When I review stuff I try to keep what I think are my personal preferences in check. I know I don’t manage that all the time, enthusiasm or disinterest is very hard to disguise. But I’m trying. Until now anyway, below is my top ten(ish) of the past year, kit that’s been on every trip, been chosen on it’s own merits rather than taken to test, the dog-eared stuff, the stuff that’s become regular.
Garmin Oregon 450
I came late to GPS, but it’s been a happy discovery. The Oregon has been a constant companion, never my sole method of navigation, but always a fantastic tool for confirming locations, getting accurate grid refs for my Trail routes, and just being a generally cool bit of kit. The big screen is great to use, and it alwys finds my position fast, I mean a few seconds at most, it’s full of useful info too, the full-moon calendar is handy as hell.
I’ll never be an enthusiast for electronics, I won’t exploit more than a sample of its geek-friendly capabilities, but as outdoor kit, it’s damned good.
Exped Fold Drybag
One of the first bits of kit I ever got on test was a selection of Exped roll-top drybags, and those same models are now dirty, battered and and at least one sees use on every trip. The 20-odd bright green one with the white lining is my year-round pack liner, and I’ve got 1 litre ones that I use for stashing my phone/iPod/wallet and 3 litre ones for food and drink supplies. Both these sizes serve as instant pockets when cutting about town in your hill gear, just clips onto a belt loop.
Aye, there’s lighter, but these are properly tough. When that pack liner one gives up the ghost, I’ll be properly emotional, it’s an old friend and it’s been with me all the way.
Petzl Tikka XP2
The XP2 has been with me on every trip this year. It’s small, light, it’s bright enough to navigate difficult ground at night and it’s pretty good on batteries. It’s comfy on my napper (I’ve slept with it on more than once), the button could be better as it’s tricky to use with gloves, but I still pick it first from the box.
We really are sitting on marshmallow couches when it comes to current mobile lighting, every time I fish around my pocket for the XP2 it’s easy to forget the days when half a Petzl Zoom was hanging out of my pocket.
The Neoair interrupted the normal transmission, and things will never be quiet the same again. It packs tiny, weighs very little, has some insulation which can be easily boosted to cope with winter, is comfy, it’s turned out to be durable and I don’t give a shit how long it takes to inflate and deflate because it’s so damned good.
Macpac Amp Race 40
When this came in my first though was that it felt a little porky these days. It’s still billed as a race pack, but it is too heavy for that, what it is now is a killer backpacking sack. The first trip was spend moulding the shoulder straps to my shape, and since then it’s been like a second skin. The harness is brilliant, the freedom of movement when wearing it is outstanding, but it’s still secure on rough ground or a scramble.
It’s not perfect, the lid pockets are just a little too small, the webbing for the lid buckle sometimes gets lost if you’re packing a lot of kit in the external front pockets/bungee (a tricky prospect on its own at times), the bottle pockets can be a little troublesome on the move if the pack’s full, but carrying the thing makes me forgive all the niggles every time. The shoulder-strap bottle bungee is perfect for carrying my Zipshot camera tripod too.
Chocolate Fish Taranaki Merino Baselayers
It’s a rare trip that sees me Taranaki-free. Summer saw me in a blue t-shirt and boxers, and winter sees me back in a long sleeve crew or zipneck and leggings. The fit feels like they drew round me and used it as a pattern and the fabric hits a sweet spot that genuinely works all year round in all conditions. There’s no pretension about it either, basic and functional, no fannying about. In these days of hype and disinformation it’s sometimes refreshing to get back to basics, and I’ll be trekking and sleeping in it some more in ’11.
Smartwool Reversible Training Beanie
My head is a funny shape, inside and out. When I saw this beanie at a trade do and tried it on, I knew I had to have it as it was a perfect fit. I was not disappointed when it appeared either, the light grey merino has been well seen on here over the past year or so. It’s a double layer of lightweight merino and it’s got a bit of insulation and wind resistance, but not too much, so it’s wearable on the move, and when your sleeping it turns out.
Double merino really is an odd thing, someone should study it with robots and a magnifying glass.
Buffalo DP Mitts
I’ll admit I just wanted these because they came in purple, but bloody hell they’re good. Surprisingly dexterous, ice axes and rucksacks are both workable, lovely and warm too, a real haven for your hands.
They are rough though, dated and underdeveloped. Buffalo seem to pride themselves on never changing their designs or colours, maybe they think that they’re ignoring dead-end trends, but I think they’ve just stagnated. New isn’t always about marketing product, sometimes it’s because someone’s had a clever idea.
I pretty much retired all my other cookwear when the Evernew stuff came in. It’s really light, and it does flex in your hand under the slightest pressure, but it’s as hard as nails and I absolutely love it. The Solo kit has been on every trip where I’ve taken a stove since it came in, I’ve just revolved the stoves and windshields, and now the big pot is on the winter kitlist as it takes a remote canister stove inside it nae bother.
Long handles, it’s lovely to use, it’s well made and it’s wearing well.
Occasionally I’ve taken other shades, my Polaroids are good, Blocs are okay, but the Julbo’s always find their way back to the top. The frames are all-day comfy, the lenses have great coverage on my huge face and their photo-chromatic superpowers mean I’m taking them on-and off less as the react quickly to keep my vision clear.
They’re tough as well, slept-on, sat-on, crushed into a lid pocket on most trips and they remain damage free. I’ve only had one day of bad fogging, and that was a couple of weeks ago as I sweated up an Arrochar Corbett in thigh deep snow, I won’t complain at that.
PHD Minimus Down Socks
Weightless, vital, genius, that’s what these are. If I went camping without them I’d have a nervous breakdown, wet feet are revived, cold feet are saved, tired feet are soothed. Everyone who spends time in a tent should have these.
Haglöfs Lizard Top
“Told you so”. That feels better, I knew this was going to be good the moment I saw it, and despite all the misgivings, folk have indeed taken to the Lizard in abundance.
It’s just great kit, works across a huge range of conditions, and although there are jackets made for the same fabric, the more minimal design makes it much more wearable when a jacket feels like too much. Mine’s taken rain, snow, wind, sweat, tears, snotters and bike crashes and it’s worked with them them all like a real trooper.
Tough and genuinely go-to gear,
It’s not perfect, the production cuffs still had the non-stretchy seams that stop the arms being pushed all the way up. But as I’ve said above, if you can ignore the niggles, the rest has to be properly good.
Panasonic Lumix DMC -LX3
What can I say about this wee fella? It’s been everywhere with me and came through smiling. It’s been in water, mud and snow, it’s been boiled and frozen, it’s been dropped (12ft on one occasion) and bears dents and scars that wouldn’t look out of place on a rally car.
Aye it’s just a tool, but it’s a box of magic too.
I rediscovered the Flying V this year and it’s brought me nothing but joy. My playing/singing stance has improved and my back doesn’t hurt anything like as much after rehearsals as they’re half the weight of my LesPauls. Playing a V sitting down is easy, one horn goes between your legs and the neck sits at 45° like a classical/flamenco player. My first electric was a V so this stuff feels natural, I feel for folk who were brought up on strats…