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.

KORS 2010

Phil and I were at KORS a few weeks back, it was day two of gearapalooza after the fine day at PHD’s factory.
We had an early start this year after a night in Keswick and a mighty help-yourself breakfast, but still never managed to talk to everyone.
Therein lies a tale of its own. There were some lovely folk down there with knowledge, enthusiasm and banter, you’ll see some of them below, both familiar and new faces. Some though had the enthusiasm and interest of a condemned man choosing the colour of his blindfold before meeting the firing squad. Those attitudes do carry through in some way to how the brand is represented and percieved in the UK.

So, what did we see? Lots of interesting kit, but real stunners were few and far between, a lot of evolution, quite a bit of adapting someone elses ideas which made me smile. So what follows is an overview with some gems scattered through it. There will be test kit coming through as well.

Having happily used softshells the past couple of winters I liked the look of Rab’s Exodus above and the new Sawtooth below.
690g and 475g respectively, they come in unbranded fabrics, I like the clean designs, nice fit and proper long arms.

Si from Lyon Equipment below is so fed up of me catching at interesting moments with the camera, everytime I pointed it at him he faked a phone call, but he had some cracking stuff to show us.

Phil’s holding the new lighter version of the Exped Drypack Pro above, along with the matching regular drybag I’ve got on test it’s upping the ante for such items, and Exped quality is always good, so I’m expecting no mishaps just because the weight’s gone down.
below is a new lighter Exped AirMat, I’m holding in my handss what’s stading next to me in the same colour. Smaller packing than a NeoAir for a full length fat mat?

Viewranger, nav and related geektastisms for your cyber-devices has been abih hit and with Lyon handling the distribution there’ll be availability and assured backup now. As a late arrival to this stuff I’m playing catchup, but oh how handy electronic navigation has been already…

It’s the soul/sole of madness that is. LaSportivapicked up the trail shoe stick and have really beat some of the established names about the head with it, good to see them still pushing and the range for next year below (hims and hers) is quite big, but diverse as well. The sole above is from the Quantum in purple/lime in the middle below.

That’s the Crossover below, a mini-gaitered waterproof Crosslite. It’ll let the water in, but keep the crap out. Heather-free socks at camp? Badass aggressive sole as you’d expect on a waterproof shoe. Are you listening Salomon?

Russian Doll Jetboil?

I love my Jetboil Flash, the faff-free handyness of its use and carriage brings me great joy, so it’s with interest we viewed some developments for next year.
There’s tweaking and weight loss, but the oversized pot for more than solo use is a good call, and the stripped down version below is aimed and those in denial that something more than 12g and easy to use means they’re not a proper backpacker.

The Petzl Meteor above is now rated for multisport, next year you can do your whole race in it, rock/bike/kayak whatever. It’s always been a comfy lid, and it’s weight weanie too.
Using aluminium toothpicks as ice axes the past few winters has opened up lots of possibilities, and the prospect of the 400-ish gram Petzl Snowaker is quite appealing these days now that I don’t believe the scaremongering. 

The Petzl TikkaXP2 has been my first choice lamp since it came in earlier this year, and now we’re getting an update in the form of a programmable battery. It slots into the gap between the light and the base on the headband, you can set the useage and brightness on your computer as seen above. You can still use your regular batteries too, it’s not a permanent fitting.
Ortlieb are moving more into packs, Phile messing with a multisport bumbag there and there’s some nice looking small and medium capacity packs in the range. Waterproof too.

The Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1 is a huge talking point, and rightly so, it takes the lightest and lightens it. It feels very like the Photon Elite, just a little more transparent.
The big test will be on how much room it takes up my pack and how it copes with being pitched on a Scottish summit in winter. We’ll see.

The same Ultra fabric is being used on the weightless bivi/sleeping bag cover below. I have it on good authority that one UK outdoor writer who was standing a few feet away asked if he could have a pair of overtrousers made from it…

The pack range is evolving, capacities from small to overnighter and also a claim of the worlds lightest pack, certainly the lightest fully featured and actually usable pack.

