Tilley LTM6 Airflo Multicam Review

I like hats in general, but in the outdoors I feel odd without one. They keep the sun off my skin and out of my eyes, they slow down the sweat heading for my eyebrows, they compensate for poor hood design and they give me a handy bowl to drop in my keys and change.
Most importantly, a hat on me is like a picture hanging on a magnolia painted wall, it takes the bare look off me.

I like wide brims, it’s a sun and rain repeller, hats aren’t just for summer. I’ve spent years with cheapo bush hats from ebay and army surplus and at the same time always tried on Tilleys in the shops but found them both expensive and frankly, a bit dull. So my wallet played safe.
When I got the press release about this new airflo vented design and saw it also in came in the nice camo, it was a chance to see what the score was.

I read the instructions on the website, I measured my head and went for one size up from what I go for in Kromer welding caps, 7 1/2. When it arrived it fitted okay but as I wore it, it slackened off a little and I did think I’d got it wrong. Because although it says the hat shrinks a little in the wash, and bravely advises you to wash it often, I always think these statements are an exercise in arse covering, so they can say “we warned you” when someone boil washes and tumble dries their hat down to a size that only fits the teddy bear sitting on the chair in their bedroom (not from experience before you ask, totally random scenario).
However, after a couple of days of heavy sweating I washed it. When dry I pulled it on and it was perfect, size 7 3/8 perfect. It sat securely but not tightly just above my ears.
Since then it’s been worn almost daily and washed maybe every couple of weeks or just when it needs it. It has maintained it’s size and shape perfectly through this, even when crushed or rolled into a rucksack for a couple of days at a time.

The brim will shape to your preference to an extent, if you look at the top photie, that more pronounced front to back curve is me rolling it up at night.

This style has a wider brim that many Tilleys and it’s the one to go for, the extra coverage has been entirely necessary in the is horrendous sunshine we’ve had this summer.
The front and back extent a little further than the sides, capping the gap between hair (what’s left of it) and collar it channels rain away as much as it keeps the sun off.
The wider brim hasn’t been a problem in the wind, it’s flexible enough that the brims deflects and folds in strong gusts and the hat stays on my head.
In constant wind I pull down the lace which I leave loose round my neck as an anchor of sorts, but it tightens in as well if you want that drill instructor look.

You can see the lace below as well as the Airflo vent around the crown. This does works, heat rises out and because the mesh is on the vertical plane, rain doesn’t really get in either.
The fabric SPF is 50+ which I suppose matters on the crown where the fabric is single layer, so a bare scalp is pretty well protected.
The fabric’s water resistant as well, but only to an extent which is actually a good thing. Rain does run off and the fabric doesn’t get saturated so that the brim flops around my face, but it does absorb enough water so that you can dunk it in a burn and get it wet enough so that you can enjoy the cooling evaporation action as you walk.

I have suffered all summer in the +30degC heat we had, but out and about I was cooler in this hat than I was without it, mobile sunshade and aircon.

The inner sweatband is low profile so probably contributes to the size remaining consistent once washed as it won’t crush down over time. It’s smooth and wicks well, there’s been no irritation under heavy sweating at all.
There’s a wee pocket in the crown as you’ll see below, for mini Haribos or something. The hat floats too, just as advertised. I have tried it several times, mostly on purpose.

It’s nylon so it’s tough and it dries fast, it’s very well made indeed too, there’s not a stitch wrong on it. It’s very light at 108g and very packable too, fits into a pocket or rucksack lid. It’s £70…

…and I would pay that for a new one if this one got lost.
Not not even getting one cheek up on the fence here, I absolutely love this hat. It’s been everywhere with me the past few months and it’s instantly vital kit.
What I will say though is get the size right, I made a gamble and it worked out. Get in a shop and try them on.

Aye, get in a shop. Shops, while we still have them.

 

20YOC Gear: Karrimor Summit & Phantom Gore Tex Shells

For something that probably doesn’t get used in anger as much as our other outdoor clothing, a waterproof jacket is something that seems to attract the most attention and debate.
And money.
A shell jacket as as much a symbol of intent as it is a practical garment, it looks wrong hanging on a peg in your hall. Just like a vintage BSA Gold Star, it shouldn’t be on it’s centre stand, polished up and sitting in the garage, it should be screaming down the A82 getting paint chips.

I made do for a long time, years in army surplus and PU coated nylon cagoules worn over woolly jumpers were actually just fine. Gore Tex was plastic, expensive and to be treated with suspicion.
Until one day in the Arrochar Alps where the sweat between my Peter Storm cagoule and my jumper froze. It was time to change up my clothing a wee bit.

Sprayway was my first call, but the flappy removable hood on the Torridon TL was annoying and although the velcro strips I added helped, it still wasn’t the best. That Gore Tex though, it really worked, especially worn over the assortment of fleeces I soon accumulated.
I kept trading up through the 90s, but my eyes were always drawn to the Karrimor Summit jackets in West Coast Outdoor in Fort William. It was a lot shorter than I was used to, but soft and it felt so light. It was expensive too, it was a proper mountaineers jacket. It had a nice wee multicoloured mountain logo on it. Ach, probably not for me.

Then one day in ’98 I was in West Coast and they had a stack of Summits with £100 off. It was the fancy new colours they said, folk didn’t like it. I tried one on anyway, it felt fine to me.
I pulled up the hood and that was all I needed to know, I was walking to the till.

The standard was set right there and then, my expectations now had a benchmark. Every hood I have ever pulled up since has to measure up that that moment in West Coast (it was up the stairs, on the left just before the shoes) where it was “just right”.

There’s been a lot of membrane’s under my bridge since then and features have changed a lot, weights have come down and styles have changed.
The current retro outdoor trend that is seeing 1990’s The North Face and Berghaus Gore Tex jackets sell for hundreds of pounds has allowed me to wear some of my favourite gear this winter without people pointing and laughing. I was even wearing one today now I think about. Where the hell did that rain come from and why is 20 year old 2-layer GTX ripstop so comfortable?
So, more than the other 20 year old gear I’ve dug out, I’m already very used to old Gore Tex again and you know what, I’m quite happy in it.

I have older Gore Tex, my Phoenix/Karrimor Diamond being a belter and still in good condition and the right size, but it’s just too big and heavy for this time of year. So I’m going with either of the sets below. One made in UK from ’98 and one Chinese from ’99, and Gore’s first proper step into lightweight.

1999 Karrimor Phantom Jacket and Pants, pre-production samples.
Jacket £200, 414g Size Large
Pants £120, 294g Size Large, including bits of duct tape and the two kevlar ankle patches I sewed on after shredding them with crampons.

The Phantoms probably fit with my current wants and needs for waterproofs given the weight and features but it’s not as simple as that.
The design is pretty clean looking, but it’s hiding some interesting stuff.

