Edelrid Kiro Ti

Saw the Edelrid Kiro Ti at KORS earlier in the year and I’m pleased to have one in for test.
You know me, faff-free performance is a fun-friendly prerogative, and with Markill’s DNA running through it the Kiro Tis fits the bill.
Light, folds up small, but folds out big to support a wide pot base. The control is long enough to keep fingertips away from the flame, and the valve runs smooth. The machining and the finishing are neat, I like when lightweight still manages to feel sturdy. The legs fold in and out smoothly, when heat’s been applied a few times I hope to find the same result.
I like the cool green anodising on the control, looks different, which with so many stoves out there assembled from the similar parts is a good move.
It comes with a wee stuffsack and it’s heading straight into a fistfight with a whole stack of models of similar specs and varying prices.
More on this after the next trip.

Chocolate Fish 70 Mile Bush Socks

Chocolate Fish sent me some samples from the 70 Mile Bush range of socks to trial as they were looking to bring them into the UK. They’re Kiwi-made from Kiwi merino and the versions I’ve got here cover a good cross section of weights and ideal use. They’re now in the UK, so here’s some thoughts on them so far.

The Taihape Mountain’s (in the packaging) are big and badass, these are for lining your winter boots, or wearing inside your wellies while you’re making a snowman or fishing. Like the other models they have old-school home-made looks, but the finish is fine, the toes have low profile seams and they’re a good length to match my ¾ length merino leggings. Very well padded, so good for inside rigger and steel toe-capped boots too, but that’s for when they get a little worn out, that padding will be repelling crampon straps first.
The Taihape Fell’s (at the right) are what you’d call a traditional hillwalking sock, still thick, but not like the Taihape’s loft insulation style. The same good toe is here, good length, good padding. These have had the most use so far, a nice GI outdoor sock.
The Taihape Trail is the sock with the black toes and heels, it’s thinner, it made a good summer sock and has been around Assynt most recently. It’s also a good sock for the daily sock drawer, these have been in my Vans and Converse as much anything.

The look like proper outdoor socks from better days don’t they? But the construction is up to date, the materials are a sensible mix of merino for comfort and performance ,with nylon and lycra to give a reliable fit and hopefully better durability.
The fit is well sculpted, the heel shaping is good, and I’ve had neither bagginess around the ankles or a cuff digging into my calves. They’ve all been washed a few times now and are still looking good.

Looking at the weather forecast, we’ll have more on the Taihape Mountains soon.

The North Face Kishtwar Jacket

Softshell doesn’t seem to be a sticking point or a controversial subject these days, I think that’s largely due to the better fabrics the jackets are been sewn or welded out of. The fit and technicality are as specialist as you’d ever need in the top end stuff, so when TNF said test it as I was trying a Kishtwar sample on for size, I just thought “winter mountain jacket” rather than Oh, softshell… This is a good approach I think.

Talking of fabric, what we have here is Polartec Powershield Pro, and I already know this a million miles away from the rubble sack plastic membranes in windproof fleeces of old, having used it last winter. This variety feels tough, the outer face has a texture that for some reason is exactly what I’d imagine a shark to feel like. I realise that’s absolutely no help at all, but think of a smoothly upholstered killing machine and you’re on your way.
There’s a nice bit of stretch in there too, the cut is great for mobility (it’s a Summit Series piece) so the stretch isn’t covering up for lack of ergonomics, it’s allowing a closer fit and this makes a size medium a perfect slim fit over a base layer on me.
The inner face is a nice velour affair, and as I’ve discovered this does hoover up any moisture you produce. and with the mesh-lined chest pockets opened as vents it’s pretty usable in warmer weather.
But it’s home is winter, it does feel heavy duty, both with the fabric and the spec. The hood is badass, adjustable at the front and rear, close fitting and has a great shaped peak. It’s laminated, not wired so it’ll layer under a shell okay. There’s a huge wind baffle behind the front zip, those chest pockets are huge too and have the hem drawcord ends inside for sneaky adjustment and no dangling ends outside. There’s a single napoleon pocket too for wee bits and pieces.

