Seasonal Ranges are the Pits

Being back in the world of gear after a fashion one of my long term bugbears has returned to catch on my socks like the toenail that grew back in an odd shape after I tore it off one winter in Kintail many years ago.

Seasons.
A seemingly innocuous term for the flow of newness and imposition of order in the outdoor gear world. I believe however that it’s bullshit and causes more problems than it solves.

Also in the mix of this train of thought is a notion I had last year of revisiting and using just old gear. The scary hot summer tripped up that plan a wee bit but it did have me digging out, cleaning up and using old gear. That hasn’t stopped, I mix and match vintage and current kit all the time.
One of the thoughts was that I could happily trash my old kit around the Lang Craigs but what’s subtly happened is that I started to choose old gear first by preference and it doesn’t get trashed, that wee bit of extra weight seems to offer a disproportionate amount of durability. Interesting.

Nikwax sent me their whole range of kit which I’ve been applying and testing for many months and I’ve also been seam sealing, sewing and duct taping all over the place.
It’s adjusted my mind set a little. For ten years or more I’ve always been in the newest and the best, now I’m swapping that around with the older and, in some cases anyway, better.

There’s a lot of chat on Facebucket and Twatter about stuff like this just now and it’s probably fueled by a mix of things from nostalgia, to curiosity to environmental concerns. Whatever, folks are talking and thinking, so it’s a good thing.

I’m going to try and pull all this and more into a series of posts from my own experience and perspective. It’ll help me make some conclusions and might actually be useful or interesting to someone. Once I’m gone…

Spoiler Alert for the last page…
99% of old footwear is shite, modern is better here.

Anyway, seasons

Seasonal ranges artificially influence they way we perceive of the evolution and development of our gear. Tiny changes and tweaks every year, new colours, bolder claims, bigger plans that have to be funded by selling even more bland gear that’ll never see a mountain. I was in Tizo* last week and it’s just racks of uninspiring black and dark blue interchangeable dullness. Swap the logos around the jackets and no one would notice, characterless, generic alpine nonsense.

It’s so far removed from the user driven trade it once was, but that’s what expansion brings, it’s the nature of business. I’m not judging on that, just voicing my frustration as an enthusiast because of the effect it has on our choices.

Seasons are convenient, planned-out selling to shops and fixed dates to design and manufacture for. But materials and construction advances don’t run to a timetable and neither does inspiration and discovery.
Real advances come through accident, through feedback, through mistakes and through time.
While I was away from regular gear stuff very little has actually changed, I think LED tech is the only thing that’s really taken a big step, some fabric evolutions and everything else is styling. Which is not necessarily bad, retro is in after all. Reissue Rab Kinder smock anyone?

When I was with OMM’s Lead User Group, we worked on advances from testing samples, making adjustments and then testing those, when it was ready it was ready. That’s what you get when it’s a small independent, it was mobile and proactive. No giant factory ship to crew and feed while they wait for the next actually new thing to appear.

So is the new season bringing you something new?  Maybe, maybe not. You can’t properly measure progress in seasons, it takes years, in some places maybe decades. Seasons are good for business but bad for us, we come to expect new, assume it to be better, then we expect the same again in six months and I know all the gear isn’t that much better, I’ve spend a year proving it to myself.
In saying that, my current favourite combo is a current rather quirky current midlayer and 90s Gore Tex, more of which later.

*Made up name to protect the real retailer who I’m sure is very nice and totally didn’t make my daughter cry when she walked on their pretend stony path. Bastards.

It’s a thread I’ll continue, but it’s important to say that I’m not criticizing the designers or anyone else behind the scenes at the outdoor brands, I know enough of them now to know that there is passion and knowledge as well as huge capacity for practical application of their products. It’s just that most of them are welded to the rigid structure of big business now. It must be so frustrating at times. Imaging what these folks could do if set free from crosses on a calendar, we’d have the lightest, most durable, most ergonomic, most breathable… The brands would all go bankrupt too. See, I understand you have to have turnover in a big company, I just get twitchy thinking about this stuff.

So, pit zips.
The top one is from 1997. Multiple storm flaps with hard to manage velcro and a regular zip. Hard to operate, complex to manufacture and best left alone when wearing the jacket unless you’re really, really hot.
Next one down is a couple of years later, slightly simpler but still faffy, still bulky and complex, still a pain in the arse to use.

Then we have the early 2000s, water resistant zip with stitched and taped seams but with a storm flap (including a really clever wee bead in it that keeps it in place) because, you know, will this zip leak when in wears in? Usable and practical.
Below is current, a lightweight water resistant zip welded in. Easily used and you can’t even feel it on the jacket.

Fifteen years from first to last, that’s an example of evolution from available technology and probably also nudged along from Gore’s influence with the “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” swing tags. As the zips got better, the external protection slipped away and disappeared.

More to come and the next one is called “Lightweight gear is rubbish, it wears out too fast”. I have evidence.

For the defence.

ISBJÖRN MONSUNE Hardshell Jacket Review

We’ve had the Monsune from Isbjörn on test since the tail end of last winter, so time for some words I think.

