Simon Reeve: How Clothing Has Changed

By Simon Reeve,

HUMANS have been on the move for thousands of years, and they have always needed clothing and kit for adventures. In 1991 Otzi the iceman was found frozen on a high ridge in the Alps. The perfect needlework on his preserved clothes meant the authorities initially thought he was a lost hiker from the early 1900s. 

It was only after carbon-dating his remains that scientists realised Otzi was truly ancient. Older than Stonehenge, he was travelling through the Alps more than 5000 years ago. His discovery was a revelation, because Otzi’s sophisticated travel clothing included leggings, insulated shoes made from deer hide, and a bearskin hat. His equipment contained at least 15 types of wood, each for a specific purpose, and he carried a backpack, embers for lighting fires, a medicine kit and drills. 

Otzi was well equipped, but his clothing would still have struggled to keep out the damp, let alone the rain.

Centuries after Otzi, pilgrimages became great adventures for our ancestors, involving epic journeys across the country and around the world. Millions hiked and trudged to holy sites through mud and storms, many wearing the most basic clothing on their journeys.

Then came the Victorians and the early Alpine explorers, wearing tweeds, hobnail boots and heavy wool. Their kit would have worked better than you might think at altitude, but it would have cost a fortune and they would have smelt like wet labradors when it rained.

Thank goodness for the revolution in travel and outdoor clothing we have seen in the last few decades. In the 1960s the Craghoppers team began developing and then testing their kit in both the Peak District and at Everest. They developed magical fabrics that could be both waterproof and breathable. Now of course Craghoppers clothing has expanded to include the NosiLife insect repelling range and SolarShield for the burning heat. Clothing for travel, hikes and adventures has been transformed. Otzi and all our ancestors would be green with envy.


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