Kit Reviews.

Review of Mountain Equipment Mens Rupal Jacket:

The Mountain Equipment Rupal  is a no nonsense waterproof jacket made of 75 denier 3 layer Gore-tex throughout, it comes in four colourways (two tones of blue, crimson, dark blue and two tone orange) and weighs in at 570g (20.1 oz for us dinosaurs who still remember them). It has two large chest pockets, underarm pit=zips, a two way Aquaguard front zip, a helmet compatible hood and pre-shaped sleeves. It has hem drawcords and laminated adjustable cuffs. It’s priced at £270 and available in sizes S to XXL.

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OK so that’s the manufacturers blurb dispensed with, so what’s it like and when to use it?

I have had my Rupal for a couple of years now, and have used it extensively. The 75D fabric makes it suitable for backpacking with a heavy expedition sack, so I tend to save it for those sort of occasions, using my lighter E-vent or older M.E Ogre jacket for day walks. I also use it as my working jacket when leading and teaching skills commercially. As a result the Rupal has accompanied on all my winter mountaineering in Scotland, carrying heavily laden sacks into remote locations, and on all the weekends I have been Ten Tors training Scouts on Dartmoor, where I have to carry not only all my own camping kit but additional safety equipment relating to my leader role. This kind of use tends to quickly show up weaknesses on the shoulder areas of lighter fabrics, but this 75D fabric shrugs it off and I’ve had no water ingress.

It amazes me when, working in a local gear shop, how few people think to check the hoods on jackets when trying them on. This is a serious mistake. In the case of the Rupal there are no fears: the Helmet compatible hood initially seems large and baggy, but synching in the adjusters around the face and the rear hood adjuster, a good fit is achieved, and the peak is very stiff and really excellent, with good scope for keeping your glasses dry. The face adjustment cords are channelled to avoid the ends flapping in your face and work well. When fitted properly, the hood follows the head around excellently, and you never find yourself looking at the inside of your hood.

 The pockets are well positioned and hang above any hip-belt or sit-harness. M.E advise that these pockets, although fitted with water resistant zips, are not completely waterproof, and that any electronic goods (e.g. your mobile phone) should be further protected if placed in the pockets. The pockets are large and significantly, they easily swallow a laminated O.S 1:25000 map. They are well positioned for warming hands in too if need be.

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I rarely use the pit-zips because I find it awkward to open them without removing my rucksack and probably would have the same trouble closing them, so generally I only vent the jacket between showers. I admit I sometimes get a little too sweaty in it, but often this is probably because my excellent PHD Tundra jacket is too hot for the circumstances and I should have removed it when I put on the Rupal.

I like the hem drawcords, which draw the jacket nicely in round the bum, but  the one fault I’ve had with the Rupal is the little cord ends, made of plastic on these are prone to come off allowing the cord to pull through into the hem which can only be retrieved with time and warm fingers.

A lot of the times I’ve worn this jacket have been clambering up Munro’s in winter, and this entails reaching high above the head at times. This is where the long pre-shaped arms come in. They don’t ride up and you don’t get a gap forming between sleeve and glove. I might like the sleeve openings slightly wider perhaps but they are very adequate and easily fasten with Velcro type fastenings.

The jacket is a little heavier and bulkier than Paclite, Pertex and Event offerings, but not much and it still fits into my sack with ease. Some people find it a little stiff (like being in a crisp packet is an oft used expression) but I like the bombproof feeling I get when I’m battened down inside.

The jacket is not a  M.E. Lhotse in Gore-tex Pro, with pockets everywhere, but it is £130 cheaper and  all you need. I often wish it had one interior chest pocket (I could buy the £300 Makalu but the third pocket is still external), but in the case of jackets you get what you pay for generally, and you pay £30 for a pocket. If budget is tight and you can only afford to but one jacket then this is it.

The Rupal is a great jacket, a great balance between price and features, a great jacket for day walkers wanting to step up to expeditioning and great to be in when everything outside it is crap!

Postscript: M.E also make a Rupal for women in sizes 8-16 at the same price. They have 6 different colour ways and apart from being tailored more to the female shape, they are very similar to the mens. However as women tend to be smaller and more shapely, the chest pockets may not always be as cavernous as those on the mens jackets….check before you buy. My wifes size 14 will definitely not accommodate a map.

Scarpa Vortex XCR walking/approach shoes

At £155 the Scarpa Vortex’s are not cheap, in fact not as cheap as many boots, even Scarpa ones, so what justifies this price? Well they have quite a lot of leather in their construction, which makes them quite robust. They are Gore-tex lined, so should be waterproof, and the sole is quite a solid Vibram unit unique to this shoe and intended for off road use, and significantly replaceable. They are shoes that tend to fit the wider foot, and thus suit my feet, as many other Scarpas do. If you like the Scarpa Ranger or Delta boot you should like the feel of these shoes. Vortex XCR shoes are made in European sizes from 40 (UK 6 ½) to 48 (UK 12 ½) I bought mine from the Exeter branch of Cotswold Outdoor ( ) who offer an excellent fitting service.

The colour is a silver/grey combo with black rubber toe cap and a heel bumper, and they look very like a trainer. The laces are very free running and I agree with the manufacturers assertion that these are one of the easiest shoes to put on and take off.