It’s in a two later fabric with a nylon outer which I like from a durability angle bonded to an own-brand waterproof and breathable membrane. The loose liner has mesh around the body and hood with microfibre in the arms, this is the best option for breathability and comfort, easier to get the arms down the sleeves whatever you’re wearing.
The fabric has a soft feel, it’s a supple jacket and doesn’t rustle or crinkle particularly under movement. Waterproofness is as described, breathability is hard to judge. While often out of breath and hot, the test subject would not sweat enough on a regular basis and so was always dry. Maybe that’s a sign though?
DWR is good, rain is still bobbling quite happily in most areas.

The cut is excellent, trim but not tight with excellent articulation, be as active as you want and the hem stays put. The body is pretty long, although the Monsune is a bit alpine looking, it’s definitely outdoor as your backside is covered. The arms are long too, high reaching or snowball throwing is fine, no bare wrists or waist.

The hood is a good shape and fits well on a bare or be-hatted head. The peak is stiffened, holds its shape in use and pulls back into shape just fine when balled up inside a pack in the walk in.
The adjustment is effective and the front cords are accessible and usable with gloves on. The rear volume adjuster is accessibly placed and the cord cinches in the right place but the cord lock isn’t tethered so it need two hands to operate it, this means it gets left alone. It’s a minor fix but it’s something they should look at.
There’s a soft chin guard/zipper garage for the chunky front zip.

The cuffs are velcro tabbed and half elasticated. It works fine and I had no complaints, tucking gloves in takes a few extra seconds which is why I prefer non elasticated cuffs, as well as the venting options, but it’s probably a personal preference thing.

The inside of the cuffs have a little clever addition. There are inner cuffs in a soft stretch fabric and there’s a hem in the lining with orange thread that you can let out to lengthen the inner arms. It tunes comfort as your arms grow and extents the life of the jacket a wee bit.

The napoleon chest pockets are huge and like the main zip have chunky YYK waterproof zippers. These zips have been okay, hard to tell for sure on the pockets as they don’t always get zipped back up all the way, even in the rain… The main zip has an inner storm flap in case anything gets through, but I’ve had no complaints.
The chest pockets have nice zipper garages and all the zips have grippable zip pulls.

Isbjörn have put together an excellent all round mountain or outdoor shell which I would happily wear, but as I’ve hinted at, this was Holly’s test jacket.
The spec is excellent, the hood and cut are spot on, Isbjörn haven’t made any compromises because the jacket is made for youngsters.

The fabric breathability performance is an unknown, kids just don’t sweat the same way as bigger folk, but that probably works out as money can be spent on design complexity instead of paying for a big name membrane, especially since the jacket has limited lifespan for the original wearer. Still, it’s well made and durable, the Monsune will go to someone else, it’s life isn’t over by a long way.
The fabric is Bluesigned and the DWR is fluorocarbon free, there’s a lot to commend the choices made in the design and construction.

Youngsters won’t wear stuff they don’t like, increasingly fashion conscious youngsters won’t even try stuff on they don’t like the look of. I’ve had no trouble getting Holly into the Monsune and she’s enjoyed it, pulling the hood up and grinning happily at even a hint or rain or snow.

Brilliant jacket. Hmm, I’m jealous.

556g for a size 146/152, current UK price £150

Trouser and base layer reviews on the way.

Ken III, King of Rannoch

We got up earlyish, well, I did anyway. I put music on loud and threw the bottom half of Holly’s duvet over the top half so she would cook/suffocate while also getting cold feet. I felt certain this would get her on the move. It did eventually.
Send me a message on the contact form (I think there still is one?) if you want parenting advice.

A fine breakfast at granny’s and we were on the road despite the rain. After missing out on anything interesting never mind exciting on Saturday, we were going north anyway.
It was atmospheric, lots of greys, but still magic. Lots of fresh snow on the roads as well as the hills and the two upside down motors confirmed the iffy conditions there had been a few hours earlier.

Cuppas in Tyndrum were a must and the rain smacked off the truck windscreen as we debated what to do next.
Phil texted me, we’d passed on the road as he retreated from the rain, dammit. However, this somehow brought us a wee bit of misplaced or maybe misdirected or misappropriated luck, the snow shone as the sun found it, the clouds parted and blue unfurled above us. What the hell, keep going.

We followed the blue and stopped right under it, in a very familiar spot.

We chased the sun north but the grey crept back under the blue. It was fine though, we parked up to make a snowman, it was perfect snow for it, soft and sticky which was perfect for a snowball fight too. Who won will remain a family secret. Until it can be used as leverage.

It was cold but we were warm from playing and back in the truck we had snacks and juice as the heater worked to dry my jeans out again.
Grins were wide and cheeks were red and the ghost story on the way home was of the Dougal and, well, that’s for another day.
This day though, this was a good one.

Beach bum

I have got into the habit of sticking a camera in the truck most days and it’s good in that I can take photies, but bad in that I take photies when I should be doing something else.
I’ll live with it for the time being, the sun comes up at the perfect time around the school run which won’t last, so what the hell.

