An overreacting parental rant. Maybe.

I don’t know about education. This pissing and moaning about the recent exam results for a start, if everyone got lower marks maybe the markers are finally telling the truth? Would you say that waves of people who are more intelligent than ourselves and our peers are leaving school and uni, picking up the threads of the establishment and industry and improving the nation in leaps and bounds of intelligence and inspiration? No, neither would I.
Holly is a couple of weeks in to her extended sentence of school captivity and already I can see where the system is currently at. She’s got homework every night already, which she does tackle with enthusisam, and double homework this weekend. It’s ridiculous, she’s still 4, it’s almost like they want to purge childhood and the inconvenience it brings to the smooth running of the school.
I can see influences in her drawings for homework that have obviously come from school, either teacher or classmates which we’ve caught and reassured her that she’s fine doing her own thing which she switched back to. I mean, Alberto Giacometti did just fine doing the same thing as she likes.
School should be about nurturing, finding skills and aptitude and facilitating their growth, not crushing and conforming. It looks to me right now that all the things I was suspicious about when I was at school myself are actually true. I was a round peg in a square hole by the time I got to high school, but my achievements at some stuff were a tool which could be used so I got away with being quirky. Until I discovered girls and guitars at which point my priorities changed and there was friction, but what the hell, I found my way.
Holly is a curve-ball and a daydreamer and I’ll be damned if I’ll let them change that. If they want it, it’s on, I’ve been there before and I won. I wonder where we’ll be by the time parent’s night comes around.


Montane’s new showroom is a world away from the tiny old place in an Ambleside back street, and they’ve got company now too with TNF, Haglöfs and more in the same building. The lobby is particularly well decorated with a fine view of the summit of Beinn Narnain. I’m amazed that shot from the LX3 blew up to that size so well, looks cool and it’s still one of the finest winter nights in a tent I’ve had.
We met Rob Montane after KORS and although we were getting a little frayed by this point a sit down, a cuppa, and a room full of nice looking kit revived us just fine. I haven’t seen Montane for ages, and I could really see a big step forward. The brand has been driven hard from the old to the new, the elements of fast and light that have always been at the centre of the kit are alive and well but the quirky individualism has been spliced with a more regular feeling accessibility and an aesthetic flair that the kit never had in times past.
It’s all recognisably Montane, but rather than a niche brand for those in the know, Montane is now a world class label. Good to see.

I’ve missed out a lot of the shell clothing as nothing has really changed since my last look so I’ve looked at the current stuff I haven’t seen and what’s coming up, some of which is for this winter and some is for next year.

This colourful pair are hims (above ) and hers (below) Featherlite Down Jackets. 405g for a medium, we have a Pertex Quantum outer and 140g of down inside.
It’s tiny packing this and I’ve found the warmth from this style of down jacket to be surprisingly good. The hood is excellent as you can see on Phil below and the pockets are well placed although the girls doen’t get the chest pocket.
Ah the colours of joy.

Below is the Ice Guide Jacket which is a Pertex shelled Primaloft filled monster. Under the non-shiny Microlight outer the Primaloft is in 170/133/40g weights so it’s as warm as you’ll get from a synthetic and it’s still pretty compressible too. Big hood, many pockets and 635g for a medium.

The Polestar is a more standard winter duvet, good pocket layout inside and out, great hood and excellent articulation in the arms. The outer is Pertex Endurance food weather resistance and in the 755g medium there’s 240g of down to be found in the baffles.
Also below are the North Star jackets with an Antifreeze in the middle. These down jackets have been around for a while now but are still looking fresh. 

Nice wee selection of synthetics above. The first two are the latest updates of the Flux which I’ll have a close-up of shortly, then we’ve got a new colour of Prism. The Prism is a great bit of kit, midlayer, insulation and wind shell in one, really usable, I should dig mine out.
Next is the updated Fireball smock which I like much better, the styling is clean looking and the addition of a single chest pocket makes sense and it’s only 265g for a medium. Last in line is the Prism Vest. Insulating vests are ace, go-to kit for anything from running out to the shop to camp living on the summit.
All of the above are combinations of Pertex and Primaloft, a pairing of justice indeed.

Below is the new Extreme Jacket. Looks nicer and no doubt still has all the same performance in its Pertex Classic outer and Dryactiv 3000 lining. I’ve used the smock version on and off over the past few winters and for consistent cold weather it’s brilliant kit.

The Spektr gets a new colour of eVent. It’s light, it’s different, it’s got toggles and what about that hood?

The Minimus Jacket range comes in Pertex Shield which is much improved in performance since my last experience of it a few years back, everybody says, and these jackets are a good use of the silky fabric. Simple lines and layout, one big pocket and a good hood at 215g for a medium for the regular version in the middle.
The black one is the 232g Minimus Mountain Jacket which has a revised pocket layout with a smaller one on the chest and two mid height hand warmers. The blue one is the Minimus Smock which comes in at 143g. I’m liking the look of this.

Below are the matching Minumus Pants at 125g. They’ve got articulation built in at the knee with calf length zips and lower leg cinch tabs for biking and running.

