Gear Diary

What the kit’s doing, random stuff, thoughts on this , that and the next thing.

I kitted out four and a half folk with gear on the recent National Park trip, everyone brought their own kit as well, but it was interesting to see how the guys got on with the unfamiliar, as good a test as any.

My kit’s above, pretty much regular issue, Lasercomp, Neoair, Jetboil Flash, Montane Flux. The sleeping bag was a PHD Minum 300 with the short zip, making it’s first appearance of the year and was a comfy down filled delight. I’ve enjoyed the past couple of nights in a tent using a zipped bag, it’s nice to have a little freedom sometimes.
The pack (better view below) was the Macpac Amp Race 40 which I didn’t manage to fill, it’s definitely bigger than advertised. I carried a water bottle on the bungees on the left shoulder strap and the strap rubbed a bit, so I won’t do that next time to see if that was the cause. Otherwise, it’s a cracker. Good size, flexible but supportive of the load and great storage without cramming. The Montrail Streaks had their last hurrah, the Haglöfs Rugged Mountains Pants vented when required and carried the camera in thigh pocket with ease. Wigwam trail runner socks were good both wet and dry.
I had some new Chocolate Fish merino kit on the go, as did a few of the boys. I’ll do that in more detail soon.

Other tents I supplied were:
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. Grant Moir used this, and he pitched it quick without help. It still looked good and tight next morning. He seemed pleased with the weight when carrying it and as a home for the night.
Force Ten Helium 200. Geoff Miles hads this, he pitched it pretty well and found the room in the 200 was fine for hiim, so I’m looking forward to using it now.
Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite. Bobinson had this, and he noticed the size difference right away. His comment that good pitching is vital is a lesson for anyone using one of the Laser family.
MSR Skinny One. Long enough for Craig McQueen, it’s a single-skin oddity but pitched tight it was fine. DSoaked with condensation in the morning though.
From elsewhere:
Big Agnes Copper Spur. Stuart MacInnes slept in this, it’s the same one I tested last year, great tent.
Argos ProAction. Chris Sleight’s tent, looked a bit wrinkly, but it’s orange so it’s a winner!

Sleepmats, I took an Exped Synmat 7 Basic for Geoff,an Exped Airmat for Grant and a Big Agnes AirCore for Craig. There were no complaints, and as it was a warm enough night there were no cold ground woes reported over breakfast.

Sleeping bags I supplied were:
Alpkit Pipedream 600. Geoff has this, I knew he’s be warm enough in whatever happened. No reports of cold and no complaints about the slim cut.
Alpkit Pipedream 400. Grant used this, he was fine, he’s camped in the hills plenty.
I wanted to use the Alpkit bags to contrast some of the top end stuff on show from Phil, Stuart and me (PHD and Big Agnes). Wild camping isn’t about logos, and light doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Marmot Sawtooth. Huge heavy down bag, way too warm, but the only one I had that would fit Craig. Even if he’d said he was cold I wouldn’t have believed him.

Miscellaneous Kit:
Optimus Terra Solo and Weekend pots, Snow Peak Twin Wall titanium mug, Lifesystems and Karrimor stainless steel mugs. Optimus folding spork, Light my Fire sporks and Firesteel, torches brought Petzl Tikka XP’s and an Alpkit Gamma.
Craig wore the Rab Super Dru at camp and Geoff was glad of the Haglöfs Oz he didn’t notice in his pack.
I took a bunch of food, Travelunch, Expedition Foods and Mountain House. Success was reasonable, but Stuart found that his needed frying, something to check in the shop folks, I know I didn’t.
I gave the boys a mix of Nalgene and Camelbak bottles. The wide mouth is easier for filling, much as I love my Siggs.
Poles were Mountain King Trail Blaze and Expedition Carbons, and Leki Makalu Carbons.
Stoves were an Optimus Crux Lite, Brunton Flex and Markill Peak Ignition. All impressed with their simplicity and weight.

I printed out and laminated maps which were used, GPS’s were used to tell us what we already knew. Bless ’em.