I love this spot by the river, the light, the birds, the water and currently the fact that everything is frozen solid, from the sand to the seaweed.
What a place to watch the sun rise.

The tide was coming in, the river every so gently flowing into the frozen depressions in the sand, circling the rocks and creeping up the blades of the seaweed melting the frost and turning them from sparkling white to glossy green. It was like watching a timelapse film, silent and hypnotic.

Retreating from the water towards breakfast there’s still things to see and I wander through the frozen trees like a schoolkid on a daytrip to the museum, swinging arms and head to the sky.

After all the stress and turmoil of the past few years I’m increasingly finding more of the me that I remember.
And, holding onto it.

Harbouring a secret

As much as I like running up the hills when I run out of things to do/abandon my responsibilities I couldn’t be arsed going home and getting changed this afternoon, so it was either cotton polo shirt versus the snowy crags or a wander down the harbour.

I made the right choice, bloody hell it was cold.

Maybe not the grandest of skies, but worth viewing and soaking in. The wrecks looked lovely in the fading light too, one side dark and frosty, the sunny side warm and orange until the sun hit the wrong side of the horizon.

A few other folk were out taking it in too. I love that, it gives me hope when folk just enjoy the world for no reason other that it’s awesome.

I went back to my folks for home made steak pie. This ended up being a good day.

Target Acquired

I got there a wee bit later than planned, the sun was already slipping and the road was too icy for the truck so I had to leg it up the hill.
That was a shock to the system.

The light was just gorgeous, the snow was orange and pink and the low sun brought out lines of dark shadow on every surface that had a ripple or a pattern.

There were thick clouds to the west blocking some of the rays which cast a camouflage across the site, patches of bright and dark but all with a little glow as the sun burned into the horizon.

The three lassies on bench were full of laughs and as a dad of one of my own I was pleased to see they were properly wrapped up for the conditions. Hopefully they’ll remember the directions and they’ll find me on here so I can send them the photies.

The site was busy, lots of folk heading down as it got darker. Good to see, I was always a solo twilight wanderer up here, the Lang Craigs really have become a proper local hang out.

The ground was frozen, as I went higher and the temperature went lower I pulled on some spikes and took to the top trail for the best views.
Oh those views, so much winter up that loch, got to get up there.

Stay on target

I am sitting in front of the laptop looking at numbers that make no sense, shuffling through paperwork with my name on it that doesn’t look familiar.

The good part of that is that I have a desk of sorts again and the laptop is on it rather than in a bag all the time or on my er, lap.

However, I have a friend right now constantly sending me photies from the Lang Craigs and it looks exactly like it does above and below.
The top one is the first photie I ever posted on the blog. Aw.

Typing and counting like a bastard now, I will get there today.

My hands are cold

It’s a day that sticks in the mind, it was 2001 and we had a perfect day on Ben Cruachan. The snow was deep but consolidated, every bare rock was armoured with ice and the cloud tore around the summit in strips all day but retreated while we stood there and took in a landscape that still lingers in my mind despite so many visits and lost years since.
We came home to the news that the hills were now closed, Foot and Mouth hysteria had descended and we were soon driving through disinfectant tyre baths wherever we went.

The other thing that happened was my hands. I was on the top in my liners and windstopper gloves as usual, and while it was cold it was something I was well used to and didn’t bother putting on other gloves.
My fingers got cold though, very fast, uncomfortably fast and it was sore, something I’d never had before. I pulled out my big insulated gloves and needed help to pull them on, I was fumbling like a wino with a screw top bottle.

The heat returned and there was another new sensation, a burning that would not stop, that escalated until I thought my teeth would break against each other and tears filled my eyes.

The sunrise was just out of sight, but the cloud caught it’s colours and I managed a snap through the window before the school run.
I had a couple of calls to make and they revealed nothing urgent and everything avoidable. Daytime telly was the soundtrack to some packing and there was never any doubt as to where I was going.

It was a fairy tale scene, no, an advent calendar on the way to Drymen. Hard frozen landscape, wisps of mist and blue skies. Stunning, a perfect winter’s day.
I’d used up a lot of daylight so I didn’t stop. I think I might regret that, it was so perfect.
Ach, but then again maybe some things are better as an engram to mull over and decrypt later.

I thought it might be a one off, I was tired or run down, I’d had the wrong breakfast, I’d stood around the summit for too long, I was just getting old?
But no, I noticed a change from then on. Ice axes and meraklon liners was a combo gone forever, poles and powerstretch gloves would only last me so far into the snowline before I’d have to put something warmer on.
Camp was easier to manage, I’d have gloves and mitts everywhere and if I slipped up, I was never far away from layers of down.
And of course, the wait for the burn.

I could see Ptarmigan Ridge but the summit was in a ball of cloud with more cloud loitering to the west. I wasn’t fussed, there was snow all over one of my most favourite places.
The road was just as exciting because it was untreated after Balmaha, I’m getting more used to the truck on this kind of surface this winter and I had a wee bit of fun with it.
Wheeeeeee went the wheels, Aaaaaghhhhh went the music.