That Ultra fabric creeps up again in a set of runners gloves, weighless and they’ll keep the chill off.
Ali reminded me that Extremites do less technical stuff too and we agreed that the hats kick ass.

Edelrid have some stoves that have caught the eye. They’ve taken what Markill started and developed it, so don’t think that they’re jumping in here just full of good intentions, there’s a design heritage here. The Opilio above is a proper remote canister stove, wide base, pre-heat and it’s light at 170g.
The Kiro Ti is a 72 wee cracker, the folding/swivelling legs feel familiar and I have high hopes for it. Should have one of these in for test for the Assynt trip in 10 days or so.

Garmont have had a low profile in the UK for a while, but make good kit. I’ve got a new set of mids here and I hope to see more stuff soon. The ADD concept where the laces slant across the top of your foot is genius. Lots of interesting models from trail to alpine, competition is what we need out there.

Noddy above has moved to First Ascent and he showed us some new kit. There’s a new more robust NeoAir from Thermarest next spring, and you’ll all be pleased to hear that there’s a winter version for next winter. Alright!

Above are the Z poles, I’m holding the Ultra-Distance version, the lightest at 270g a pair. It’s that tent=pole/ Mountain King Trail Blaze thing, you break it down into sections and fold it away. These are carbon and are three section, the others in the range are aluminium and the Distance FL version has some length adjustment too.

Black Diamond lighting looks nice, that’s the 75 Lumen Spot above, 3 AAA’s and they say 50hrs burn on max?
We looked at a few models in the pack range, very alpine of course, but lots of nice detailing and fabrics. The should do some crossover multisport/backpacking models.

 Allcord have taken on Karrimor (below) and have hopes for resurrecting it, there’s new designer in place and hopefully the niggles on the current range will get ironed out.
The CAMP M3 Light pack above is a cracker, light and well-fitting, its alpine roots make it a stable carry and a good bet for any lightweight shenanigans.

Holly now has what she call her “Mountain Jacket” , so the Meindl’s above attracted my interest. Genuinely good outdoor footwear for younger kids is a rarity. These were very good indeed.

Meindl have an image problem I think, but there are models to help with that, the trail selection above did raise an eyebrow, and there is some nice lightweight mids. But they have to address the dullness.

Bramwell International are doing Gregory packs in the UK now, it was nice to see the range after a wee gap. I like the packs, another brand we don’t see enough of in the shops.

Phil liked the Silkbody t-shirt, and the range does have some nice kit in it. It;s good to have alternatives, and it’s also that they’re making the silk into lighter fabrics for more energetic uses.

Look at the Lowa boots above, don’t you just love Europeans? Bet we see the brown one in the UK.
The kids stuff again was a highlight, the Littlelife packs are great, I just couldn’t chose between the spider and the butterfly.

We had a spin through the Western Mountaineering kit, it looks nice, a mix of technical gear and lifestyle-looking clothing.  I was due in some test kit a while back, so hopefully I’ll have something more useful to say at some point.

Stubai were my first brand of winter kit, purple 10-point crampons. The tour above is a lightweight option, and the Ibex below is just the purple option.
The whole range is nicely different, hopefully we’ll see some of it on here this winter.

Not much new at Smartwool, but they are taking on Injinji with their own version of the technical toe sock.
And hey, the orange sock was too nice to walk by.

Outdoor Research make some badass head,  hand and anklewear. The clothing is a bit under represented over here, for once I think it’s down to fit (old-school USA wide body-short arms) rather than the buyers, but there is a mighty range of it, it’ll fit somebody so we should have it in more shops.

Mountain Boot Co do Dueter packs and Phil tried a few for size. I liked the look of the smaller multisport packs.
Also new to these guys are Lorpen socks (I’ve got some on test), and below we have Polartec socks. You’ll be in plastics and awfy high up a mountain these things I hope.

