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.
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 !