A lightweight jacket with proper cuffs, wide, big velcro adjusters. Get your gloves under or over these.
The elastic is lasting too, still some bounce left in it and the cuffs will pull up to my elbows. The arm articulation is pretty decent, some elbow shaping and armpit gusseting which gives a good range of movement, scarmbling friendly but not climbing friendly. The jacket is too short anyway, it barely sticks though the bottom of a pack waist belt so it would pop out of a harness all the time unless I’d imagine.

The hood is terrible. It’s a huge shapeless bag (space helmet compatible) with a single ineffectual volume reducing strip of bungee cord running vertically at the back. The peak is okay, not wired but keeps its shape. But just as you’re feeling better about it all the bungee running round your face pulls the hood in and it feels like your falling down a manhole in the street as the circle of light gets smaller in front of your eyes. It doesn’t move with my head either.
However, it rolls up with a velcro tab so you don’t have to deal with it.

The chest pockets are excellent. Nicely angled for stashing gear or warming hands and the inners are mesh which vent very well.
The pocket zips are regular zips which run so smoothly it makes using a current water resistant zip again an instant annoyance. The storm flaps cover the pockets perfectly well with a single velcro tab at the bottom corner to seal them up tight.

The big news here was the Gore Tex Paclite fabric. Lighter, more flexible, more breathable they said. It’s two layer, the PTFE membrane is visible, protected by the little rubbery dots printed on.
There was a great wailing and moaning when this version launched, Paclite I we’ll call it – version II was garbage with an inner coating and the dots, III was better with just an inner coating that does help manage condensation a wee bit.
The complaints came from the inner wetting out, which it does especially if you wear a lot under it or are working hard, over just a base layer it works fine for me at times, but it was always difficult to get a consistent performance.
The other worry was durability and actually that turned out to be okay for me, the membrane has discoloured in places, I’m assuming oils and dirt contaminating the lamination in some way, but it never delaminated or peeled, even on the pants which had some hard use over the years.

The matching pants are excellent in every way other than the weak ankles which had to be patched with the kevlar cut from the knees of some too-small Rohan techy pants.
The lower legs have zips and velcro flaps and the elasticated waist has a drawcord, that’s about it. The real revelation is the cut, these are the best shell trousers I’ve ever had regarding fit and mobility.

Pulling them on is odd as my foot slides down they feel tight, then slack, the same happens on the other leg, then fastened and adjusted they’re suddenly perfect. No stretch at all and I have unrestricted movement due to the clever articulation and gusseting. The clever backside and rear waist means they don’t slip down, no cold kidneys, no readjustment on the move.
I will continue to patch these until there is none of the original fabric left at which point I will send then to someone clever and have them make me another.
I wish.

1998 Karrimor Summit Jacket and Pants
Jacket £250, 684g Size Large
Pants £200, 630g Size Large, including braces and patches

Clean and simple and maybe a bit boxy too, this is my favourite shell combo of all time.

The cut is relaxed on the jacket and it feels odd compared to the current closer fit we’ve all got used to. Breathable fabrics work better closer to the body but in the worst winter days, being able to coorie into a bigger cut jacket had a great psychological effect. I was winning, the weather was losing.
Articulation is okay, the looser cut helps this although there is some decent forming around the pits and elbows. It’s too short though, it needed an extra couple of inches on the body which they gave it the next year. They changed the rest of the jacket too though, That did not go well at all.

The hood is the work of a pact with satan, it must be. It has the same single vertical volume reducer as the Phantom above, but here it pulls the peak up and the the hood into your head. The face drawcord seals you up and pulls the whole hood in. Slack or tight, it moves with my head and the huge peak kept out blizzards out convincingly for years.

 

A main zip that literally and figuratively zips up and down, oh I love zips that move so easily. You could also leave the zip half done and touch the velcro together for a little bit of extra venting while still keeping the snow out. Storm flaps, what a clever and useful thing.
The map pocket is huge and useful. I think in more recent years I started using chest pouches because I didn’t have this pocket anymore. Kidding aside, it’s not a vital feature, but the pocket bag is a light fabric so it doesn’t affect breathability too much, so why not.

The chest pockets are excellent. Yes they’re double fabric, but I could and can live with that. The pockets have slick and fast to use regular zips, wide entries placed at 45 degrees and a big capacity. I’m pretty sure Rohan had a very similar pocket design back in the 70’s, innovative in a time when pockets were flapped rectangles.
The pockets are external and are gusseted/bellowed to make them 3D, that meas you can pack them and they don’t overly affect the way the jacket sits. Modern closer cut jackets have waterproof zips and internal pocket bags, packing the pockets affects the way the jacket sits, sometimes raising the hem up. I’ve been A/B-ing this to test the theory, I’m not making it up.
The untaped external seams let water bleed out too, you can stash wet gear in these pockets. Aye.

The fabric is great, the lightweight ripstop was way better than the Taslan I was so used to. Softer, more packable as I started to carry ever smaller rucksacks and I think it breathed better, but maybe not. I could just have been justifying my purchase to myself.

All in all: yes please.

The matching pants tell us that softshell legs were still in the future. These big fellas were to be worn over fleece or powerstretch and at that they excelled.
Braces for stability and being able to have a looser waist, full length zips for quick on/off and internal gaiters for fastening over the big boots that used to give me blisters every time I went out.

They’re nearly the same weight as the jacket and they only went out on days I knew I’d be wearing them, I used to carry cheapos from Millets otherwise until I got the phantoms.
I loved them though, the same tangible level of protection that I got from the jacket made these feel like a fortress. On the worst days, these did make a difference and if I was going back to powerstretch leggings, these would be getting packed in winter once again.

I know nothing is perfect, but I like more features on the Summit Jacket than I do on a current equivalent. It feels ergonomic despite its straight lines and boxiness, it feels utilitarian and accessible and it feels protective.

The only things that feel like they were put there to catch the eye of someone looking for a bit of style on their mountain are the strong colours and the branding.
Its definitely not a traditional Karrimor look, but I really like it and the performance of golden era Karrimor is in there.

Can it be that fabric performance has progressed and design is just going around in circles in a cul-de-sac? Did those two elements pass each other on the way to the present day and not stop to talk?

Well no, but still.

Dammit man, those old pockets.

Bridgedale Storm Waterproof Sock Review

I’ve used waterproof socks for years but always with mixed results. Gore Tex socks were always a hit and miss affair with the chance of a perfect fit being very remote and the likelihood of taped seams being placed where they would eventually give you blisters being high.
Sealskinz were better but I never liked them for trekking, too slow to dry and just not that comfy, the stretch and form just wasn’t enough for me. However, for winter mountain biking, they were very nice indeed.

So Bridgedale’s press release raised an eyebrow, they can do socks, but can they do waterproof without all the usual drawbacks? Rarely off my feet recently have been the mid-height boot versions.

Seen above they look a bit like socks, what’s not so obvious is the slightly wetsuit-esque texture to them. The construction is a sandwich with nylon outer for abrasion resistance, a HydroTech membrane which gives you your waterproofedness and almost a regular liner sock inner with a bunch of merino in there. You can see below the pattern is pretty familiar with loopstich at the toe, heel and sole.

