit of kit that stands out is the Omega Jacket with a waterproof shell and cosy well-shaped hood as well as other clever features.

Only problem is it might be slightly excessive for Scotland with its -50 degrees Celsius rating !

The Alpine Ultra is another eye opener that might be used closer to home for those early starts.

At 330g and a -10 rating its a tempting bit of kit for kicking around camp on a winters morning.

PTC climbed into a selection of bags and at one point I thought he was going to pass out due to the cocoon he was in.

After a well-earned brew we were handed over to Pete Hutchison himself to take us through the stuffing process and to educate us (mostly me !) about down.

Each garment has a sheet that tells you exactly how much down and what quality should go where.

The photo shows Pete H and 3 different qualities of down used in the factory.

Down quality is a big thing at PHD and also Pete’s passion, down is sent to the factory in sample batches from around the world and then it’s tested on the rather clever machine below.

The Lorch Machine basically fluffs up the down then drops a plate onto the cylinder, the down the compresses under the weight of the plate and then stops when it can’t compress any further.

This then gives a reading and that matches the chart on the wall and gives you the quality.

The down is then ordered and delivered double bagged to avoid contamination to the factory.

After filling and final stitching the garments are checked over and finished with the PHD logo, bagged and then squished ready for dispatch.

What comes out for me is the passion for quality that all the staff in the factory have, ownership and team work are at the front of what PHD stand for this then comes out in the quality of products that leave the factory.

The constant search for lighter materials and good quality down is what keeps PHD up there for me.

The new Alpamayo kit that has just been released made of HS3 material shows that although they are good at what they do they are always looking for something different !

For sure the next time I climb into my PHD bag on a cold night at the top of the mountain there will be a greater respect for this quality piece of kit !

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Cat out the bag

I had booked some time off to head south with PTC to do some trade stuff and factory visits.

As usual nothing is set in stone and an impending Trail deadline saw us driving North instead of South.

As usual the stupids on the A82 were driving slow as the rain fell in heavy sheets.

As we got to Killin it had dried up a bit and we parked and had a wee browse in the Killin Outdoor Shop.

A pair of Keen Siskiyou’s caught my eye and to top it all they had a sale sticker on them too.

After trying them on I was sold, flexible and light with a roomy fit.

Next was of course food, we walked up to the bakers for pies, cake for the hill and coffee and as PTC shopped in the co op for hill food I rested my brew on the bin much to dismay of one old lay who commented on the fact that there was better places to each your lunch.

We drove over the hill road into Bridge of Balgie and then up Glen Lyon to the dam at Loch an Daimh.

Even if you are not a walker the drive up for the views is worth while in itself.

The sun was out and the sky was clearing as we left the car, we decided to leave the normal path and contour round the hill by the side of the Loch.

The blue skies were reflecting off the water making an amazing contrast against the lush green hillsides.

As we passed round Creag an Fheadain we could see towards the end of the loch and the start of Gleann Daimh.

The glen looked like an awesome place to explore and we bantered ideas of future exploration of this area involving bikes and tents.

As we climbed towards the Lochan I had to stop to tend to my feet.

At the Rat Race my bike shoes decided to hate my feet and after 8 hours I had 2 big holes in my heels.

I thought they would be fine but contouring round the hill has taken its toll on my left heel, after a bit of compeed it was fine and we pushed on.

Following the burn up to the lip of the Corrie we expected to be greeted with the edge of the lochan, instead it was soggy peat and  flat grass for about 500m till we reached the edge of the mirror like Lochan nan Cat.

We played about with tha cameras as we circled the lochan, trout jumped for flies, how they got there is a mystery.

We skirted round and up onto the ridge of  Stuc an Lochain just as a heavy shower came in.

The Haglofs LIM doing a great job of keeping me dry !

The ridge is narrowish  and rocky offering amazing views as well as a great route to the top.

On the top we had a chat to a couple who had come up the other side on the normal path.

As we had something to eat we could see the weather coming in from the west.

As you looked at each compass point there was different weather at each.

As PTC filmed a little snippet being the TV celeb he is we soaked up the views that were about to be hidden.

The cloud thickened and the views disappeared we reached into our packs for waterproof trousers as the light faded.

The rain started and before long it was rattling of our hoods stinging our ears, it was so heavy it was hitting the ground and the spraying back up.

The comfort of thumb loops soon disappeared as my hands were drawn up into the sleeves of my jacket to protect them from the cold battering rain.

The drumming of the rain must have had an effect on PTC as he decided to run away arms in the air.

We had thought about branching off the ridge and heading down  Coire an Duich, but on closer inspection it looked full of boggy misery so we kept to the path.

Back at the car we got changed, I inspected my feet and as I pulled the compeed off I took the skin with it !

Another hole in my ankle !

We took a wrong turning at the Crainlarich junction and found ourselves in the Real Food Cafe eating Chicken Curry and chips with a pint of coffee by the fire.

It was good to be in the hills again with no pressures.

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