2010 Top 10(ish)

When I review stuff I try to keep what I think are my personal preferences in check. I know I don’t manage that all the time, enthusiasm or disinterest is very hard to disguise. But I’m trying. Until now anyway, below is my top ten(ish) of the past year, kit that’s been on every trip, been chosen on it’s own merits rather than taken to test, the dog-eared stuff, the stuff that’s become regular.

Garmin Oregon 450
I came late to GPS, but it’s been a happy discovery. The Oregon has been a constant companion, never my sole method of navigation, but always a fantastic tool for confirming locations, getting accurate grid refs for my Trail routes, and just being a generally cool bit of kit. The big screen is great to use, and it alwys finds my position fast, I mean a few seconds at most, it’s full of useful info too, the full-moon calendar is handy as hell.
I’ll never be an enthusiast for electronics, I won’t exploit more than a sample of its geek-friendly capabilities, but as outdoor kit, it’s damned good.

Exped Fold Drybag
One of the first bits of kit I ever got on test was a selection of Exped roll-top drybags, and those same models are now dirty, battered and and at least one sees use on every trip. The 20-odd bright green one with the white lining is my year-round pack liner, and I’ve got 1 litre ones that I use for stashing my phone/iPod/wallet and 3 litre ones for  food and drink supplies. Both these sizes serve as instant pockets when cutting about town in your hill gear, just clips onto a belt loop.
Aye, there’s lighter, but these are properly tough. When that pack liner one gives up the ghost, I’ll be properly emotional, it’s an old friend and it’s been with me all the way.

Petzl Tikka XP2
The XP2 has been with me on every trip this year. It’s small, light, it’s bright enough to navigate difficult ground at night and it’s pretty good on batteries. It’s comfy on my napper (I’ve slept with it on more than once), the button could be better as it’s tricky to use with gloves, but I still pick it first from the box.
We really are sitting on marshmallow couches when it comes to current mobile lighting, every time I fish around my pocket for the XP2 it’s easy to forget the days when half a Petzl Zoom was hanging out of my pocket.

Therm-A-Rest Neoair
The Neoair interrupted the normal transmission, and things will never be quiet the same again. It packs tiny, weighs very little, has some insulation which can be easily boosted to cope with winter, is comfy, it’s turned out to be durable and I don’t give a shit how long it takes to inflate and deflate because it’s so damned good.

Macpac Amp Race 40
When this came in my first though was that it felt a little porky these days. It’s still billed as a race pack, but it is too heavy for that, what it is now is a killer backpacking sack. The first trip was spend moulding the shoulder straps to my shape, and since then it’s been like a second skin. The harness is brilliant, the freedom of movement when wearing it is outstanding, but it’s still secure on rough ground or a scramble.
It’s not perfect, the lid pockets are just a little too small, the webbing for the lid buckle sometimes gets lost if you’re packing a lot of kit in the external front pockets/bungee (a tricky prospect on its own at times), the bottle pockets can be a little troublesome on the move if the pack’s full, but carrying the thing makes me forgive all the niggles every time. The shoulder-strap bottle bungee is perfect for carrying my Zipshot camera tripod too.

Chocolate Fish Taranaki Merino Baselayers
It’s a rare trip that sees me Taranaki-free. Summer saw me in a blue t-shirt and boxers, and winter sees me back in a long sleeve crew or zipneck and leggings. The fit feels like they drew round me and used it as a pattern and the fabric hits a sweet spot that genuinely works all year round in all conditions. There’s no pretension about it either, basic and functional, no fannying about.  In these days of hype and disinformation it’s sometimes refreshing to get back to basics, and I’ll be trekking and sleeping in it some more in ’11.

Smartwool Reversible Training Beanie
My head is a funny shape, inside and out. When I saw this beanie at a trade do and tried it on, I knew I had to have it as it was a perfect fit. I was not disappointed when it appeared either, the light grey merino has been well seen on here over the past year or so. It’s a double layer of lightweight merino and it’s got a bit of insulation and wind resistance, but not too much, so it’s wearable on the move, and when your sleeping it turns out.
Double merino really is an odd thing, someone should study it with robots and a magnifying glass.