There’s lycra in there too and along with a big amount of stretch in the membrane this means that the wetsuit feel isn’t overpowering. In fact when I pull them on, the initial gentle compression I get everywhere but the end of my toes is unnoticeable when I get my foot into a shoe. It just feels like a normal, medium weight sock.

These mid heights are perfect for what I’ve been using them for which is bog hopping around the Lang Craigs in mesh trail shoes. The ankle stays up and there’s enough of a seal from that and the elastic cuff that I haven’t had anything running down from wet legs yet, despite a couple of soakings.

The smooth but tough nylon outer works well, I’ve purposely tried to put a hole in these by my choice of terrain. Mud full of tiny heather and grass fragments grinding away in the gap between foot and footwear has been the death of many a Gore Tex boot liner and here that tasty mix has been dried and reapplied without washing several times. Even filling the sock with water from the tap and standing there holding it over the sink, no holes seen as yet.
Actually doing that is probably a bad idea, it must really stress the membrane as there’s a lot of stretch in it, so it takes a lot of filling, which is a lot of weight. Hasn’t burst yet, I’ll keep trying.

Of course they are warmer than regular socks, but not as warm as I’d feared. On long stretches of dry trail (yes, this can actually be found, it’s not a rumour) my feet do heat up, but I’ve not overheated yet. It does make my feet sweat more though, and that’s where the sock has to do the other half of its job, get the sweat out.
I was expecting them to struggle, in a shoe, wet and covered in mud, no way they were breathing. Turns out, they kinda do.

I can’t be scientific about this, I mean, it’s the internet where opinion is presented as fact, so you know, trust me

But, my feet are keeping an enjoyable level of dryness. The inner sock wicks well and I’m assuming the constant heat source from my feet is trying to pump the sweat further through the sock layers to the outside.
When I’m regularly ankle deep in the bog and the socks are constantly saturated on the outside, taking the sock off, my bare foot feels slick, but not wet. These conditions keep my feet cool too, so the sock should be struggling and it’s still doing its best.

Another thing about being saturated is the squelching in my shoes. I’ve been convinced several times that the socks had burst and were full of water as it felt just like it, but no. What this does tell me though is that despite the apparent thickness and rubustness of the socks there’s still decent sensitivity around my foot, important in trail shoes.

I’ve tried wearing them for days straight, leaving the mud on overnight and rewearing them next day. Partly so see if I could get a hole in them, partly to see how they would smell and also to see how fast they would dry.
No holes yet as the previous disappointment indicated and the smell is good. Well, not good, no sock is ever a good place to go for fun smells. Unless it’s brand new sock just off the loom made from the finest plushest alpaca fibres. Hold it against your cheek, close your eyes, breathe in deeply, feel that warmth, the security, feel the..

Anyway, moving onto drying time. They dry on my feet really fast when walking on dry terrain, taking my shoes off for lunch they dry well, lying ignored in a corner overnight doesn’t work so well. So, for backpacking, they’ll be turned ootsides-in and spend the night in the sleeping bag. They need a heat source to dry.
Washing I have done by hand and by machine, jeez the outer sucks in a lot of dirt. Fully wet like this they take ages to dry naturally. The temptation is to throw them over the top of the radiator but I’m sure that’s going to do them any good, so it’s been a manual squeeze in a towel and onto the clothes horse near a radiator.

Washing and wearing is loosening them up, relaxing them maybe. They came flatpacked, now they kinda keep their tubular foot and ankle shape.
The three striptease photies here show a typical drier day’s run in the Storms. I keep taking the socks off expecting to see a muddy tidemark on my foot, but not yet.
It’s a sock, it is waterproof, it’s comfy.

I know I’ll wear them out at some point, I’ll either hole them or the elastic at the ankle will go, that “when” is the one gap I can’t fill in my assessment.
Until then, I will be wearing these two or three days a week. I think that thought is probably what sums it up.

£32 to £48 for light versions to beefy knee highs.

ms

Resitting my (gear)Test, starting with Tilley, Obōz and Wigwam

When talking to some outdoor pr folk over the past couple of weeks, “I knew this would happen” was the first comment I got, “Glad to see you’re doing your own thing again” was the next. I guess gear reviews are back.

So out goes compromise, censorship, and having to pick a winner from a group of almost identical items all of which are “okay” unless one accidentally happens to fit you perfectly which elevates it to “good”.
In comes enthusiasm for random items which I kinda like the look of, have interest in, look unusual or get flagged up and surprise me. There won’t be as much stuff as there used to be, I want to enjoy it and I want to maximise test time too. I’m currently in the hills three or four days a week one way or another, I’m feeling good about doing it again.

This is all partly fueled by my 20 year old gear challenge, I can’t help but get drawn into it all. The mountain man in me loves it as much as the engineer does.
However my perspective has changed, I’m not seeing that much that really excites me. The mountain brands clothing is all largely interchangeable, swap the logos around and no one will notice. I really miss individuality and character.
I’d actually be quite happy to see the old gear I’ve looked out be plundered for ideas, a lot of the thinking back in the day was good and I think aesthetic trends are neutering the designers performance ambitions in some cases. It’s all about sales to the casual bystander.

But there is indeed joy, I have seen it and I am now using it too. Tilley have sent in a LTM6 for test which will replace my assortment of army surplus bush hats this summer. It’s expensive, is it good?
On my feet are Obōz Sawtooth Low’s, a brand that had completely passed me by and which have made an impression on my feet after a few days wear. What impression are they doing? We’ll come back to that.
A familiar name is scrunched in the shoes with some Wigwam Makua Valley Pro Socks. Is that design showing cooling jungle palm leaves or the white feathers of shame?

More on the way, how it will cope being compared with gear 20 years older is a question I’ll enjoy trying to answer too.

 

20YOC Gear: Head, Hands & Feet. Lowe Alpine, Karrimor, Mountain Range, Terra Firma (I think…).

Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap

As unglamourous as it is practical as it is copied.
The Mountain Cap is warm, often too warm for me, waterproof, except that rain runs down the back of your neck and you have to take it off and pull your hood up.
Well, I suppose I’m being a bit harsh there. It was a great winter cap for cold and blowy days and it certainly cushioned my head from the weight of my Petzl Zoom on long night time descents and walks-out.

The designers spent some time thinking it out. There’s a rear cinch, a wired peak that clips up and attachment for a chin strap which you don’t need as I always found the shaping was so good it just stuck to my head in the wind anyway.

It’s light enough and stuffs away quite readily, it feels soft to wear too, despite the waterproof Triple Point taped-seam shell outer.

I’ve had a few copies from other manufacturers, none of them as well engineered as this, none quite as complete. Half arsed bootlegs from bigger brands. Shame on them.
It’s worn and a bit dogeared but it’ll do just fine. A warm napper at camp for sure.

Not sure of the age, mid 90’s again I think, the Lowe Alpine logo is purple and silver which makes it a bit older maybe. Pretty sure the orange version on the label below became standard at some point before 2000.

And also on that label? Made in Ireland.

Aye.