There’s some lovely detailing, the inside is very well finished, the seams are flat despite the thickness of the doubled fabric, and capped with stretch tape where they’ll get the most abrasion (the front zip) or be most annoying (at the neck). The chin area is lined with microfleece, and with those nice green zips even the grey colour appeals to me.

I like the look of this so far, it’s been repelling light rain and been very user friendly. I’ll need to get it on some proper mountains days to be sure though.

Haglöfs Col Pant

There’s been a lot of Haglöfs pants on these pages, I reckon it’s where the brand has been consistently strong the past few years. So when the new Col’s arrived for test I unwrapped them with high expectations and my heart sank as looked them over. the looked just like a pair of softshell bowling-club trousers. Where was my navy blazer…

I picked them back up a week or so ago when I was leaving to help Jimmy with the boat and then try to climb above the cloud inversion in the Kilpatricks.
The fit was fine, just as expected, the wide flat waistband felt good when I slipped a belt through the lightweight webbing loops. As I bent and stretched the Flexable fabric moved with me and the knee articulation kept the ankle cuffs down and the waistband up at the back. The inner gaiters on the ankle cuffs gripped my boots well, and didn’t slip all day, although I’ll still be sewing a hook on there to clip onto my laces.
As I climbed the hill I stuck my Buff into the back pocket after wiping my brow as I broke through the cloud into the sun. The rear pocket is low, it’s nearer the outside than rear pockets usually are and it’s set a little lower. The rear pocket is genius, there’s a first for me.
As the day went on the Col’s grew on me, not literally, the fabric has a nice brushed inner surface to prevent that, and it also kept me dry despite their windproofness in the warm air.

They look so damned dull, but in reality they’re actually a very good bit of kit. I’ve used the Omni pants for a few years, but they’re proper fully-featured winter pants and I’d feel a bit conspicuous wearing them on snowless ground as much as anything. The Col’s take the same fabric and make a regular pant from it, these will work in most weather outside of summer and will be great with longjons underneath in winter, so for me they’re bridging a gap in some ways, but they’re also a great do-it-all cool weather mountain pant. These and a pair of shorts and your all set for a year in the UK mountains. 

I’m glad I was wrong, they still look dull though, or should I say non-technical? Which lots of folk will love. The tech features like the inner gaiters hide away and these will look fine at the country park as well as a snowy summit.
The fabric is brilliant, I know this from experience, it laughs at wind, abrasion and water, so I’ll be wearing these until it’s so wintry up there that I feel the need for pants with braces.
One niggle though, there’s only a single popper above the zip fly. Haglöfs have usually had a double popper or a single button closure in my experience which is more failure proof. Tut tut.
Whatever, these’ll be a familiar sight from now on.

Haglöfs Corker XS, by HLY*

Haglöfs made me a rucksack for my 3rd birthday, they said it’s called the Corker XS, but it’s got a big H on it, and a reflective snowflake with an H on it, I think they meant that it’s the Holly XS.
It’s got a Fruit Shoot pocket, a bungee for stowing blankie and opens with a zip at the side. It’s 5L and I can get stack of stuff in there, and there’s a big handle on the top so dad can catch me. The same semi-hard shell construction and fabrics from the big boys and girls packs are here too.
The harness is proper spec, as well formed as the big version, including a chest strap with a buckle that will snap open under a lot of pressure, that is dad grabbing the pack when I’m running away, so I stop without getting strangled, which is always nice.
The best thing is, it looks just like Dora the Explorer’s. This one’s mine, and you can’t have it. get your own in March next year.
Okay Boops.

Brasher Kanaga GTX

The foray into the wonderful world of testing boots continues with the Brasher Kanaga’s. They’re a B1 rated winter boot, but they look anything but. The styling is that fell-walking thing, like old Meindl Burma’s or something. Now, I’m not being nasty here, lots of winter boots are all disco-y with their colours and their shiny silver, so we need some badass but traditional and approachable models out there to keep the balance.