Rowardennan was surprisingly busy and there was still blue sky above as I walked past the youth hostel. On the climb up, the bloke doing some path repairs was lying snoozing in the sun and it really was warm enough for that.
It felt like spring, one of those rare days where the sun shines down on you while your crampon spikes dig in as you ascend in shades and a base layer with the sleeves rolled up.

I pushed on, eager to be a part of that mental picture, but somehow I flicked past that page and found myself in cloud. It washed in from over the loch, a bank of blandness to smother my hope and dreams and… Oh wait, I’m through the top of it. Aw, that’s nice.

I had to watch all the time, not just in the hills. At work, or even just heading into town I’d carry gloves on cool days never mind cold days and I’d find myself making excuses for fumbling or asking a colleague to “wait a minute” while my hands heated up while they looked at me like I was an idiot.

It’s really only when you show someone the effects they realise you’re not full of shit. Showing them a white thumb and forefinger on a cherry red hand, and saying “Feel it…”.
“Oh…” They say.
“Aye, I’m going to sit in the truck and have an episode while they heat up, back in 5…”.

The cloud came and went and the sun struggled to maintain a presence. But I was happy enough.
The snow showers were pleasant, heavy but with small flakes and very little wind. It was a silent, almost dreamy ascent.

I stopped at the top of Ptamigan where the sun made it’s last attempt at glamour before giving it up for the day. Pink oozed through the mist and I stood with a hot cuppa and smiled at it all.

I could see familiar crags and a hint of the ridge swinging around the last pull up to the summit. It would dark before I got to the top and that along with the long descent on Sron Aonach just didn’t fit tonight, had to get back for the girl.
This was enough, inside and outside I was happy.

Except I’d got too excited, on the phone, taking photies, pouring cuppas, fannying about, all with one glove on. My right hand went and it went big.
My own stupid fault.

I packed up and started down, hands balled into fists inside my mitts, idiot, idiot, idiot was the mantra.

I had a loose crampon strap, of course it couldn’t have happened on the way up, it had to be now when my mitts were full of pork link sausages instead of fingers.
I fudged it enough to go on but the bending and swearing had upped the blood flow enough that I could feel the circulation coming back. I braced for impact.

I stood in the dark, bent over with my mitted hands crushed between my thighs and calling Ffffuuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkkkkk into the night as the tears blinded me.
I carried on once the red lights went out and it really was a pleasant descent. My hands nipped and throbbed, but I can tune that part out now. The ache lasts of course, well into the next day this time and my fingers were dark purpley red well into the early hours.

I remember a while back the nurse stretching out my hands and hmm-ing sympathetically “I get this too, it’s terrible isn’t it? It’s called Reynaud’s”.

I suppose in the grand scale of life it’s a minor ailment, but it causes me grief on an almost daily basis at the moment, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually said the words on here which is a bit strange.

I suffer from Reynaud’s syndrome, unusual in men but likely passed down on my mothers side of the family and it’s total pain in the arse.

Komperdell Hikemaster Compact Review

Poles are not exactly sexy. They are often useful, occasionally vital, but never something particularly exciting to look at.
So it’s quite heartening to see the manufactures always making new models and trying something a little different, especially given the scope of what you can actually do with the format. Add wheels or a bottle holder maybe?

Weight is the obvious target and packed length is important for me as poles spend a lot of time as ballast.
Adjustability is something I don’t actually think about after years of usually using fixed length poles, but that’s because that fixed length works for me. Even using tarps I’ve worked around fixed length poles.
I was a reminded of the wider real world on a run round the Lang Craigs where a pal had her poles set at an inbetween size, what’s this subversive behaviour I said. 103cm? Madness, madness.

So, adjustability is important, as is flexibility of length. The Hikemaster Compacts have that stuff.

The Compact collapse down to 59cm which works fine for stowing on my smaller packs and extends to a max of 121cm which is where I use them.
Others will need more length so if you like the format there’s a regular Hikemaster which extends to 140cm but packs to 65cm.

Weight is 502g for the pair which is okay for the aluminium construction. They certainly don’t feel weighty in the hand, they have a nice swing to them and a robust feel.

The handles are quite slim feeling with only light shaping for finger placement which I’m happy with. The handle feels like its bi-component, a lighter rubber coating over a harder shaped inner. The outer looks stitched so, it’s likely a sock pulled over the inner.
This is great with any gloves but slidey with bare sweaty hands, I’m just so used to mesh.

The wrist loop is great, nice and wide and east to adjust. It says “padded” on the official speil but it’s just lightly reinforced on the inner non-logo-ed face with a smooth stitching effect which is probably better than padding would be.

I really like the Powerlock 3.0 mechanism for the length adjustment. It has a low bulk, the levers are east to catch with a bare of gloved thumb to operate but don’t stick out too far so that they catch on the undergrowth. There’s a nice smooth action to them as well, the cam action is just right.

