Gear

Gear Review: Buffalo Systems Special 6 Smock

Buffalo Systems Special 6 Shirt/Smock:

The Buffalo concept diverges from the traditional ‘layering’ clothing system that stipulates the requirement for a three-pronged attack, geared towards tackling sweating, insulation and waterproofing. The Buffalo Pile & Pertex system, (Double P/DP), is NOT waterproof, but is highly water resistant, wicking and breathable. It is designed to fit snugly and be worn next to the skin, i.e. with nothing underneath! Whilst this might sound a little crazy to some of you traditionalists, there is a well-backed up body of evidence that supports the use of this kind of attire in certain inclement conditions, and this concept has been copied and allegedly refined by some well-known brands.

New Buffalo logo on chest/map pocket.

New Buffalo logo on chest/map pocket.

I’ve recently purchased a brand new Special 6 after owning a second hand version that was around 20 years old, (estimated from pictures of the logo, the old style without the red/any text). Despite this apparent age, the smock looked brand new, with literally no flaws in the Pertex 6/Classic material whatsoever. The heavy-weight fleece/pile had suffered some age-related flattening of the pile but wasn’t too far off as lofty as it was when new, (compared against a brand new pair of the Special 6 trousers).

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Winter Wild Camping; Thrust from Threlkeld to Thirlspot, (via several revisions).

At last, our weekend away finally arrived! One that was originally meant for Scotland, and for 6 of us, but none of that was to be. Instead, Sarah and I headed for the Lake District to take on the Helvellyn range from north to south via two wild camps, Scales Tarn and Grizedale Tarn.

Not much of what was originally planned actually panned out; one-by-one our compatriots dropped out for various reasons, complacency had us alter our first wild camp spot, and that damned south-westerly wind that has plagued our winter, tried to blow us off the ridge. Plus my Buffalo still hadn’t arrived so to remedy this, I popped into The Climbers Shop in Ambleside where, after weighing up it’s benefits over the Arc’Teryx Atom SV, I purchased a Mountain Equipment Fitzroy as a replacement insulating overlayer, but more on that later.

We made a super-early start on the Friday, (05:11 train from Sheffield), so as to make it to Ambleside in time for it’s awakening. We changed only once, in Manchester, and had reached Windermere just before 08:00. After purchasing a 3-day bus pass we set off for Ambleside, where we arrived after around 15-20 mins. We arrived well before anywhere was open and all this early morning travel had left me gasping for a coffee, so we replenished our spirits at Esquires, (some decent coffee there methinks), opposite the cinema.

We had ordered some New-Matic Grivel G12’s from Adventure Peaks, but upon arrival they had not them in stock, so G10 New-Matics had to suffice. We weren’t planning on doing anything so technical anyway. By the time we were sorted it was pushing 10:00, so being on ‘holiday’ we decided that another refreshment stop was in order, cue the pints of Hoegaarden! The lateral thinking afforded by such nutritious beverages had us check Sarah’s crampons, which turned out to have an extender bar fitted thus didn’t fit Sarah’s boots at all! We finished our sustenance and made haste, back in the direction of the Adventure Peaks store. Conveniently, it was shut for 5 mins, at least 10 in actuality but we were eventually sorted out. Anyhow, this kerfuffle was followed by a humid bus ride to Keswick, some sandwiches and another beer, before grabbing the bus out to the White Horse Inn at Scales.

We had intended to have a decent meal here before heading out early to our intended camp site at Scales Tarn. It turns out they stop serving food at 14:00! We’d arrived at ca. 14:15. Foiled, so another beer it was then, and not a very good one either. Balls!!!

The next day's initial waypoint; Clough Head.

The next day’s initial waypoint; Clough Head.

Now for our next change of plan, for the sake of time and effort, we decided it would be best to camp on the other side of the main road. Leaving the pub, we walked back along the A66 until we could pick up the relevant path on the opposite side of the road.

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Gear Review: La Sportiva Nepal Extreme

La Sportiva Nepal Extreme:

A very popular, full on mountain boot. They are rated B3, thus are fully-automatic crampon compatible, (they fit Grivel’s semi-auto G12 New-Matic very well), with an insulating footbed and Thinsulate lining. These boots are warm, very stiff, grippy and durable. They use a 3mm-thick, one-piece, good quality leather upper and a great heavy duty Vibram outsole. 

The Nepal Extreme. Note full rubber rand, lace-locker and mid-ankle flex point.

The Nepal Extreme, (slightly ‘browned’ from the Nikwax treatment). Note full rubber rand, lace-locker, front and rear crampon lugs and mid-ankle flex point.

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Gear Review: Primus Gravity II EF & Primus LiTech Trek Kettle

Primus Gravity II EF:

The Gravity II EF is a remote canister gas-powered stove, it has a built-in piezo ignition, is pretty light at ca. 270g, and packs relatively small in it’s own waterproof case. As it sits quite low to the ground and is remote from the canister, it is therefore both stable and easy to shield from the wind. It also comes with fold-away heat and wind shields. The Gravity is quite powerful and efficient too, with an alleged boil time of around 2min 15s for 1L of water. I found that it was capable of properly heating a Wayfayrer ready meal in ca. 5 minutes at around 3/4 power, as opposed to the 8 minutes suggested by Wayfayrer.

Stove and 230g canister for scale. Note the melted ignition.
Stove and 230g canister for scale. Note the melted ignition.
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Gear Review: Lowe Alpine Appalachian 75-95L XL

Lowe Alpine TFX Appalachian 75-95L XL:

The Appalachian is a big, two-section pack. I have the slightly older version, which has a highly variable, extendable back length, large cushioned pads in the appropriate places, and a large floating lid. Top and bottom compression straps, (the top ones fasten using a buckle), afford the ability to secure your load and lash essentials to the outside of your pack, whilst the zippered lower section allows both access to the inside of your pack, and the option to partition it where necessary.

The Appalachian 75-95 XL. Strong and pretty large.
The Appalachian 75-95 XL. Strong and pretty large.
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Gear Review: Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX

Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid:

These, my 3-season boots, have been in action for around 6 months, used most days, except in excessive heat during the summer, and for all my hill-walking trips. They possess a full, rubber rand for protection and jamming into cracks when scrambling/climbing. The lacing runs all the way to the toe and carry the Vibram Mulaz sole unit with sole-mapped rubber densities and a decently grippy tread. The grip on these boots is surprising, meaning they’re actually pretty good on wet rock and they’re reasonably stiff for a lightweight boot, so they feel stable, even on uneven terrain. The latter features and slight stiffness in the sole, make this a great scrambling boot.

Excellent sole. Softer at the toe, with tread in the space between the heel and forefoot too!
Excellent sole. Softer at the toe, with tread in the space between the heel and forefoot too!
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Gear Review: The North Face Plasma Thermal

The North Face Plasma Thermal jacket:

Sorry, no pictures of this one. I don’t feel it’s worth my time but could provide them if necessary.

At 810g, it’s an insulation piece for spring/autumn/winter conditions really, but uses TNF’s high-end waterproof membrane, Hyvent Alpha. It also uses 100g of Primaloft One insulation, known for it’s warmth to weight and it’s ability to insulate better than others when wet, though what ‘better’ and ‘wet’ equate to is arguable I would think, (see my short, but damning indictment of the performance of this jacket in the wet at this link).

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