News Item

Avoid magnetic clothing

Mountain safety leaders have warned against the use of magnetic closures on outdoor clothing.

The problem arises from the use of magnetic closures on gloves and jackets as the modern alternative to Velcro or poppers.

But such magnets can deflect compass needles, and there is already evidence that this may have been the cause of a recent Mountain Rescue call-out.

The Mountain Safety Adviser for Mountaineering Scotland explains:
'We have reviewed the circumstances of a recent incident in the mountains east of Glen Shee, which involved hundreds of hours of rescue personnel hours and police time. A group of walkers were caught in low cloud and headed east instead of west, becoming totally disorientated and ending miles away from a road. Fortunately no-one was hurt - just pride dented - but it could have turned out so much worse had mountain conditions been more severe.

She continues:
'The reason for the error was the compass. It had been stored in a pocket next to a mobile phone in a case which had a magnetic closure on it, and the magnet had reversed the polarity of the compass needle, so that the north arrow pointed south.'

The phenomenon of ‘reversed polarity’ has been widely publicised in mountaineering circles, and people are advised to keep their compasses well away from mobile phones . . but now there is concern at the growing use of magnetic closures in outdoor clothing. Popular outdoor brands are replacing Velcro with magnets hidden away in folds in pockets, hoods, front fastenings, wrist closures and the like.

The Mountain Safety Adviser concludes that that more joined-up thinking is needed between outdoor clothing manufacturers and mountain users to avoid such potentially life-threatening consequences:
'My advice is to steer well clear of any garments utilizing this latest trend of magnetic closures or you could end up with an expensive bill for replacing your compass or - worse - a life-threatening navigation error.'

Details and image (showing one hand in a magnetically-closed glove) from the link below . .

  • 15 February 2018
  • RIN

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