The pointy end is pretty standard, tungsten tips and mini baskets pre-fitted.

The finishing is excellent, smooth and flawless and the overall construction is the same.
The poles break down for drying and cleaning very easily and as the locking mechanism is all external the chances of handless people breaking them when putting them back together is much diminished.

I like the Compacts, the locking mechanisms are excellent and the quality overall finish surprised me as the prices I see online are right in the mix.
Easy to pack, use, adjust and clean. No pointless antishock to go wrong and add weight and there’s a 3 Year no argument guarantee according to the official page.

Road and be Truncated

There was confusion, not our fault, but it did delay our departure.

Our trip to the snow was meant to be a hop, skip and jump.

It was freezing, the layers were many and the gloves were the wrong ones. Not the girls’, she was sorted, I got it wrong, I had raspberry ripple push-ups sticking out of my sleeves within 30 seconds of leaving the truck.

Red cheeks and pink skies.

It was good to just breathe that air.

And the snacks, once my fingers were mobile again, there was snacks.

 

Haglöfs Winter 2019/20 Preview Part #2

I’m quoting this important information from part #1
Now, the lighting in the new shed is horrible, so we have bunch of out of focus and oddly coloured photies coming up. 
My co-stars Gus and MT have never looked quite so strange.

Even when I had proper hair I loved hats. In good weather, a cap is likely, in the cold I put a beanie on as soon as I get out from under the duvet. Above looks like the accessory dumping area at my front door.

We have an interesting selection here in a bunch of different and blended materials and styles from “brilliant for the hills” to “look at my logo”.
Some come in different sizes, some are one size fits all. Amazingly my planet sized head fits in those just fine. It’s a miracle, it’s miracle.

Above MT has the Stipe Beanie in 50/50 merino/acrylic and I’ve got the Lava in the same mix. Chunky, yes please.
Below are Whooly Beanies in a polyester, nylon and recycled wool* blend. Now, I picked that because of the colour but now I read the workbook and see the materials this might actually be a cracker for the hills because of that mix. Close fit too, good for under a shell hood.

They have a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap, ear flaps, brim, waterproof and fleece lined but the photies of it were too bad even for here. I’m sorry for this, because it’s a good take on the classic format. I’ll go to the kitchen for a while, put the kettle on and think about what I’ve done.

*I’m back with a coffee and have moved on from the cap remorse, what I’m wondering about now is the recycled wool. Where does it come from? Is is the tufts recovered from fences that we all know so well? Old jumpers from charity shops? WW2 army blankets? I should have asked, I’ll be up all night worrying about it.

Which is a proper point isn’t it, we’re so used to seeing “recycled” now, we really should be asking from what and where from.

For a while it looked like Haglöfs couldn’t be arsed with gloves which was frustrating because they had made some of the best gloves I’ve ever used.
The Helix winter gloves, insulated and mostly leather and the genius Paclite mitts are two of my favourites which are still in use, had them both out this week.

These new models are all out around September this year and there’s a chance I’ll get the names wrong as it’s a bunch of black gloves and the tiny workbook pictures aren’t helping at all.

Above and below are the Nengal Gloves. Leather, Gore-Tex, stretch nylon, QuadFusion insulation, velcro wrist, microfleece liner, it’s the replacement the  grym glove, but it kinda feels like a new Helix to me.
The fit and feel are excellent, the materials should make them durable and the dexterity was good with the precurving and outseam construction. Love them.

Niva Glove and Mitten above and below. Ski they say, mountain I say, the reinforcing works for axes and poles whatever your feet are attached to.
Leather, nylon faced Proof waterproof shell, microfleece lining, wrist adjusters and long cuffs.

Great fit, good dexterity, room for a liner for me so a good “system” component glove.

That’s the Touring Glove below. FlexAble soft shell, leather palm, microfleece backer.
Same excellent fit and dexterity and lightweight. It’s a go-to general use glove, much improved of the last version of this format they had.
Can’t remember the name, but the internal seams were huge and the fit helped suck the heat out of my fingers. It looks like the downtime away from making gloves was spent with their thinking caps on.

Oh. My. God.

This is the Bow Glove in Gore-Tex Infinium. Close fitting, soft, completely dexterous, warm, windproof and I want them.
I’ve always loved Powerstretch gloves and the Bow’s take all the reasons for that and extend them a little bit.

Haglöfs have got a lot right here in the glove range, the fit and features are excellent, but the colourways have the range looking all very similar unless you’re comparing A to B in your hands, I’d be worried that some the the magic here will slip past the shoppers eye in the ocean of black gloves already out there.

Essen’s Leftover Mimic Moccasins and Mittens.

I carry insulated feet and hands to every camp and can recommend that stuff to anyone. The story here is a good one, the fill is synthetic QuadFusion and the shell is Pertex Quantum off cuts left over from making other stuff.
Practical lightweight kit (65g for a pair of mitts) keeping material out of the bins.

Yes please.