The outsole is a cracker, a Vibram Foura. Deep, square edged lugs to bite deep, the heel is a square edged block for sinking into snow on descent. There’s a full rand to save the nubuck upper from the worst of abrasion from the neve too.
They’re chunky, they feel robust, but with a bit of flex on both the sole and the upper. I’ll see how much that ankle cuff eases off. It’s well padded, a nice leather lining on the cuff, so my ankles should be okay until they soften up.
There’s a Gore-Tex lining, smooth running eyelets for the laces and the tongue is well formed and padded for taking the compression from crampons straps.

Boots are moving on which is good. I’ve learned that there’s models out there that don’t upset my flexible feet sensibilities, hopefully these’ll join the fun.
More later.

Mountain House

These were meant for testing by the group the Assynt trip, but they the arrived too late, so I get to eat them all. I’ve only eaten the Lasagna from Mountain House, and that was by accident at first. A happy one at that.
There is much said about nutritional values in outdoor food, I think for just a few days of backpacking taste comes first. So, will I be happy with breakfast, lunch and dinner from these guys? We’ll see, all new flavours to me, so I’m out of my comfort zone.

Yum Yum Bros

I’m always looking for different food for the trail, I get bored with the same stuff all the time. Except my mini Irn-Bru’s, they’re beyond reproach. So in for test is Yum Yum Bros.
Energy food has always been handy, good size, easyily stowed, quicke refuleing on the move, but they’ve taken a different slant in recent times. The move is away from jaw clamping sugar blocks to something closer to real food, with recognisable ingredients and non-synthetic flavours, and that’s good for the soul as well as the taste buds.
Yum Yum Bros are promising healthy energy with a great taste. I haven’t even opened one yet, but they’ll be getting packed for upcoming trips and we’ll see what the story is.

Keen Delta

A few years back I discovered the joys of Keen’s Growlers, a fantastic lightweight winter boot. But like all good things, they got canned.
This winter, Keen may just have redeemed themselves and brought in a replacement, the Delta.

Visually they’re very different to the Growlers, the upper is nubuck rather than synthetic, the ankle is a little higher, they look much like a regular boot. But, the detail gives the game away.
The outsole is the same, with Dual Climate rubber (gets harder in the cold to bite better, it looks like it works from experience) in what’s probably Keen’s most aggressive lug pattern, the whole unit has a nice easy flex for comfy walking. The upper is waterproof, lined with a Keen Dry membrane (for more reliability after some time with eVent in their footwear), and there’s 200g Keen Warm synthetic insulation in there too. I wondered about having an insulated boot for walking, but with a thinner sock on the move I’ve been fine, and at a winter camp it’s a joy when your feet don’t chill.
One brilliant little feature kept from the Growler is the metal D-ring at the toe end of the laces, your gaiters or trouser cuff clips here, is super-secure and doesn’t wear away your laces.
The insoles are all new, they are… Thermal Heat Shield Footbeds. What this means it it looks like a piece of fabric cut from a tweed jacket and stuck onto silver foil. But, it’s well formed, and it’s awfy nice under your feet, so they’ll be staying in there.
The rest is very Keen-esque, right down to that big bad toe bumper.

The Delta’s will take lightweight flexible crampons, and the Growlers have been brilliant over snowbound Munro’s the past few winters, so I’ll be looking for the same here.
Flexible, lightweight footwear in winter is like a guilty pleasure. If you’ve crushed your feet in stiff heavy boots evey time the snows come for countless years like me, moving to something like this has you looking over shoulder wondering “This can’t be right, but it’s so good, I’ll get found out if I’m not careful…”.
I want these to work, so they’d bloody better do, there’s no size 9 Growlers left on ebay.
More when there’s plenty snow.

Inov8 Caps

Mr Panda has been absent from these pages for too long. So, here he is, sporting Inov8’s Rain Peak 62.

