In short, Mountain Equipment Co-op was founded in Vancouver, BC circa 1971 by a group of individuals sick of crossing the border to shop at REI in Seattle. This malcontent for border crossings and a passion for quality outdoor goods has led to the MEC to become one of the largest co-ops of outdoorsmen in the world. The Co-op is still in operation today making gear for its user/owners with the same enthusiasm as they had 40 years ago.
The parka seen here from the early to mid 1970s is very similar to what one would have found at REI during the same time period. It is made of a 65/35 cotton/poly blend, in an ever popular color combination for the time. What excites me the most about this parka is the thought that went in to the lining. Both the lower half of the torso and sleeves are lined in a light nylon. This allows for much freer movement as friction between the parka and any under layer is greatly reduced. The alternating of Navy and Khaki is quite nice as well.
The parka appears to have been produced under contract by Winner Sportswear LTD of Vancouver. Using local and foreign manufactures to produce items is common amongst Co-ops. Here you can see a later parka contracted by REI from Korean manufacturer Natural Comfort.
This is a great parka from a rare Colorado company. First Lead exists today as an outdoor preparedness and training organization based out of Norwood Colorado, about 30 miles from Telluride. In talking with a spokesperson for First Lead I leaned the training outfit shares no direct relation to the outdoor gear company, but is cut from the same stock of friends and outdoor enthusiasts that started 1st Lead back in the 70s.
This piece is typical in many ways of other parka from this era by other Colorado companies like Holubar and Frostline. A shell constructed from a cotton blend (most likely 65/35 cotton/poly). Added weight and warmth from an inner layer of the same material. Standard parka trimmings like the yoked shoulder panel and multiple large pockets for storage. Beyond that, this parka has some major difference from its competitors. Maybe the most noticeable is the lack of a hood. It’s not that it got lost, there’s not even snaps or a zipper half to attach one too. The cut of this parka is lot shorter too, ending just below the waist as opposed to mid-thigh length. Another difference is the leather backed snaps. Not exactly sure of the purposes here, I am sure it added durability to the snaps, but it also adds weight. Peaks on the front of part of the shoulder yoke point a little more than others, and there is an absence of chest pockets. Maintains traditional accouterments like the back pocket (closed by a small talon zipper), waist cinch, and Velcro cuffs.
Can’t wait to find more gear from 1st Lead to see what other kind of things they were doing different so many years ago!