These are the Sabretooth Pants in Polartec Power Shield. The fabric to me always feels like a hybrid of Powerstretch and softshell which is perfect for winter legwear. The Sabretooth’s have four pockets, including a handy thigh one and have removable braces which I always like for winter.
There’s a diamond crotch and knee articulation for even easier movement than the fabric already gives you, a zip fly, ankle adjustment and belt loops if braces aren’t your bag. Been waiting for Montane to do something like this for ages.

Rob’s pleased with the Jackal Jacket above in Powerstretch Pro. Finally we’ll be able to tell who using the best Powerstretch when we see the Pro label and folk will stop whining about the difference in price from one Powerstretch top to another, the reason now being plain.
Anyway, awesome hoody with built in gloves and a neat hood. There’s Tactel over the shoulder which is something you don’t see so much now and I don’t know why, it protected your pack from your rucksack and gave a little extra protection from the weather from the direction if often comes in, ie from above. Good to see.

Above is the Alpine Stretch Jacket. It’s in Montane’s own Chameleon³ fabric which is a four-way stretch non-membrane polyester softshell. Big mesh chest pockets, proper hood, adjustable cuffs, looks good.

The Skye Jacket below is in the same Chameleon³ fabric but in a plain style for cool weather running. But as you’ll see, the sleeves zip off leaving you a handy gilet, the armholes of which are normal and don’t follow the lines of the zip as I thought at first…

I like the Volt Jacket and Shirt above, a mix of old school tweedy looks and asymmetric wackiness. The Polartec Thermal Pro Honeycomb fabric has been updated they say and has brought a Cadbury’s Crunchie to mind .

Montane have always been faithful to the concept of windshirts with a wide range of models and this is still rolling on.

The Featherlite Ultra Gilet below is Pertex Microlight, it has a chest pocket, elasticated armholes and an adjustable waist. Very wearable and usable, over a baselayer you’re laughing, I know how often I roll up windshirt sleeves, so why don’t I just carry a gilet?

Phil’s ska dancing is improved no end by the Slipstream GL jacket, 70g of Pertex Quantum GL, the world’s lightest windproof jacket they say. Good fit whatever, no length cut off the arms or body to get the weight down and the arm movement is spot on.

Now I know I look all wrong in the photie below, and Rob’s expression while holding it on the hanger a few shots above might also raise a question or two, but the Slipstream GL Smock was actually one of the highlights of the day. The Pertex Quantum GL fabric is so light and it feels fantastic on, even on bare skin. The cut is good, the arm length is excellent, the hood is neat, the pouch pocket is perfect and it packs away to nothing at 85g. If only Montane would sample in large.

More windshirts, or Trail Shirts as Montane are calling them, all in the lovely Aeroflyte fabric. This polyester fabric is smooth, soft and feels like, I dunno, a freshly ironed favourite cotton shirt? I absolutely love the feel of it.
I’m wearing the 175g Aero Star bike jacket, simple regular design with lycra hem and cuffs. The blue shirt is the 152g Trail Star and is similar but with trail running in mind with thumbloops and different articulation to the Aero Star.
The Mountain Star is in green and features a hood and two mid-height side pockets and an adjustable hem. It comes in at 200g.

These are interesting, the weights are up a little on their Pertex equivalents but if the fabric performs as well as it feels, what the hell. That white top is ready made for sponsors logos for race wear isn’t it?

Montane went from no accessories to all the accessories. Here we have the Punk Balaclava and the Rock Band ear warmer. We look lovely.
The balaclava is well thought out, zoned fabrics to try and keep it wearable rather than a prison of sweat for your napper.

The Beanie’s get new colours. I’ve been wearing one of these for ages, I’m a hat connoisseur don’t you know.

Purple Polartec PowerDry Liners? Why don’t I have these?

The glove range has expanded since I last saw it. The Pertex/Pile Extreme Mitt about is better designed alternative to the Buffalo DP and I think it’s a Thermostretch on my other hand which is lined softshell.
Below luckily the labels are visible for two of them as I have no idea what they are, but I do remember being quite taken by the PowerShield Grips at the right, very dexterous. It’s the Extreme Gloves at the left: WARM!

The Terra Pant family is all extended these days and above we have the Terra Alpine at the left, which I’ll have a proper review of soon as I wore them a whole bunch last winter and the new Terra Stretch with the grey knees.
I’m hoping these are good, the fabric is Granite Stretch which is nylon and spandex so should be tough. The layout is classic Terra, it’s just that now I’ll be able to move in them. Alright.

The new Trail Tights and Trail Shorts look good with some nice detailing like ankle zips, rear knee mesh panels and centre/back pockets. The fabric is nylon/spandex Carvico with some Tactel reinforcing.


The Sonic Ultra above is nice looking short sleeve baselayer in Dryactiv fabric, but the new Mojave Shirt is what caught my eye the most.

I’ve worn collared short sleeved shirts and polo shirts into the hills a lot in the past few years and it’s a very good layout, you’ve got venting and a collar for keeping the sun off and the wind out. The Mojave does all that and is in a lovely feeling Aeroflyte Stretch fabric, a polyester/spandex mix.