It’s the wee things that make the difference but get no attention, head, hands and feet need love too, they’re only human. And panda. Inov8 have a bunch of what all brands condemn with faint praise as “accessories”. But rather than brand-up half-arsed sourced kit, there’s some thought went into it, and of course as it’s Inov8 there’s several versions of every model.
The Rain Peak above (and left below) is a water resistant model, made from DWR treated microfibre. It’s a simple affair, but what details there are are the ones I like. The peak is stiff, no wind will deflect this boy, and well shaped to protect your eyes from light, wind and spray. The adjustment is a simple velcro tab, but it works fine and this cap sticks to my head like a giant squid to the Nautilus without routing my forehead for some freeform marquetry. I wore this for the first time in a while in Assynt and I was all smiles.

The general look continues over to the summer model in the middle below, the Hot Peak 60. The fabric here is a stretch mesh, so you get the eye saving sun protection of the same big peak with a chance of letting the heat out the top too. The same velcro tab and the same good fit apply.
To the right is the Winter Peak 65. It’s cut from DWR treated microfibre with a light fleece lining, the same great peak, but here the adjustment is a drawcord, there’s no cut-out at the back this time. This is the right way to do it, look at some of the waterproof caps out there, velcro adjustable at the back with a big hole in the hat, Stupid.
This one has some map contours on it and I think it looks kinda cool

They look different to a lot of the caps out there, and as they’re designed to work rather than just carry a logo, if your head’s the right shape they’ll do a grand job.
The sporty styling and big branding may not be your bag, but you can’t see it when you’re wearing it for that big peak, so what the hell.

More Inov8 test kit updates on the way.

CAMP XLS Snowshovel

After great success with a SnowClaw, I thought it was time to try something a little lighter and a little easier to pack.
That was last winter, but the CAMP XLS never showed, so when cutting around Tiso GOE after lunch (most days, pull up a chair if you’re passing) last week, I spotted this dusty relic and made it mine.
The narrow shape is easier to pack, the toothy-looking edge might be easier to dig with in hard snow than the rounded edge on the SnowClaw.
We’ll find out soon enough I hope?

The North Face Scythe

I don’t think I’ve had had something in for test that you can actually call “a fleece” in the old sense of the word. But here it is, the Scythe from The North Face.
A strange choice you might think, but I put this on when I was down at the showroom recently and it felt really nice, but it’s not a dogwalking and shopping accessory.
For a start it’s part of the Summit Series, so it’s got a slim cut and brilliant arm movement, even with a fat heating engineer in a size medium. The fabrics are Powerstretch for keeping you mobile in that slim fit (that’s the black bits), and Polartec’s Thermal Pro High-Loft for the red areas. Aye, that’s the furry fleece stuff.
The pockets are good, one high napoleon, two low, but not too low, handwarmer/stash pockets, all with mesh backs. The collar is high and snug, the arms and body are nice and long so I’m all properly covered up in this.
I had (still have somewhere?) a Denali fleece from years back, and it was in these colours, so maybe that’s partly why I feel so at home. I won’t miss the 300 weight fleece fabric of the Denali though.
Interesting fact, the hem adjustment seems to have been changed for the production version. On this it’s a hidden thing, a button inside the hem, in the shops it’s a more standard mini cordlock and secured bungee affair. Must have been issues with the samples.
Walking to the summit on a cold crisp day with my hands in the pockets of a fleece? Haven’t done that in many years, let’s see how it works out 21st Century style.

Garmont Dragontail

As we all trip over each other to get into a pair of trail shoes there’s a category of footwear that should be our friend, but seems to have slipped off the radar a little bit: the approach shoe.
Approach shoe is a rubbish name, it says all the wrong things, particularly “I’ll get you near the mountain but don’t take me onto it”. The truth is that approach shoes are made for the mountains, are more robust than trail shoes and the uppers will fare better over time on rockier routes. They often tend to have stiffer midsoles and scrambling-friendly outsoles, something you’ll like or you won’t. They are a little heavier than trail shoes, but lighter than boots, give free ankle movement as nature intended, and usually come in jazz fusion colourways so what’s not to like?