Karrimor Alpine Headband

I never did like wearing this. The ear warmer headband was a good idea before buffs were stuffed into every pocket and designs varied wildly from woolly skiers accessories to this Karrimor version which laid railway tracks into my forehead with that double lycra trim. The lycra bands would creep towards each other too , eventually making it look like I had a mini beginner swimmer’s flotation ring round my head. The wind also goes straight through that well-bobbled (hmm, I must have worn it then…) Polartec 200.
But, it’s the only one I can find, plus it’s got the awesome old Karrimor Elite logo. It’ll be fine.

Karrimor Powerstretch Balaclava

I went from a wool balaclava with peak and a pompom to this. It’s got a decent shape to it, I can have my chin out or have my nose covered and the top can sit at my eyebrows or be pulled pretty far back for a bit of cooling.

The fabric is an early Powerstretch variant, ‘Series 200’ is says on the label below. It also says 100% polyester but the old catalogue says there’s a nylon face on the fabric which sounds right, so I’m going with that. The label might just be randomly sewn on at the factory because it says Polartec on it.
Not the stretchiest maybe, but the fabric feels nice enough and the serged seams around the face aperture and neck don’t upset my skin or mood.

I think I reviewed a balaclava or two a few years ago and that would be the last time I wore one. Hooded midlayers and buffs kinda killed them for me.

Karrimor Windbloc Grip Gloves

I remember buying these. I had been watching them for ages as they sat shining brightly from the accessory dookits in Summits on Moss Street in Paisley.
£30 quid though, for fleece gloves. But they just fit so well, it was always going to happen.

It was a good call, they went on every trip for many years. I could get thin liners underneath or wear them on their own, the long cuffs tucked up shell jacket sleeves, the little velcro cinches kept them snug and the grip patches, although not very sensitive or dexterous feeling, gripped axes, poles and clothing adjusters just fine.

The Polartec Windbloc fabric worked better here than it did on any jackets I had where sweat overpowered it pretty quick. With a smooth outer and a slightly piled inner it was warm, windproof and pretty waterproof too. I’ve got photies of me wearing these crusted in ice while smiling, so they must have worked just fine.
I’m sure that will continue.

The tag was in the box with all my old catalogues and stuff. You used to get a plastic card with Karrimor Elite gear which you could fill in with your emergency details on the back.
£30 for fleece gloves though. That was about £7000 back then.

Mountain Range Murton Mitts

Gore Tex outer mitts with pile inners, these were the winter hand protectors of justice.

I wore these a lot, the palms gripped axes really well and they were nice and warm. The palm grip material is rubbery feeling with a bit of stretch to it, although it looks like the mitts are a sensory deprivation device, they really weren’t, buckles and zip pulls were no source of frustration. That’s old school zips by the way, something I will be returning to too soon.

Wrist cinches, long cuffs with adjusters and well shaped.

Mountain Range were never sexy, their gear was plain and practical. GoreTex Taslan everywhere.
Now that is a name that instantly takes me to a time and a place.
The pile inners seen below were great in the tent, nice and warm. I wonder why I gravitated to Buffalo Mitts from these, pack size probably? The Murtons are definitely better on the move.

Made in Cumbria it says on the label. Imagine that.

Terra Firma Explorer Socks (I think…)

It was once advised that walkers wear red socks for visibility, not to each other, but to search parties. There’s a thought.
“Okay, the casualty is lying in heather at the bottom of the crag, he is wearing a tweed jacket and deerstalker with moleskin plus-fours. The good news is that he was indeed wearing red socks as advised, if we’re lucky he’ll have them pulled up to the knee which will gives us a better chance of finding him before spring…”.

Anyway. I’m sure a mob called Terra Firma made these, the name is lodged at the back of my head. Tiso did them I think? Actually quite nice socks, the loops are still loopy, the construction is wool and something else. I’ve got another pair of similar vintage which are worn right down, the wool is gone at the heels but a suspected nylon web remains.

Really long. Cozy or sweaty, we shall see.

Meraklon Liner Gloves

I have been finding these polypropylene liners everywhere since I’ve been rummaging. Glad I kept them, they’ve doubled in price to around a fiver these days.
Still a handy* bit of kit, they keep the chill off more than the spit-through thin fabric suggests and they last as well.
These were balled up and stuffed into rucksack lid that hasn’t been opened in nearly 20 years. A wee wash and they’re as good as new.

Hmm. Might try that same trick on my truck.

*Ha.

 

20YOC gear: Baselayers. North Cape (RIP) & Lowe Alpine (partial RIP)

Underwear…

The Science of moisture management.

Finding decent vintage underwear was a mix of triumph and despair. My main goal was finding both intact and in an unlikely size large, some Jack Wolkskin Polartec pants variants. No joy.

Back in the day the Green Welly at Tyndrum had a wee outdoor shop stuck behind the garage where the basic cafe is now. In here was a rack of Jack Wolfskin baselayers of all designs, mostly in grey marl but also some wacky striped stuff. I got a few things from there over the years but it was my lower half I was looking to get covered right now.
I was hoping to find either the long legged boxers or the wind briefs or whatever they were called, basically Polartec 100 (as it was then) with a bit of Pertex sewn over the crotch. Hideous yes, but also practical. And potentially amusing.
Nowhere to be seen though, probably worn to death, shredded and binned many years ago. Ah well.

I was happier once again when I found my tops, which I knew I still had lurking somewhere, my North Cape Coolmax Long Sleeve Henleys.

Not sure how old these are. The blue one is the end of the 90’s I think, the orange one is older. I absolutely love these, if I hadn’t been lured away by the first wave of modern merino I would probably have worn these until they fell apart.
The fit is excellent, slim overall, a long body, long sleeves and excellent articulation from the simple construction and decent stretch in the fabric. The cuffs are nice, low bulk and long so they slip under gloves and jacket cuffs and reach right down to base of my thumbs.

The collar is excellent, I like crew necks. I rarely wear zip necks now, in winter I don’t need to vent, in summer I wear a trekking shirt or a polo, which has buttons like this Henley and a sun deflecting collar. The three buttons aren’t a hassle, they’re grippable with light gloves and don’t catch chest hair like zips can.

The construction (done in Springkerse Industrial Estate, Stirling) is neat with a mix of flat locked and serged seams, no stitching has ever popped and no seam has ever rubbed.
I’ve been wearing these the past couple of weeks and while the fabric does manage moisture a tiny bit slower than current fabrics and a couple of days wear might bring some odours tiny bit quicker than you might expect these days, I’m not seeing any disadvantage to wearing these given that they are supremely comfortable.

It’s a shame that North Cape are defunct, the only stuff I can can compare it to in recent times is maybe Chocolate Fish (also defunct) and Wild Stripes. Like North Cape their gear is functional and to the point with great fabrics and welcome, basic construction.

I’m getting pissed off with every layer having to be sexy and trying to make me look like an athlete in a pose from a brand catalogue (virtual obviously, we don’t do paper any more).
I look at a current base layer and there’s seams all over the bloody thing and the arm lift is still inferior to the plain stuff above. What the hell is that all about? “Put seams on it, make body mapping zones, it’ll look technical”. No, it looks like you’re trying too hard to impress me, stop it, it’s a lot of pish.