We liked these, we’d wear them, store buyers won’t get it and we’ll never seen them again or a shop chain will get them embroidered for uniforms which as we all know know is a death sentence  for any bit of kit.

Here’s the woman’s Flux above, different styling from the blokes and they’ve kept a chest pocket which is nice. Below is the hood which shows the nice detailing of the microfleece that sits against your ears.

Above and below are the girls Nitro Jackets. 346g with a Freeflow outer shell and 130g of down fill.

The mens Nitro is pretty much the same, just a little heavier at 384g with 150 of down in there. Nice light, packable jackets. The Freeflow fabric has been a Montane regular for ages, it’s a nylon ripstop and wears well with a decent DWR.

It looks soft and cuddly, but it the woman’s Fury Jacket. I reviewed the bloke’s a while back and the Fury is a great light midlayer, Polartec’s Classic Micro is great on its own and isn’t too warm to layer and the hood’s a cracker.

The woman’s Alpine Stretch is below, same spec as the men’s above with a revised pocket layout.

The Pertex Shield Minimus Mountain jacket has its female equivalent above and below the Aeroflyte Mountain Star hoody and Trail Star gets a pastel treatment for the girls.

Above is the girls Lightning which is midlayer in Mt Thermo fleece, think own-brand Powerstretch. The Men’s Vice below is an a stretch midlayer in Mt Thermo fleece, think own-brand Powerstretch. Interesting combo of full zip and single chest pocket compared the two hand warmers for the ladies equivalent above.

The pack range is growing isn’t it?

The Medusa 32 is a go-to pack that’ll do day walks, light overnighters and winter routes. The ice axe stow system is really neat as Rob showed us above. It’s got a real back system and harness and comes in at 913g which is fine for the capacity and features. Stretch side pockets are a must and it ticks that box too.

The Cobra 25 above is another clean profiled go-to pack. 819g with zipped access and the same proper back system as the Medusa. You get a mix of gear loop and zipped pocket on the hip fins.
Below is the Ultra Tour 22 which is a stripped-down pack with a rolltop closure which goes as shown or flat across the top and cinched down the sides. It’s got plenty of pocket including a big mesh one on the front and this should work for anything from bike to mountain. 545g.

A lot of though has gone into the packs, and not all of it new. Above the “reversed” lid pocket entry is what’s on my 60s/70’s Karrimor packs, it’s a great idea, other folk can get to your kit on the move and your stuff doesn’t fall out when you open the lid with the pocket zip open.
The Torque 40 is an alpine pack with a few other neat features. It has a bivi mat which folds out to a good size as you can see below and the whole packs is designed to compress right down so that when you’re wearing your rack rather than carrying it the pack stays out the way.

Below is the VertErgo back system which fits into the Torque as an option and another version fits in the Grand Tour with a hip belt/lumbar section. It’s plastic with an aluminium strut in the middle to give the pack shape and made load carrying better. It’s good to have the option, I’ve swapped between folded sleepmats and rigid back systems many times and often wished I’d had the opposite on the day.

The Grand Tour 55 is a 1300g backpacking sack and has been designed with the experience of thousands of miles on foot. Lovely harness which will put the load where you want it and keep it stable, lots of storage and a clean exterior.
I dialled this into my shape pretty quick and I think it’s looking good.


I tried to make it to the door with the Grand Tour but I was distracted by the t-shirts. Cotton, printed with stuff that’s nearly as good as skulls. Cool.

That was it. We sat shell shocked and dazed outside a pub in Staveley and had dinner while the sun still shone in the late evening. Oddly it had been the best two days in weeks and Phil and I spent it in a motor or in a building surrounded by outdoor kit. Irony or karma at work there I think.
Still it was a joy, good to see folk and catch up and good to see the kit.

We still had the drive home, but it wasn’t without its charms either.


A day at DunBroch

Come taste ma blade ya manky bear for gobblin’ up ma leg!
I’ll hunt ye then I’ll skin ye, hang your noggin on a peg!

Billy Connolly sang the words from the Brave soundtrack with gusto as we topped the hill above Rannoch and I saw Glen Coe for the first time in too long.
It had started out as a galavant for me and the three girls, Joycee, Holly and Granny, that’s my maw, but soon turned into a quest to find DunBroch Castle as soon as we put the Brave sountrack on.
The music fitted the scene, it might be Hollywood, but it’s traditional at its core and we must have the had the whole album all the way through at least four times during the day, Holly would hear of nothing else.

It was joy on the A82. Really, the pace was okay and with the cloud high and breaking it was glorious all around. Every view of a peak or glen was tugging at me and I grinned my way north. Every car park was full, the hills must have been jumping which is brilliant.
From my door to FT Bill there’s hardly a slope or peak I haven’t climbed at one time or another, some many times and some not for many years. I had this in mind when I was putting together my Trail Routes for the next year, I’ll be chasing the memory of the speedier footsteps of a skinny man in his 20’s with a waist length pleat soon enough.

