When members of the American Everest expedition arrived in the Himalayas last spring, they found that they needed more parkas in a hurry. No one had a moment's doubt as to what to do. Expedition leaders simply cabled Gerry, one of America's best-known suppliers of mountaineering gear, in Boulder, Colo. A shipment of 60-odd parkas was quickly on its way.
The puffy-looking parka in the drawing below represents a typical Gerry (pronounced Jerry) effort to keep a climber warm in the bitterest conditions. The parka, called the Andean model, is made from tough, bright-red Parbat Ripstop nylon, the same type of material used in parachutes. It is stuffed with a pound or so of white northern goose down. Down is the most compressible of all insulation materials, and fewer ounces of the fluffy stuff are required for a specific thickness of insulation. Thus, the bulky Andean parka, which has an average thickness of 2½ inches of down, can easily be packed in a 5-by-10-inch cylindrical sack.
The Andean parka has several other cold-weather advantages which make it an excellent buy at $60: a tunnellike hood that fends off the wind; a double set of zippers that permit the climber to pull his arms inside the garment for night sleeping; and a bivouac seat which unsnaps from the inside to swing down as a snow seat. The entire parka weighs 2¾ pounds—about as much as a cotton raincoat. Though it was designed for mountain climbing, its makers believe the parka would also be a good one for ice fishermen. The fur ruff is optional at extra cost. Gerry has several types: Polar wolf ($11); polar wolf trimmed in wolverine ($14.50); and wolverine ($17). The shop recommends wolverine because it sheds frost best.
Gerry has quite an assortment of down-insulated garments—all made in the tiny factory next to the downtown Boulder store. "We are not as conscious of style as we are of quality—our ski jacket has not really changed in four years," says Sales Manager Bob Swartz. Nevertheless, the company's classic ski parka is showing all the signs of becoming a national fad. Skiers in places like Vail and Aspen have latched onto the jackets (at a time when style-minded skiers are sneering at ordinary box quilts) as a badge of proficiency in technique. They call them "Gerry jackets." The store stocks them in black, blue, green and beige. The cost is $55.
Gerry also makes sleeping bags—for people and, on request, for dogs. One was made last year for a shivering, short-haired dachshund about to embark on a winter camping trip in the Midwest. Says Swartz: "It resembled a giant hamburger bun, about 3 feet in diameter with a 2-foot opening on the side." A dog can climb in and circle about the way dogs do for a comfortable bed, Swartz explains. The bag had a waterproof nylon bottom, and it was chockful of prime northern goose down. It cost $35.
For campers who prefer to bring along their wives instead of their dogs, Gerry will make up a king-sized double sleeping bag. They can cost up to $200, depending upon the size. But the most popular are mummy-shaped bags, which range in price and warmth from a summer sleeper, the Rocky Mountain, $55, to the Himalayan, $96.25, that is indeed meant for Himalayan temperatures.
The firm makes a variety of tents but is most proud of its Himalayan high-altitude tent which saw service on Sir Edmund Hillary's Mt. Everest climb in 1953 and the American conquest last year. "Our tents were used on the American assault from the West Ridge, and they were the last ones to blow away," says Gerry Cunningham, the firm's founder and chief designer.
Gerry also has plenty of equipment for more workaday purposes than mountain climbing—for instance, a "Pleatseat" for a tot-toting mother. It is a simple canvas shoulder strap in which the baby straddles its mother's hips. New York department stores think it a great idea for World's Fairgoers, and some are buying Pleatseats by the gross. Gerry sells the purse-sized sling for $2.
The Gerry catalogue lists hundreds of items for the climber—mostly hardware, knickers, ropes and ice axes—and the shop displays much of the gear on its pegboarded walls. Requests for the Gerry catalogue should be addressed to Gerry, Box 910, Boulder, Colo. 80301.