That mountain-climbers and campers love the outdoors is an undisputed fact, but the evolution of their gear sadly does not reflect that dedication to nature. As eco-fashion guru Lucy Siegle points out in The Guardian, the winner of the long-standing rivalry between mountaineers and surfers as to “who is the greenest” is a no-brainer, since surfers are clearly in the lead on environmental issues such as ocean plastic pollution and sewage contamination. By comparison, there are relatively few conversations about the widespread presence of PFCs on land, some of which come from the production and maintenance of mountaineering and camping gear.
PFCs, or per- and poly-fluorinated carbons, have long been used to create breathability in fabric while repelling water. They do a pretty decent job of it, but the problem is that they wash off into the environment and persist indefinitely. They have been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, obesity, and decreased response to vaccines. They bioaccumulate in blood and breastmilk and can have a disruptive effect on fetal and infant development. The threat is serious enough that 200 scientists signed the Madrid Statement in 2015 calling for PFCs to be phased out completely.
While most outdoor gear brands continue to use PFCs, a few companies have come up with great alternatives. Here’s where you should start looking when it’s time to replace your old rain gear. The first five slides feature specific brands selling PFC-free outdoor clothing, and the last three slides have advice for treating your existing gear using PFC-free formulas.