Scarpa was well represented on the stand and me and GT chose our respective favoured options. They do a lot of lighter and softer models but they seem to slip by a little and it’s the big stuff that makes the headlines. Shame.

The guys at HiTec were pleased with the moves in the range, they’re updating the shoes, their look and the company persona. HiTec are huge, and yet the perception is of a budget brand, hopefully over the next few seasons that’s going to change a little as their trail shoes are often damned by faint praise, another logo on some models and folk would be purring over them.

Not so relevant to what I do maybe, but I loved the huge and varied range on the stand. The sandals below have a nice leather top strap, and looked kinda dressy but the sole was a soft grippy one. Nice.

Chris from Vaude was both pleased to see us and to be roped in to work the camera. By this point Phil and I were fed up looking at each other through that greasy, scratched 3″ LCD screen.

The Vaude pack range is big, and it’s diverse as well. We bothy rioed on a lot of different models and the fit was good.
That’s the Splock 28 below, nice harness, a very good fit. The zipped entry will be a point of debate as always, but you can’t fault if for quickness.

That’s the Astra Light 50 above, a lovely harness again and it has all the good stuff like hipfin pockets and external mesh pockets.
The sleepmats were interesting too, from expanding foam models up to Primaloft filled Norrsken’s at 550g and 600g. Something different for winter in there maybe?

Jon from Outdoorsmagic said I should have worn the hat back to front and fled the Vaude stand claiming a “meeting at Brasher”.

This is what I need in my life, stuff with patterns like this, snakeskin models from Vipole. Will we see these in the shops next year?

GSI kit has always had me wondering, it does have some nice design touches both on the cookwear above and their bottle below is easy gripped with cold or gloves hands, the lid has a big “nose” sticking towards the camera as well.

I will leave it with the small purple box below.
A quick spin through the Keswick Sports Centre Hall then. There’s a few crackers, and a good bit of wheel spinning too. A good day, but a long one.
I see a lot of repetition, new brands coming into a small and already full market, this will go one of two ways. The brand disappearing fast after a season or two of low sales of you get the occasional show-stealer that the others have to react to. That’s the ones we need, but is that what we’re getting?
Only the buyers and then we visting the shops can decide.

Kit footnote, addendum maybe?

Joycee wore a sample Haglöfs Actives Q Tee, which was well recieved: “Not sweaty” came the review. She carried the OMM Adventure Light 20 and had no trouble reaching the bottle pockets, even with arms a foot shorter than mine. Old-school wummins Montane Terra’s were already trusted and four-year-old Keen Targhees were stretched a little, and actually started to come apart a mile from the motor. No disappointment though, they’ve had their arse kicked.
I never had anything new except the socks, secret merino socks that might come to the UK next year if a deal is done. Looking good, both summer and winter weights, I’ll have reviews ready if they appear.
That Craft polo shirt is great for summer (I must track down a merino polo…), the Evernew Solo set is my best pal and feeling water seep through my Montrail Streaks and cool my toes is a joy. Hey, I just found a summer positive.

Gear Diary-ette 2

I used the new Leki poles and the camera widget for all the shots except for a few sunset ones from the top of the Cobbler where the hard ground needed the tripod. There was a bit of a breeze which did fuzzify a few shots as expected, but it’s fine when it’s calm, and very usable. I left the widget attached all the time and it didn’t snag my cardigan once.
The poles themselves are very nice. I accidentally bent one like a banana trying to get it into the ground to take a photies and it was fine. One thing to watch though, twisting the pole out of the ground after using it as a mono-pod can loosed the length adjustment a wee bit if you really wrestle it. Talking of adjustment, these tighten much smoother than the last set of Leki’s, and the new widget has a very definite feeling of “release” when you loosen them off to stow them. They’ve got a good balance in the hand, nice and light too won’t become a burden on a longer trek. Aye, I like these.

