Gear Guy

Is European gear as good as that made in the U.S.?

What do you think of some of the gear manufacturers across the pond? Specifically, Eider, Haglöfs, and Millet? They seem to use comparable materials, but how does the craftmanship and durability compare to our very own Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, and Arc'Teryx? (OK, I know Arc'Teryx is technically a foreign company, but they feel like the next-door neighbor you'd gladly ask for a cup of sugar.) Gear me the way only you can gear me. Jeremiah Eugene, Oregon


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European stuff fascinates me. It’s different from what we see in the U.S., sometimes in an almost ineffable way—from the color palette (often brighter) to the fit (usually, but not always, slimmer) to the detailing.

That said, functionally it isn’t all that different from what we see here in the States. Gore-Tex, for instance, is one of those materials that has developed fairly solid worldwide hegemony, so you see it in European raingear as well as the stuff you of course buy here. Same goes for other fabric suppliers, which tend to be based largely in Japan (with the exception of Polartec). European gear-makers all go to the same trade shows as American ones, so are drawing from the same basic list of suppliers. And, based on my somewhat limited experience, construction and quality is absolutely on a par with that of American makers, and may well be superior in some cases. So why don’t we see more European gear in the U.S.? It’s simply a different market, much more fractured than that in the U.S., with things like tastes in color and style differing from country to country. So European gear makers have a harder time scaling up production to tackle the U.S. market (imagine if Mountain Hardwear had to make jackets in different colors to accommodate different tastes in, say, Oregon and Idaho). A few do—Millet in rucksacks and packs, for instance, with its line of very good technical packs. And in tents, Swedish tentmaker Hilleberg makes a nice line of extremely weatherproof, lightweight tents.

Arc’Teryx isn’t foreign. Isn’t Canada just a big county in North Dakota?

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