Buffalo DP Mitts
I’ll admit I just wanted these because they came in purple, but bloody hell they’re good. Surprisingly dexterous, ice axes and rucksacks are both workable, lovely and warm too, a real haven for your hands.
They are rough though, dated and underdeveloped. Buffalo seem to pride themselves on never changing their designs or colours, maybe they think that they’re ignoring dead-end trends, but I think they’ve just stagnated. New isn’t always about marketing product, sometimes it’s because someone’s had a clever idea.

Evernew Titanium
I pretty much retired all my other cookwear when the Evernew stuff came in. It’s really light, and it does flex in your hand under the slightest pressure, but it’s as hard as nails and I absolutely love it. The Solo kit has been on every trip where I’ve taken a stove since it came in, I’ve just revolved the stoves and windshields, and now the big pot is on the winter kitlist as it takes a remote canister stove inside it nae bother.
Long handles, it’s lovely to use, it’s well made and it’s wearing well.

Julbo Contest
Occasionally I’ve taken other shades, my Polaroids are good, Blocs are okay, but the Julbo’s always find their way back to the top. The frames are all-day comfy, the lenses have great coverage on my huge face and their photo-chromatic superpowers mean I’m taking them on-and off less as the react quickly to keep my vision clear.
They’re tough as well, slept-on, sat-on, crushed into a lid pocket on most trips and they remain damage free. I’ve only had one day of bad fogging, and that was a couple of weeks ago as I sweated up an Arrochar Corbett in thigh deep snow, I won’t complain at that.

PHD Minimus Down Socks
Weightless, vital, genius, that’s what these are. If I went camping without them I’d have a nervous breakdown, wet feet are revived, cold feet are saved, tired feet are soothed. Everyone who spends time in a tent should have these.

Haglöfs Lizard Top
“Told you so”. That feels better, I knew this was going to be good the moment I saw it, and despite all the misgivings, folk have indeed taken to the Lizard in abundance.
It’s just great kit, works across a huge range of conditions, and although there are jackets made for the same fabric, the more minimal design makes it much more wearable when a jacket feels like too much. Mine’s taken rain, snow, wind, sweat, tears, snotters and bike crashes and it’s worked with them them all like a real trooper.
Tough and genuinely go-to gear,
It’s not perfect, the production cuffs still had the non-stretchy seams that stop the arms being pushed all the way up. But as I’ve said above, if you can ignore the niggles, the rest has to be properly good.

Panasonic Lumix DMC -LX3
What can I say about this wee fella? It’s been everywhere with me and came through smiling. It’s been in water, mud and snow, it’s been boiled and frozen, it’s been dropped (12ft on one occasion) and bears dents and scars that wouldn’t look out of place on a rally car.
Aye it’s just a tool, but it’s a box of magic too.

Dean V
I rediscovered the Flying V this year and it’s brought me nothing but joy. My playing/singing stance has improved and my back doesn’t hurt anything like as much after rehearsals as they’re half the weight of my LesPauls. Playing a V sitting down is easy, one horn goes between your legs and the neck sits at 45° like a classical/flamenco player. My first electric was a V so this stuff feels natural, I feel for folk who were brought up on strats…

20 thoughts on “2010 Top 10(ish)”

  1. Interesting list. 4 from it are on my regular list too (Exped drybags, Neoair, Tikka xp2 and Buffalo mitts). I have a different Garmin gps and a different Panasonic camera, and stick with Smartwool when I use merino. I’d take my p/p socks over down ones because they dry my regular socks as well as keeping my feet toasty.

    And I keep wondering if there’s room in my system for a Lizard top… but I guess I can keep wondering because they seem to be out of stock everywhere anyway.

  2. Buffalo mitts should be on everybody’s Christmas list. Like Matt, I’d thought aboot the Lizard but they’re all gone. But base layer+light fleece+windshirt still = WIN :o)

  3. The Lizard’s back in March, I think there’s another colour as well, that might just be for the girls though.

    It was odd putting the list together and seeing what came up, wasn’t what I’d expected really.
    One that I missed were my dimple-palm horse riding gloves, I’ll edit it in later when I’m full of turkey and trifle.

  4. Umm, err, ah, I confess that a bit of late googling does seem to have turned up possibly the only remaining Lizard in black, large, in the entire galaxy…. :)

  5. Great list. Totally agree about the lx3, your photos are magical.

    As for the first Therm-A-Rest Neoair, have you reviewed one? I bought one back in July and for me it’s been one of the best investments in walking gear this year. I was so impressed by its insulation when spending a night up on the hill.