There were few oldies out with recent arrivals (test kit’s for life, not just for one trip for a photie), the OMM Adventure Light 20 came out to play. It’s a great wee pack, probably a little overlooked as it just looks a little too anonymous. The bottle pockets work fine with the 800ml Klean Kanteens, my Zipshot and Leki’s fitted on simultaneously and the harness is spot on, very low profile. Haglöfs LIM Barrier Pullover was as good as ever as I sat on the top, and Chocolate Fish’s TeMata midlayer is a longterm comfort blanket.
That red shirt is  techno polo shirt from Craft, courtesy of the guys at Escape Route. Tall collars are good for keeping the sun and the chill off, buttons need your love too you know and the fabric’s seems like it’s a good one.
Old Montrail Hardrock Mids on the feet, shouldn’t have bothered as the route was bone-dry and just needed wee shoes, but they’re just so damned comfy now I wasn’t complaining.
The Evernew Titanium Solo set is just genius, hot cuppas wherever I go. Again twinned with the Vango Ultralite Gas Stove for faff free quickness. New Wigwam socks were worn, more on that soon, including a bit of a sock giveaway. Well, all the sock will be given away.

Gear Diary-ette

That wee trip before we went down south had a couple of unusual participants.

#1 in the finest of orange thgere above is a first generation Jirishanca, still with the gallus-looking KIMMlite winged badging. I haven’t used this pack in ages and I just fancied something different, and you know what, it’s really good.
The narrow shoulder straps work fine on me now, I used to fiddle with them all the time (not so used to the low-profile design back then maybe?), the slim dyneema body is fine, the lid is a good one, the hipfin pockets are a little small and the compression system was never great, but it does work okay with the bungee I installed rather than the daft plastic cheesewire.
#2 is just out of view, my original style Inov8 390GTX. My theory that my feet are evolving (into what is unclear) seems to bear fruit (imagine a bear fruit, a big hairy apple that wants to tear your face off), I got on better with them that I ever did before. We contoured on steep ground for about 3 or 4 km without a break at the start, and I was issue and whining free, where in the past I’d have cramps and moaning. The grips were as good as ever, and I was also pleased to find that they’re still waterproof. We’re pals again.
#3 Outdoor Research (old style) Flex Tex gaiters. They’re softshell, but repel water and shite  with gusto and aplomb unless you’re resting knee deep in a bog for more than 30 seconds.

I missed Brasher at KORS (report very soon, so many photies…), but I got the press pack in the post the other day and some new-model socks to test. I used to wear Brasher walking socks, but these are all modern with different fabric zones and a lack of spongy padding. Nice.

Gear and other stuff Diary

Ah, where to begin. It’s been a busy couple of weeks one way or another and I’ve got some photie editing and writing to do.

Last week I saw next year’s Aku boots and shoes, some nice lightweight stuff in there including a wee bouldering-type shoe, but with a proper sole for the trail.
Then there was Leki, there’s a new pole-top camera attachment on it’s way from these guys, and I’ve got one in for test with a set of team-colour carbon poles to match, first-look soon.

Holly caught a wee bug which sent the schedule into disarray, and we ended up on Stuchd an Lochain (for a grand day out) on Tuesday instead of Sunday as I stayed home, which meant that the visit to Alpkit was canned, but hopefully I’ll catch up with them next month as I’m down that way again for some other showroom visits. The hill had to be climbed as I was “just checking” for a Trail route I’d written, I always leave sending my copy in as late as I can so I’m sure it’s as up to date as it can be.
Home late and late to bed saw the early rise to head south on Wednesday hurt more than it should, but Phil and I were in good spirits as we rounded the east of Manchester looking for a Victorian Mill in Stalybridge, the home of PHD.
That was a brilliant day we had there, I’ve learned a lot, there’s stuff there that we really need to know, I have answers and I’ll write it up soon.
North again to Kendal, and its delightful one-way system, to eventually find the hotel and stay there long enough to get directions to the Strickland Arms to meet a pal for a late dinner. It was a very fine meal indeed, in a place which has the ambience of an old house where the bedrooms are makeshift dining rooms and the cutlery was passed down from granny. I loved it, and was a little sad to leave just when they’d started the quiz. Diners at nearby tables started to drag the furniture onto the top landing of the stairs (we were upstairs in granny’s bedroom) to hear the questions when the quiz started , I like that, a relaxed and homely atmosphere, full of locals too.