Now, the biggest thing here was the complete lack of problems with the kit, the guys just got on and used it quite intuitively. I was super-pleased about this as I wanted the guys to have a good time, or at least have a trouble free time, and that’s what we got.
The kit was pretty basic, and fit for use anywhere I would normally go, more that capable for the time of year in fact. Oh, I feel like shouting at the outdoor establishment again. Damn their outdated dogma, go light people.

Lenticular Disney Cards

Holly’s in the kitchen and she’s just sung this, word for word: “I am Iron Man!, dum dum dumdumdum, da da da da da da da da dumdum”
There’s a tear in my eye right now.

Work was a dead loss today. Jimmy was bringing the boat back up the Clyde from Dumbarton after it being in the water for the first time yesterday, and that had to be assisted leading to nautical themed conversation (where I had to bluff like a mofo) at Bowling Basin with folk previously unknown, then cuppas, walking around the harbour with Holly and then an acceptance that the day was done.
So, I’ve been packing the gear for Monday (for that is the day we’re heading out). Rucksacks are fine,  we had some trying-on and everyone is happy enough (I’ll do some gear stuff post-trip), even Craig the very tall reporter was sorted with adjustment set to “Stop Here”.
Sleeping bags though is a thing. I’ve got a lot of bags here, but they’re all filled with enough down that I know will keep me just warm enough. So, I’ve had to bring some golden oldies out of retirement that have a heavier fill so that the guys coming along who haven’t done this before will have a warm night at camp.

This has got me thinking about my own transition in what I use. I used to sleep in bigger bags, sometimes fully clothed and often felt on the limit. I went to lighter bags plus clothing and started to wake up to take clothes off to cool down, and now it’s light bags with base layers or less. I’m getting older, I’m not getting any fitter so what’s changed? The bags I’m using are better and lighter, the mats I’m sleeping on are lighter but not any better at insulating, so there’s no huge change in anything other than pack weight.
Is it confidence maybe? Have I subconsciously hit my camping “stride” and when it’s bed time I’m more relaxed and mentally in a happy place, or do I eat better, or maybe I’m so used to throwing on insulating layers when I stop that I’m keeping my core warmth better and a hot drink before bed stokes the boiler for the night? It’s probably a little of all of that, but some nights are still better than others, there is no real etched-in-brass scale for me to judge from.
So, this has me thinking about sleeping bag ratings. They really don’t help at all do they? I know I tend to look at fill weight and apply that to my own accrued data, but what the hell does someone looking for their first bag to carry into the mountains look for? What happens is they go to a forum to ask for advice and get even more confused/abused/depressed.
I can’t even think of a solution to this, it’s something you just have to learn for yourself, and it’s an expensive learning curve to ride your BigWheel round. As we’re looking to help folk with the idea wild camping, I really see this as the biggest issue from a gear, as well as a comfort and enjoyment perspective.

Anyway. I’ll be asking questions on Tuesday morning about how folk slept, how warm they were etc. It’ll be interesting to hear the differences, especially as a couple of the bags are rated into double minus figures.

Montane Limited Edition Dynamic Stretch Pants

Montane have produced a Limited Edition range of clothing with the proceeds going Mountain Rescue in England and Wales.
I’ve got the Dynamic Stretch Pants in for test to see what the score is.

The big story is the fabric, a new version of Polartec’s Powershield softshell. It feels good, inside and out, and has a decent balance between easy stretch and keeping its shape. Good wind resistance and DWR too.
There’s a lot of detail in there as well. A map sized zipped leg pocket with a little expansion gusset, two big front pockets, zipped fly with a dress-trouser styled two button fastening on the semi-elasticated waist and a webbing belt with a proper big buckle on it.
There’s a little bit of articulation at the knees, and in general, movement is good with the slightly relaxed cut and the stretch fabric. The ankles adjust with Montane’s favourite popper system.
There’s the nice new embroidered Montane logo, an embroidered Polartec logo plus the “Limited Edition” red zip and patch on the pocket. Makes them look team, which I kinda like. The black and red of the whole range is pretty sexy I think.

I’ve happily walked and biked in them without any problems, but I’ll keep updating as I go.
Looking at it right now though, the £65 tag on these makes them look like a steal.