On first wearing they were a bit squeeky and driving to a venue I noticed the shoe slip off the cars control pedals a bit, but after a little wearing this has ceased to be a problem.

I wore the Vortex’s occasionally through the winter of 2019-20 and they seemed fine, and didn’t let in water, usually during dog walks on mainly tarmac. Then in March we got “locked down” due to the Covid 19 epidemic. Living in the country, Lockdown just meant that our dog walks became 4-6 hours long and covered a lot more off road walking on green lanes, across fields and through woodland in mainly limestone geology. I mention the geology because well worn limestone with a bit of mud to lubricate is one of the slipperiest things on the planet and the Vortex’s did occasionally slip on it. The Vortex’s coped pretty well with all these conditions, although, on the days when it did rain (and these were rare) long wet grass did result in water ingress of the shoes. In fairness this was probably coming over the top and being carried down by my socks.

After nearly 1000 miles of walking, the soles were looking rather tired in July. They had been used on more tarmac than was ideal for them but this is probably a good distance for a shoe or boot sole in any case. Looking at the sole I concluded that I could wear them into the ground or stop using them now, before they were too far gone and get them resoled. With the uppers in excellent condition re-soling was the best option, so I sent them away via “The Mountain Boot Company” (Scarpas UK importer ). The process took some weeks but the result was  beautifully resoled shoes for £80. I suspect this will not be my last re-sole as these shoes have become “go-to” footwear for all but my most adventurous activities now, and I’ve even bought a second pair.

So if the shoe fits (and I can’t emphasise enough that a shoe must fit, never mind how good it is otherwise) these shoes are great, and better value the more you wear them!



Deuter Guide 45+ Rucksack review


The Guide 45+ is a ruggedly built sack, with a main body compartment of 45L, the plus being an extending lid allowing an extra 8L to be accommodated. Deuter don’t count the volume of additional pockets etc so the 45L claim is conservative rather than optimistic. The sack weighs in at 1700g, interestingly almost exactly half the weight of my Berghaus Vulcan and almost exactly half the size. The sack is intended as a close-fitting sack for carrying on steeper, more difficult ground and for this reason doesn’t have Deuter’s popular trampoline carry system, but instead relies on a narrow attachment hip belt and two vertical padded sections running up the back with a central ventilation chimney. On the subject of hip belts, this one can be removed for a cleaner climbing sack…but also useful at airport check-in (a feature I have also seen on Pod sacks). The sack has no hip belt pockets but they do have hip recesses to make the hipbone more comfortable, and there are gear loops. The sack also has plenty of attachment points for ice tools, crampons and trekking poles. Inevitably there is a water bladder storage system and pipe outlet. I like the semi floating lid system as opposed to a fully floating one where the lid is completely detachable, it extends neatly without creating opportunities for water ingress. Full price is £155 but I bought mine for £78.

On test:

I decided for my first test to use the sack for a weekend walking into a camp and out again, whilst delivering an Expedition Module for Hill and Moorland Leaders. I had no difficulty in fitting in waterproofs a 3-season sleeping bag, some spare clothing, a liquid fuel stove alongside some oversized pans, and a Terra Nova Laser Comp2 tent along with food, binoculars and all the other kit for not only camping but supervising others. Whilst looking full I felt there was scope for a little more if needed. Trying it on I adjusted the sack and it felt as if it would be a good carry.

On walking into the moor I found the carry was good, with the majority of weight being transmitted to my hips quite positively, and with a nice close fitting feel that really came into its own when I started to hop around on rocks and clitter as the track petered out into rougher steeper terrain.

Since first testing the Deuter Guide 45+ I have used it quite extensively. I was staffing a scout Winter Skills course over the 2019-20 New Year and used it as my instructors day bag, but also, while sharing a tent with another instructor I used it to carry in a Quasar tent (not the lightest most compact of tents) to a snowy high camp and then explored the Munros around us from there. I have used it to walk into another very wild camp in February in Cairngorm, again carrying in several days food and kit, again with a companion carrying his share. That week I also used it to carry kit into Callater Stables bothy for another couple of nights.

The sack is extremely comfortable and carries well, it is quite light for what it does, and I like some of the external fittings. In particular it carried my snowshoes very well, one each side, and I could carry my ice axe through the gear loops on the hip belt when I needed. I have attached bungee on the lid using the loops provided ( I think this should come pre-fitted), and there is more scope for bungee on the front. If I have a complaint it is that some of the fabric is a little too easily damaged by abrasion: a young scout unloaded my sack from the mini-bus and pushed it a couple of feet across some concrete, causing a slight rip in the fabric of the front. Fortunately there were 2 layers at this point and a little seam sealant soon repaired it!

This would be an excellent pack for lightweight backpacking on routes that will involve some scrambling, and I suspect this is going to become a “Go To” pack for me! It is also a great pack for professional Mountain Leader and WML users.

At £155 this is a good sack, at £78 (Cotswold special offer) it’s a great sack!

The Scarpa boot re-soling service.

In a departure from my usual gear reviews, this week I’m reporting on the boot re-soling service provided by The Mountain Boot Company for the Scarpa footwear they import. I first heard about the service whilst on a boot fitting course for a well known retailer, and I was struck by the claim that the footwear is repaired on the original manufacturing last and sometimes by the same craftsman. This, I thought, gave the best hope for success, as my previous experiences of resoling had been indifferent to say the least.