The shops I bought the North Cape’s in are dead and gone too, the wee independents of Challenge Sports in Falkirk and Dry Walker in Edinburgh.

The oldest pants I can find are these Lowe Alpine boxers. I’ve used plenty Dryflo over the years, in fact a bright red three button Dryflo henley long sleeve top from the mid 90’s was a contender for the shirt but it was just too damned tight on me now.
Y-fronts though. Hmm.

Fabric’s okay, not the best stretch, the crotch shaping is pretty good though, nicely 3D. I suppose they’re just the purchasing choice of a 34″ waisted bloke in his late 20’s or early 30’s, I’m not that guy, but I made a deal with myself about going all vintage. Just breathe in I suppose. Clench too maybe.

Lowe Alpine made some excellent clothing, Triple Point shells were all over the hills at one point and they championed eVent early on too. Just branded packs from the Equip group now. Bummer.

20YOC Gear: Karrimor K-SB 3 Original

I found these the other day and took them into the Kilpatricks the other night (blog post below this one I think?) to see how I got on with them again. It went well enough, the overall fit is still good although the heel cup is a little roomier than I like these days, but I can dial that down a bit with socks and insoles.
The sole isn’t the grippiest on the muddly conditions around the Lang Craigs just now but I’m used to slidey trail shoes so I quickly forgot I was wearing them and spent a fine few hours wandering, trouble free.

So, the KSB’s are in my kitlist. I even found 3 of the original 4 insoles – two thin versions and one of the double thickness volume reducers, a nice touch from the original Karrimor. They’ve taken a kicking back in the day, but I’ll try them out before I likely go for some current Sole insoles to help with the heelcup thing, I don’t want a single blister thanks very much. There are some retro items I don’t want to revisit.

I think these are from ’96 or ’97. In ’95 the logo on the tongue was different and by ’97 only the Gore Tex lined version was available.
Branded by and manufactured by Garmont who over the years had some nice collaborations with Karrimor. Asymmetric ‘ADD’ lacing ? Yes please.

So, the exact words from Karrimor in their ’97 workbook…
K-SB 3 Original
The boot that changed our thinking about lightweight boots has become the classic 3-season suede/Cordura boot.
The KSB-3 has been used and abused on some of the toughest trails worldwide and keeps getting better.
Recommended use: Back packing, fell walking, scrambling, even mountain biking.
Features: >’Original’ frameflex insole >Skywalk dual density sole >Antibacterial footbed
Weight: 630g
Sizes: (UK, whole and half sizes): Men’s 6.5-12
Colour: Sage (51-236/37)
Price: £90

I haven’t weighed them, so can’t confirm or refute the original figure. After the trip I’ll do that and do some sort of comparison to current kit. Or something.
They feel okay though and they are light enough on my feet. The ankle cuff is really high, winter boot high and it’s pretty stiff laterally although forward flex is good. It almost feels like they’ve got some breaking in still to do, so I’ll wear them a wee bit before I carry overnight kit in them.
The cuff and tongue are gusetted right to the top, excellent for keeping crap out and would have been great in the GTX version if the liner went right up to the top.

The inner is lined with some fuzzy stuff with a honeycomb matrix in it, kinda looks like Cambrelle but it’s not named in the spec so maybe aye, maybe naw? Whatever, it does seem to wick sweat away but might there might be some insulative qualities there too, either from the lining, the upper construction or both as these are quite a warm pair of boots.

Neat stitching, tidy construction with clean lines and classic good looks. These KSB’s are approachable and utilitarian, a boot for a purpose that isn’t trying to make you look sexy or sell itself on a busy web page.
Look at a typical modern boot aimed at a similar market to this old timer and you see lots of different fabrics, lots of stitching, lots of glue, lots of plastic, a formula one car for your feet that will fray and unravel long before you have a chance to pack it away for a rainy day like these KSB’s.

What the hell happened? 20 odd years later, how much weight saving in our gear have we traded for a shorter life and making more waste. I’ve trashed maybe twenty or thirty of pairs of Montrail’s, Salomon’s and Inov8’s over the last ten year or so. Is there an equation or an equivalence over time here that will shame us and the manufacturers or are we actually doing better now and I’m an idiot?
I said years back that we need a simple lightweight trail mids in natural materials and I think that more than ever right now.
This 20 year thing started as a bit of fun, nostalgia, but now it’s really making me think too.

I will learn more as I go. I will grin a lot, but I think I might occasionally rage too. Just wait until I get to waterproof jackets.

20YOC Gear, Coleman, Ajungilak and Rab.

I’m enjoying this. I was looking for an old Camping Gaz (as it was, now it’s Campingaz and much harder to say, and indeed look at) canister top stove and found this Coleman Alpine instead.
This was a great stove in its day, low and stable so excellent for use in a tent porch. The remote canister adds to the stability and means you can keep the gas can warm or run it upside down (very carefully so it doesn’t flare) as the burner has a preheat tube to evaporate the the liquid fuel into gas before it gets to the burner.
The pot stand is wide and grippy, just not as good for the smaller pots I use these days. The burner is well shaped, great on the smaller pots I use these days. Hmm.
It’s chunky with a large pack size and getting a little heavy, don’t know the grammes, I can just feel it, but it doesn’t look too far away from what would catch my eye today.
No idea about fuel useage, I’ll see what happens. In general though, I think this will work just fine.

Age is mid 90’s, this went to Morvich camp site on my first ever Five Sisters trip around ’97. Some trips stay with you. I do think the hose is newer though, the original might have been the orange rubber that always cracked and the hose clips look like I did them: rough.

Pots are going to be a problem. I had a kettle thing I used with this. It died tragically years back when on an engineering contract with no power and no water.
I was heating the kettle for our tea with an oxygen/acetylene torch because we didn’t have anything else on the first day. It went well at first, then it went all wrong.

Sleepy times will be familiar indeed, from the mid 90’s is this Ajungilak Kompakt 3. From Ajungilak of Norway made in England by Snuggledown of Norway UK, now of course made in China by Mammut of Switzerland. It’s a small world.

I loved this bag when it was new, silky smooth inside and cut a little wider than I’m used to now which will be nice and comfy but it’ll probably make it a little cooler than I’d like.
Smooth running zip, terrible old school shoelace style adjusters, a well shaped hood and a huge pack size due to the beefy synthetic fill. It’s still pretty fat feeling so I think it’ll insulate well enough.

It’s a wee bit fusty, so I did think about getting it washed in giant washing machine somewhere. Might just air it outside for a few days, see if that freshens it up.

Just in case it is a bit cooler, I have this rather old Rab fleece sleeping bag liner. I think it’s karisma fleece, the wind resistant stuff used in among other places, the front of old Karrimor Alpiniste fleece’s, old Mountain Equipment Ultrafleece jackets and currently by Hilltrek on a rather nice looking smock and some er, joggers too.
The shape fits the Kompakt (maybe I bought it for it?) and the drawcorded opening is wide enough to wriggle out of quick enough for a pee at 1am.
Simple, even dull bit of kit which I’ll use if I need to. The weather will decide.