Product Information

  • Weight: 418g for my size large
  • UK Price: £65, with £35 going to Mountain Rescue
  • Fabric: Polartec PowerShield with Hardface Technology
  • Made In: China
  • Regular version also available

Rab Cirrus Pull-on Review

I’ve had a Cirrus sample on the go for months now, and it’s high time I had an update.

You really can’t argue with the weight, 76g is weightless for all intents and purposes. I carry the Cirrus in the hip-fin pocket on most packs which gives you  just how small this thing packs down.
But weight without function is pointless, and I was very happy to discover that there’s nothing missing here, no corners have been cut at all.

The body is nice and long, with quite a trim-cut torso. The arms match nicely, even stretched out on a bike my wrists stayed covered. There’s no creep-up here either, the arms are well articulated at the shoulder and the cuffs have covered elastic to seal the gap, but they’ll also so pull up to my elbow for easy cooling.
The hem has an elastic drawcord with a captured cordlock at your right-hand side.
The zip is a good length, with a little baffle behind which grows into a chin guard/zipper garage at the top. The collar is nice and high, and it too has a drawcord with a captured adjuster.

The fabric is the new non-shiny Pertex Quantum, it’s soft, comfortable, layers well, keeps the wind out  and breathes incredibly well. It dries fast too, I took it off at a rest stop once and watched the damp patch on the back shrink and disappear like a breath cloud on a window.

It’s been through trees, against rock and ice, and it’s been off the bike at least once, but it’s still looking fresh.
The light fabric has it’s limits when it comes to wind strength and temperature, but even into winter it takes the sting out. Spring to Autumn, it’s all you’d need.
There’s no pockets, and I haven’t missed them, I like the clean lines as-is, so it’s not an issue. Rab do have a pocketed full-zip version if that’s where you’re at.

Truth be told, I think it’s a great bit of kit and I love it.

Product Information

  • Weight: 76g for size large sample
  • UK Price: £50
  • Fabric: Pertex Quantum
  • Made in: China

Gear Diary

Gear update, news, stuff and things, random and homeless items, the place to post your own similar should the notion take you.


The most important news is that I went to see KISS last night and it was bloody marvellous. Worth every penny and more. I was half expecting saggy old men taking the piss, but it was a huge production with energetic performances and classic tunes.
I did miss Ace Frehley a few times, the fake Ace is too good, the real one was as much about personality as guitar playing. Still, great to see them playing Glasgow again, The first time I did that was 27 years ago…

I’ve mentioned the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park wild camping project a few times, and it’s now pretty imminent. I was at a meeting last week sorting out the time and the place, and next week I’ll be kitting out the participants in some test kit for the night out. I’ll cover the serious stuff after the do itself, but one thing that occurs to me just now is what the reaction will be to the gear. All my kit is lightweight, but not the obsessive, scales-in-pocket-while-shopping stuff, you can buy most of it in a regular shop, but from what we’ve been discussing for the trip, already I can see that it’s miles away from what’s still the mainstream. This is good and bad in lots of different ways, but mostly it means that we just have to try harder and shout louder. Lets not be too geeky though, it puts folk off and makes us look like social inadequates.


I’ve been back in trail shoes, and not a moment too soon. My first choice were my well-beaten Montrail Streaks, and oh did it feel right. Montrail sent me a couple of new models last week, but they were Size Clown, so I’m waiting for the right ones to appear and then we’ll run them up the flagpole and see if they’re worth saluting.

I wore my Montane Sportwool liner bike shorts, now discontinued, and was reminded of good they are. They’re not super-padded, so great for hike-a-bike and looking normal when cutting about off the bike.
The wool content is welcome too, merino really is what you need if you want to guarantee an inoffensive personal space, post exercise.
Also in Montane land, a pair on the Limited Edition Dynamic Stretch Pants came in for test and went out at the weekend. I’ll have a closer look shortly, but my first thoughts are not to dismiss the range as a stunt, the pants are proper kit in a fantastic fabric and are only £65 compared to £80 for the regular versions.

I’ve been wearing a sample Millet long-sleeve top that I picked up when I was down at innov-ex, a Chugack Mou (whatever the hell that is), and I kinda like it, looks like a 70’s fitba top. The fabric is nice enough and the cut is close but not tight. The brand has struggled to gain a foothold in the UK, but my interest is now piqued.