Firstly it is important to note that not all footwear can be re-soled. Cheaper and lighter boots and shoes are not made on a last in the traditional way. It is also important that the uppers are worth re-soling, if you don’t keep the uppers well proofed and conditioned you will be throwing money down the drain. Another thing to note is the boots don’t have to be a current model, one of the pairs I sent  was around 20 years old. As well as re-soling other services can be added such as some re-lining of the boot.

This year I have sent two pairs of footwear for re-soling, a 20 year old pair of Scarpa SL B1 non-goretex lined boots, the second a 5 month old pair of Scarpa Vortex walking shoes that had done 1000 miles during lockdown.

The first stage is to contact the Mountain Boot Co by email forwarding pictures of the footwear concerned so that they can confirm that the boots are of a type they can resole and that they look to be in suitable condition to be worthwhile. They then respond with an estimate of the price. My experience is that the estimate is usually £20 more than the eventual fee. If you are happy with the estimate you confirm this and the Mountain Boot Co email you a dispatching label for DPD. You then parcel up the boots, attach the label and take the bundle to your local DPD collection point. The parcel is tracked and you will get a confirmation when The Mountain Boot Co receive the boots. They then send them to Italy where the work is done. This can take 5 weeks, but more if you span the August factory holiday period ( this happened to me). Eventually the boots are received back at the Mountain Boot Co and you receive an email request to ring “Jamie” there and he tells you the actual price (in both my cases it was £80). You pay by card over the phone and a few days later the footwear is delivered back to your home address. As you can see all postage is built into the fee.

So what do I think of the job done? Well by the time the Vortex shoes returned I had another new pair…..and I can’t tell them apart….not even on my feet! The boots came back beautifully re-soled, with new laces and footbeds and the leather appeared to have been treated and buffed.

The fact that the boots have been resoled at the factory gives me the confidence to wear them into remote areas where failure could result in disaster.


I have been reviewing what I carry on Scotlands Winter Hills and after giving it some thought it occurred to me that some of my readers would appreciate  the list, especially people just starting to think about winter mountaineering so here is my list: its not exhaustive but it’s usually enough. I have avoided mentioning specific models of kit.

Day Kit:

Day sac 30+litres                                            First aid kit

Ice Axe                                                           Crampons

Head torch and spare batteries                        Thermos flask

Duvet jacket                                                    Emergency rations

Ski Goggles and/or cat 4 sunglasses               Compass

Whistle                                                            Penknife

Binoculars (Optional)                                     Camera (Optional)

Waterproof coat and overtrousers                   Gauntlets: warm and waterproof

Gaiters (Yetis if they work on your boots)     Fingerless mitts (Thinsulate lined wool)

Fully stiffened boots                                       Ski poles

Bivvi bag or Storm Shelter                             Sit Mat

Snow shovel                                                    Avalanche probes

Balaclava                                                         Jacket: windstopper fleece with hood

Drybags                                                           Tough mountain trousers

Base-layer long sleeve top                              Sufficient drybags

Appropriate maps (laminated or with map case)

Packed lunch                                                   Watch ideally with barometer/altimeter

Dependant on route intended a 30m rope and helmet might also be required


Additional expedition kit:

70-100 litre rucksack                                     

4 season sleeping bag and liner                      Sleep mat

Billy can, grip and scourer.                             Spoon and Mug                      

Stove, windshield and fuel bottles                  Stove fuel and extra fuel bottles/canisters Platypus bottles 2x2Litres                                             Lighter and/or matches

Socks sufficient for trip                                  1x long-johns                         

Underpants sufficient for trip                         Additional base-layer top

Mid layer fleece                                              Small mending kit

Toilet roll and Hand-scrub                             Good book     

Bothy slippers (Optional)                               Wash kit                     

Beer towel/small travel towel                         Spare warm trousers (Optional)

Yak-traks (Optional for approach tracks only)          

Tent (If appropriate)                                        Candles (Optional)

Log book and guide books as appropriate      More drybags             

                                                FOOD!……and lots of it…..

Review of Rab Bergen waterproof jacket

Call me an old dinosaur, but when it comes to waterproof jackets I am strictly “old school”, preferring the longer cut of older jackets to the Alpine cut of our modern era. Why? Well I like cargo pockets below my hip belt to hold gloves etc, I want the jacket to adequately protect the hem of my fleece, I find waterproof trousers seldom stay as waterproof as jackets do for long, and I like the material under my bum to sit down on in snow scrapes and on damp ground. I may sometime scramble, but seldom climb, so an alpine cut is not really necessary for me, and I suspect this current fashion is just a marketing tool, making garments sound technical and lighter by the mere trick of using less material. Lately one or two companies have latched on to the fact that some of us aren’t happy and started to market Long Cut jackets, but these usually get coupled with an interactive zip system, which I equally abhor.

