Dear Aunty Ice Axe

I was recently on an overnight tramping trip, and when everyone got to the hut I realised that I just don't have the right gear. Everybody else all had exactly the same - and I mean exactly - electric-blue down jackets and those plastic shoes with holes in. What's going on - was I hallucinating after too much glucose drink on the way up? Were they all really part of the club cheer-leading team? Is my tramping wardrobe malfunctioning?


Dear Out

Fear not - What you have experienced has a perfectly natural explanation entirely independent of the potent cocktail of e-numbers, electrolytes and energy food consumed by the average tramper for their morning tea. If we adopt a medical analogy (at an early age Aunty aspired to be a doctor, but a career as an agony aunt has providing a perfectly good alternative opportunity to tell other people what to do while doing the exact opposite oneself), the rather startling sight of an entire hut of trampers clad in identical electric-blue down jackets can be considered a symptom of Sellout-sale Syndrome. Sellout-sale var. Fairydown in this case. This strain proved to be especially virulent as few trampers' immune systems or wallets could withstand the sudden exposure to such large amounts of gear at such low prices. It was also highly infectious, transmitted so rapidly by word of mouth that within a week few who had been in contact with others who had already been 'saled' had not also succumbed. It is rumoured that some cases with particularly low immunity/high overdraft limits have a different sleeping bag for every day of the week and a perfect russian doll of tents from half-a-person up to army-catering size.

However, it is also clear that susceptibility to Sellout-sale syndrome decreases markedly after the first few attacks. The most recent manifestation, var. Macpac, seems to have had considerably less effect on the wardrobes and finances of the tramping community. Once one has stocked up with a life-times worth of gear, only firm believers in reincarnation can be similarly tempted a second time. In addition, there must be a natural limit to further outbreaks as the number of respected gear manufacturers falls low enough to make them rarer than the tapdancing tuatara in the endangered species stakes.

Aunty considers it her duty to keep an eye on outdoor fashions so as to be able to advise the sartorially challenged amongst her readership, such as yourself, and has noted that Ground Effect gear is now seen everywhere. Personally, Aunty would not wear this particular brand at the climbing wall, where the less ground effect the better, one would have thought. Aunty shares the attitude of most trampers to climbing & scramble happily around on precipitous loose rock at impossible angles but turn pale and freeze in fear when offered a rope and something to hold onto that does not try to run away when you touch it. Aunty's climbing and mountain-biking adventures were both (to get in the gratuitous pretentious literary moment that has become Aunty's trademark and paraphrase the philosopher Hume on the life of man) 'nasty, brutish and short'. Suitably baggy and well-padded clothing from the aforesaid manufacturer has therefore been particularly useful during convalescence. Work is now in hand to persuade them to incorporate a good concealed pocket for that other guaranteed Aunty-remedy in cases of nervous shock and exhaustion 'a flask of Old Growler' 95% proof. After a few sips of that one electric-blue down jacket more or less in the fizzle of bright lights appearing to bounce off the retina is immaterial, and plastic shoes with holes in seem like a positively great idea as backups in case your tramping boots give out mid-way through a two-week epic in Fjordland.

Happy shopping

Aunty Ice Axe