The footwear has changed a lot since I last saw it. The Skuta Mid and Low here have a Proof waterproof inner, that’s the white thing above from the shoe version.
Interesting, I wonder how the durability is compared to a Gore liner, it’s tested to the same standards and used to the same construction standards, just need to rub some of the killer grit/heather fibre mix into it and flex that toe on the trails.
The Mid has mesh where it’ll help breathability with suede elsewhere and synthetic randing on both. It’s all a bit old school looking, I like that.

Nice flex to both, good looking sole units too.

Proof liner and suede again on the Kummel’s above. It’s a jeans compatible outdoor shoe, something which I have grown an appreciation of in recent times.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Vertigo. The first thing I was expecting was a stupid flat scrambling outsole, but no, it’s got a grippy Vibram unit on there which makes it a proper usable trail shoe.
Nice looking upper, lacing to the toe, flexy suede and a stiffish sole. I wish they didn’t make samples in a UK 8 or I’d have tried this one on.

Proof waterproof liner, 510g for pair of UK8’s.

Above are the Trail Fuse variants, GTX version on the left. 325g for a pair of UK8’s for that one and 290g for the unlined version.

They feel good, flexy, good shape, nice big areas of mesh on the unlined one.

That’s the Gram Trail below, narrower more racy version.

The Grevbo Proof Eco. Suede, Proof liner, fur, fur, fur, synthetic fur!!!!
It’s got a wool footbed too. Sigh.

Haglöfs first ever product was a rucksack and it’s something that gets a little overlooked now in favour of the clothing I think which is a bit of a shame as there’s individuality and some clever thinking in there.
I’ve used a lot of Haglöfs packs over the years, the fit and comfort has always been good which is the deal maker or breaker, beyond that there’s the practical and the quirky, sometime both on the same pack.

The Roc Summit 40 is above, a beefy mountaineering pack and the the Spiri 20 daypack below, a whole kilo lighter at 575g.
I like the Spiri’s layout, good options for storage and attaching gear with webbing and hidden loops. Nice big hip fin pockets.

Below is the Spiri 33. the format is the same as above and Haglöfs expand it across six different capacities, sizes and back lengths. The harness was done at a Uni in Sweden, so it should fit well and have beer can shaped pockets.
The sizing variations are a good idea if a store has them in a line, you can try them on with a climbing rope or a tent in it to see what one fits best.

I mean, we all still do that don’t we, who the hell would buy a rucksack without trying it on first, right?

I like retro and the Torsång above brings me joy. My laptop (dare I say urban as well?) bag for the past few years has been a Haglöfs Vike 25 and this carries on that tradition with smooth lines, metal buckles and leather detailing.

The ShoSho below has some of this old schoolness, it’s based on an original 70’s model so it’s in a more hill friendly format with regular buckles. Both packs have a beefy polyamide fabric, so the looks are just that, they’ll be tough and usable.

These packs are like slices of cucumber on my eyes. The arms race of modern design tires them out, these packs soothe them.
It’s like Formula 1 cars, currently hideous, complicated and efficient and everyone misses the inefficient, sleek, sexy designs of the old days.

Humans, we’re an odd bunch.

A trio of Tight packs below. Haglöfs make a bunch of them, all different sizes, specs and colours including some vintage reissues.
Unassuming and practical, and I love the logo on that first one.

So, what did I learn? Well, I liked some of what I saw a lot and I know there’s more to come because of the work being done just now. In a year’s time the grins will be wide.

Maybe Haglöfs had a crisis of confidence or identity which I think they’ve got over, those little painted wooden horses speak to me more than a generic alpine climber hanging off a rope ever would.

The biggest thing for me though is from the text in the workbook and I touched on it a few times, the environmental aspect. So much of the small print is about the sourcing, manufacturing, recycling and the chemical impact aspects of the gear.
If big business really is taking this on and not just paying it lip service, maybe there’s hope. It’s the only way forward for all of us.

Nigit Nit 42

It was colder than I was expecting. I had gloves on from the off.

Half a plan in mind, half a mind to just have a wander.

It was eerie past the tree line. The sun was trapped in a bank of murk so there were no shadows and there was no wind either. Still and dark. And cold, my hood was up now.

The dead pines are straight off of a Tim Burton storyboard. If only my raven was here.

I really don’t like my camera much. When my old LX5 died, I got the update, the LX7, and it’s just not as good.

I don’t what the hell I’m doing with cameras so I rely on picking preprogrammed modes to suit the moment or mood and the LX7 doesn’t have the ones I used to use.

I’ve kinda had to come to terms with the rather lame fact that this took some of the fun away from my hill time as I loved fannying around at night with a ten second timer and a headtorch. Or two.

I tried a few nighttime photies tonight, it really was fun, but the camera was saying no more often than not.

I don’t care how much technology has moved on and how lo-fi the results will be, I’m tracking some LX5s on ebay. It’s all about the joy.

Two jackets, aye it was that cold. It’s not a hiviz vest though, it’s Haglofs picking their pallete at the office party/in the dark.

It’s surprising how much light reflects off that jacket from a headtorch, I glow as I walk. Readybrek? God, I’m old…

Reviews imminent.

