Today is a sad day. Today I will cut my last pair of Rad Pants into rags.
The die was cast a couple of weekends ago. I leaned over to check a culvert for debris, and heard a soft rrrip while my thighs suddenly felt breezy. One of the crotch seams in my last pair of Rad Pants let go. Ms. NWimby laughed out loud; I think I felt a tear on my cheek. I knew immediately that this may be the last blow for my old blue Rads. An era came to an end. There is no repairing this lost seam, the nylon is a decade old, and has been around the world. A few smaller patches and duct-taped tears were OK, manageable, if not fashionable. But this was a fatal wound.
Anyone who has known Mountain Equipment Co-op long enough that they refer to it as “the Co-op” or as “Em-E-See” (as opposed to the new generation that call it “Mek”, a sound that will always cause me to cringe) will remember the original Rad Pant. Most of you probably owned a pair, or at least can pick them out of a crowd.
Originally designed for climbing, the Rad Pant was one of those designs that came together so well that the produce created filled many niches, true multi-purpose field and travel pants. A simple pant, with tapered legs and loose around the hips. Elasticized waist with integrated waistband, elastic cuffs, slash pockets with a few accessory pockets. The material was a light nylon that found the perfect compromise between durability, breathability, and wicking. They weren’t waterproof, but they dried so quickly, they were great for hiking in mixed weather. They were also magic at keeping bugs off.
I did a couple of field seasons doing exploration geology in the Swannell Ranges – a part of north-central BC where mosquitoes, black flies, and deer flies remind you every day just where humans reside on the food chain. Cool mornings, warm afternoons, and almost daily thunderstorms make for wet muggy conditions, and when you are a geologist, you spend a lot of time up above treeline, walking ridges. Your presence scares off the marmots the grizzlies, the elk, and so you become the only meat available for the voracious little insect bastards. Any illusions one might have about avoiding DEET for heath reasons are forgotten in a day. Your hatline, back of the neck and the back of the hands will be raw flesh without it. We even had to apply it to the shoulders of our long-sleeve shirts, as persistent mosquitoes will puncture through cotton or poly weave (and deer flies will scissor through it) where it is pulled taut. However, the light nylon used for Rad Pants had a tight enough weave that mosquitoes couldn’t puncture it. And the gathered cuff and elastic waist kept the bugs from wiggling around the nylon.
They were so damn versatile: light enough to roll up and stick in the back pocket of your cycling jersey or in the bottom of a day pack, roomy enough to slip them on over shorts. Durable enough to sit on rocks all day, repairable with duct tape if needed, and kept the wind off without being too hot for tropical use. I’m going to miss them, and haven’t found a replacement.
I don’t even remember when I bought my first pair, but I do remember they were tan brown, and it must have been before I finished my undergrad in 1997, because there are pictures of me wearing them at field schools up in the mountains of central Vancouver Island, and travelling thought the Basin and Range of Nevada after my grad. I have pictures of me wearing Rad Pants while sampling volcanic gasses on the edge of the Hale’ma’u’ma’u crater, while kayaking in the Gulf Islands for my thesis work, and while visiting mountaintop temples in Thailand.
Now, my last pair is dead, and there won’t be any more. MEC stopped making them a few years ago. Inevitably, they couldn’t let the greatest product they ever made stand. They messed with the fit, put in a non-elastic waistband, changed the cut and colours. Soon, they didn’t fit so well anymore, people complained, and sales dropped off. Then, instead of going back to the formula that worked, MEC killed the line. They just weren’t fashionable enough for the new MEC, the one people call “Mek”.
So goodbye Rad Pants. What good times we had:
|Me and my Rads, somewhere in the Osilinka Range of Central BC.|
|A terrible, terrible day for a mountain bike ride, when the Rads came out of the
pack early and helped stave of hypothermia on the Seven Summits Trail in
the Rossland Range. Note Aladar behind, in Rads of a different colour.
|Mr. And Ms. Rads, at Thaba Bosiu, the birthplace of the Basotho nation,
and burial place of King Moeshoeshoe I.
|That little speck in the middle is me, with my blue Rads, measuring
sedimentary sections somewhere in the Bowser Basin in NW B.C.
|My original tan Rads, (RIP 2010) not at all fireproof, but still adaptable
to sampling liquid lava from Pu’u’O’o on Hawai’i.
|My Rads were breezy enough to keep me cool in the cloud forests of
Costa Rica, while wicking off the moisture! Thanks Guys!
|Caught in a rainstorm during a hike? Head over to the fire and the Rads will dry off
lickety-split. Here, at the Sani Pass Lodge on the Lesotho/South Africa border.
|Planning a beach attack on the Gulf Islands during my thesis work.|
|With Ms.NWimby and her fetching Eggplant Rads, on the way
into the crater of Mt. St. Helens.