Scotland 2013 046ANTHONY in the BERGEN

For these reasons I have been long looking for a replacement for my trusty Berghaus Lightening jacket ( once the standard other jackets were judged by), whilst doing my best to postpone the need to replace it! In the meantime I had seen a Rab Bergen my son Anthony (6ft 2 tall) was using for winter mountaineering and noted it was longer than most. Inevitably the zip on my lightening recently fell apart and I was forced to make a purchase. It came down to a choice of two, both Rab, the Bergen and the Dru. The Dru has additional pit zips and an extra £20-30 price tag, I went for the Bergen, in black, size large, priced at £225 but discounted to me at £172.
So comparing the two jackets, the Lightening is made of goretex Taslan weighing in at 775g compared with the Event construction Bergen at 580g. The lightening is longer at the front, shoulder to hem, but the drop back of the Bergen is as long as the back of the lightening, a fact that surprised me. Both jackets have waist and hem draw cords, wired hoods and Velcro fastened storm flaps over the front zip, but the Bergen has a more water resistant zip, and some excellent hood volume adjustment. The Bergen has no lower cargo pockets but two high chest pockets of a good size and fastened with waterproof zips. The Bergen also has an internal chest pocket, but it’s volume is disappointing and much smaller than the reliably dry internal pocket on the lightening. The Rab jacket has hood draw cords that won’t flap in your face (the lightening regularly tries to black my eye) and a hood tidy which I doubt I’ll use. Both jackets have a similarly unfussy sleeve closure using Velcro, just as I like it. The packed volume of the Bergen is much less than the Lightening, as you’d expect with a modern garment, and it feels less bulky and restrictive on me.
On putting the Bergen on I was relieved to find it comfortably overlaps the hem of my PHD Targa fleece jacket, so it ticks that box……now to see if it’s waterproof!

So finally at the end of April I was out on Dartmoor for the weekend when it rained. On went the Bergen and I stayed dry all weekend, the jacket beaded and breathed well and the adjustable hood allowed me to keep the weather out whilst maximising my field of vision. However I noted that although the pocket zips avoided my hip belt, the pockets themselves dropped below it. As my pockets were full of maps, gloves etc this was a little uncomfortable unless I hitched the jacket up a bit……then the hem ceased to cover the hem of my fleece so I had to juggle it carefully!

The Bergen is light, light enough to use it like my windshirt so it has also saved me that weight too. I have used it a few times now, admiring the beading water and staying very dry, whilst not building up a sweat either. The jackets next challenge will be the LDWA Red Rose 100 mile event, and the forecast isn’t great!

I  used the jacket on the Red Rose 100 event, when it did rain, and the jacket performed excellently, despite the fast walking and heavy rain. It kept rain out and breathed well. I have used it on numerous occasions since and it still beads well and keeps me dry. It is so breathable, that I find it lets some wind through, not a lot but it is noticeable, and this is my only slight criticism of this excellent jacket.

NB As of 28/10/19 this jacket is still in regular use and has not failed me yet, although my oldest son has one that has not lasted so well. All in all it has proved to be an excellent hill jacket.

Review of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and charger.


With ever more reliance on modern technology, and with ever more powerful torches, it has never been more important for outdoor professionals and enthusiastic outdoor sportsmen and women to maintain a rigorous battery charging regime. In the past alkali batteries were more reliable and powerful than re-chargeables, but this is no longer the case, and with environmental issues to deal with too, rechargeable batteries make sense on financial, safety and conservation grounds.

Current head torches, hand torches, GPS devices, and many cameras use either AA or AAA batteries, and in the interest of convenience and safety, it probably makes sense to standardise on kit using one or the other, especially if you are traveling in developing countries. I have tried to standardise on AA myself. However one problem that comes up is that most chargers charge multiples of two batteries, whereas many head torches use 3. Trying to keep track of the charge of batteries when you are constantly breaking up the sets to charge them or waiting for a 2nd to go flat in order to charge a leftover cell can be a pain. Step in the Ansmann Powerline 4 pro charger and analyser (£28.32). This little beauty can charge up to four AA or AAA batteries separately in any combination and also check them for charge and for ability to take charge. No more recharging duds or batteries with plenty of life in them. Match this with the Ansmann battery box with a capacity of 8 which are loaded one way up for full and the other way for discharged, and your regime will be bomb proof. The charger will also operate from a cigarette lighter socket in the car and charge USB rechargeable devices! And as an extra bonus for expedition leaders the charger comes with it’s own continental mains adapter too!

Turning to Ansmann NiMH rechargeable batteries, (£9.99 for 4) I have only tested the AA variety to date (though I have a friend who uses the AAA’s a lot and swears by them)….but I have been very pleased with them. Firstly they are rated at 2850 mAh compared to the 2100 of most AA cells, so they are more powerful from the start and last almost half as long again. On a tour of Mont Blanc recently I got nearly 950 photos out of my first set of batteries before having to change them, which was far more than I have achieved in the past with other cells. In fact the Ansmanns have never let me down, whether it be photography or all night hiking on head-torch light, they have been powerful and long lasting, and as I can check they are charged before I set off using the charger the chances of failure in the field are very low.

Ignoring the additional price compared with the basic offerings,and a slightly heavier weight perhaps, there really isn’t anything to complain about with this bit of kit…..a quality item well worth it’s purchase price and potentially a great contribution to gear reliability and safety. Every outdoors enthusiast should have one whether walker, caver, cyclist or paddler.

Review of the Kelly Kettle Hobo attachment.

Kelly Kettle Hobo

On taking receipt of the Hobo which I plan to use with my Basecamp Kelly Kettle, I first weighed it and found it would add a further 300 Grammies to the 975 grammes that my kettle weighs. The construction, in contrast to the aluminium kettle, is of stainless steel and seems robust and well made. Despite my kettle being battered and dented, the Hobo sits well both in storage and in cooking modes, something I had been concerned about.