The cup marked stone is easy to find in the dark if you know where it is.

Did I really just write that?

I looks like an alien skull emerging from centuries of entombment. A clawed hand will soon follow to clutch at then posses/consume a hapless rambler as part of its plan to take over the world in a low budget British indie movie fashion.

Could have stayed out all night. This was proper fun.

Haglöfs Winter 2019/20 Preview Part #1

 



I have history with Haglöfs. Way back when I first started this place and was looking at gear, Haglöfs were the first brand to really “get it” and see how a blogger using and reviewing kit was a step away and a step forward from the bland compromise of magazine grouptests.
It started an unexpected wave of change for me and while everyone today with an online presence is reviewing something or other, eleven years ago it was innovative, even a gamble for a brand to trust a random like me with kit.
I was already a Haglöfs user (blame the much missed West Coast in Ft Bill for that, after Karrimor shat the bed at the start on the new century, Haglöfs appeared in its place), I fitted the sample size large perfectly (amazingly, still do, aged 50…) and I was in the hills constantly so it was an easy thing to do, plus the gear was usually good and caused me little trouble.
Over the years I started to drown in kit and eventually sold out and became a gear editor for a while. I drifted off from regular looks at the Haglöfs range and from a distance they seemed to be becoming a little generic, the stand out individuality that had caught my eye was becoming average alpine.

However, these are times of change for everyone, not least Haglöfs. Renewed focus, embracing their heritage and Swedish roots, making environment and sustainability a priority and unashamedly making gear for outdoor folk, not just alpinists?
This is what I was told, and this is what I went to see. I’ve had a smattering of current kit on test the past few months, but I haven’t seen the future.

Now, the lighting in the new shed is horrible, so we have bunch of out of focus and oddly coloured photies coming up. 
My co-stars Gus and MT have never looked quite so strange.

Remember, it all comes in wummins versions. I think.

Had Haglöfs ruined the hoods with a redesign was my first worry, but it was okay, me and MT made sure of it.

This is the Roc Spire, a bad weather and winter all-rounder Gore shell at 500g for a large. Decent body length, big chest pockets, excellent hood with a RECCO reflector laminated into it. This is common across the range now, no added weight or bulk but a life saving chance built in. Go Haglöfs.
There’s a nice 80’s/90’s feel to the look of these, the retro blocks of colours. The yellow is gorgeous as well, again very 90’s. Love it.

I like this weight of jacket if I know I’m going to be wearing it in winter. I feel the cold a little more than I did and adapting to that is worth an extra few grams.

Is this the future? Gore-Tex Shakedry is a light, water resistant two layer fabric with a waffle inner cut into this 400g L.I.M winter jacket. Here it’s got a Gore Topo insert in the back (above) which is super stretchy for free movement.
Looks a bit odd, but it’s incredibly comfy on. Designed for snow sports, it just looks like a winter go-to for mountain folk.
Reports of the breathability are exciting and development is ongoing, including dying the outer so you don’t look like Action Man Frogman. Which actually, is fine for me if I think about it.

All the proper features, pockets, adjustable hood and cuffs.

No Gore and I don’t mean it’s a PG, this the L.I.M Touring jacket cut from Haglöfs’ own Proof fabric which they’ve been improving since my last look and it’s used on 12% of the 2019/20 clothing range.
It’s Bluesigned, has recycled content on the Eco version and I get the feeling it’s giving them options to create and experiment with kit and probably going Gore a wee nudge to keep pushing.

The L.I.M has a good layout, nice pockets, big side vents, where they actually work and an excellent hood. That 90’s yellow again too. 550g.

Be still my beating heart.

These are the Edge Evo Parkas, made in recycled nylon Proof fabric. The colourful one is the Kurbits version which incorporates traditional folk art from Dalarna where Haglöfs originated.
It’s a brave move doing this and I love it, the racks of miserable conservative black shells need this in the middle, mocking their limited vision and timid outlook.

I suppose they’re beefyish for a pull-on at 675g and the hood is a little pre-war antarctic expedition, but it all fits together beautifully so for general use and gadding about in comfort in winter, sign me up.
There’s a 3D pouch front pocket that made me smile. Complicated and difficult to make, probably unnecessary and most folk won’t pick up on the detail of it, but it’s there because it’s just nice, because someone designed it that way and thought it was cool.

I love the concept and I love the execution, and the very offset zip is excellent, put that on a mountain jacket.

In two different Proof Eco fabrics these are the Grym Evo (yellow and RAF blue at the left) and Eco Proof (the other two).
The Grym is in tougher recycled nylon as suggested by the name and the Eco has recycled polyester.

Easy to dismiss this stuff as dog walker jackets but the shells I probably wear most are long patch-pocket jackets, they keep my arse dry and out of the wind when I’m walking the fence line in the Lang Craigs or gadding about around the hills rather than on them.
They’re lighter than they look at 580g with all the usual adjustments, proper hoods and pockets and a surprisingly trim and articulate fit. 

I like this stuff. I am not ashamed.

