Kit Reviews.

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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.

 

Review of Mountain Warehouse Frost Extreme Padded Jacket

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Mountain Warehouse recently approached me to review their Frost Extreme down jacket. This is sold as a jacket with an extreme temperature rating of -30 degrees C with the caveat “Health and physical activity, exposure time and proper dress, weather conditions and perspiration will affect performance and comfort” but still quite a claim and one I don’t expect to be testing! The down is treated with a water repellant finish which should broaden the scope of its use and generally improve its efficiency. The jacket has a water resistant shell and is 75% down and 25% feather filling with a 600 loft rating. The jacket is priced at £179.99 but was on offer at £89.99 at the time it was supplied to me.

To find it’s way into my winter rucksack this jacket has to compete with my Mountain Equipment Lightline, which is now over 20 years old, also has a hood and water resistant outer shell, but not a water repellant treatment on the down.

The first thing to do was to make a weight comparison. The Lightline was 700g as against the Frost Extreme at 1100g. I thought about why and quickly realized that an extra internal lining and some knitted inner wrist cuffs probably had a lot to do with it, perhaps also, the presence of more zip closure pockets and a full as against half zip (the Lightline is a pullover garment). As the Frost has outer hook and loop wrist closures I would be tempted to remove the inner cuffs I think.

Next I thought it would be good to compare packed volume. The Lightline comes with it’s own stuff sac which it fits into with little fuss. As the Frost had no stuff sac supplied I decided to try and fit it into the Lightline stuff sack. With a lot of effort I was almost able to get it all in…..again if I lost those knitted cuffs it would be a fit! So really not much in it volume wise, but the Frost really deserves to have a stuff sack as standard.

The hood on the Frost (like the Lightline) is detachable with a combination of zip and press studs, and one could argue that this is better than the press stud only arrangement on the Lightline, but the hood doesn’t come up to cover the mouth as much as the Lightline hood can. The hood does however have volume adjustment and the drawcord running around the front of the hood has a very neat adjustment with no flapping ends etc. How easy it is to use with gloved hands waits to be seen, but clearly thought has gone into this design feature.

The Frost has 2 external hand warmer pockets and a chest pocket closed with waterproof zips and an internal chest pocket with a normal zip. None are big enough for a map. The main zip is also of the waterproof/resistant type and doesn’t easily catch on the material (a real bonus with such garments).

Mountain Warehouse supplied the jacket for my winter mountaineering trip in Feb 2015, but no sensible hill goer uses new kit for the first time on a trip like that, so as soon as temperatures dropped below zero I started using the jacket for dog walking. I wore it over a single wicking base layer, and found that at minus 5.6 I was toasty warm and had to undo the zip on the jacket. The hand warmer pockets are very much just that and I generally found the jacket quickly became my “go to” jacket for dog walking, shopping and general wear in cold weather. It wasn’t long however before one end of the hem draw cord became detached. Although a minor issue, I wouldn’t be pleased to have this happen to a garment I paid £179 for!

I have used the jacket on a number of occasions in drizzle and noted that there is not a lot of beading of water on the outer material, however the jacket has not become waterlogged and I am getting bolder with how much rain I expose it to. I would not dish out this treatment to my Lightline (or any other down jacket Id paid nearly £200 for) but in the interests of this review I feel I have to push at the boundaries a bit, so I have now exposed it to quite heavy rain and been very pleased with how well it has performed.

Having now returned from Scotland I would sum up by saying that this jacket is very warm and ideal for all stationary pursuits. It is great for après ski/fishing/ sitting around camp or a bothy/ belaying/dog walking and generally being out and about in winter, but is too hot for active pursuits in general UK conditions. Sadly its weight and bulk do not make it the first choice for my day sack or backpack for either day assaults on Munros or extended winter expeditions as including the Frost jacket would necessitate leaving out some other item of vital equipment. However if you really are on a tight budget and cant afford one of the top brand offerings this jacket could be an excellent compromise due to the excellent price of £89.99 it is currently offered at.

Review of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and charger.

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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 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 couldn’t really tell how well the shoulder straps are anchored, but they seem firm enough. 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!

Madagascar 2014 095

My first trip out with the High 50 was a long day lemur spotting in Mafagascars Ranomafana National Park. I was supervising 18 teenagers so the bag was full to brimming with emergency kit as well as my personal needs. I have my doubts about the 50 l capacity claimed, but the High took all the kit I needed and I could have got in more. The bag was a surprisingly good carry and was never uncomfortable, either at the shoulders or the back. It moved with me and it’s clean lines meant it didn’t snag on undergrowth I was passing through, once I had removed the lid bungee, which is designed for carrying crampons. The lid pocket was spacious and had room to spare, but I couldn’t find any useful purpose for the hip pockets. I would like to have put my binoculars and camera in them, but they were just too small, perhaps best keep car keys in them!

On a second trek the sack was slightly less full but still carried well. It was a hot sweaty day in the forest, and inevitably my back was very damp, but not worse than I would expect. The sack was used in slight precipitation, but didn’t seem to absorb much water, so I was keen to see how it copes in a deluge. That deluge never came in Madagascar and summer at home hasn’t been too wet either so I’ll update this in the Autumn!

Madagascar 2014 182

I have now used this sack as hand luggage during air travel, on day hikes in hill and mountain terrain, and whilst shopping in Malagasy markets. I have shown it to some of those “sniffy” friends and surprised them. For the price this is a well designed strongly built rucksack that I would strongly recommend. Yes the hip belt pockets could be bigger, yes the compression straps could be longer and no it isn’t 50 litres, but it’s still a great sack for anyone starting out on a life of adventure….whether on Dartmoor, Ben Nevis or Madagascar! At the price of £29 it was reduced to when mine was supplied, the sack is probably unbeatable value, at the full R.R.P. it still seems a decent sack. If you want to buy one visit
http://www.mountainwarehouse.com/travel/backpacks/

Postscript: A couple of years on and sadly the zip on the lid pocket is failing and some of the stitching at stress points will also give soon: clearly it is not as tough as some of the better known brands!


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!

24/02/14

 

 

 

 

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.

14/02/14

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.

27/12/13

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!

27/12/13

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.

08/11/2013

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…..so look out for another instalment in January!

01/10/13….

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

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