My first trip with the Hobo was on a very wet day in May, canoeing with11 Guiders on the River Dart. We had two pans and another fire basket ( a Canoe Adventures Hotsam) so we ran the one hot and used the Hobo for simmering. We had trouble finding dry fuel, so the Hobo didn’t blaze as well as it might, but it did the job. I also learn’t to break the sticks up small, to avoid forming a pyramid that the heart burns out of. I also think the Hobo benefits from a bit of draught. What I didn’t try was to light the stove in kettle form and after boiling water then using the Hobo to cook on the embers. I suspect this is where the Hobo will excel!

On my next trip I decided to light the stove in kettle mode, boil some water and then revert to using the Hobo. This had the advantage of using the draw of the kettle chimney to produce a really good bed of embers and a real heart to the fire. Water boiled, I removed the kettle and fitted the Hobo. It proved important that the sticks dropped down the kettle chimney were short so that they didn’t, get in the way of the Hobo as it was dropped on top. With a good heart to fire the Hobo worked well and soon had things hot. It was quite easy to insert more fuel, and with the hole in the base turned to the wind everything went well.

Frying sausages on the banks of the Dart.

In another trial in the back garden, I decided to light it without the kettle. It lit easily in a light breeze, and was soon heating a billy. Adding wood of finger diameter or less was easy, but it is important to only use short, thin pieces, or you soon end up with a blocked feed hole with all the wood up high and no ember bed. It didn’t take much fuel to boil a litre of water, and the way the fire was screened from the wind seemed to focus the flames where they would do most good. Because of the thin gauge wood, stoking is a case of little and often. If you turn your back too long you will soon be left with a mere bed of hot ash, so this is a stove that needs tending, much more so than in kettle mode. Also it is important to make the length of the sticks short enough that they drop onto the fire bed, if they remain propped on the side, you end up with no heart to the fire. Stability is very good and pans are extremely well supported. You can use a big wok or Dixie on the Hobo.

So why a wood burner in this day of modern stoves? Well at Canoe Adventures we work on the muddy banks of the River Dart. A gas stove or petrol stove dropped in the mud will end up with clogged jets and igniters or contaminated fuel,and, unlike the Kelly Kettle, don’t float well! Low tech can sometimes be the best way to go, and environmentally it’s probably better to burn dead wood than fossil fuels, important for a business with green credentials!

On my last trial before writing this review, I took the Kelly Kettle kit on an evening canoe cruise on the Dart. It was a beautiful still evening, which made me wonder if the Hobo would perform well with no wind blowing into it. In fact it was excellent and easily cooked a wok full of sausages, with a mere handful of twigs.

In conclusion I would say that this is a must have addition to any Kelly Kettle kit, ideal for open canoe tripping, anywhere you can find some dry twigs. Being low tech, there is nothing to go wrong. It is sturdy and well built and will probably outlast the kettle itself. A big step forward for Kelly!


Led Lenser on the Bothy table

Review of Mountain Warehouse High 50 Rucksack price £59.99 or less.
I took this review on with some trepidation. Many of my friends are rather “sniffy” about Mountain Warehouse products, but I felt that there are a lot of young people on tight budgets, perhaps doing an expedition for their Duke of Edinburgh Award, who don’t know if hillwalking is something they will want to pursue, and need something cheap and cheerful to get them started. If it was cheap and half decent all the better, so when M W offered me a choice of sacks to review I picked one that looked to be one of their better offerings and plunged in!
OK, so first impressions when I unwrapped the High 50 were not too bad, nice military green colour, good ice axe/ trekking pole attachment, materials that feel robust, adequate snow valance, and a nice additional buckle under the lid to tension the load from front to back, that will probably secure a tent or similar transversely across the top. I was less impressed with the hip belt pockets, which could have been cut better to be more expansive. The sack looked a little small for a 50, but not drastically so, and weight is 1.1kilos according to my kitchen scales. This compares favourably with my 30l day sack by a well known brand in the market, which weighs 0.95 kilos for 20l less capacity! The back system is not rigid, so I don’t expect  to get away with a sweat free back, but the advantage of this is that I can roll it up into my expedition sack with no hassle. Seeing this I decided to give it a real test by taking it to Madagascar for 30 days on a World Challenge expedition.
Watch this space!


Review of Led Lenser SEO5 head torch.

I was supplied this head torch to review by Go Outdoors, but I am free to make unbiased comment. The SEO5 is a very compact head torch running on AAA batteries and offering a maximum 180 lumens of output. It has three white light settings, maximum, a lower setting and a flashing setting. It also has a small red LED for preserving night vision. The torch comes in just under £50 and is supplied with not one but two sets of batteries. It weighs 100g with a set of batteries inserted. The beam is focusable too.

As a member of a Mountain Rescue team battery life is important, and AAA batteries are not the cheapest way to purchase power, so I was pleased to discover that, unlike most products by this manufacturer, the SEO5 is suited to using Ni mh rechargeable batteries, or the battery pack from their SEO7R. I usually prefer AA cells myself as I have integrated all my electrical devices on AA, especially useful on expedition!