I’ve had a swatch through the Haglöfs range for Summer 2011, of which I’ll have a closer look later, and there is a return-to-form in the softshell pants area and some moments of inspired madness in the footwear…

More Stuff

A fella called James Barnett gave me a shout about his charity trek last week, and I’ve copied his press release is below.
Trade or punter enquiries would be welcome I should think.

Student Prepares for Gruelling Climb

Jim Barnett, studying at the University of Leeds, will be venturing out on a project for the acclaimed Raise and Give Society on behalf of the charity Childreach International 

He will be going to Tanzania on June 27th 2010 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s largest freestanding mountain at 5,895 metres in just six days.   Part of the project will also be working with the children who will benefit from the charity. 

A mental and physical challenge coupled with implementing grass roots projects in the poorest areas of Africa providing good quality education and health services to those much less fortunate then ourselves. 

Jim is willing to promote sponsoring organisations by the use of logos, stickers etc on travelling equipment and also photographs of your organisational logo at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Please help him to help those don’t have a good way of life or basic sanitary conditions, by logging onto and making any donations you can. 


James Barnett is 20 years old, comes from Norfolk and is currently studying New Media and Communications at Leeds University 

To find out about the charity visit 

To find out about Jim please email or call 07787 411154

innov_ex 2010

I’ll be away for a couple of days, I’m heading down to Lancaster University tomorrow for innov_ex 2010.
I was invited last year and found it a fascinating experience, I learned a lot about what goes on at the roots of the outdoor trade and something of the distance between that, and you and I, the end users.
Change is being attempted, avoided, delayed and hurried, and all the reasons for all the angles are discussed by a diverse and knowledgeable team of speakers.
There’ll be in-house lectures and discussions, video conferencing and the whole day will be streamed live from the link above, so hopefully folk will drop in and arm themselves with a bit of foreknowledge to terrorise both the forums and the shop assistants.
I’m going back this year a little better prepared, I’ll be taking the old Bontempi laptop and I’ll try to blog (ot at least tweet) some of what’s happening. I’m meeting up with some pals who I’ll squeeze for a little more info over lunch if I can, and I’m also very proud to have been asked to be a judge for the innov_ex prize for innovation. I hope I can bring into it the perspective of both an ordinary punter and an engineer rather than just a gear freak.

X Bionic Humdinger

Just in for test is something a little different from X Bionic, the Humdinger.
It’s a light midlayer, but the close fit means it’s a good next-to-skin piece as well.
It’s much smoother on the outside than we’re used to seeing, but does have the familiar front and rear venting triangles which line up with the same features on the base layers, the idea being to keep the mechanics of the fabric intact through both layers. These zones are ribbed inside as well to promote ventilation, the inside of the collar has a similar effect, which does feel nice against the skin.
The collar is a good height, and the zip has a decent length for pulling on and off and getting some direct venting too.
It’s very soft feeling, unrestrictive and if the performance is up to the usual standard, it’ll be a great alternative to a microfleece on upcoming trips.
You’ll see below it has much diminished packaging, just a bit of cardboard on the shoulders. Good job.

I’ll have some more X Bionic coming up soon, a look at next year’s kit and news from the factory including some answers to our questions.

Macpac Amp Race 40

Just in for test is the Macpac Amp Race 40. Macpac have long been seen as a purveyor of reliable, tough gear, but they also have a pedigree in adventure racing and few years ago just about every international team I saw had at least one member with a Macpac Amp pack, some even with the logo sewn over with their own sponsors…
Times have changed though, racing pack design has been taken to new extremes of light weight but also of functionality.  Where does the Amp 40 sit these days?

It looks a little more like the Amp Race 25 now with that single-buckle lid, a good move for me as I like the single buckle format. It looks to have the usual conservative Macpac volume rating as well, this’ll take all my camp kit and more besides.
The main compartment has a bladder sleeve with hangers and drain holes at the bottom, and the foam back stiffener is removable as a shoulder-to-hip sleepmat which meets race regulations but is no fun to sleep on at all!
But viewed against the current race packs, the Amp is looking more like a fast-and-light general purpose pack than a dedicated race pack, not at least because of it’s 1160g weight. This is no criticism though, race and multisport needs are what gave us things like mesh pockets and external stowing options, and it’s good to see a pack with all the functionality without it being pared down to the minimum elsewhere.

