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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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Gear Review: Exped Downmat UL 7 M & Klymit Cush

Exped DownMat UL 7:

When camping, the ground on which you will be sleeping is the biggest point of contact for your body, (unless in a hammock!). The ground then acts somewhat like a heatsink for a great deal of the heat given off by your body whilst you sleep, channeling it out of you by way of conduction. As such, if needing a sleep system capable of keeping you alive, warm and comfortable, a good insulating mat is of as much importance as a good sleeping bag. Down mats, or synthetic alternatives use the body heat that seeps down through the mat to warm air trapped in the down/synthetic filaments, thus providing you with a semi-passive, self-sustained bed of warm air to sleep on.

In this context, the Exped DownMat Ul 7 M is an excellent invention. It contains 700 fill power goose down filled baffles, (170g of down), that utilise your own body heat to warm air trapped within the down filaments, producing an R-value, (a little advice and information from REI), of 5.9, so it is well able to insulate you from the ground. Does it work? Emphatically, yes! At no point have I ever been anything less than toasty, even at temperatures of around -10C, (it’s rated down to -24C!). The down baffles are oriented length-ways, which means that you don’t roll off easily during the night!

Inflate and deflate nozzles on the Exped DownMat.
Inflate and deflate nozzles on the Exped DownMat.
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Gear Review: Haglöfs Matrix 40

Haglöfs Matrix 40:

This is the 2010 version, (the new version looks completely different and has different features!), which I use as my daypack, it’s quite narrow but is deceptively larger than most 40L packs in terms of capacity, plus it’s certainly both comfortable and capable. It is made from high denier nylon all over, reinforced at the base, and PU-coated in the relevant places. The dual-density foam of the hipbelt and shoulder straps is firm, but comfortably snug, and the thermo-formed back panel, whilst lacking airflow channels and the other gizmos many other modern packs have, is supportive and no more sweaty than any other pack I’ve used.

Adjustable, thermoformed back panel.
Adjustable, thermoformed back panel.
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Gear Review: Mountain Equipment Snowline -17C

Mountain Equipment Snowline -17C:

Not to be confused with the new, super light version, (Snowline SL), this bag is pretty awesome. The bag’s water resistant outer is made from ME’s proprietary sleeping bag fabric, Drilite Loft. This is capable of keeping spills and mild leaks away from the vetted, 750g, 93% Hungarian goose down which has a fill power of 750 cubic inches. The inner lining is super soft against the skin, double baffles on either side of the zip serve to prevent heat loss, and a drawcord pulls everything tight around your head, neck & shoulders, making the Snowline a very comfortable place to be!

n.b. Fill power is a measure of the down’s ‘loft’. It relates to it’s ability to trap air within its 3D structure, thus the higher the value, the more air is trappable in the down, and the more air is trapped the more it can be warmed by your body heat, thus contributing to the bags overall warmth.

Note ME's 'recommended sleep -zone' on the Snowline, and the Klymit Cush pillow.
Note ME’s ‘recommended sleep -zone’ on the Snowline, and the versatile Klymit Cush pillow.

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