A chance purchase at the beginning of Chagi’s first real adventure formed a stronger bond to her jacket than she ever expected.


I grew up in a Sri Lankan household with parents who couldn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would choose to sleep in a tent outside when there are perfectly good beds inside. To put it lightly, I was an outdoor rookie. I knew I enjoyed spending time in nature, but that feeling was never nurtured. After having a quarter-life identity crisis following graduating uni in 2016, I decided to scratch the outdoor and adventure itch by travelling solo through the Americas for six months. 

Read more: Going Solo? 5 Tips for Adventuring Alone in the Wilderness

Every blog I researched claimed that a rain jacket was an essential part of any traveller’s backpack. So, still living on a uni student’s budget, I headed to Anaconda to snag the cheapest jacket I could find. A navy one caught my eye that not only included a removable fleece layer, but it was also a brand name. If I wore The North Face people surely wouldn’t think that I was a kook! I bought the 2-in-1 jacket and just like that, felt ready to take on the world.

Forged by Fire

The first adventure I went on with my jacket was up Volcán de Acatenango in Guatemala. I’d never tackled an overnight hike before, let alone one up a 3,976m volcano! Even though I was the last of the tour group to reach camp, the reward was epic.



The neighbouring volcano, Volcán de Fuego, had erupted and was spewing its lava guts throughout the evening. It was the most terrifyingly beautiful scene I’d ever witnessed. I watched all night in awe as cold breezes covered my jacket in volcanic ash. 

I was officially an adventurer. 

From that day, I became addicted to the mountains and the jacket became my second skin. It kept me from freezing during a snowstorm on Iztaccíhuatl in Mexico, it endured every sort of weather Argentinian Patagonia could throw at me, and it was there to wipe my tears of joy when I first laid eyes on the Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.

Mountains weren’t all my jacket was good for. It soared to heights when I paraglided in Nepal and Colombia, sped down ski slopes on bluebird days in Japan, dropped off ledges bungee jumping in New Zealand and Canada, roamed the urban streets of Chile and Kazakhstan, went on safaris in Namibia and Botswana, and held off sea spray on dive boats through the Galápagos Islands. 

A Wearable Multitool

Like a Leatherman, my jacket was a multitool on my travels. Did you know that a jacket can be used as a pillow for long rides on chicken buses? Or that it could stop bottles of booze from breaking in your backpack? What about using it as a curtain on your bunk bed for a smidge of privacy in a 20-person hostel dorm? It was an absolute essential for me on any overseas adventure. 

But my adventure jacket has also done the rounds at home in Australia. For my work as an ecologist, I’ve been lucky to travel to remote regions where threatened animals roam and rare plants bloom. My first job took me to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. This unique environment is home to many species whose habitat is incredibly vulnerable to impacts from climate change and human activities. 

My work was targeting two threatened species: the Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus) and the Mountain Pygmy Possum (Burramys parvus). Trying to capture data on these little guys involves very early mornings and very late nights braving the mountain cold (and sometimes snow!). The North Face jacket was always stuffed in my field bag for both the hectic weather and for bashing through the bush to find these species.

Built to Last

As an ecologist who’s passionate about conservation, I’m always aware of the footprint I’m leaving on our planet. Mindless consumption of clothing is a critical environmental and social issue that’s sadly far too evident in our society today. Fast fashion was responsible for half of the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 and produces enormous levels of textile waste. Understanding this was a crucial part of my journey in becoming a conscious consumer of good quality products that are built to endure any sort of adventure. 



I now think carefully about the clothing I want by researching a company’s values, ethos and production methods. I read this quote in The Conversation, ‘Each purchase effectively acts as a vote towards the practices of a brand’. It’s also a vote for a healthy planet. 

When I first bought my jacket, I was just looking for a bargain and something to keep the rain off. But now I realise that my purchase was so much more than that. It’s been part of my journey from a frivolous uni student to an informed conservationist. A journey towards the mindful consumption of adventure.  A journey towards helping to heal our planet. 

To capture the meaning behind every piece of gear, The North Face is launching its first-ever crowdsourced archive, calling on Explorers all over the world to submit stories and images of their own well-loved products to potentially be included in the official archive.

To be featured on The North Face channels in Australia & New Zealand, The North Face is calling on Explorers to post to social media using the hashtag #MoreThanAJacket. Those featured will receive a $100 voucher for The North Face – to keep the spirit of adventure going.

Anyone who enters will also have the opportunity to be included in The North Face living archive, created in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Follow @thenorthface_aunz on Instagram or visit the website to learn more about It’s More Than a Jacket.