The hotel was nice, but the room was hot and neds were shouting at 0300 on the other side of the river. Phil and I compared notes over a big (help-yourself) breakfast and had the same story, broken sleep due to sweat and stupids. The Riverside is close to the leisure centre though, and we were there pretty much on time for our first meeting. But Si was talking to someone else, so with a wave as we passed we homed in on some shiny kit that caught our eye and that set the tone for the day.
We got round just about everyone this time, met old friends, reacquainted with folks met for the first time last year, and met with new faces  too.
It’s very interesting seeing the different reactions and receptions you get from the different companies. Some are enthusiastic and welcoming, some take a business card from you like they’re a doctor’s receptionist and you’re handing over a full sample bottle with a loose lid. Some of this does pass into what the public perceives to be a brand attitude, but it’s actually a distributors attitude, both good and bad.
You can see who’s moving with the times and who’s sitting with their fingers in their ears. There’s been some musical chairs with some brands/distributors and I think you can see already who’s going to win and who’s going to fail.

But, my feelings about the day are positive ones. There’s some nice new kit, there’s nice folks to talk to on every stand and we’ll be seeing some new brands and new kit tested on here in the coming months, maybe even some of those old favourites: world exclusives. 
The highlight of the day was when GT and I had a shoe-off in the middle of the hall. Money changed hands on who would be the winner, but it was declared a draw and everyone went home grumbling that it was “A bloody fix…”.

Write-up agogo soon. Including why that new see-though Terra Nova tent isn’t made of Cuben Fibre.

Gear Diary/ Kit that broke etc

First up is something a bit unusual. A while back I got an email from an STV director about presenting an outdoor slot on their daily “The Hour” show. After a few missed calls and left messages in both directions we finally hooked up and headed to down to Loch Lomond to shoot some test footage, that’s cameragirl Jen and VT director Mags below.
It was good fun, and it went pretty well I thought, although trying to stick to a script is next to impossible for my tangential mind. The folks were very kind regarding my efforts, and made me feel right at ease with their banter and slick operation when we were cutting about the lochside. The nice wee surprise is that the footage was usable and it’s been edited up for broadcast, on Tuesday, 3rd of August. It’s “Petesy’s gear guide to getting outdoors”, I’m looking at a few essentials to get folk off the couch, all nice light ones too. The bit about trail shoes could be fun.
The plan is to run a wee series of these slots, with a progressive narrative, from initial gear choice to standing on the top of Ben Lomond kinda thing. Might come to nothing, but you never know. The notion of reaching someone and getting them into the outdoors with the right gear first time really appeals to me, so I hope some folk see this first piece at least.

This weeks trip to Aonach Mheadhoin and it’s close friends was a learning experience. My hill legs are shot to pieces which set the tone for the rest of day one. Let me explain.