It’s good to be testing Garmont, it’s name I’ve had on a my feet many times over the years, not least as they made Karrimor KSB’s at one time. The range looks familiar as there’s evolutions of older models in there and fresh at the same time, and from their approach shoe range (Mffff) here’s the Dragontail.

It’s got a sticky rubber Vibram sole with a rock-friendly toe area, but it’s got a good pattern elsewhere, I reckon these would have been great on the recent Assynt trip where we were on a mix of pretty dry grass and rock for three days. The upper is thick suede and mesh, no waterproof liner (there’s a GTX version), just a treatment on the suede which is good, and there’s a thick rand over the robust toe bumper. The lacing goes down to the toe, which apart from giving a rock-shoe tight fit if you want, also lets you dial the whole shoe into your foot shape.
The fit is good for me, quite low volume as you’d expect, but the heel cup is deep and holds well, even with the big scoops around your ankle bones that really free-up foot movement. The fit is enhanced by Garmont’s ADD Anatomically Directed Design, which featured on the last Garmont-made KSB’s. Put simply, ADD introduces a little more ergonomics and asymmetricality into the shoes to try and work with the weirdness of our foot design rather than tame it. My feet are so used to being in different shoes all the time now, it’ll be interesting to see how the little ADD quirks feel.
There’s a bit of cushioning under the foot, but still plenty of trail feedback, they’re stiff-ish but still have enough toe flex for easy walking and not trying to suck the shoe off of your heel with every step.

So, these look very usuable, they look rather nice in general when it comes to it, red with yellow laces? Oh yes.
More thoughts on these as I go, more Garmont coming soon too.

Haglöfs Juniper Hood

Haglöfs got it right-first-time a few years back with the Triton, a hooded microfleece with different fabrics cleverly position for best performance, two big venting chest pockets, a good hood and a trim cut. They canned it, brought out the Bungy and the Gemini hoodies, neither of which was quite as good, although the Gemini’s hood is the best of the bunch, then they welded the two of those into the Treble, again which wasn’t up there with the Triton. 
So, have we come full circle with this winter’s Juniper Hood? The fabric is good, a velour-esque Polartec Microfleece, the cut is neat, but with a good length to the body and arms. The hood has a stretch face opening, but no other adjustment. The fit seems okay on me as we speak, but I’ll report back on the with-my-head movement and how it behaves under a shell hood with no cinching available. The pockets are two tiny handwarmers placed down at the bottom, clenched bare fists only in these for me.
It’s comfy, and very light, the hood makes it versatile, and from experience, the faff avoidance of having  that hood handy at all times is a joy when your Buff or beanie is still in your pack.
More soon, winter’s kinda here so I’m back to base+midlayers again.

Berghaus Pro Mountain Peak II Cap

Ah, this takes me back. I used to wear a Lowe Alpine Mountain cap, then a Karrimor Summit cap, then had an Outdoor Research, Prism I think? And, here we have in for test, a new shot at the insulated shell cap, Berghaus’s Pro Mountain Peak II.
There’s a lot of similar caps out there, but it’s fit and detailing that makes the difference. The outer is Gore-Tex, the inner a nice soft microfleece. The peak is wired and shape-able, and clips up as shown below (it’s shown down on the link above), the ear flaps are a good size, nice amount of coverage, and that continues around the back of your neck.
At the back there’s bungy volume adjustment (with a neat little ring to stop the bungee slipping through the cordlock, that makes a nice wee gripper as well) that makes the cap grip my head rather than just crushing my head which was nice to find. The size large is fine on my 59cm napper, untightened I’ll be able to slip it on over a Buff. Also on the back are retro-reflective stripes, a detail I have come to appreciate greatly on my kit in recent years. There’s elastic loops to attach a neck/security cord, but no cord. Harrumph.
It’s a nice wee thing, I’m wearing it now as I watch Mock the Week on Dave (what a stupid name for a TV channel) much to Joycee’s dismay. Expect it on a mountain in the near future.

