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Gear Guy

Does anyone make "organic" gear?

Here's a tough one for you: For personal reasons, I have recently switched over to the "organic" lifestyle. I trying to apply this to all aspects of my life, including my love of the outdoors. I an avid hiker, climber, and mountaineer and was wondering if there are any outdoor products (sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, boots, etc.) made from organic materials. Jeff Anchorage, Alaska

A: No, it's not a tough one at all, because the fact is there's very little that fits that bill. The reason is simple: In almost all cases, sleeping bags, tents, and most other outdoor products rely on synthetic fabrics simply because they perform better than most "natural" ones.

There are a few exceptions. Patagonia and several other companies have worked hard to use organic cotton products. But this is mostly resort wear—nothing that is going to work in Anchorage in January. Garmont makes a leather-free boot called the Vegan, but it's as organic as a piece of polyester, with Cordura and polyurethane as its main materials. And, of course, several outdoor gear makers use wool in their products—notably, Ibex—but they don't make any claims that the sheep from which the wool is sheared are raised in any "organic" fashion. Wool, at least, is a natural fiber, so I suppose there is that. A few European companies also make shells of cotton (Norrona is one), but again, it's not necessarily "organic" cotton.

Beyond that, I know of NO packs, sleeping bags, or tents that are anything but 100 percent artificial, usually petroleum-derived: nylon, aluminum, polyester, in one formulation or another.

Anyway, I wish you luck. I don't want to dismiss your aspirations, but I can't help but think your energies are best directed elsewhere.

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