More important than introspection was lunch. The Glen Coe cafe was busy, but there was a table free outside and the four of us sat in the sun. I love it here and so do the girls.
Holly was soon rocketing around the garden, fueled by strawberry jam so a quick visit to the wee shop distracted her, it got me my birthday present from maw (it’s tweed and purple and I won’t get it until December dammit) and got us moving again after scone lethargy.
Back to the motor we went with Holly’s plans to find DunBroch Castle, the home of Brave. I’d thought about Dunstaffnage, but Ft Bill was on the agenda, so Inverlochy Castle was the wildcard stand-in for the movie star. Except I had no idea what it looked like having spent 26 years driving by it. Shame on me.

I got confused as to where I was going and was told that the ruins and interpretation boards at the end of the FT Bill bypass were never going to do so we carried on through the town to look for the brown and cream sign that we all knew so well but couldn’t place exactly. After missing it and turning back around we took the short road down to the castle, and what a surprise we got.

I was expecting a few stones in a field, even though I’d seen Horatio McCulloch’s paintings of high stone walls and towers. Inverlochy Castle was just what Holly was expecting, a mighty mysterious place with rooms, stairs and secrets inside and out. She ran around looking for Merida, Elinor (which by a stroke of coincedence was the name of the original builder’s misses) and the triplets, and a few times she swore she saw Mor’du lurking outside through the broken windows.
It really is an impressive structure, massive, well constructed and very complete for it’s 800 years. We inspected every stone looking for will’o’the wisps and it’s one of the finest castles I’ve seen. It’s close to the river which adds to the atmosphere and the tall trees soften the lines of broken stone so from certain angles it looks complete. It’s so close to Ft Bill, but so quiet, a wonderful and forgotten little corner.

We could have played all day, the sound of vintage diesel engines firing up from the nearby railway yard could have kept me there as well, but more cuppas were needed and even the discovery of a rope swing didn’t sway our quest for cake.
The Nevisport cafe isn’t what is was years ago but it was still nice enough with cuppas and cake at the windae seat. The High Street is worryingly littered with empty shops although the street was busy enough with locals and visitors. We went in to one shop that Holly fancied to be greeted by a surly “I’m closing in five minutes” from the wummin leaning on the counter. This was at ten to four in the afternoon.
Welcome to Scotland: Ye’ll have had your fun before you arrived.
Holly threw her a dirty look, turned on her heel and walked back out the door. I smiled at the assistant and added, “Aye, that’s my girl” as I followed Holly out the door.
We fared better at the old fashioned sweetie shop where wee paper bags were filled with quarters of this and that, including two varieties of Irn Bru flavoured enamel strippers. Lovely.

Back at the motor we had time for more stuff, it was still light and we had energy. We also had three little toy bears courtesy of Granny, the triplets from Brave in plush Disney merchandising from the tourist information shop. I wasn’t wrong about this being a theme day.
We pulled into the Inchree falls car park and exited our various doors, milled around, waved our arms and got back in. The midges were mental, we didn’t get than in Brave.
We had sweeties and ginger so even the Real Food Cafe didn’t slow our descent, which was slow enough already. I’ve been passed by fully loaded 18-wheelers on the motorway while I’ve been doing over 70 myself and yet they still can’t put together a camper van that drives at over 25mph. What the hell man?

I think we all learned something today. Folk know that’s a South Park reference when I say it don’t they? I should do a glossary of my references and my interpretations of words which may not match reality so that I don’t look like a patronising flowery prosed fop. I didn’t want to put fop there really, but it kinda fits. I’ll put it in the glossary.
One thing is embrace when your wean has a fixation for something you can enjoy too, this Brave thing she’s on is brilliant fun. It’s refreshed her interest in all things Scottish, we’ve long had Highland folk tales at bed time, and the mountains and castles are where she wants to be right now. Wait until she sees some brochs on the September weekend. Oh aye, we now have to work around school holidays. Ach. Still, I’ll enjoy it all while I can.
Also, Inverlochy castle is the best thing in FT Bill followed by the Nevis Bakery and the old fashioned sweetie shop. Don’t speed by, take the time to visit it if you haven’t seen it. I’ll be back again.

KORS with a little bit of ROKShow

Phil and I were in Kendal a couple of weeks back to run round the gear shows. We did the ROKShow in the morning, KORS in the afternoon and had a visit to Montane in the evening.
Time being so tight a lot of it was flying visits and we missed out a lot of folks too but we did manage to catch up with some familiar faces as you’ll see.
Part of my mission was to pick up some kit for a gear supplement I was writing so I won’t stick any of that up just now, when it’s been published I’ll come back to the kit on here in a wee while. In the mean time here’s some other stuff.
I did find myself enthused at various points, there’s an equal amount of nothing and something happening out there. You become immune to the seasonal barrage of new and improved after a while and a nice new colour means very little without something new going on under the hood, but there is something clever and exciting for every restyle and price increase.

At ROK, top Mountain King pole guru Harry showed us the new colours of the now legendary and highly successful (told you so) Trail Blaze poles. He’s got the racy looking yellow above and below are the special red editions made specially for an adventure racing team. Joycee has a 110cm set in a the new frosty pink on test and I’ll be getting her thoughts on those later.
We also saw and squeezed the prototypes for the new Trail Blaze models, new materials, new design, same light weight. The updates are a work in progress but they are looking good, more when I’m allowed.