Chocolate Fish Merino-Possum Beanie

I like my hats so I do. For this winter’s cold camps, I have here from Chocolate Fish a Merino-Possum Beanie.
First off, it’s almost impossible to describe just how soft this beanie is. Possibly it’s akin to floating in warm water under clear summer skies, surrounded by dinghies full of exotic maidens who hold bowls of fine 900-fill down to their bosoms, and scatter handfuls of it upon you as you doze lightly to the soothing strains of King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King.
Anyway, it’s in that currently popular oversize style, that means you can pull it down over your neck or fold it up and have a cuff it that’s your bag. It’s reversible too as it’s double-thickness, plain on one side, racing stripes on the other.
I have plans for this beanie, so it’ll be a regular feature on here when the snows come in earnest. I’ll flag up how it washes after the first night I sleep/sweat in it too.

I know, I know, there’s no purple option on the website. This is a sample from NZ, and it’s mine.

Sellout Bastard

This place is a Ford Capri, flashy colours, but there’s a 1960’s engine revving under the hood. 

You know me, I just kinda bimble along with a mix of mild swearing, partial nudity and a whole bunch of what I do, be it work or play. Then there’s the gear thing of course. 
Martin has a interesting post over at his house, and reading through the comments (as one always should), gear does seem to be the prickly pear in the bloggers salad bowl. It got me thinking then, and indeed now.
Maybe I’ve come at testing and reviewing from an unusual angle, but it’s not something I really give much thought to, other than things like “Is this *******(insert item here) working for me?”, “This buckle is about to come away in my hand”, “I can’t believe these haven’t given me blisters”, “This hood needs to get under the sewing machine when I get home”, “Oh, this orange is going to look great in the snow…”, I worry about the gear, not the politics.
My reviews are on the whole pretty positive, I get niggles or features that aren’t what I’d personally choose, it’s not because I’m the trade’s bitch, but because nobody sends me shite gear. Too many reviews out there, in print and online, have a conclusion solely based on personal preference rather than a level of acceptable performance.
I mostly look through the workbooks and ask for what I know will get proper and repeated use, but I’ve made some mistakes, I don’t even know where those white Crocs disappeared to… I have asked for gear from budget brands, but no one will give me it, which I think is stupid. Something either works or it doesn’t, if it’s more expensive it might be lighter, if it’s cheaper the fabric might not be top end, but it’ll still do a job. Brands should stand behind their products, if they can’t, well, draw your own conclusions there.

Martin’s post also brought another circling item in to land, outdoor shops. I talk about them a lot, I’m always plugging the independents or sending folk their way when I know they stock an item that’s being sought, but being more directly involved with shops has always been something that’s troubled me. Alpkit and backpackinglight.co.uk seemed different, I’ve been happy to plug them and their gear, but when it comes down to it a shop is a shop, whether they make their own gear, import it themselves or get it shipped from a distributor.
So, I’m not fretting about this stuff any more. In a month or so I’ll be running a competition with The Climbers Shop in Ambleside, somebody out there will be getting a  Hilleberg Akto after I’ve taken it out and made sure it works okay at 1000m in the Highlands. I like it this way, all I get from this is a night in a tent and chance to spread a little joy.
And, as soon as Haglöfs finally decide on a winner of the LIM35 pack competition, I’m giving away all the Wigwam socks that I’ve been storing in it.
Gear is going to be all over this place like a rash in fact, starting later this week I’ll be doing a first-look at some new gear every day for nearly three weeks. I’ve got alpine boots, trail shoes, socks, food, fleece, rucksacks, softshell, insulation, waterproofs, lighting, stoves and right in the middle, a day at Berghaus HQ.

Stands up nervously and faces the group… My name is Petesy, and I’m a gear freak.