I first tried the torch on a wet night in January, with some mist about, on a rescue training exercise, when I was mostly stretcher hauling so had no hands free for the torch. I loved the main beam and it’s ability to focus, but found the lower setting too bright for lesser work like map reading. I hadn’t checked if this could be adjusted but I now know that there is an infinite variability, which is achieved by pressing the switch twice and holding it the second time until the right brightness is achieved. This sounds great, but it is variable within parameters, and the low beam is not low enough, meaning it’s maximum battery life is only about 27 hours. The low beam is far brighter than you need to read in a tent say, so the torch isn’t one for multi week expeditions far from sources of spare batteries, however, on the plus side, for descending off An Teallach in the dark this torch is the bees knees! I found the on/off switch difficult to locate when on the head, and fear that thick gloves will make this worse. I found that to switch to the red LED you have to hold the switch down for 2 seconds…which gives 2 seconds of blinding white light before it switches to red….a strange way of selecting night vision mode! I did like the lack of weight..I was hardly conscious of wearing the torch, and if it was going to let in rainwater it would have done so that night, so a big tick there. The torch also has a lock off mechanism by holding the on button for 5 seconds which seems like a good idea, for kit that lives in the pack lid or jacket pocket.

The SEO5 supplied to me is white, which drew lots of comment,as almost all head torches (the Petzl Duo excluded) are black, I guess it will be easier to find when rummaging in your tent, but don’t drop it in the snow!

I took the torch winter mountaineering in February 2014, as my main light source. Although I did not make heavy demands on the torch I soon noted a warning flash on full power, suggesting the batteries were getting low, confirming my earlier concerns. Wearing winter mitts did indeed make operation awkward at times, but the powerful main beam came into it’s own repeatedly and more than makes up for the minor faults identified. The focus feature was also of great help at times, especially when going from walking on a bearing outside to working in a dark bothy in the evening. I also found the red light useful in a bunkhouse when wanting to move around at night without disturbing other sleepers. All in all a good product which would not take much improvement to be excellent!

My Led Lenser came from Go Outdoors although they can be purchased elsewhere.


Review of Rohan Requisite all weather trousers.

I first purchased my Requisite trousers in the summer of 2013, but waited until the winter to test them…..and what a winter to test them! But first the statistics. My Requisites are made of Barricade, and are made of two layers. The proofing is from a Pu coating and the colour is a charcoal grey. There are 2 zipped back pockets, big enough for a wallet, and 2 open front pockets. The left has a security loop to clip things onto, whilst the right has an internal zipped pocket hidden inside. There are no cargo or map pockets. The weight is about 500g compared to my usual poly cotton trousers at nearly 600g to which you would have to add the weight of your waterproof over trousers of course. The idea of not needing to pull on over trousers each time there’s a bit of drizzle is very seductive, but will they leak,,,,,will they overheat….will they drag?

I first tested the Requisites just after Christmas on a family walk in the Teign Valley on the edge of Dartmoor. I expected rain but it didn’t come. The steep uphill climbs did however, and although I could feel my legs get warm, they never really became sweaty. The Requisites don’t have any supplementary ventilation unlike some Paramo garments of a similar nature, but they seemed to cope pretty well.

I then took several walks in torrential rain, and although I became aware of the colder temperature on my legs, I didn’t feel wet or uncomfortable, and on finishing the walk they dried on me in minutes rather than hours.

I then used trousers during a day of searching in foul weather with the Dartmoor Rescue. This meant a lot of searching in bramble and woodland. I feared the trousers would get damaged but they were remarkably resilient. I felt damp at the end of the days search, but not uncomfortable, the trousers didn’t chafe or drag, I wasn’t

cold, and the trousers started to dry as soon as I was out of the rain, so much so that I continued to wear them all evening!

A trip around Houndtor woods brought more steep climbs in both dry and wet weather. I was sweating after an hour of climbing, but I realised that my legs were much less damp than my upper body. Later after a couple of hours of persistent rain I was still comfortable until I sat down for lunch. The material drew tight over my legs in giving that cold wet feeling we all know so well. I was therefore surprised when standing up, to feel dry again! I realised it was all in the pressure against the skin. Later in the day it stopped raining and very quickly the Requisites were dry on the outside again…..ready for an evening out with the moorland rescue team I belong to.

In mid January I ran one of my popular Navigation Workshops on Dartmoor. The forecast was dry but windy, but fearing the worst I wore the Requisites. The weather never achieved the sunny spells promised, the air was damp and the wind grew steadily stronger until we were being blown about as we walked. As my clients stood often shivering despite their layers of clothing, drips on the end of their noses and blue complexions, I realised I was far warmer than they and on thinking further realised that my legs were particularly warm…..not sweaty, just comfortably warm. I was impressed as I had feared it would be cold and had nearly chosen my Vapourise trousers instead! The next day an inch of rain was forecast; I decided not to put the trousers in the laundry, but to use them for the dog walking I knew I would have to do in the rain ( collies need exercise, rain or shine). I walked for about an hour in sideways wind blown rain, and although the front of my upper legs felt damp, the damp didn’t spread and I still felt comfortable and warm. I also still felt drier than I did the previous week wearing a pair of Event over trousers in less rain for a shorter time……they had leaked at the knees and the water ingress had spread over a large area of the trousers inside and stayed wet and clingy. Back to my dog walk, on reaching a friends house I stopped in for an hour or so, and left with my trousers completely dry,and without leaving the puddles on his floor that my wife’s over trousers did!

