Muotatal, Switzerland,

My personal experience of testing the new GORE-TEX stretch garments for defence use

An adventure in the Swiss Alps – Blog by Sophie Genet

Cave crew

For the launch of the GORE-TEX Stretch product technology for defence use, I took part in a product field test with my defence team colleagues in the Swiss Alps. The programme included two nights in a mountain hut in the canton of Schwyz, climbing up and abseiling down a steep cliff, and exploring the Hölloch cave in the Muotatal.

I have only been a marketing associate with Gore for three months and this was my first team building activity, so it was a real baptism of fire for me!

Mountain chalet

We arrived at the hut on Wednesday around noon: a lovely six-bedroom wooden chalet in the middle of the mountains, with a modern kitchen, a wood-burning stove, and a well-stocked pantry for the occasion. Each bedroom had room for between two to four people or five at a squeeze. The chalet was completely self-sufficient in energy and the electricity was produced by a water turbine, which was enough to light us and charge the phones. However, we had to compromise on cold water showers. On the first day, we took our bearings, the programme was presented to us, and the household chores were divided: one team for the kitchen, another for the dishes, and a few early birds to prepare breakfast. It was also an opportunity to get to know my new colleagues, who had come from all over Europe, and even from Korea.

Abseiling the cliff

Although I must admit that living in a refuge and sharing rooms was already a new experience for me and slightly outside my comfort zone, the real adventure took place on the second day. Up early after a fairly short night for most of us, we were at the foot of a cliff by 8am equipped with ropes, carabiners, helmets and harnesses. We were kitted out with GORE-TEX Stretch jackets and rain trousers. I'd like to explain here the ease with which I climbed up and then rappelled down the cliff in my new clothes. Unfortunately, my fear of heights overcame my sense of adventure, and I preferred to join a small group of cautious colleagues and admired the more adventurous of the group from a café opposite the cliff. We did a walk in the mountains before reaching the café and were able to experience the quality of the clothing which were very lightweight, easy to walk in due to the stretch material and protected us from the wind. The feedback from the climbing team was unanimous: excellent comfort and freedom of movement when climbing and descending. The clothes are also very breathable which prevented us from getting too hot during the effort.

Cave experience

We spent the afternoon at Hölloch, a 200 km long and 1033 metres deep cave. Cave exploration was also a first for me, but it was a great experience which I was happy to share with my colleagues. We climbed, walked in the sand, climbed steps, slid down rocks on our bums and the protective clothing proved to be indispensable. I would like to thank our expert guide Pesche for his explanations on the discovery of the cave by a farmer in the last century. He also explained how the circulation of air works between the cave and the outside, the fact that the potential risk of the cave flooding depends on temperature and the formation of the different types of rock and the typology of the place. Pesche had even thought to bring a small stove and some broth to warm us up.

Team briefing

Despite some concerns before the event, I have good memories of this team building. I was very happy to meet my colleagues, all of whom were very friendly and warm, and attentive to each other when one of us was in difficulty. The GORE-TEX Stretch garments are fit for purpose: we put them to the test, and they came out without a hitch, like brand new. They were comfortable and lightweight, gave us a lot of freedom of movement, and kept us dry without sweating. Whilst this probably felt like a leisurely walk for some of my teammates who are used to spending nights in the snow and climbing more impressive peaks, it was a real adventure for me and I'm so glad I had the chance to participate. And I thoroughly enjoyed the hot shower when I got home.