I hadn’t worn the Salomon Fastpackers for ages, this was due to a reason. But the waterproof and slightly higher than a trail shoe ankle made sense in the wet conditions and went with my mini gaitersvery well. Luckily I had my waterproofs on the first time the grip gave out. If you’re a mountain biker you’ll understand what I mean about a slide that you can recover, the tyre slips but claws back the grip and you keep going, you learn the characteristics of that and it gives you confidence. Then there’s they tyres that snap away and you face plant, they come off the bike and go on ebay as “used once”. Salomon must make those tyres.
I launched on some moss and landed really heavily on my hip, andafter that I was more cautious. The grip is marginal in anything wet at all, the lugs on the sole are way too wide, the gaps between way too small, just not enough bite. On day two they were better in the drier conditions higher up the hill, but on the boggy lower ground later on the nervy stepping came back. It’s a bugger because the uppers a great, more trail shoe with their collar up than a mid. I’ll wear them again, just not in the wet.
My ancient Karrimor Paclite pants were as good as ever, and the Arc’teryx Alpha SL Pullover once again got wet, I’ve never carried that without having to wear it. I wonder if it’s a bad luck charm? Whatever, it’s ajoy to wear. The long back, good cut, pit zips, pouch pocket are all perfect, the hood does let it down though, the peak is far too soft. I wear a cap most of the time which m,eans I don’t notice, but on abare head it’s not ideal.
Paclite is workable if you don’t over-layer underneath it, when I disrobed in the tent the inner of the tops and bottoms were glossy, but not wet, and they dried out very well. I hade the X-Bionic Humdinger on over a Smartwool Microweight t-shirt, and I have to see it was a combination of justice. The Humdinger may well cost $17,000, but it’s the best midlayer I’ve ever used layered up in wet conditions. I didn’t overheat, I didn’t chill fast when I stopped either, and the thin stretchy fabric worked hard at keeping me dry. The t-shirt was a surprising disappointment, the gossamer thin merino, admittedly as expected, having only some of the stink repelling qualities of the heavier weight fabric…
The Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pants layered well, very comfy and quick drying, and proved to be just as good in the hot sun of day two. Quietly funtional these guys.
Insulation was the Berghaus Chulu vest and the Crux Halo. The Chulu is great, handy pockets, proper warmth and great match for the lightweight Halo, now I’m happy to say no longer firing down out of every seam with every body movement. 

The tent? Golite’s Eden 1, oh and it was going so well too. It looks big, and the internal length is good for folk well over six feet, but it’s a little narrow I think. The extra room is all in the porch which is huge. Enough for all your kit, rucksack, cooking and a dog. Maybe even a pony.
The guy options are outstanding, long multiple lines which you can move around to suit wind or weather. When the wind did catch me the tent felt rock solid. That security didn’t extend to the outer zip, which jammed solid and made me rip the tent getting out. Made me I tell you. Once it’s dry I’ll have a proper look at it and see what’s what.
It’s no lightweight though, and the big pack size (about three times that of a ‘comp) meant I took the Hagöfs Matrix 60 pack so I wasn’t making a space hopper out of a smaller pack. No problem though, the Matrix is a cracker, a very easy carry despite it’s beefy nature.

I wasn’t taking meths into that weather, but I did take the Evernew Titanium Solo set. I won’t beat about the bush here, it’s bloody marvellous. Used with the Vango Ultralite stove, Optimus gas and a regular windshield, there was nothing but joy and never ending instant cuppas. The cup is perfect, the pot is a good size for topping up to re-boil while you’re sipping a hot one and it’s just all so nice in the hand. I will say this, don’t put the lid on the pot upside down, it slides down and if the pot’s wet it creates a vacuum when you try to get it out and there will be tears of frustration… The joys of accurate machining.

Gear Diary

I’m not going to lie here, apart from the occasional softshell or waterproof I’ve used no gear at all since that last trip up the Kilpatricks. That’s a regular July for me though.
But, there’s gear stuff coming up and some info to be noted.

First up is a bit of news that I’m delighted about, and that’s Harvey’s new British Mountain Map of the Southern Highlands. It’s got Ben Lomond, Arrochar Alps, Ben Lui, Ben More etc I’ll have one to show and tell with as soon as it’s printed, which won’t be for a couple of months yet so don’t don’t start demanding one from your local Millets just yet.

Next up is some new kit from regulars of these pages, PHD. Now I love that orange, but apart from that it’s really good to see the range diversifying at a proper technical level at time when so many folk are targeting the casual wallet.
I’ve had a few comms asking about the new kit, but I haven’t seen it yet. I will be seeing it at the start of August though, I’ve got something a little special coming up: a day in the life of PHD.
I’ll be spending a day at the factory, talking to the folks, seeing how the gear is made and fingering lots of kit. I’ll be taking notes, photies and maybe some short film pieces too. Should be a blast.
Now, if you’re wanting to ask them any questions, or find out anything specific, post it here and I’ll take it down with me.

