The Baffin Island fleece: a classic reinvented

Not all gear is equal. The very best gear weaves itself into the tales of many adventures. To celebrate our 30th anniversary, our designers breathe new life into our most iconic pieces.

Since the beginning, the Baffin Island fleece was a stalwart. And not just on the pages of our brochures.

“It seemed everybody has a story about the Baffin Island,”says Designer Keb Brabazon.

“We heard stories from people who were still wearing their 20-year-old fleece. One was leading expeditions in the Himalayas and one was a construction worker who was still wearing it to work because it is so warm and windproof.”

Praise for the Baffin Island fleece poured in from staff, customers and friends of friends.

“People used this fleece to do everything from walking the dog to tramping or work. Some people seemed to never take it off. Probably because it was so ridiculously warm.”

The Baffin Island. A Kathmandu Classic.
The Baffin Island. A Kathmandu Classic.

A revolutionary new fabric

Thirty years ago, fleece was the great-leap-forward in materials technology.

A 1996 Kathmandu catalogue captured the development:

“It wasn’t until the late 70s that polypropylene appeared and began to challenge the supremacy of wool. For those used to long wet trips, the quick-drying properties of polypro seem little short of miraculous. Fleece clothing followed in the early 80s and this fabric, after a decade of development by Malden Mills (USA) has culminated in the release of Ecofleece, Kathmandu’s recycled fleece fabric, in 1994. ”

In 1996, Kathmandu were also the largest user of Polartec in the Southern Hemisphere.

The classic Baffin Island fleece
The classic Baffin Island fleece

Green before our time

In 1996, we declared that wearing an Ecofleece garment makes a statement of your awareness and concern for the environment. That’s because each Ecofleece garment recycled an average of 25 two-litre bottles.

We’re proud to say our sustainability ethos is even stronger 20 years later.

Last year we recycled 3.9 million bottles into Repreve polyester garments. That’s an increase of 1.2 million bottles from 2016 and smashes our original target of 2.5 million.


Modern feel, retro look

Our commitment to recycled polyester is still the same. But when it comes to design, we wanted the Baffin Island fleece to align more closely with today’s style.

“We modernised it a bit — the original had quite a batwing,” Keb says.

"We had a few original garments in-house and looking through the old catalogues for inspiration, we updated the Baffin to have a more modern fit while still incorporating the original style lines.”

Like the fit, new fabric was also introduced for maximum comfort. But Keb still manages to give a nod to 1994.

“It was a really cool approach. We asked Polartec, who we’ve had a relationship with this whole time, what retro fabrics they were developing. We’ve used a new, high-pile fleece.

“It looks retro but is much, much softer. It’s even warmer than the original and it feels incredibly soft, not … crunchy.”

The Baffin Island was a star of our shoot in Portugal - Summer 2006
The Baffin Island was a star of our shoot in Portugal - Summer 2006

With your help we’ve been designing outdoor and travel gear since 1987, so it’s only fitting that we celebrate our 30 year anniversary with you.