More kit from ROKShow later, but down the road it was in the door of the leisure centre into Lyon Equipment’s stand where Si thought he’d seen a ghost, I got that a few times.
Anyway, Petzl isn’t sitting on its arse, with developments all over including hardware (lightweight doodahs at the top of the page), lighting and this stripped bare meteor helmet.
As light as can be with a proper harness including a magnetic closure and reliable protection. For sport, competition or mental speedy ascents you can have a lightweight head in bright orange.

Lighting sees a nice restyle of the Tikka range below. I like the plain colours and designs, I think they’ll age better both in a practical and fashion sense.

For blinding sheep on descents there’s a selection of uberpower lights, the kind that if you put it on the wrong way round the beam of light would come through the back of your head.

The Ultra is a great design, such a bright and penetrative pool of light, I’ve had an older version on test for a while for a feature I was doing and it’s worth the weight if you need that amount of light.
At the other end of the scale, the e+LITE update is as I’ve said before, a work of genius.

Julbo have a rake of new models, new shapes and hues of frames to fit the range of head shapes present, narrow/normal/moon (yes, that’s me). The lens options flow through the range in various colours and catagories with the excellent photochromatic version too.

LaSportiva aren’t hanging about, the Crosslite is dead, and here’s its successor, the 2.0. It’s neater looking on the upper, the sole area looks to have a bit more protection with the same studded design below. Interesting.


The Anakonda looks nice, lower profile midsole. Like a properly put together Salomon Speedcross maybe? Or a fitba boot.
Can’t remember what these are (this will be a theme by the way, we were rushed, notes were minimal and Joycee recycled all my workbooks. Actually that’s a lie, I left them behind, but it does sound plausible as an excuse, so I’ll leave it in to show I was thinking), but the sample UK8 fits Phil’s foot as always.

I liked these flipflops. Not been a summer for sandals round my way but I used to wear them a lot for cutting about outdoors, these are taking things to their extreme of course, lovely sticky rubber outsole to cling to the rock, but what’s sticking your foot to the flipflop when you’re bouldering? A muscular big toe that’s what.

In a similar and yet entirely different area are these LaSportiva rock shoes with a wrapover toe. The rubber is replaceable and although edging will be a little harder without a regular sole the shoes should be consistent rather than fading and your toes are right on the end here, to little air gap where the board meets the upper.
I blame the lack of my progress as a climber on ese shoes not being available 20 years ago.

Aftre three days of KORS Si couldn’t take it anymore, he pulled out the Exped MightyFatMat (I think…), threw himself on it, pulled his shades over his eyes and said help yourself. Maybe not. That big matt is a cracker though, a family or car-camping no-brainer. The whole Exped range has the new cleaner logo, the goose picture was nice but this is stronger I think, easier to pick out on a shop shelf. Or was it a swan? I’m sure it was a goose.
The mat range is better than ever, lightweight or badass options right through from air-only to down filled.

The Drybag Pro gets a great update below. I’ve got a couple of these and I use them all the time, the harness is better than that on many regular packs and it’s got a handy capacity. The new one does away with the see-through window and gets a bigger bungee patch. Nice.

Keeping with packs, Exped have some bigger climbing and expedition packs which are still very light indeed. All looking much better than their older attempts at this I think.

This looks like it wants to pick a fight with Golite and any number of dyneema bin bags bought over the internet from the USA. There’s an aluminium strut to give the pack shape and take the load with a real harness and it’s very light in the hand. Nice.

Certain things are dear to my heart and LightMyFire have address one of my worries, they now supply a sausage roll protector box with their camping food kit. Genius.
I’ve had one of these kits on the go for ages, one from before the heady days of sausage roll armour, I’ll need to write it up, the company has an interesting story to go with it.
Below is the new bamboo firesteel. I can’t work out if it’s eco friendly or they’ve made a flammable firesteel. Feels nice in the hand whatever. I use their firesteels all the time, great kit.

Terra Nova don’t have much new going on in the tent range next year but the pack range has grown recently. I’ve been using a Voyager 30 for months and I’ve got a Quasar 55 as seen above, more on those soon.

Wild Country is to Terra Nova what Epiphone is to Gibson (some will know what I mean and some will have to google) and here is where the action is with new models as they they park themselves in the middle of the technical tents on a budget arena. As I wrote arena there the first thing that came to mind was Kirk versus the Gorn. I remember watching that in the early 70’s with white knuckles willing Kirk to put it all together and blow the evil lizard away. It was awfy one sided though, the Gorn sounded like he had asthma. Mind you, Kirk ran like a girl so neither was on top form for the battle.

The Zephyros 1 Lite doesn’t seem like cheap Lasercomp to me, it might follow the template but its taking a direction all of its own. It’s got great detailing like the zip cover flap and the guyline attachment points. It’s around 1200g packed which is something around what the original Terra Nova Laserlite was, it’s a real option I think, not a second choice at all.

The Coshee 2 below is a whisper under 2kg for two people and has fantastic porch space at either side, yes two doors, and although head height isn’t brilliant with its low-profile shape, there’s great space for two to be comfy at camp and not have to crawl over each other to get stuff.
I like the look of it and there’s a 3-person version too.