So what functionality is there? It’s been designed to be used quickly so it’s all pretty simple, eg the main compartment closes with a one-pull cord cleverly threaded through both cord channels. The external storage is another quick-access feature, handy in a race but also for wet tents, snacks and real flexibility.
Below you can see the size of the mesh bottle pockets with a 1L Sigg in one, the external zipped storage pocket (it’s sewn onto the outside, so doesn’t impact on internal space) with the binoculars, the external mesh pocket with the Galaxy Counters poking out and then there’s a web of bungee to attach even more. Add to that internal and external lid pockets, two big mesh hip-belt pockets, a shoulder strap gel-bottle pocket and bottle bungee and you’ve got more storage options than you’ve got stuff to store.

I’ve used Amp Races a few times over the years and found them stable and comfy, and the harness here seems to be the same design, low profile with a stiff-ish padding which will mould to you after some use. The chest strap, with the now expected whistle buckle, is on the sliding attachments, but here the rail ends are sewn-in to prevent the sliders pinging off.
The back is a simple mesh panel and with just the foam inside is nicely flexible. The removable hipbelt pivots nicely too and it really is a pack which allows a lot of mobility.
There’s enough top, side and bottom compression to pull the pack in tight if you need to though.
The fabric feels a little stiffer than the older versions, which isn’t be a bad thing, as with ice axe on there and the tall thin shape it’s a pack asking to be taken into the mountains and used without having to worry about it.

My first impressions are good, the features and comfort look to be spot on, and I’m hoping they’re worth that extra weight the Amp has built-in.
In many ways this is going head to head with my OMM Villain, same size and general layout.
We’ll see.


Eyenoculars, that’s what Holly calls them. I was having a rummage when I was round at my folks during the week and found these in their little case, as good as new.
They’re pretty old, and the magnification is probably a bit weak compared to whatever’s out there these days, but a combination of peering at stuff in the distance from camp wondering what it is and reading all these old books where carrying Eyenoculars seemed to be standard for bird watching and the like, will see me packing these on the next couple of trips.
If  they’re a good idea and a fun addition to my day I’ll maybe have a look at what’s new and better and lighter.
Hmm, might mean leaving one pastry behind to get these in though.


In times past at camp I would cook stuff, I would take ingredients and make something for dinner. Breakfast was sometimes a slice of bacon or two, and after years of just boiling and rehydrating I have to admit I get a little fed up with the food at times.
I won’t be going back to a wood fire and sausages I don’t think, but some kit that came in for test and then a wee piece I put together for Trail got me thinking about the old days and some possibilities. A summer overnight pack is pretty empty, so maybe room in there for super-luxury?
Guyotdesigns will be supplying some of the kit.

The Squishy Bowls above are the Large (500ml/93g) and the Cup (200ml/48g), there’s Medium size and a “Shot Glass” as well (which I have somewhere, I’ll find it…).
The weight is good, but the fact that they pack flat, or at least won’t take up the same volume in your pack as their capacity would suggest, makes them handy wee buggers. Usability without penalty maybe? They’re made of food grade (obviously) silicone, and the material and super-smooth inside surface should make them easy to keep clean without using up all my water.
No handles of course, but there’s something “earthy” about holding a bowl in your hand and it’s nice to have something so different.

The little chaps there are MicroBites, a spork, spatula, knife and spreader in two click-together utensils weighing in at just 20g. They’re small, but not too small, feel sturdy will very little flex when leaned on and there’s enough material to hold onto to make them usable.
One interesting thing about them is that the manufacturing process is carbon negative, something that seems to run deep in the company philosophy. It’s worth reading the “About Us” page on their site.

I’ll take these out and see just how out of practise I am at doing more than boiling water when I’m wild camping.

Gear Diary

Weekly test kit update and the home of any random comments an’ that.

There wasn’t much doing last week, after I came back from the Rough Bounds of Knoydart (apparently they start at the bridge over that northern neck of Loch Quoich) it was all about work apart from the bike ride on Wednesday.
Then fixing pipes on my knees without due care and attention on Friday ensured and indoors weekend.