The stuff sack is teal. Where did teal go to?

Gearing up for a 20 year old challenge

This is going to be a landslide of contradictions. But so am I, so what the hell.

After a year out I’ve been updating myself, seeing what’s new, confirming to folk I’m not dead yet, seeking out any exciting or revolutionary ideas. Even evolutionary ideas would do.
There’s tinkering, there’s cosmetic changes under the guise of performance updates, there’s recycling (of ideas, not fabrics), dull colours in the shops and still there’s an inability of the outdoor world to admit defeat and just put Dr. Martens Air Cushion Soles on all outdoor footwear. Really.
I’ve got some new kit in already, stuff that I do like the look of, but in general I’m not that inspired yet.

The season by season rush has continued, product produced to price points and deadlines instead of innovation and ideas being honed and released when they’re ready.
My first thought when looking at this aspect again was watching David Attenborough talking about the plastic in the oceans while patting a sad looking Polar Bear. It then cuts to him squaring up to Donald Trump and punching him right in the face. Every night this programme is on. Just after I fall asleep.

The plastic worry is real though. I don’t care how many swing tags outdoor kit has on it saying recyclable, ethical, or green, it’s still part of the problem and we all know it. A swing tag should never dull our conscience.
So what do we get in return for killing the planet just a little bit more? With this season’s latest developments are we really more comfortable in the rain at 900m? Is that tent that fits in your pocket giving you the best sleep of your life? Are the adverts talking a lot of shite and we just give away our money too easily?

I’ve used a lot of gear. In the past 11 years pretty much every trip I’ve been on has been with review kit of some kind and I’ve gotten used to that, the unfamiliar is now familiar. The truth is that most current kit is okay, I’ve never had anything genuinely bad. The biggest difference is in how it works for you, your body shape, how hot you get, do your ears stick out, do you need lots of pockets because you’re a faffy bastard.

But I love it. Seeing a sharp mind somewhere has tweaked something in a way I didn’t expect making something better, smoother operating or lighter. There’s a real joy in that. It’s not about the gear, it’s about the person behind it.
The best time I had with this was when I was on the OMM Lead User Group, working on new designs and evolving the existing. Seeing the ideas forming, the little lights going on above folks heads and being put on paper then appearing as samples taught me that gear isn’t just product to sell, good gear is someone making something because they think it’ll work and they want to use it too.
I’ve still got sample stuff that never saw the light of day, good ideas that were never quite finished. How many times does that happen across the many design teams? Newer ideas always come along though. People are good at that.

So, all these contradictions have been swirling about in my head the past couple of weeks, and it got me to thinking. How much have things really changed since I got sucked into the outdoor gear arms race in the 90’s. I was in army surplus before that, maybe a Javlin jacket (see, there was purpose to that old advert) along the way?
I noticed right away what I’d been missing when I wore Gore-Tex for the first time, when I wore Polartec 100 over a Smelly Helly. What I haven’t noticed is the difference from then to now.
How far have we really come? Are current fabrics really that much better than they were? Are we really just a wee bit better and just styled differently?

I want to know.

In recent times I’ve been clearing cupboards and attic boxes and finding all sorts of stuff. It’s partly this that got me thinking about old versus new in amongst so many memories, so much stoor, so much purple lycra.
With this in mind I have set myself a task of sorts, a 20 year old challenge.

One bit at a time I’m going to see if I can put together an entire kit list for an overnighter with gear that’s at least 20 years old, then head out with it.
It’s entirely pointless, but I think it’ll amuse me putting it all together.

I do mean entire kit list, socks and boxers as well as shell jacket and compass. I’ve been mentally ticking stuff off that I know is stored away somewhere and some things I’m not sure about. A tent might be iffy, I sold my Rab Glacier down jacket years ago so I’m hunting for something that I only have a vague memory of. I think it was blue though.
It’s surprising what I still have around, there will be some cleaning and maintenance I dare say, but it’ll put it together. I’ll let it slip a little if I have to though, maybe make the space year 2000 a cut off. We’ll see.

However, first up and the spark for it all. the Petzl Zoom.

I’ve had this for more than 25 years. It’s been so many places, shone a light on so many things and I found it caked in crap on the top shelf in the workshop where it’s been for maybe 15 years.
This was the torch to have back in the day. The bezel rotates to change from a wide to a focus beam and the yellow light would dim slowly as the huge and heavy 4.5V battery drained ever faster as you got closer to the car park.
It should still work, I’ll strip it and clean it, get it powered up. The straps are replacements, it was a bright green and sky blue pattern originally but they stretched out and had to go. Maybe these ones which still have a bit of elasticity in them are where the colour obsession started?

I can still get the big batteries or convert it to AA’s, even put an LED in it, but I’ll keep it as original as possible I think. Damn though, it’s just so big.
Anyway, that’s the first thing sorted. I’m sure there’s an old stove in the garage…

Blå Band

I had some Blå Band sample dried meals in the cupboard for review and this week’s trip came along at the right time, the expiry date wasn’t too far away.
Lots of leftover gear from my days at Walkhighlands, I’ll be doing some of it on here when I can be arsed.

The bags I like, a shallow shape that’s easy to fill as you can see the markings inside easy enough, they sit nice and stable with a wide-ish base and you don’t get your gloves covered in dinner as even the shortest of sporks can reach in without receiving a saucy finger. They say the packaging insulates as well, I dunno though, it’s thick with a reflective inner but nothing too fancy in the material or construction that I can see.
Instructions for rehydrating the contents are easy enough, the decilitres water measurement was amusing, don’t think I’ve seen that on anything since I was at school. I stuck to the stated prep times on both meals with the bags wrapped up in my sleeping bag hood and they were indeed fully softened, hydrated and still warm enough to be enjoyed rather than tolerated.

Dinner was Wilderness Stew which is mainly reindeer chunks in rice. This was genuinely tasty, the chunks were big enough to have a wee bit of chewing and small enough to fully hydrate. There was texture all the way through and recognisable bits of veg were evident on my spoon. With McK’s triangle oatcakes, I was rather happy with dinner.
Breakfast was Apple Cinnamon Porridge, soft, warm and tasteless. It had a decent texture, no dry flakes were found after the correct prep time, but despite having all the things I like advertised as being in it, all I could taste were oats. Fine if that’s what you’re after, but on a camp morning I need a little sparkle to get my feet into cold socks.

Prices vary, in the Green Welly we spotted that these could be had for nearly £9, on the distributors site they sell direct for £6.75 for the reindeer and £5.75 for the oats.
It’s a lot of money for convenience, but the weight is good as is the prep results. I would be tempted by the stew again, I really liked that. But Quakers Oats So Simple are a fiver for four pots and they’re awesome, plus the little pot is actually a great rubbish bin at camp in in my pack – something I’ll get back to, meant to talk about this years ago.

