One sleeping bag, one tent, one pair of boots, one pack. In Outdoor’s estimation, regardless of how often you use a piece of equipment, it should last for yonks. Yes, it will need repairing, especially if put to constant use, but the basic foundations should remain impregnable. After all, confidence in the gear you choose to use is key. Australian-owned and Australian-made gear manufacturers, One Planet, make some of the best quality gear around. Outdoor recently took a trip to their Victorian western suburbs factory to check out their style.
Confidence is everything. Especially when it’s just you and suddenly hostile conditions. You may have been there; the scenario isn’t a strange one. The temperature has plummeted to unexpectedly frigid; ice cold rain and snow goes onto buffet your bivouac for days without relent. All of a sudden, like a diamond in the rough suddenly cleaved in two, the importance of having a quality tent, sleeping bag, boots, jacket and thermal layer becomes crystal clear; a critical issue of perfect lucidity, rendering all else irrelevant.
Most who enjoy spending a little bit of time off the beaten track have a vivid memory or two of occasions when they’ve realised gear failure would result in catastrophe of the purest kind. It’s an odd sensation. Everything hanging in the balance, sometimes literally, largely based on a presumption of quality.
Nothing occurs within a vacuum. You wouldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, embark on a trip where there’s even a slight chance of encountering severe or challenging conditions without the right equipment. Knowing the correct mix of equipment comes with experience — building knowledge and skill over time, often learning aspects of both these things from a more experienced companion. And as key areas of knowledge are learned and understood, and physical skills developed and honed, so too a growing awareness of the type of equipment best suited to your own style and objective.
One Planet Director, Andrew King, a passionate advocate for the outdoors all his life, started making and repairing rucksacks in 1988. His business venture back then, Aiking, on Little Bourke Street in central Melbourne, was renowned for the design quality and innovation of its products. In 1997, after a merger with One Planet Adventure Designs and J&H sleeping bags, One Planet was born. Today, more than 20 years later, sees three of the original owners taking behind-the-scenes roles, with Andrew solely up front as managing director, responsible for key direction in design, manufacturing and forward movement of the company.
Outdoor has been keen to get the inside word on what makes One Planet tick for quite a while. They’re a gear manufacturer unlike any other. Not only are they truly an Australian-made product — and these days it’s rare to have a product actually stitched together here on our shores — but they are also one where everyone is not just quietly appreciative of One Planet products, but effusive in their praise. And similarly, from experience, every piece of One Planet gear Outdoor has used over the years, be it sleeping bags, tents or packs, has proven to be among the best ever put to use.
So, what’s it all about? Is it One Planet’s Australian-made, Australian-designed aspect that elevates their quality to the apex of outdoor gear currently available in the market?
“Outdoor adventures in Australia are quite exceptional,” Andrew King told Outdoor. “We like to explore unique landscapes — native bushlands, deserts, tropics, snow, rugged coastline, scrambly and rocky terrain and pristine ancient forests.”
“In a single year of adventures, Aussies will encounter all manner of conditions and often all four seasons in a single day: harsh sun, gale force winds, endless rainfall, humid situations and frozen mornings. So for us, an Australian company, we naturally design and produce gear to best suit the full spectrum.”
Outdoor was keenly impressed with the efficiency of the One Planet factory floor. The production line was humming like a well-oiled machine during the day we took our tour. We noticed every stitch and seam being given special attention. Indeed, the attention to detail One Planet spend during production, adding strength and rechecking durability, was awesome to observe.
“One Planet is most known for all essential technical gear and equipment needed for multi-day adventures: packs, sleeping bags, tents, rainwear and apparel,” King says, “so above all else, the kit we produce needs to be reliable and dependable; designed for the express conditions our customers expect to encounter.”
“But as well as quality, it’s also important One Planet products are functional,” King adds.
“Our product development is acutely informed by user-oriented design. Much of our finished gear has had heaps of design input from users, and is then tested in the field by these same users, often people who spend huge amounts of time in the outdoors, like trail path developers.”
