Underwear out the ears

Jim Boyde was swamped in underwear -- 4,700 pairs. In October, the outdoor education expert got a curious call. Did he want free long johns? Mountain Equipment Co-op had thousands of polyester bottoms to give away.

By Genesee Keevil

Senior Reporter

22In October, the outdoor education expert got a curious call.

Did he want free long johns?

Mountain Equipment Co-op had thousands of polyester bottoms to give away.

They didn’t want them to end up in a Vancouver landfill, said Boyde.

The company phoned the National Outdoor Leadership School, and a friend there called Boyde.

Involved in organizing school bison hunts and other outdoor activities, Boyde started calling Yukon principals.

“I thought maybe we could bring a few hundred (pairs) into the territory,” he said.

“Really stretching it, I thought we could use a maximum of 2,000.”

But Mountain Equipment Co-op wanted him to take them all.

“We’ll pay to get them to Whitehorse and you do with them what you want,” the company told Boyde.

“I don’t know what they paid to get them here; it was a chunk.”

The half-johns, as Boyde calls them, came in kids’ sizes eight through 16, and were made of 75 per cent recycled pop bottles.

“That’s why I thought they were getting rid of them,” said Boyde.

“I thought they might not meet (the co-op’s) strict environmental sales policy—maybe they needed to be 90 per cent recycled pop bottles, or something.”

But it turns out the colour match was wrong.

“The turquoise they call a paradise blue, and the blue is Maui blue and the black to me is black,” said Boyde.

“How can you get black wrong?”

The bulk underwear shipment arrived at Boyde’s Learning Resource Centre office in October.

“They languished a bit,” said Boyde.

“And I was pressured because of the space they took up—I got questions like, ‘What are you going to do with these things Boyde, they’re not moving fast enough.’”

He fobbed a bunch off on Hidden Valley School for its bison hunt.

“They realized the paradise blue was their school colour,” he said.

Porter Creek Secondary sold a bunch as a fundraiser.

“A number got into the Christmas hampers,” he said.

Boyde tried to send bags of the half-johns to every school in the Yukon, after talking with the principals.

“The kids in Old Crow wore them on their head for awhile,” he said with a laugh.

“We’re trying across the territory, and in the smaller communities also, to build this capacity to help them understand how to work in the outdoors and with kids,” said Boyde, who works with the First Nations through Education.

A mountain climber based out of Vancouver in the 1960s, Boyde was one of the first Mountain Equipment Co-op members.

Still in contact with Mountain Equipment, Boyde wouldn’t be surprised to receive another mismatched shipment at some point, maybe the other half of the johns.

Outdoor gear, because it’s becoming more fashionable, is also becoming more expensive, he said.

“We talk about nature-deficit disorder and more kids staying indoors to watch things on computer.

“And that’s always a problem with trying to help young people get outdoors, the whole cost of being out there at different times of the year.

“I want to encourage outdoor education.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at


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