But, emerging from the wilderness is the Crux Halo. Phil had for a bit, it’s been in the motor for a while, and now that it’s stopped bleeding down from the stitching so much I’ve rediscovered it’s fine qualities of warmth and windproofness at low weight. I’ll be packing this more and reporting back, I’m going to team it with the Berghaus Chulu vest.
The Haglöfs kit in the posts just below has all been out, and those Lizard shorts are just brilliant. For something not designed for the bike, they work better than many bike shorts I’ve tried, more ammo for my “Bike clothing is all shite” guerrilla war. For warm hikes I’ll team them with something long-legged for camp wear, probably the PHD down pants.
The Intense Tee is a dilemma, it’s great when it’s hot, layers well and feels like silk against the skin, it’s a lovely piece. But I can’t help thinking that the sporty go-faster looks are going to turn away some non-go-faster folk who would enjoy from the fabric performance and nice cut. I guess you can’t have it all.
I wore the Smarwool inner shorts, and they are as good as I remember them. I can take or leave the outer shorts, but these liners are just so damned comfy.
The Rab Cirrus windshirt was worn for the bike ride too. I’ll do a proper review of that shortly, but the fit is great for the taller and longer limbed, even on the bike. The Quantum fabric will always be a little cooler than just about anything else when the chill factot gets up there, but the weight of this shirt makes it the big winner. Magic.

Haglöfs Lynx Pant Review

The Haglöfs Lynx Pant came in for test last year where I used them through the summer, they’ve came back out for the recent good weather and they’re well over due for an update.

I think softshell pants conjure up an image of winter weight, technical, highly featured legwear, but softshell fabrics are getting very light these days and we’re getting some warmer weather kit that’s nice and stretchy with some of the traditional weather resistance of the heavy duty stuff.
The Lynx then has more in common with Intense Pants (new version of the kazoo) than it does with anything that has braces, internal gaiters and crampon-proof kick patches.
They’re slim fit with a straight cut lower leg for off-the-hill normal looks, the knees are articulated double-fabric which is good at camp as the fabric is thin. The fabric has a soft inner surface which feels nice and does seem to suck the sweat away, and with only an average wind resistance in there, the fabric suits warm weather very well.
There’s a rear pocket, two hip pockets and a thigh pocket, all with mesh lining and reversed zips. The waistband is backed with a soft microfleece and has an integral belt with two poppers at the waist above the fly zip.

They’re comfy to wear and fine for sleeping in as they’re so light an unrestrictive, and they do a nice wee dance in that gap between Ronhills and Technical Pants I think.
Issues are few, the ankles have no adjustment, so catch a bit of crap when trekking through the mud. But, there are lace holes in the hems if you want to spend an afternoon trying to thread them through.
Simple and functional, and even after a quite a bit of use they’re looking very good. Only a little abrasion-caused hairyness on the hems so far.

Product Information

  • Weight: 400g for my size large including chunkier replacment belt
  • UK Price: £100
  • Fabric: Flexable Softshell 1556
  • Made in: Vietnam
  • Woman’s Q version available

Haglöfs Intense Tee

I wondered if this was going to be just a colour variation on the Haglöfs Actives Tee, but Haglöfs’ Intense Tee is a semmit of a different colour in a few ways.

The fabric is a lighter recycled Dryskin with Polygiene anti-odour treatment. It’s a soft, silky-smooth fabric and very pleasant against the skin, the cut is a little looser than the Actives Tee which along with it’s minimal insulative properties make it a good choice for warm weather.
There’s a little reflective detailing ,and the colour and styling is part of the Intense Series revamp. Budgie green crops up in small amounts, but Oxy Blue is now king. It’s fresh looking, and I quite like it, although the aesthetics are quite “sporty” with the colour blocks and contrast stitching which folk will either like or not.
The label is a soft plastic sewn-in tab, although it’s on the inside here rather than the better external placement on the Actives Tee.

I’ve used this a few times and it is very comfy, the fabric is miles better than what they used in the old Intense baselayers like the Azer, much nicer against the skin and stretchier as well.
I’ll wear it on some longer hot weather trips and see how it does both at stink and pack strap wear resistance.