Karrimor Whillan’s Alpiniste Redux

A while back Karrimor started making some heritage themed gear, some vintage looking clothing and gear that probably fits the legacy of the name better than the generic tat filling a Sports Direct near you at low, low prices.
The heritage gear is still aimed at the high street though, it looks every inch like the wardrobe of a mountaineer or adventurer from back in the day*, but it’s fine fabrics will be rubbing against the seats of a Range Rover Evoque, not the wooden bench of a bothy.

There’s disdain in my tone of course but also a grudging respect. As much as you might expect the designers to look at a few old photies and fudge together some gear that looks the part, they didn’t, they went to the source material for some of it.
The “Karrimor K100 Whillan’s Alpiniste by Nigel Cabourn” pack that turned up in stores I’ve never been through the door of such as Van Mildert with a RRP of around £700 (good grief) was done right, exactly right. I know this because they used my original 60’s Whillan’s pack as the pattern for it.

I trusted the man I sent it to, he had made it himself back in the 60’s after all so I wasn’t worried when my Whillans was gone for a good wee while to be poked, prodded and mostly likely stretched a wee bit.
Thread counts, exact dimensions, textures, materials, construction detailing, everything was inspected and modern equivalents were sourced, sampled and tested to make the reissue as close to the original as possible. In same cases they found the obscure original manufacturers, look at the studs that attach the lid.

They did all this in a Glasgow workshop too, itself as historic as the goods being recreated inside.

Metal, leather and cotton. It speaks to me more than any synthetic.

The geekiness that comes off the depth of rightness that the redux exudes is totally joyful. It’s the joy of me getting to play a song on stage with Black Sabbath, the joy of Brunel coming back to life and seeing the Millau Viaduct, the joy of Holly already knowing all the facts in their new Victorian class topic because she’s got a head full of Horrible Histories.

The redux will wear in like the original, the construction and fabrics are right. You’d need to work on those leather straps to get them form-fitting like mine, but they’ll do it eventually. You’d have to use it though, it needs dirt, sweat and spilled flasks to season it. Leaving it on the back seat of your Range Rover would be a travesty.

*I’m saying “back in the day” is anywhere from the mid 70’s back to 1745.

Walkhighlands Review

This month’s review is live here. This one was a breeze to do (did you see what I did there?), the fabrics were all good, and some of the fits fitted me very well.
Adidas was a dark horse, Arc’teryx were, well, no point in writing a review and then giving the game away I suppose.

I did the photies on the Lang Craigs. I’m sure Walkhighlands readers think the gear shots I do are really just stock press shots rather than ones actually I take, so this month I did it a little differently.
However, as we can see below, I can’t tell if the timer light is flashing in bright sunlight leading to many shots of me staring glaikitly at the camera.

Windproofs caterpillar (121)

Walkhighlands

My latest review is up here and is backpacking rucksacks. I suppose given my predisposition for wanting not-heavy and having pockets the winners were never in doubt but the big beasts in there still had their good points.

More than that is the fact that I am now desperate to get out into the hills for the night after finishing the write up. I missed my chances with the recent fantastic weather and it’s pish out there just now.

Me

Kit in the Cairgorms

I was in the Cairngorms last autumn with the good folks from Rosker, Spring PR and Skookum to try out some new kit. It was fun to put some names to faces and to catch up with some familiar well worn faces that I haven’t seen for a wee while.
It was a great trip, we got perfect weather, had a lot of fun and as Stan Marsh might say, I think we all learned something today.

The bushcraft guides had us eating leaves and bugs scavenged from scenery during the walk in from Glenmore. Some stuff I know, some stuff I hadn’t thought of, some stuff I didn’t want to know because it was still moving and I wasn’t go to eat it with a days food in my rucksack. Still, nice to have possibilities,

The walk into Utzi’s Hut in the Rothiemurchus Forest was very pleasant indeed. So often the forest is an inconvenience to pass on your way to the hills, here I was just enjoying it. The hut is near the edge of the trees to light floods in, but its surroundings lush, plush and a fine pace to spend an afternoon.

There were a bunch pf activities related to some of the kit that we were using and just some stuff for fun. It was all about food initially so we looked at some stoves and cookwear.

Three mega fancy Primus stoves were demoed. Above is the Kinjia with the Campfire Cookset and awesome wooden utensil set. There’s wood all through these stoves, proper old school feel to that which I like.
The Kinjia runs off a regular canaister that we would carry for a mini stove, so although it looks like it’ll be set up on the tailgate of a Range Rover, it’s as portable as you’ll get for this size of twin burner stove.

The Tupike above is a different design of twin burner. There’s a nice lid with wind flaps to the side and legs to give a bit of height if you’re using it on the ground.

The Onja is a quirky design, it folds out to make it’s own stand, has a chopping board as a lid and has a strap for carrying it. Madness, I loved it.
There’s a bunch of textile extras here, all of which come made from Fjallraven fabrics, which shows a bit of commitment from Primus, they could have gone in cheap with the carrying cases and covers.

These are expensive bits of kit and market for these is car campers and day trippers, I’ll never need anything like this but it’s nice to see this kind of kit done well.
I remember nearly slicing my fingers off on a badly finished edge of a bright blue twin burner I used to take on trips to camp sites up north before I took the tent into the hills with me.

The bushcraft folks demonstrated they ways to do it and then had us lighting fires and cooking with just what we cold find in the forest.
There were mixed results from the teams, but we all had a hot lunch and a hot cuppa. And the forest remained safe at all times.

Nothing beats a fresh made cuppa outdoors.

Then we had some visitors and all the jaded journo’s all tured into a bunch of kids. Well, how often does a reindeer herd come over for lunch?

A fantastic band of big beasties, and one wee cutie there too.

Had a preview of some of the new Fjallraven tents. The Keb Dome is a fine bit of kit, designed in Scandinavian fashion so there is weight to deal with there but strength when pitched and space inside to compensate for the effort carrying it.

 

Some headed on for a night in the heather, some were too scared of the reindeer. Well, you just never know.

Haglöfs Skarn Winter Pant Review

It was when I went to find the Skarn’s the other day and they were still manky from the day before in the wash basket I realised just how much I wear them. Time for a review.

Haglofs put winter pant in the name of the Skarn’s but it’s not as simple as that. I’m doing winter softshell pants for winter 2016/17 on Walkhighlands and there I’m mostly looking at heavy fabric and a lot of features where the Skarns are a lighter trimmer all round.
The fabric is the familiar own-brand Flexable, a non membrane softshell in a stiffer feeling medium to heavy weight. It’s still got good stretch though as well with high wind resistance and good water repellancy. The wind has to get strong and cold to feel it to any degree, it’s a good trade off for better breathability most of the time.
It does breathe well and dry fast, it’s good for overnighters and pleasant enough to drive home in after a day walk without squelching in the car seat all the way doon the road.
It’s tough as well, trees, rocks, cutlery, all have been repelled successfully. Fine after repeated washes too.