Simple and spacious, the tunnel design Hooolie range impressed. There’s 2/3/4 person versions 2300g/3100g/3600g packed weight. Big doors, big porch, plenty space inside with the slightly beefier Wild Country fabric could make this a winner for anything from D0fE groups to you and I in the mountains.

The Trisar is another new range with the 3-person version below. Free-standing, semi geodesic for stability and 3300g packed. Break it down to half that weight each for spacious two-person trips?
Good to see so much happening at the other end of the price scale.

I like Hoka shoes. The fit and comfort is good and they’re different. For next year they’re diversifying a little, the big fat sole units stay, but there’s some lower profile models coming out as well, still built on the same principals.
I’ve had a quick try and I like the feel of them, the shoe gently persuades you onto the ball of your foot where you want to be running but for walking with a big pack that fat heel is still keeping you cushioned. Can’t wait to try a set over the long term when samples are available later on.
The sole below matches the shoe above and there’s some other new models below, hims, hers and others.

Just next to the Hoka’s were the Falke socks, nice kit which I’ll come back to in a bit, but I love this chart it’s a mix high tech manufacturing and tweed samples from a Victorian crofter.

Leki’s taken the Microstick to Snog Marry Avoid (BBC3, it’s brilliant) and given it a make-under. The new models look sleeker and have spring-pin thing to lock the sections in place. There’s alloy above and carbon below.

The spring-pin thing is above and the flip lever lock thing below, can’t remember the right name for it. It works well anyway.

We saw a bunch of new Montura kit. There are stores stocking it this winter which is great, but I have no idea what any of this is below, I shall attempt some commentary however.

Lighweight shelll with an elastic cinched waist. Won’t get that on a dog walker’s jacket.

Hooded windshells, size medium dammit. The pants are neat too, not a lot of choice for wind pants out there, but stick these over powerstretch and you’ll be surprisingly dry and happy in crappy conditions.

There’s some surprisingly regular looking kit in there as well. Lightweight insulation with stretch panels and good pockets.

The pants looked good. A lot of the Montura kit is in a racy stripped down style but here we’ve got some more mountainous features. Those curved-entry thigh pockets are great, I’ve had pockets like that in the past they’re the only leg pockets you can access sitting cross-legged in a tent.

At the other end of the scale we have stretch denims for bouldering. Or, if you get the XXXL you have leisure pants in which you can watch TV while you eat potater chips and drink a soda.

If they can put tribal prints on hoodies why can’t I have skulls? I had lunch will Phil today and guess what? He wished he’d had the vest he was trying on below in the race last week, it’s easy to dismiss something as impractical or niche until you’re stuck in that niche and in need of something practical.

There was some X Bionic madness too. The halloween skeleton suit isn’t really for scaring the weans, it’s a recovery suit for post race/activity power lounging.

Scarier looking is the bike suit below. Look at the complexity of that, and I’ll bet it just feels “nice” when you pull it on. It’s odd stuff X Bionic, feels lovely on and works very well, looks like the insides of a robot or the outsides of a Mad Max 2 extra.

Aku’s getting lighter and ever more current with their styling. Some new models below, I’ll have more on that in a bit.

We were running out of time but managed to catch Brasher where I had to pick up some kit and have a quick shufty at the new models. I say new, but one of them is an all-new Hillmaster.
I had a pair of these maybe 20 years ago and they were light and a good all-rounder. They still follow a similar look with that big soft and flexible cuff which means flexibility but dry and grit free feet hopefully. Inside it’s all new though as the boot’s been rebuilt from the sole up, literally as the construction is completely different as well as the components. They could have gone for an all-new boot, but I like heritage and if you mix it with new thinking you could have a winner.

A above is Brasher’s new Supalite Active GTX. This is light and flexible, it really is just like a beefy trail shoe with an ankle cuff. Nice and simple, but not too staid looking with a decent looking outsole and a Gore-Tex liner. I loved the Kiso GTX’s, still do, I hope these turn out to be as good as Brasher are definitely going in a nice direction here.

There’s a bunch of socks on their way too which I’ll come back to, the lovely Sue thinks they’re good enough to eat as they enthusiastically dismantle the stand around us. More and other Brasher coming up.

By the time we got to see Simon there was almost no stand left, but he still had time to taunt me with some fine cutlery.

He did want us to see a new Edelrid pack before it disappeared into a cardboard box and it has some very interesting stuff on it. It’s a clean profile climbingesque pack with a very neat harness.
The straps are are low profile and strethened by cords running down them, it’s unusual but you can see and feel the extra stability a shape-retention this gives the strap but at no cost to the flexibility.

The cords run  into the adjustments top and bottom which is neat with loops for one way and tabs for the other. Once you figure it out it’s simple enough and it’ll be come intuitive quite quickly I think.

With a little bit of work I got the pack dialled for my back just in time for the lights in tyhe hall to be switched off as security showed us the door. Ah well.
More Edelrid in a wee while.