So, another day, another test, this time a day walk with my wife and brother-in-law, starting at Widecombe, which means the only way is up, steeply up. The weather had looked to be cold and overcast, so I was overdressed on the first hill. I noticed I was sweating on my forehead and upper body felt clammy, but my legs felt just fine. Later the sun became stronger and I had to remove two top layers? I was really hot now…..but still my upper body much more so than my legs. my legs had the kind of sensation you feel when blushing, but the material in the Requisites seemed to be dispersing the moisture from my legs. Of course the weather then turned, windy and overcast, rain seemed likely, but the trousers kept out the wind, and when a fine drizzle set in I felt no inclination to reach for my over trousers! These Requisite trousers are at their best on changeable days…..which is almost always in the UK.

Saturday the 1st of February, and I’m out teaching navigation on Dartmoor. The workshops are a combination of walking and teaching, so plenty of standing around. the weather included gale force winds, rain, hail and snow….oh and a bit of sun! Did I my legs stay warm? Yes. Did I stay dry? Pretty well……and the trousers dried off in minutes when the rain stopped.

Next up I wore the Requisite trousers on a winter mountaineering trip to Scotland. I wore them combined with Yeti gaiters, long socks and long thermal boxers. Despite sub-zero temperatures and high winds, giving extreme windchill effects, my legs were never cold, and never needed over trousers. I found they shrugged off all the weather; rain, snow, sleet, wind etc and I see these as my “go too” trousers for winter.

Finally, I managed to pour scalding cocoa all over my leg. The trousers just beaded it off and the liquid did not penetrate the garment, and neither did the heat…..lucky eh?

During this review I did wash the trousers with a Nikwax product and once treated them with TX direct, not out of necessity, more part of my normal care regime. I bought my Requisites from the Rohan shop at Ambleside and I did find staff at Rohan have better knowledge of their products, so I recommend buying from Rohan , because with the kit not being cheap, it is important you get the right garment for you.


The guys at GO OUTDOORS have sent me a LedLenser SEO50 head-torch to review, so I will be spending the winter months taking it to Mountain Rescue training to put it through it’s paces…watch out for a full review in the spring!

27/12/13 More on Sawyer Filter attachments:

Vietnam and Cambodia 2013 377

In November I took my Sawyer Filter to Vietnam and Cambodia, along with the special attachment to fit it to a tap (Fawcett to you Americans), and the conversion to filter water from one bladder to another. This made for a very comprehensive system of water purification and I used no other means of cleaning my water throughout the trip (with the exception of boiling tea….some traditions can’t be changed). I particularly enjoyed using the tap fitment pictured….it made cleaning teeth and then cleaning the toothbrush easy and safe, and filling up water bottles for the coming day touring the killing fields or Angkor Wat the work of a moment. I often drank straight from the river using the filter on it’s own, and in the jungle I supplied water for a number of team members using my “Dirty” bladder and the filter to pour water into their clean bottles. I also found this arrangement handy when I needed to clear dirt from someones eye by jetting water across the eye, held open by someone else. The rush of water through the filter caused by squeezing the bladder firmly did the job quickly and efficiently, and the same technique w as also used on minor open wounds.

This is a great piece of kit, both on it’s own and with the attachments. There is still a 10% discount if purchased through the links from this website, so if you don’t have one already, get one here: SAWYER LINK or from our links page!


Last thoughts on Rohan Trailblazer zip-offs:

In November I took my Trailblazers to Vietnam and Cambodia for a month, in contrast to Morocco’s dry climate, this trip was hot but humid. I also took a pair of Craghopper kiwi’s, but hardly wore them due to the beeter comfort of the Trailblazers. I can’t say the Trailblazers didn’t get sweaty, but the difference was that they are so stretchy and so well cut, that even when wet with sweat/mud/river water they don’t drag on the skin and are much more comfortable to move in. They also dry much faster, and I often zipped off the lower legs, washed them in the river and put them on again. 30 minutes later they were dry again and ready for the morning. By unzipping the legs part way, I found that I could reduce the temperature in the trouser legs quite noticeably too.

I was initially worried that the trousers would be torn apart by the jungle fauna, which is pretty aggressive in nature, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the trousers coped, and they returned virtually unscathed. They also don’t crease and so always look smart (or as smart as I ever look…I do have a certain notoriety on the sartorial elegance front!). I just wish Rohan could fit a mobile phone pocket like the Craghoppers have!

Rohan Trailblazers are now my trousers of choice for summer walking in the UK and hot climates the world around (whether dry or humid) and I’m now looking forward to testing a pair of their Barricade trousers through the winter.


More on Rohan Trailblazers:

As mentioned in my previous review I took the Trailblazer trousers to Morocco for 8 days. I wore them for the entire trip, including traveling to and from Morocco. They were comfortable to travel in and remained smart though-out the trip. Temperatures in the Jebel Siwora area reached the low 30’s C, but the Trailblazers never got sweaty. If I did feel they were going to, I half unzipped the lower legs and this ventilated the trousers very well. Winds were also very strong for three days, and I expected it to cut through the Trailblazers as the material is very thin. However I was pleasantly surprised and felt very little wind effect. However the wind was relatively warm by UK standards, I don’t know that they would be comfortable in the same winds on a wet weekend in the Lakes! Another aspect tested by my mountain trek was the fit and stretch of the fabric. This is one of the Trailblazers strong points….they really do feel like a second skin with no noticeable drag on the legs when bending the knees to scramble. The cargo pocket also is much less ponderous than those of similar trousers by competitors. I do have one quibble with the Trailblazers though….I find the pocket zips a bit fiddly and I’d like some hand-warmer pockets without zips.

