Overly Attached

The DAS airing out after a good day on Mt. Washington

          My buddies Al and Ryan are gear heads. Engineers by trade, they are able to dissect the tensile strength of any material you show them, the breaking points of the myriad components in a tech binding, and can determine the ideal flex of any ski boot based on a person’s height, weight, density of snow that day, current phase of the moon, and the skier’s astrological sign. Conversely, as an environmental scientist, I tend to view the world in systems and relationships rather than via a more reductionist lens. Thus, I become attached to gear through rigorous unofficial testing processes (e.g. how much rice from the school cafeteria can it hold without making it seem as though I am smuggling half the kitchen back to my apartment) that often concludes in me becoming overly attached to certain pieces of gear. My red (yes the color is important…..just like your first bike) Patagonia DAS Parka is a good example of my strange and loyal connection to some equipment.

The parka isn’t the lightest jacket in the world, it packs down….but not as small as people are now accustomed to, the zipper has slowly become “greased up” and tends to peel apart when skiing in it (yes skiing in the DAS is sometimes necessary in New Hampshire and Maine). However, these minor flaws and inconveniences are greatly overshadowed by some very important features….or lack thereof. This jacket is simple, its basic design allows it to go over any outerwear one might already have on and still provide a normal range of motion for athletic movements. It has HUGE pockets….I am still finding lighters, receipts, snacks, and ski straps from 2010 in my parka. This actually makes the jacket great for quick transitions with skins. For those who have refined skin removal technique (e.g. no need to take off skis), you can go one step further and not even remove your pack, just toss skins into the black holes that serve as inner pockets and you are on your way to first tracks (because yes it is a competition). Additionally, while the jacket may not condense into the size of a tuna can, it does conveniently roll up into the perfect size of a pillow. I have a weird attachment to a pillow that I use for parking lot bivouacs, but in all other instances the DAS typically serves as a great place to lay my head. Oh, and the hood actually fits over skiing and climbing helmets while still allowing you to do cool things like turn your head without feeling as though you are in a yoga class.

I purchased a new ski touring pack last year and it is awesome; all the bells and whistles of a modern backcountry pack, great fit, and very low profile. Unfortunately, with the new pack I struggle to fit in my crampons, food, water, first aid kit, and my DAS. Thus, for half a season my loyal and trusty jacket was often left down in the car while all the other gear got to wander the mountains and have fun. I felt as though I was reducing my margin of safety by not having the jacket with me. I had always counted on the big red puffy jacket being there if and when s%&# hit the fan. If it all went south quick I knew I would have something warm to put on and could hunker down long enough to figure out a plan. Now I have to make do with layering various forms of thin GoreTex, softshells, and lightweight down. This couldn’t last long. The new pack is great for “lift accessed backcountry” but it just doesn’t cut it for the real deal. Lowe Alpine should be grateful for my obsession with the DAS as I will soon be investing in one of their 45 liter packs so the DAS can return to it’s proper place (and I can actually carry a full med kit….important stuff).

There are some other items I am overly connected with and probably will never return despite lifetime warranties, but the DAS stands on its own as a mandatory piece of my backcountry kit. I still don’t fully understand what magic material it is made of (I’ll ask Al and Ryan….pretty sure it is primaloft…..but what is that made of????) but I don’t really care. It works, it has worked for a long time, and the smell reminds me of adventures in the PNW, Rockies, Presidential Range, and Gucci car camping next to rivers and rest area streetlights. Just like my skis, STIHL hat, ski poles, and z-pad, the red DAS has a history that can’t be replaced. It contains the private record of some of my best and worst days and for that reason I am proudly overly attached to it.

If you would like to acquire your own, click on the link below.

http://www.patagonia.com/us/search/DAS

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