There was a lot of other stuff that we skirted past, gave a glance to or raised an eyebrow at, but there was just no time for more especially as most of our time was spent bantering to folk we knew.
I’ll tell you something though, putting together the supplement and visiting Kendal has really sparked my enthusiasm for gear again. I’ve got new stuff coming in as well as enjoying catching up on the backlog and dealing with recent new arrivals. It’s all good.

Also good is what’s coming up next, an evening with Montane.


Flying P

Friend and fequent face on these pages Phil, AKA Bobinson is right now starting on an adventure that really does live up the the essence of the word, he’s off on the Adidas Terrex as the capatain of Team Adventure Zone Scotland.

It’s the real deal this, it’s a round of the AR World Series and it’s 620km through the Central Highlands and Southern Cairgorms on foot, on wheels and by paddle over the next five days.
Phil is the fittest I’ve seen him and the team (including wee Heather who’s been on here a few times) has trained hard so they’re as ready as the could be. They’re well kitted out, they’re on home ground and I wish them a good mix of speed, luck and weather that’s just right for racing.

The race is live online and you can track the teams progress here, Team AZS is #36 in the entry list. Go guys!


Went out to see the team at the finish. They made up a huge ampount of time on the last day on the Tay and finished 16th overall.

There’s a story to this Flying V which I’ll come back to.

All grown up

It came round so quick, it was always on the horizon, it was never something to worry about and then suddenly we’re running around trying to get her to eat her Frosties while looking for a permanent marker to put her name on her jacket and pleating her hair while she’s laughing at Spongebob.
It’s Holly’s first day at school and when I hit the pier and disembark I’m quite sure I’m going to collapse on the boardwalk and I won’t even feel the sack barra’ with the big wooden trunk on it when it rolls over my head.
The girl? She’s in the zone already, she’ll be alright. Alright! even.

Petzl Giveaway

Glad I checked in to see how this was doing, the prizes have most definitely all been taken, my inbox is full of emails called “Ben”.
The other good news there is that the updated contact form works and I will now get the questions folk send me too…
I’ll sort through the entries tomorrow and try to give the winners a shout back. Thanks everybody.



Gear is coming back to these pages, and to commemorate or indeed celebrate the occasion I’ve got a nice wee giveaway from our pals at Lyon Equipment.

Here we have a combo of a Petzl t-shirt (yellow logo on the front/white logo on the back like a proper tour shirt) and a pack of Petzl playing cards.
The shirts are Fruit of the Loom cotton affairs and are rather nice, for I have had one out of the pile all for myself, and the cards are really cool, each one has a Petzl product, a mountain photie or a bit of instruction/advice/inspiration. I’ve been packing a deck of these in my rucksack for months and they’re great, properly usable. They’re promo items too and not available in the shops.

To claim a shirt/card set click here to go the the contact form and in the “Subject” box write the first name of the founder of Lyon Equipment. Easy, click the link at the top.
Include your name and address and pick a large or small size of shirt, there are no other sizes, don’t ask.
I have a few more shirts than decks of cards, so there’s a chance of being a winner of some sort until I run out of everything.

Terms and Conditions
No one but me sees your details. I you don’t even want me to see your details don’t enter.
No address and shirt size included in the contact form email = no prize, the last time I did this stuff I was chasing winners for their details for months, never again, I looked like an idiot.
That’s it, nice wee freebies, hope you like them.


We all went to see Brave, Holly, Joycee, Granny, Grandpa and me. It started well, lots of giggles and chuckles from the girl and other weans in the packed afternoon cinema. When it took a darker turn, Holly was up on my knee, when it got a little more worrying she edged along the row to Grandpa, when it looked like Merida was going to get torn apart by the bear (see it, you’ll know what bit I mean) the girl was fastened around mummy’s neck. But she stayed for the whole film when many of her peers broke ranks and howled their way to the foyer. And, she loved it.

Me? It’s the best film I’ve seen in years. The animation is beautiful, the voice acting is fantastic and the story is simple and full of drama, humour, terror and emotion. I was right there from the start and for 90 minutes I laughed, sat forward in my seat and I swear I even misted up at one point. Near the start Merida escapes the castle for a wee break from it all and rides Angus her horse through the glens and on that ride I saw the Highlands as the live in my head when I’m not there. The shapes, the colours, the light, the timeless wonder, they captured it absolutely perfectly and it hit me in the head so hard I swear I didn’t breathe until Merida got back to the castle.
I’ve never seen the Highlands so perfectly depicted as I have in Brave, the moss on the trees, the ruined broch, the deep heather and grass, the way the river runs over the boulders, it wasn’t Disney and Pixar giving us their version they gave us the real thing.

Another things that was Brave about the movie was the voice acting, the accents are all real and unrestrained, they’re voices I hear all the time, I wonder just how may folk are getting every word of it outside Scotland? Especially the wee bits of doric Kevin McKidd was coming out with as the MacGuffins. Which brings me to another gem at the Highland Games bit, quietly in the background was heard the cry “MacGuffin you’re pish!”. Add to that “Jings, Crivvens Help ma’ Boab!” from Merida and I was pretty much on home turf the whole time.