I now intend to take the Trailblazers to Vietnam and Cambodia next week for a months jungle trekking and project work… look out for another instalment in January!


Review of Rohan Trailblazer trousers (pants to you Americans).

At first glance the full price of these trousers was off-putting, but I was in the Rohan shop in Keswick and the very helpful assistant there pointed out the offer price and the features and I was hooked. I intended the Trailblazers to replace some Kiwi zip-offs made by Craghoppers that had done sterling service for years, but which had worn out, and not before I had realized their limitations. The Rohan trousers were stretchy, and much lighter than the Kiwi’s. The pockets were not quite so extensive, but that may be to the good as you could load the Kiwi’s too much! On a recent Jungle expedition I had found the Kiwis soaked up sweat and then chaffed the legs, and I was particularly keen to find something that would avoid this: The Rohan Trailblazers seemed perfect.

A day after buying the Trailblazers I wore them in an open canoe on Ulswater, and soon had to kneel down in about 3 inches of water, totally soaking my trouser legs. However within minutes of getting out of this water, the Trailblazers had seemed dry again, and at no time had they felt uncomfortable. Next day was spent on Fairfield, and 2 days later we were on Helvellyn, descending Striding Edge. The Trailblazers did not resist the bending of knees, there was no drag, it was like climbing in your birthday suit (if a little warmer), they felt really free. This again was an improvement on the Kiwi’s. I had been worried that the trailblazers would not be warm enough in the wind, but so far I have not really noticed the wind cutting through them.

The next thing I noticed about the Trailblazers was a real disadvantage….they looked so good and performed so well that my wife nicked them for a Tour De Mont Blanc, leaving me with my worn out old Kiwi’s for 13 days!

Since then I have been teaching navigation skills on Dartmoor in cold misty and damp conditions. The Trailblazers handled this well, despite a lot of standing around I did not feel cold. I had forgotten my gaiters (essential Dartmoor kit) but the Trailblazers, although wet at the bottom, did not flap about or chafe and the damp did not creep upwards.

I am taking the Trailblazers to Morocco this month and then to Vietnam and Cambodia in November and December, and I haven’t used them as zip-offs yet, so this is a two part review…..check out this page for an update after Christmas. In the meantime I am steadily forming the opinion that the Trailblazers are worth every penny!

24/07/13… I have spent the last month in Costa Rica, testing the Sawyer Europe Squeeze system water filter, which is a compact kit with a field weight of just 3 oz. The kit consists of the filter itself, a 1L water pouch and a syringe for back-washing the filter should it clog. I have used a number of filters before including the Katadyn Hiker, but this is far better. Basically you fill a pouch, screw on the filter and squeeze the water into a further pouch or receptacle. This works well and the flow rate is impressive. But there’s more! You can just suck water straight out of the pond, thanks to that flow rate you can drink your fill in no time, no hanging around for chemical treatments, no trying to float ends of pipes near the surface of the water and no slow pumping or moving parts to going wrong. Whats more you can buy additional extras to mount the filter on a tap (ideal in a Delhi hotel bedroom!) and you can connect it up as an inline filter between “Dirty” and “Clean” water pouches. This is a versatile piece of kit I thoroughly recommend and it’s guaranteed for 1 Million Gallons (I can’t drink all that in a lifetime). For a 10% discount purchase from Sawyer through the link on the links page of my website. Go on treat yourself! If you are a world traveler you won’t regret it!

20/02/13….I have been testing a Berghaus Spectrum FZ Micro fleece size large in Blue and Black(?) for the last month. It is made of AWL 100 fleece and weighs 430g. The jacket has two zipped hand-warmer pockets and is Interactive with Berghaus IA waterproofs.

Climbing at Bonehill Feb 2013Firstly this is a micro-fleece and is best suited to active wear, I found it great matched to a Berghaus base-layer tee and a wind-shirt for cycling. It would be a great top for Long Distance Walking events. It’s not going to keep you warm sitting around in the depths of winter. That said, it’s lightness and low bulk made it an ideal spare layer in my rucksack during a 10 day winter mountaineering trip this February, as it fitted comfortably under or readily stretched over my normal winter fleece. I liked the hand-warmer pockets which have mesh linings to aid ventilation. The zips are smooth and the pockets spacious, although not large enough for an OS map. The pockets are low enough that I can get my hands into them below my hip-belt, but the two do overlap. The fleece is long and will project below many of the modern shell-jackets that are cut fashionably short. As I prefer longer shells myself this isn’t an issue for me; in fact it’s an advantage. The cut is very free and you could easily forget you’re wearing this fleece. I also like the hem drawcord, and found the colours bright but not garish. I am not a fan of the IA concept, and would not buy an IA shell. However being IA compatible does not detract from the fleece. All in all a big thumbs up, especially for May to September wear or as an extra winter layer.

Link to Berghaus Spectrum Fleece