    Looks like I need to buy some phd down socks and a more powerful head torch. Will probably buy a RAB latok jacket in the sales.

    Back to the Christmas cake…

  6. I really rate the LX3 and like you I have dropped this fella a few times. The last time I dropped it, it fell 5 feet onto a stone floor in a bothy. The flash no longer works but the rest of the camera is fine.

    I’ve been fancying a pair of down socks for a while so might have a look around for some

  7. Just got a Zipshot on your recommendation – £19 on Amazon, a bargain!

    Buffalo mitts were my first winter gloves, now nearly 20 years old and still sit in my sack for emergencies, amazingly warm even when soaked.

    I have a Panasonic FX550, it was a toss up between it and the LX3 at the time and I can’t remember what swayed me now.

  8. So, has the Macpac Amp Race 40 surplanted the Villain – or do they do a slightly different job? I’m curious as well, does the mesh back on the Macpac help prevent a sweaty back versus the largely mesh-free Villain?

    I’m not sure I need another pack, but my LIM 45 is probably not ideal for more scrambly routes.

  9. It’s funny, so many of us seem to love Panasonic, it’s a shame Trail never got one into their recent test.

    Down socks, ah the jioy :o)

    rp610, the Amp and Villain are more different than you’d think given the very similar layout. If you could splice the best features from each pack I think you’d have the perfect pack. For me anyway!

    The Amp’s mesh gives you a different kind of sweaty back, but there is absorbency there and it was great in summer.
    The biggest plus for the Amp is the hipbelt, it’s much better than the Villain’s, comfort, adjustment amd pockets too. Plus it moves independantly on the pack so there’s better freedom of movememt. My Villain’s all have 40mm webbing on the hipbelt which is much better in use that the 25mm they come with.

    I haven’t retired the Villain, it’ll be back over winter, it’s definitely more “wintery” than the Amp.

  10. :)
    The elusive Lizard top arrived yesterday, and it’s been out up Aran Benllyn today. You’re right about those annoying tight cuffs preventing enough sleeve push-up… something’s going to have to give there – fortunately the sleeves are long so I might just sacrifice that fabric band and re-hem with some elastic.

    I’m not quite sure what to make of it yet, and rationally it’s not that easy to justify (I hadn’t really noticed a gap in my system) – it kind of does a bit less than a Vapourise smock, and so far much the same as a windproof, although it wasn’t exactly tested today. And yet the fit is excellent, the stretch is great, the weight is midling, and it’s presentable enough for hut and travel wear… so once I work out what it best combines with/replaces, I can see it getting a lot of use for walking, ski-touring and biking :))

  11. That’s the thing, it doesn’t replace anything, it just give more infuriating and time consuming options to consider :o)

  12. I’ve now worn the Lizard for 3 of the last 4 days (managed a summit camp on Moel Hebog on Sunday night, -6c and nicely clear :)

    It’s still not been very harshly tested – light winds and no rain, merely some mist and cloud. As an outer layer over a Powerstretch baselayer it felt very nice and seemed to perform well. However, a couple of times I’ve chucked a further layer (Paramo Velez Adventure Light) over the top for additional warmth, and then the Lizard seems to become a bit of a moisture trap, holding it in the Powerstretch rather than letting it out to the VAL.
    My previous winter layers have been Powerstretch, Cioch salopettes bib and VAL, and there definitely seems to be a different result with the Lizard in the mix – I guess I still need to learn the best way to use it… it will get used, it is very nice!

  13. I’ve tried just about everything under it and lighter base layers work better for me, often just t-shirts to keep my forearms cool.
    It layers well under a membrane shell, I reckoned it would be too slow-working under Paramo as it looks like you’ve found out.
    It is a funny one though, it refuses ti fit in :o)

    Glad you got out, I remember the outdoors you know…

  14. Aye, I reckon it’ll be a winner for spring-to-autumn over a light baselayer, especially on the bike. Right now I’m trying to work out if/where it fits in the ski touring wardrobe… but more data required yet.

    Damn, that means I’ll have to get out some more! ;O)

  15. It’s great on the bike on cool days.
    I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve always worn it from the off, never carried it, so maybe that says something about how I see it’s ideal use?

    You want out more? Come up next week and help me with some tents :o)

  16. That’s tempting – I’ve been back at work for a whole day… ;O)

    Alas, I think I’m going to be sent to Nottingham :(
    I suppose the satnav could always malfunction…

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