I expected to hate it and I absolutely loved it. So many Scottish themed films float on negativity, either from the characters or from the situation or premise ( of which we have many obvious choices), but this was joy and brimming with positives in every way.
I can’t recommend Brave enough and if you do go, go early and catch the short animation La Luna that’s on before it, it’s a wee delight all by itself.

Nearly forgot something in all these new posts…

Outdoors and camping, and gear, that too, yeah. Coming soon. Probably, well definitely, off to the Lakes this week to catch up on stuff at KORS, ROK and some off-campus showrooms.

Do you think she’s trying keep her mobile phone next to her right ear while failing to look convincingly alluring because the top’s stuck on her water bottle? Some folk just aren’t designed for the outdoor life.

Happy Meal Fail

Parents and perhaps those fond of smaller portions will be well acquainted with McDonalds’ Happy Meals and their fun toy accompaniment.
Currently they are hammering home their Olympics sponsorship (as the official restaurant of folk watching the games at home on the telly when nothing else is on) with little mascots in every box, each one of the little fellas participating in one sport or another.

The wee sailing boat one was pretty good it has to be said, but the latest one really caught my eye. As you can see above the wee man is taking a lunge at his opponent during his fencing qualifier.
Below shows us two things, first that under that mask he’s got a helluva big nose, not unlike “The Man” in the old Pink Panther cartoons. Secondly, as he boldy strides away from the match arms swinging we can see that he won the match as he’s really excited about reaching the next round.

Orange Juice and Disney Disnae

“Hmm, I’ve got rubble caught in my chest hair” I muttered distractedly.
“That…” said Brian “…is the most manly thing anyone has ever said”
Unfortunately that meant it was also the most camp thing anyone has ever said. Can’t have it all.

Brian also made a return to the Kilpatricks, it’s been a while. We explored the earthworks perpetrated by the forestry folk. I view what they’ve done with horror and suspicion, it’s a total mess. Bastards.
Good wee trek though, took some extra trails to switchback through all the good stuff and the stove was employed to good effect while a shower passed over us.

The ride with Phil was at a different pace, the man is now an engine of destruction and made it to the top gate without taking his feet of the pedals. He even jogged back down with a big grin to help me up the last stretch… The Terrex race later in the month will be interesting, I’ll be watching for independent outsiders near the front.
The trail is a mix of much improved and much worse, the downhill at Overtoun is eroded all to hell and the flow is kinda gone. It was wet though, so maybe a dry day would tell a different tale. Good fun whatever and my recovery time was quick, full fitness is still in there, just under a heavy duvet of scheduling conflicts/Greggs.

The Olympics were annoying us, so Joycee made a bear out of a cushion and broth mix and I read a book about trains instead. It was just everywhere, in your face, in your food, in your ears and under your skin. Then I saw Italy edge out the USA for gold in the archery in a small makeshift arena and it all changed. A niche sport with great skill and utter joy from the winners, a fine moment to have caught.
I’ve been dipping in and out since then and the ones I’ve caught have been the good ones, but none have been better than the two pairs of British paddlers battling for the gold. The ever popular track and field? Gay. Paddlers and folk on bikes is where it’s at, but the skill, strength and determination of all of these people is a joy to behold. I’m sure any one of them would happily explode their cardio-vascular systems to get a gold. Except the shooters who would stop their hearts to get the gold. You really wouldn’t want to be running across a barbed wire strewn no-mans land with one of these guys tracking you through a crosshair.
It’s easy to dismiss the Olympics as a huge marketing exercise, but the look in the eyes of the winners and losers don’t say corporate to me, I’m seeing joy, despair, hope and disappointment.
There are also a whole bunch of cheating bastards out there, but you need that to keep it human I suppose.

It’s the 35th anniversary of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. An album that sounds as good today as it ever did, fresh, urgent and rock and roll at its purest. I remember ’77 well, the Pistols on the telly and the Queen at Glasgow Central Station. A time of contrasts in socialist Labour Britain. In flares.
The studio where we rehearse and record are putting out a Bollocks tribute album with a bunch of diverse interpretations of the songs on it and we’re on it doing No Feelings. It’s unrecognisable and I love it, the album’s going to be a scream when it’s finished with everything from folk to hip-hop on it. I’ll post something when it’s out, maybe a month or so.

Of course the laptop is back which is good. Even orange juice coursing through its circuits like gamma radiation surging through Bruce Banner’s veins couldn’t stop it for long.
It was a scary moment though, hadn’t backed anything up on the external drive for a week. Sent a Trail route though 90 minutes before it happened too. Christ.
Talking of which, there should be an unusual Nevis route from me on the shelves about now which I have long championed and I really hope folk try.

Been out with the girls a few times in the evening, making the most of our local stuff and things. Haven’t seen too many others while we’ve been out, is it only neds that enjoy the trees and the shore? Get away from your tellies you lazy bastards.

Or just look out your windae, it can be nice out there too.

But, all this irrelevant in the face of the most important question in the world today: Will Merida join the ranks of the Official Disney Princesses? She damned well better do.
Talking of movies, I have seen two in recent times and I’m picking Batman for the win, Spiderman is just a wee fanny. Can’t wait till Bane’s jacket comes out as merchandise.