Aye, there was a fight for the Kurbits.

L.I.M means lighter and here’s the 265g Comp above on GoreTex Active shell and the Proof Multi below at 290g.

Both light, well articulated, two pockets, decent and slightly oddball hood but different fabrics. Pick a side? I’ve had one of these on test for months, more on that in a bit.
The design though while well weighted and small enough to pack, carry and forget can also be used to stare into a blizzard. I wish I could say the the same for my glasses.

Above and modeled by the lovely MT below is the Proteus jacket. A light nylon shell with a QuadFusion polyester lining, think Polartec Alpha or maybe even Rab VapourRise or Marmot DriClime.

It’s dead simple, very light at 270g and I’ve been using one for months. Not giving it away yet, I need some more snow to the west, just to be sure you know?


Haglöfs have this QuadFusion fluffiness in the Essens Mimics seen below. It’s an attempt at synthetic down and it compresses well, with some good instant feedback from the insulation when you pull it on.

The shells are Pertex Quantum, made from 100% recycled polyamide.

The cut of the jackets is much improved from the the early samples I tried. packable, good articulation, brilliant hoods on some.
Good weights at 440g for the jackets and 485g for the hoody.

Nice colour palette too, and that black and white one looks like a baseball jersey, love it.

The Mojo Down Hood above is a beast, so much fill it stands up by itself. 390g of 800 fill, box wall, excellent hood, 815g, Pertex Quantum shell in two different weights (both recycled nylon), big pockets inside and oot.
It’s a roaster.

Below is the L.I.M Essens. 70g of 800 fill, nylon ripstop shell, handwarmer pockets, packs to nothing at 165g. Oof.

L.I.M Barrier Shorts, along with the skirt insulation for racers at rest or folks still on the move? I’m a big fan of insulated pants so I can see the appeal for folk fitter than me. 140g.

The Barrier Neo Hoods are below. I still have a Barrier Hood from years back, 2008 maybe and I love the simple design which looks largely unchanged, just tweaked and lightened, which I like. Too many changes are due to seasonal selling demands and trying to look sexy again rather than actual necessity or natural evolution. 405g.

Ha, you can’t kill me you bastards, I live, I live! Said fleece when questioned.

The Spire Mid Hood is an awesome feeling hoody in Pontetorto stretch fleece. Handwarmer pockets, chest pocket, thumbloops and a fitted hood that’s brilliant under a shell hood, apart from the one that doesn’t have a hood of course.

Practical, undemanding, long lasting, easy care, cheapish, fleece is till good and I still wear it.

The Heron top MT’s got on is the kind of thing I wear every day, folk just want fancy stuff so they can look like a TV presenter and complain on the internet about how much it costs and how their lightweight specialist sports equipment wore out of after months of daily use on their commute to work.

Heron Tights and Knee Tights. I used to wear 3/4’s all the time. They were perfect with gaiters and long socks, you could regulate your temperature really well and there were no wet trouser ends in the tent.
Softshell pants killed all this stuff, not all simple and old ideas are bad. Liked the Pontetorto fabric here, a nice texture and look to it.

Bungy Polartec Powerstretch Hoods below I think?* Whatever, the one I’ve got on shows the way Haglöfs do the hoods on these tops, great design.
Also, loved the angled chest pocket, very old school Karrimor Alpiniste fleece. Stuff doesn’t fall out when the zip’s open, old ideas…

*Gus: “Naw ya fanny, that’s the Nengal** hood with recycled polyester inner and recycled ghost net*** nylon outer”.

**A more death metal product name there is not.
***I think he made this up, too sci-fi to be legit.

Two pants in the excellent FlexAble fabric,the Roc Fusions to the left and the Rando Flex’s to the not left.

The Rocs are the mountain pants and the Randos are supposed to be for snowsports but I’d just choose based on fit and features as both would work fine.
You’ve got standard pockets or more horizontal pockets, lighter weight or bigger leg vents.
Big waist bands, kick patches, lower leg zips, internal gaiters.
Haglöfs have always done excellent mountain pants.

The familiar has been updated, a while ago, but I’m just catching up.
On the right are the latest Rugged Mountain Pants and it looks to me like they’ve taken the ones I know so well and incorporated some tweaks from the Nansen pants of the old days. They’re a better cut now too, it’s a good update.

The grey ones are the Rugged Flex Pants, a bit lighter and closer cut, more mountain sports that the Mountain Man (and Woman) vibe that the original Rugged have going.

Well. There are bigger changes ahead and we’ll see that later in the year. I see more of the old Haglöfs here than I have in a while I think.
I’ve had kit on test for a while and I’ll get to that shortly.

Also, part two coming up shortly.

That’s a lot of whiles and shortlys.

 

Shake and Bake

It was nice to see some other daft bugger catching the sunrise this morning.

I had the camera in the truck and I shot down to the shore after the school run.
It was cold, the seaweed was frosted but the sun was bright and warm as it rose, peeling off the layer frost as it crept past the deck of the Erskine Bridge.

What a lovely start to the day.