This is part of the story of how I came to create the Steger Mukluk Company. These are excerpts from my notes on the Steger Mantell Steger Expedition 1982/83. I'm the last Steger, the physically weakest member, not the mentally weakest. Team members Included Will Steger, Robert Mantell and me along with ten most excellent K-9's. Zap, Blackie, Oscar, Chester, Creswell, Marty, (I'll have to ask Will the rest of the names... I can see them all but after all these years cannot recall my own name sometimes) We were very young back then... reminisce. This was years before simple communication, the new GPS's and satellite phones. We carried a crash locator that could only be detected if the batteries were working and if a jet happened to be flying right over us. We all signed off on our obvious risk which included a statement on how we would like our bodies disposed of in the event.
I learned most of what I know about how to live under extreme cold conditions from that Expedition. We had more know how and guts than money in those days, We ran a winter survival school with dog teams outside Ely, MN called Lynx Track Winter Travel. It never occurred to us that we could not do anything that we dreamed up and oddly we did just that. For this first trip we had a small group of product sponsors that included Science Diet Dog Food, Twinings Tea and Carnation Milk. There were no cash sponsors back then. The years of the high profile, sponsored, Steger Expeditions were yet to come. I sewed for months preparing clothing, dog gear, sled bags, sleeping gear as well as alterations to nearly everything else. One particular failure was some parkas that looked like you could roll up in and survive a storm in. Instead they were too stiff and tunneled cold air. How things work. Why things work. As a designer I'm constantly looking for the answers to these questions while trying to balance function with beauty. Function first. The outdoor clothing and gear explosion was at it's infancy. So much yet to come.
Today is Monday June 13. It was close to this date in 1982 that I had completed a garage sale to make enough money to get myself from Ely, MN to Resolute Bay, Canada. Located in the then Canada's Northwest Territories it is now renamed Nunavut, Canada as of 1993 - correction ( it was in 1999, not 1993. - thank you Caroline Dennill! Much appreciated ). It is the largest portion of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. We will get the maps out soon so you can get a better feel for distances. Along with a couple friends and a heavily packed car. We headed for Winnipeg, Canada where I would board a flight for Yellowknife and Resolute Bay, NWT.
I chose this photo to start because it symbolizes so much. The extraordinarily cold weather and difficult conditions were expected. I sewed most of our clothing and gear. Some of it worked and some of it, sadly, worked less well than hoped. In this photo I'm wearing an anorak that I designed from a new fabric called Klimate. It was an early competitor with Gore-Tex and the breathable, synthetic, high-tec fabric revolution. I wished for a front zipper every day that I was the lead skier. Not enough ventilation. The frost you see is simply from breathing. You can see my eyelashes are caked with frost. I would have to take off my mitt and thaw them with my fingers to slide it off. There was no discomfort involved and I think it makes for a real glamorous look right?!
I'll finish this note with a quick statement about my love for natural fibers. I have technical fabrics in my footwear line but most of it is leather and canvas. We have some technical pieces in the clothing too. I'm old school and love my cotton and my wool forever. I love it because it's comfortable, doesn't pick up body odor like a magnet and wears like iron. I wear technical too and appreciate it especially for it's lightweight quality. Right now... I'm wearing all cotton. Made in the USA!
Have A Positive Day!