Farewell Exploring Coat
It probably seems inane, inconsequential and frivolous, but sadly my Berghaus Paclite has perished. No longer able to be patched up with duct tape anymore, I had to dispose of it. In life it's usually the people that make a place memorable, however I normally end up travelling alone and only brief meetings with people along the way. One of my constant companions for the last 8 years was this coat. I broke up a long term relationship in 2004, and decided to take a sabbatical from work at the same time. I just wanted to get away and see some of the more far flung corners of this planet. As part of the preparation for the trip, I treated myself to a gore-tex coat. It was light, breathable, wind proof and obviously water proof. And with a BBC discount to chip 30% off, (I was working for them at the time) fairly cheap!
I embarked on an around the world trip with my trusty coat packed away. I was mainly going to warm climates, so it would mostly be useful for when it rained. It saw action in Australia, where it seemed to rain pretty much every other day. And again in China as the weather was starting to cool. The following year I still wanted more travel action, and this time focused on South America. A 6 week trip from Lima to Rio de Janeiro. The coat came along. It was very useful when 4000m+ up in the Andes, like here in Bolivia in the volcano park near Chile. At night it went down to -20c, and lower with wind chill. However the coat kept me warm along with a number of layers beneath. As we spent the night in a freezing observation building under large blankets, the coat was fully done up and keeping the body heat in.
More and more travels followed over the years, Sri Lanka, North America, The Balkans, Eastern Europe, keeping midges at bay in Scotland. And every time the coat was stuffed into the backpack, ready for action. It's downfall came in 2008, when I started to take guerrilla exploring more seriously. I had been tipped off about a large mansion in Hampstead by GE085, and thinking it would be an easy explore, took along my faithful coat. Sadly, as we were leaving, my coat sleeve caught on the innocuous looking chainlink fence. The first rip wasn't huge, but it's days were looking numbered. I still took it with me. After I got back from the Balkans in 2011, it was still holding up. It had kept me warm on top of the TID tower in Tirana, Albania's tallest building.
However as my main exploring coat bit the dust, I took out this one, due to it's warming properties at a time when temperatures are falling with Winter approaching. The trouble with some explores, is that you turn up to the place in cold weather, but as you start to explore and the adrenalin kicks in, you heat up. Or you're underground where the temperature is usually constantly warm. A big coat just doesn't cut it. At this time I was heavily into tube exploration, and the methods for getting in usually involved all sorts of perils for the flimsy coat. Almost every trip saw a new rip or tear. I had a great time in Paris with GE042 and GE047, sleeping rough and playing games with the RATP on the metro. My coat kept me warm while trying to sleep on the open floor of a building site or out the open in a park. It was quick to just wrap around my waist when below ground, like here on a French metro train parked up on a raccord.
While I was exploring the Barbican tunnels (GES129), my keys fell out through a new hole, and fell in the worst place possible. At the end of a crawl tunnel, with watery pits in no less. However again the duct tape came out to fix the problem.
The final explore the coat was used on, was a trip to Hyde Park C0rner sub-station and old station remnants.
On climbing out through a tight access point, the small rip on the back became a very big hole, and I realised the coat's days of usefulness were over. It had been darkened and stained by the vile dirt common in tube tunnels and old stations, as well as the odd trip in the drains. It now had a constant smell as well, an unpleasant mixture of perspiration, tube dust and drain mud. It was time for us to part, and the coat to go to the big rubbish heap in the sky.
As I said at the start, it probably seems a frivolous thing to write about, but I'm a sentimental old fool. I am fully in favour of the old adage that life is for living, and as such, the coat was a constant reminder of some good times, good places, and good people.
Berghaus Paclite Extrem Coat RIP 2004-2011.
Berghaus GoreTex Paclite Shell 2011-
Already serving me well here enjoying the beauty of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
Up next, my favourite sock...