Outdoor put the key question to Andrew. What is it that drives One Planet to produce and provide the quality gear it does?
“We love understanding how things work – it’s what intrigues us and what drives us to develop and innovate,” he says.
“When choosing outdoor gear, the same philosophy applies. We like to provide education and knowledge, always answer questions and, hopefully, continue teaching – so people can make the correct choice and live their best adventure.”
ETHICAL AND EFFECTIVE: WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
So, what, according to One Planet’s Andrew King, one of the world’s utmost authorities on the manufacturing of high quality outdoor kit, should you look for when choosing essential technical gear?
"Our focus on tents is to produce durable and light options for multi-day journeys. The Goondie series is a culmination of years of testing and development in Australian and New Zealand conditions. We’ve chosen a cross-pole design and dome structure for stability in wind (especially when it changes direction during the night!).
"With options of mesh for the tropics or nylon for the snow, you can mix and match inners. Our 30D polyester fly deals with strong UV while our 7D nylon is for gram counters. We like to provide options, so our customers can best use the product the way they want to use it.
"The floor needs to be tough and water resistant (this might sound obvious, but in Australia we have particularly rough and rocky ground, spikey little bushes, sharp sticks alongside, in parts, decent snowfall or chances of a tropical deluge).
"Think Larapinta desert country, Tasmanian swamplands or the Victorian and New South Wales alpine regions in July compared with the northern tropics in January. Our tents need to cover off the full range."
"Packs need to be reliable, supportive and well-fitted. In our case, we’ve worked for more than twenty years refining our Exact Fit harness to ensure a comfortable fit for women, men, young people and golden oldies. All our rucksacks are made in Melbourne.
"Our canvas models use Australian-made Waterloc canvas, a poly cotton blend impregnated with waterproofing agents. These rucksacks are tough enough to survive bumps and scrapes from rocks, gnarly gumtrees, tailors, friends and cheeky animals. The inherently water resistant fabric we use is ideal for years of bushwalking in rain, hail, snow or shine. We like straps that are useful, don’t dangle, catch or rip, and accessible pockets of a decent size.
"Our practical lightweight packs are intelligently constructed using lighter materials, they don’t shirk on key features, are comfortable carrying load and maintain the durability for which One Planet is renowned."
"Rainwear is always sold on breathability and water resistance. What is sometimes forgotten is the product’s durability. Most people don’t realise this, but the biggest contributors to leaky and damaged rain jackets are contaminants. These contaminants can be dirt (don’t sit on your jacket!), bug spray (popular in Australia), sunscreen (again, popular in Australia but doubtlessly needed!) body oils and plain old sweat.
"In colder climates, the layers between your thermals and your jacket protect the garment from some of these contaminants. In Australia, conditions are fairly mild, so most people wear thermals or a light layer in the outdoors, then chuck a jacket over when it rains. This common usage style in Australian conditions means your jacket is more susceptible to contamination. So, we work hard on choosing a membrane that’s right for these conditions. Our designs are also considered for the bushwalker, with seam and pocket placement in locations that don’t interrupt load carrying efficiency."
"When J&H first started making sleeping bags in the 80s, their designs were innovatively user-orientated in design and world-leading in construction quality. These are traits that continue today with One Planet’s baffling systems, material choices and construction methods. Our down sleeping bags are designed, tested, filled and finished in our Melbourne factory. We source our down responsibly, using the IDFL (international down and feather laboratory) to audit. All our temperature testing (EN13537 now ISO 23537-1) is done in the United States at Salt Lake University. With a large range of designs, shapes, and sizes to suit every condition, we understand the way sleeping bags should insulate the body. Ultimately, we seek to understand the individual customer and help them make the right choice.
"We currently offer 84 variations of down sleeping bags, two expansion gussets (to increase width) and four quilt options, which can be attached to the inside of your sleeping bag to boost warmth."