The Kepenek a Turkish shepherd garment
Text and sketch by Frits Ahlefeldt
Researching high-tech innovation ideas for hiking rain gear I stumbled across a strange looking traditional felted wool dress, that works both as a windproof and (to a limit ) waterproof outer garment, without stitches, zippers or other mechanical things. Just plain wool felt, in a shape optimized through countless generations of shepherd use in the landscapes and mountains of Turkey
The traditional people of cultures long forgotten have in many locations spend centuries perfecting their garments to be in balance and long lasting use in harsh conditions. Exactly the conditions that hiking gear designers hope their equipment will have a chance to survive in. The Turkish Kepenek is one of the examples I have come across on my research
The Kepenek is made of plain felted wool, in a shape that make it useful not only when walking and standing, but also for sitting, taking a nap or surviving a night in cold and stormy conditions, when it is not possible to make it home. In many ways a great example of design tested by time and made entirely of renewable, local resources… and looking great in a strange, timeless, out of this world, way.
It has a multi-functional, no fuzz, design that solve some of the challenges modern outdoor designers have a hard time to get around, I can’t help to think about how much we can learn from the designs of traditional cultures – even if these designs have to be adjusted for modern use.
The Kepenek can do things most modern hiking gear fails to do: its felted wool is both weather-proof and at least as important, it is still warm when wet, don’t have to be washed or impregnated ( it is self-cleaning and natural water repellent ) And more it has a natural isolation, even when compressed, so you can sit or lay on it and still keep warm, and it can be used and adjusted in many ways – and even shared for survival in extreme weather.