Also, I’ll be visiting Alpkit HQ, I’ve been promised cuppas and a look at some secrets. Same as above, any questions for these guys, flag it up.

Sooner than that will be Haglöfs 2011. I’ll have the usual in-depth look at the guys and gals kit and bring back the news, be it good or frustrating. Questions for the big H? Post them here.

In-between some of the above will be a day in the Lakes with Montane to see 2011’s gear. The new designer’s drawings have now been transformed into kit, and in their own words, they’re psyched for the new collection. Questions? Wire in.

The KORS show is in August, I’ve got meetings with a bunch of folk familiar and new to the blog. August really is going to be gear apocalypse on here.

Lastly, I have in my possesion (have had for some time if I’m honest), the ansewrs to the X-Bionic Wallaby giveaway. Live next week, with a wee look at some new kit.

But after the increasingly painful gap of the last few weeks, the hills are again top of the list. Kintail as soon as the clouds lift, and then somewhere I haven’t been for a wee while, Assynt. Suilven’s the target, but I’ve got business with Cul Mor as well. I cannot bloody wait.

Gear Diary

First off I’d like to stick two fingers up at Race Face. I have a bucket full of their bottom brackets, every one seized solid, and as I admined the bike for Monday night’s ride the newest one was in the relentless grip of inertia on the non-drive side. I was going to replace both the bottom bracket and headset with Hope equivalents and get the frame faced at the same time later on, but financially and temporally that wasn’t working as a surprise option this weekend. Luckily Evans at the Braehead Xcapade had the new Race Face version in stock, now with fancy waterproof grease, so that was the one that went back in. So we’ll see how long that lasts.
Oh aye, the puller cap burst when I tried to extract the cranks. If I wasn’t an engineer with tools and know-how I’d have either ruined an expensive set of cranks (Race Face Deus) or have had to take a half-dismantled bike to shop where they would have hacked at it like a victorian whaler with a fresh catch five minutes before his tea break.
If only Race Face kit wasn’t so damned sexy…

That trip last week had some gear stuff that raised an eyebrow. On my feet were my #2 pair of Montrail Streaks, out of the box and onto the trail. There were fine too, bless them. Also on the feet were some Teko socks. I have nothing much to say on those as yet.
Legs were a mix of Haglöfs Mid Flex Pants and Chocolate Fish Taranaki Boxers, a combination of justice, but the upper floor were clad in something new, a Haglöfs B Tee. It’s a kinda casual thing, slightly relaxed cut, wee print decorations, but it’s in Dryskin fabric, so it looked usable. And, it was too. Very comfy all day, in fact it was my single layer all day and was fine in the glaring sun and I didn’t chill in the evening breeze as it dried either. Orange, yes.
On my back was the Macpac Amp Race 25. Here’s the thing, it is heavy where you look around at the competition these days, but I just don’t care. It’s comfy and usable, the pockets are great, the harness is stable, the bottle bungee on the shoulder strap holds my Zipshot tripod perfectly which is a godsend for shooting a route like this trip where I’m constantly setting up for timer shots.
It’s not perfect, the lid pockets could be bigger and the printed branding is really cheap and nasty, but if the fabric and stitching on this and the 40 version hold up over an extended time, these really are killer packs and well worth the extra grams.
My grande chapeau is a a Peter Storm Aussie Hat from Millets, a great thing too, really kept the sun off my neck and face and out of my eyes.
The Klean Kanteen bottles are definitely now standard issue, I had Nuun in one for the first time, although I’ve had Robinson’s in obe most days for the past couple of weeks, and they really do clean up totally odour-free every time.
Also, it occured to me that I’ve been wearing a Techtrail watch since I started the blog and it’s about time I spoke about it. So I will.