Haglöfs Lizard Shorts

There was some doubt about whether we would see these in the shops, would the store buyers “get it” and order them? Would the price tag frighten both them and customers?
Well apparently not, the Haglöfs Lizard Shorts are in the shops and already there’s no spare stock left at Haglöfs, what the shops have ordered is all there is.

So what have we got then? Simple shorts in four-way Flexable fabric which allows a close fit with complete freedom of movement. The fit around the hips is slim, and the legs stay straight so there’s a little ventilation for your thighs. There’s a crotch gusset as well for high stepping and chaffe-free pedalling.
The fabric is fine against the skin, breathes well, dries quickly and repels water thown at your arse from the back wheel.
Features are minimal, two zipped hip pockets, one laminated and zipped leg pocket and a zipped fly (all with reversed-smooth side out-zips). There’s a webbing belt with a low profile buckle and two poppers to secure the waist. The pockets are all very usable as the soft stretch fabric gives them a little give if you want to cram stuff in there and keeps any contents from rolling around too.
I’ve used them on foot and on the mountain bike and I have to say they feel very good. They work great on the bike over a pair of padded liners and don’t snag on the saddle when moving around, and for walking they’re invisibly comfortable.

I know the £75 price tag will be a talking point, but these are looking very good indeed. I think wearing these and carrying the PHD down trousers for camp will be on the cards for a few trips this year.
I’ll come back to the Lizards later on to see what the longevity of the fabric and the DWR is, see how they cope with bike and hike alike.

Garmin Oregon 450

Folk that know me will know that I’m proud of my map and compass reliance that has seen me seriously lost in the Highlands only er, a few times…
But new is good, freelance stuff is demanding that I move with the times and I must admit that sometimes it would nice to know just exactly where the hell I am in a cloud or blizzard. So, in for test from Garmin UK is their Oregon 450.

I was initially a bit intimidated, electronics just isn’t my thing, but I did find I could get it up and running very easily which was something of a relief. It came with Scotland on OS Landranger 1:50,000 on a mini memory card which was easy to stick in and nicely familiar on-screen.
The screen is nice and big, and apart from the on/off button all the functions are controlled from the touchscreen display via simple scrolling pages of icons and sub-menus.

First time I used it was out in the street and it took a few minutes to find me, which it then did very precisely. The second time was on Beinn Fhada where the screen briefly showed home and then changed to my camp site after a couple of seconds which impressed no end. 
On the recent trip to Loch Quoich I compared notes with Phil who had a similar model and that helped me change some of the settings (the one downside of not having a wee manual to carry about, it being a downloadable affair), and I’m now comfortable with the information it’s giving me.
I’ve still to use most of the functions, recording routes and the like, I’m being methodical as it really is all completely new to me, literally “Baby’s First GPS”. There’s a bunch of stuff on there that looks kinda “enthusiast specific” as well, it’s interesting that the GPS has become more than just a tool. I really am lagging behind.

Anyway, I’ll be updating my progress with this as I go, I really hope I’m not the only one out there starting at ground level with this stuff.
I do wonder how it’ll compare to my own built-in nav, I walked right to that cup-marked stone last week with a grid-ref in my head and a map in my hand, will pride will have me arguing with the wee box in times to come when it tells me something I wasn’t expecting?

Kit that broke, kit that didnae, and other stuff before I forget, XII

At the weekend I took an old pal, the red Lasercomp that’s been seen on this blog so much. I just couldn’t face something else new and it made a real difference to my happiness.
I swear to you it’s huge after the F10 Helium and the Photon I’ve been using. I can sit up, move, dress easily, store my gear, cook and get in and out without an issue. It’s reinforced my view that the ‘comp is at the sweetspot of lightweight tent design.

I used both sets of Hillsound crampons on my Keen Oregons and the news is good. There was just enough good snow about for me to get a feel for them and the Trail Crampons are secure, grippy and easy to put on. The Pro’s binding was a delight of simplicity to fit and remove, they’re stiffer than a steel Kahtoola, but the front points are more horizontal, so do think they’re more G10 anyway. Everyone was impressed by both sets from a spec and a weight point of view.