There are pockets numbering four. Tow hip which are nice and deep, one thogh which is also a decent size and one at the back which is positioned just low enough actually be useful when you’re wearing a pack. The zip entry to the back pocket has a storm flap and it follows the asymmetric lines on the stitching line which makes it a little easier to use. The pocket bags are a lighter softshell fabric.
However all the zips are a bit sticky when trying to close them if they’ve opened full, a combination of stretchy fabric and the zip choice I think. Could be a pre-production issue so I’m not saying it’s a deal breaker, I am saying try it the shop though.
There’s a wee integral belt too, works fine and doesn’t revolve in it’s tunnel in the wash like so many similar designs seem to. The inner waist has a nice light fleeciness to it.

The fit is “retro”. None of your baggy arsed boot cut fashion designer bollocks that have blighted outdoor trouser the past few years here. No, a slimmer cut with a lower leg that tapers in and doesn’t snag on the scenery and doesn’t attract mud and crap from a radius of ten feet.
The cut really is excellent, just room enough for longjons underneath with good knee articulation for high stepping (like an Indian brave*) and all day comfort.
The lower legs have a zipped gusset for less technical monenst and for letting your attach the internal gaiters to your boots. These wee gaiters are great, in a lighter fabric but they’ve stayed in place through snow and bog.
Right there next to the other ankle stuff in the photies there are the kevlar crampon kick patches, which I have not yet kicked. Why? because the Skarn’s have a slim fit at the ankle. Ha. Plus I don’t tend to kick myself in the ankle much anyway.
I do have a pair of winter pants with one shredded ankle, so I’m not saying I’m superior at walking in a straight line or anything. Maybe just getting better as I get older. Maybe just slower now I think about it.

In the harshest of days I can feel cold creeping in when I’ve been exposed or at rest, but the Skarn’s have been excellent for much of the time. The slightly lighter fabric choice has means I haven’t missed having leg vents as I don’t overheat on warmer days. For the same reason I wear them on my ranger rounds of the deer fence in the Kilpatricks where that lower leg is perfect in the mud and open pathless hillside. Also I don’t look like a lost mountaineer because they’re kinda plain and understated looking. And a bit like jeans from a distance.

Good pants. Yes please. Check the zips in the shop.

 

*Dancing On Your Grave – Motörhead “Another Perfect Day” 1983

Kit that broke, kit that didnae

Some gear doesn’t fit the Walkhighlands schedule which I’ve tightened up as time’s gone on and I still get a lot of one-offs sent through so I’m going to have a look at some of this from time to time, maybe do proper reviews on here if I can be arsed.

A couple of things from Monday are worth a mention, up first are the Trail Blaze Carbon poles from Mountain King. Been using these for a couple of months, they have the same layout as the regular Trail Blaze with four sections, an internal cord securing system and a mesh covered slightly squashy handle with a wrist loop.
I’ve done countless miles with various versions of these poles, the format is ideal for me, giving propulsion and stability, they weigh too little to worry about and they fold away to nothing. The new carbons are stiffer though, still featherweight but they feel more direct, the shaft still flexes but less so than the alloy’s and it makes a difference. More energy going into forward motion that used flexing the pole every time you push off? It’ll be minimal amounts I’d imagine, but I’m liking the feel very much. I’ve been treating the carbons rough, I had a fall where one had a big flex under my full weight with no damage to report and they’ve been scraped over the scenery every time they’ve been out. The glossy finish is getting scraped, but no chunks or gouges yet so it’s looking good so far.

Second is a pack that got buried in the to-do pile and just popped back up last week, the Millet Torong 42 MBS. I didn’t like the look of it at first which is why it slipped my mind, but when I saw it at the weekend and had a second look at the features I knew it was worth a try, plus the fit was instantly right, something you don’t argue with too much.
It says fast hiking on the label, but it feels like a winter sports pack with the clean exterior and fancy ice tool storage loops, which I really like. But the hipbelt is fixed with a big metal swively thing so no one is winter climbing with this I’d imagine. Nice external mesh pocket, sneaky zipped access to one side if you don’t want to open the lid, underneath straps for a tent or mat and two mesh bottle pockets. There’s tensioning straps running through/across these bottle pockets which as a design choice always annoys me but I can get my bottle in and out okay so I’ll withhold judgement here in the meantime.
The lid is the wrong way round , it clips shut at your neck which works great and makes for a very neat and weatherproof seal but the buckles are too small to work with big gloves on and I was shouting at them when I needed to get to my donuts within.
Excellent harness, instantly comfy on my frame and that swively hipbelt thing works fine, it’s subtle though, not overly mobile, feels like a flex rather than a swivel if that makes sense.
I think it’s got the makings of a nice overnighter pack, it feels lighter than the website says it is (I haven’t checked yet) and has a good capacity for light nights out. Kinda glad I took it out on Monday.

I used the CAMP XLC Nanotech crampons which have heel clip and probably shouldn’t be used on the old Haglofs Gryms I had them on but, it’s an excellent and secure combo so safety man can sue me. The point shape and layout on the alloy XLC’s does take a little adjustment of approach but last winter a different pair I was using had a point layout that you could slide downhill with like you were wearing skis if you placed your feet the right way so nothing is er, perfect.
The MSR Windboiler is still keeping in my affections, the Petzl Summit Evo ice axe is a joy and my winter secret weapon is a now well worn EDZ All Climate One Piece Base Layer, basically a mountain onesie. The synthetic fabric works well, it keeps me dry although it isn’t the best at keeping odour away but it’s the layering aspect that makes it a winner, you can’t pull the top up and get you a cold back, your bottoms can’t slip down and bunch at the crotch. Under softshell trousers it’s a just a joy.
The two way zip makes peeing straightforward, anything that needs a squat though, you’re getting naked in the mountains so not the best for longer trips.

More soon?

Walkhighlands Review

This odd winter has kinda messed with my review schedule on Walkhighlands, so I’m now looking at testing the stuff for next winter just now as forward samples are becoming available, never will I have been so organised. Aye, we’ll see.
So, I pulled in the kids gear review which has been on the go for many months. Holly and my buddy David’s youngster Jake have been abusing the gear since early last year and as I’ve found over the years doing kids kit, it’s pretty damn good.

I was just in the Kilpatricks doing visitor surveys with fellow ranger Jo in the wind and rain when a dad and two boys came down from the crags towards us and were happy to stop and answer our damned fool questions.
Dad had his hill kit on and the boys were also head to toe in the right gear, waterproof trousers, jackets, rucksacks, hats and gloves. They’d walked over the hills from Clydebank and knowing the route these youngsters who are about Holly’s age 8 or 9 had done exceptionally well both with the distance and the weather. They were warm, still enthusiastic after a lot of miles and told me that their plans were to start the Munro’s this year. They even had their whistles on the pack chest straps and proudly told me what they were for and how to use them.

I did the survey, so I know this a family who doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around but they still had it so right. The kit and the smiling faces told the story. I was just so pleased to see it and so happy for them to be doing it. It really was a wee emotional moment for me, the dad and the mountain man in me shared the joy equally.
Best of luck to them.