The pack above is the Karrimor X-Lite 45+10 which proved to delight as much as it confounded. I like the zipped bottom compartment as I discovered on the last overnighter with the Haglöfs Matrix, the harness started to soften to my shape and I like it’s low profile, fit and stability. The pack is a good size and shape for mountain use although the lid is a little closer to the back of my head than I expected.
What does annoy is the complete lack of external storage, no hipbelt or wand pockets, no crampon webbing on the lid, no mesh stuff-pockets, not even a bungee to strap a wet tent onto.
X-Lite says to me weight conscious, on-the-move-accessibility, performance and adaptability. The X-Lite 45+10 comes so close but falls short because it’s really more of a traditional backpacking sack made from lighter materials.
There’s so many genius touches on it too, the back-length adjustment, the snow-lock closure which is bias-shaped to pull away from the front of the pack when it’s tightened to minimise the chance of weather getting in and the harness attachment which is old-school but gives free movement without sacrificing stability when on steep or rough ground.
I’m going to attach a pocket or two and some bungees and take it out again. The basics are good and I hope with a couple of tweaks I can make it more usable, I did similar to the Gregory Z35r and was quite happy.

I’m grinning out of a Golite Adrenaline 3 down bag which got it’s first real test on Saturday night.
Now, this is a slim bag, the slimmest I’ve got I think. I can’t comfortably get in it with anything more than baselayers on, but once in there with my shoulders inside there’s no feeling of constriction at all. The central zip works well for camp living and ventilation, and the bag is warm. It was below zero in the night and I slept warm and sound.
I don’t like sleeping in clothes anymore, not when there’s sleeping bags light enough and warm enough for me not to have to, so I think me and the Adrenaline 3 will be good pals.

I had the Jetboil, wore discontinued Haglöfs Iguana pants (bring them back) and Chocolate Fish Taranaki base layers, I used the CAMP Corsa for the first time this winter and even got to grips with the Garmin Oregon 450 after some help from Phil.
The NeoAir continues its faultless run and most other stuff was standard issue. The Czech camo boonie hat made a welcome return though, that made me very happy indeed.

Gear Diary

Weekly test kit update and the home of other random stuff or comments.

I’ve had a few queries about the LaSportiva Gandalf boot we saw at KORS last year, and the news is that it’s going to be in the UK imminently as the Ganda Guide. I don’t think I’m allowed to mention the Crosslite “XT” yet though… ?
I got my programme in for KORS 2010, so I’ll be going down again to see what’s doing. There’s even more brands this year, so it’ll be an early start I think.

Tha Haglöfs Vertigo Hi GT’s have been out again, I’m still liking them as they soften a little more, the sole’s as grippy as I thought, the weakest point so far is contouring on wet ground where it does like to go sideways.
Other new Haglöfs kit that’s been out and about is the new Intense Tee, a lighter (uses a lighter-weight recycled Dryskin fabric) and less fitted version of the recently reviewed Actives Tee. It layered well and felt nice out on it’s own in the sunshine, it’s looks are quite “racey”, but it’ll be a good general use piece I think.
The Oz-replacing Ozo has been rained-on and sweated-in too. It’s not just an Oz with blue zips though, the hood is completely different (I’m sure it’s the hood from a LIM Ultimate), the body (tail in particular) feels longer and that wee pocket is now stitched-on rather than laminated, so I can’t pull this one off to see what happens without ruining that jacket. Humph.
I’ll do a side by side with the Oz and see what’s what. I’ll have proper look posted soon as well.

The Temata zip-neck merino midlayer from Chocolate Fish has been out a couple of times as well. It’s slim, but slightly relaxed and I’d forgotten how comfy it was. Merino mid layers are easy to overlook because fleece is usually lighter, but when your fleece pullover is a bit minging in the tent in the morning, those extra few grams seem like no sacrifice at all.
Also, the Temata is resisting the belt buckle/pack hipbelt pressure point very well, the Arc’teryx Delta LT has already got a flat shiny spot there.

I took my time packing for the weekend. There some new and untested, and there was some old favourites too. I learned quite a lot because of those choices. I’ll have more on that coming up.