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.
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).
This weekend’s walk was actually my second outing this side of 2014, the first being an attempted walk out to Stanage Edge on new year’s day. I say ‘attempted’ as Sarah and I only made it to Lady Canning’s Plantation then turned back for want of light, perhaps due to a late start, (surely forgivable on new year’s day?), but also possibly something to do with an unintended, mid-route mulled wine stop at the Norfolk Arms.
Like that walk this one turned out to be a late starter, we missed the train by about 1 minute and the next train, (an hour later), was delayed by some mystery problem(s) on the track close to Dore.
Once we did get going, this week I was joined by James & Christine. both of whom are fellow PhD students and with whom I live along with my better half Sarah. Looking skywards, here the winter weather this year has been disappointing, though for those elsewhere in the country struck by catastrophic winds and floods, my best wishes are with you.
So, anyone who has been following these pages recently may have noticed that for a few weeks now, I have bemoaned the unequal size of my feet and the lack of width in the relevant boot. Last week I decided to do something about it, so I popped down to the footwear section at Outside in Hathersage. The boots I am replacing, the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid, since March had done a few hundred miles so I reckon they’d had a pretty good run anyway. Whilst they offer excellent responsiveness and grip in all conditions they’d been thrown at, they are nonetheless, more of a scrambling boot that you can walk in and considering the distances covered by some of my recent walks, it seems that I need the converse, so more of a walking boot that you can scramble in.
One bug-bear about the Salewa’s, aside for the fit in this particular instance, is the presence of a fabric tongue and Gore-Tex lining. Whilst these features both reduce weight and add to the boot’s breathability, they are a source of overall weakness in terms of waterproofing, especially when combined with a ‘to-the-toe’ lacing system which ultimately sits on a high-flex area of the boot. It would seem that the inevitable flexing leads to weakness in the membrane and water ingress that gets worse over time.
This weekend we ventured north into the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire 3 Peaks territory, a trip whose main star turned out to be the fantastically inclement weather. Our route was around 16 miles in length, and traversed approximately 1,500m of cumulative elevation gain. Present were my good friends Craig, Dom and James, and like all good journeys by rail out of Sheffield, this one began with a beer in the Sheffield Tap.
Despite the disappointment at my new lens still not being in stock, this week we were back in the Hope Valley again, this time joined by my good friend Craig and his other half, Dom. The MWIS had us believe that, whilst it was going to be pretty windy and therefore cold up on the tops, (up to 60Mph gusts), the rain would have accordingly blown off by early morning and patches of sun might develop. Having acquired a misplaced trust in the MWIS forecast over the past few months, I figured that I’d leave home without any hard shell protection, going for a more insulative, Vapour-rise and Primaloft, combo instead. That was, I believe, somewhat of a schoolboy error.
We started off at Hope after getting the somewhat empty train from Sheffield, taking the path from Edale Road up towards the holiday homes at Twitchill Farm, (apparently they have an indoor heated swimming pool). The extent of the aforementioned wind became evident the moment we set eyes upon the bridleway, and the unanticipated rain, around the point at which we were reaching Win Hill summit, where it was blowing a bit of a ‘hoolie’! I almost lost one of my Cokin graduated ND filters, as the wind sent it flying, shuriken-like, through the air towards Craig’s head. Thankfully it missed, and was retrieved, safely, from the dying heather by Dom. Nice one!
I have recently split this post up into individual items and elaborated on some of the content. Where I have done so, please see the current version at the links provided. A separate post regarding the hardware I use can be found here:
Waterproof Jacket – Mountain Equipment Kongur jacket
Midlayer/Insulation – Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee
Base Layer – Haglofs Puls LS & SS Zip Tee
Boots – Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid
Boots – La Sportiva Nepal Extreme
The following notes provide some brief thoughts about some of the other clothing-based kit I use, in lieu of a full review:
Waterproof Trousers – Haglofs Bara waterproof overtrousers:
Very lightweight, 2.5 layer overtrousers with full-length waterproof zip. These use Haglofs own-brand Proof fabric which, despite being 2.5 layer, I have to say has stood up well to significant, watery assault. The fabric has proven very waterproof over time, with only the seams in the groin and front of the thigh giving in during heavy, persistent downpours. In this case, I think this may well have been down to the amount of runoff that the Kongur tends to drain in this direction during such heavy rain as such, they probably take a severe drowning. As I said, these are a 2.5 layer product however, the lamination here feels more durable than another such product I have used.
Midlayer/Insulation – Patagonia R1 Hoody:
The R1 grid-fleece from Patagonia is a classic. Using Polartec’s Power Dry material it is warm, (the fleece weight is heavier and therefore slightly warmer than the Eclipse), tight-fitting but stretchy, with thumb loops, an offset zip and a balaclava-style hood/collar, (which lacks the versatility of the Eclipse hood as it doesn’t work as well, or cover the face as much, as the Eclipse). It also has panels of differing weight material, however, these are organised so as to minimise bulkiness when under a climbing harness or pack.
Base Layer – Helly Hansen Dry crew top & bottoms:
Yeah, again these are classics, though I rarely use them on the hill anymore. The tops being relegated to everyday wear in the colder months, and, (with bottoms), also as sleepwear when out in the tent.
Trousers – Haglofs Rugged Fjell Pants:
These are pretty hardcore trousers, reinforced in the seat, instep, knees and thighs. These reinforcements are backed up by double and even triple stitching wherever you might look, I can imagine these will last for quite some time! There are multiple pockets, both to the front and rear, backed with a low-denier nylon so they can aid venting. They are surprisingly quick drying for fabric of such a heavy weight and are lightly stretchy, (where not reinforced).
They’re not too warm either, so can be used in all but the hottest conditions really. I find that Haglofs trousers are not sized for the ‘slight’ of body it seems. I chose to size down in these trousers, which whilst they now fit me in the waist, the leg length is a little too short and they do feel slightly restrictive, (though this could be down to the substantial fabric reinforcements, the size is more than likely a factor too).
Trousers – Rab Vapour-rise Guide Pants :
Warm and comfortable, for reasonably dry, autumn/winter conditions. Micro-fleece lined, Pertex Equilibrium outer fabric with reinforced instep, seat and knees. Pertex Equilibrium is a great outer material, it’s lighter than Pertex Classic, (Pertex 6), which makes it highly breathable, wind resistant as opposed to windproof, and capable of shedding light showers and other transient precipitations, (definitely NOT persistent, or heavy rain!). When active, I’ve never had to use base layer undergarments with these, even down to around -10 Celsius.
Trousers – Mountain Equipment Stretchlite Guide Pants :
Lightweight & packable, (mine are the slightly older one’s at 360g), DWR, stretchy trousers. I wear these a lot, even around town and to ‘work’. Expensive, but very comfortable, wind and water resistant. They are lightweight so more likely for 3-season use, (unless used with undergarments), and the pockets are mesh-backed to aid ventilation. They fit true to size, (mine at least!).
Haglofs Lite Trek Pant:
Very lightweight & packable, (even more so than the Stretchlite Guides at 345g), DWR, stretchy trousers. Again, very comfortable, wind & water resistant, likely for 3-season use, unless with something underneath! These also have mesh-backed pockets, which make these trousers somewhat airy! I chose my normal size in these, leading to the leg length being good, whilst the waist fit is just slightly too big! Inevitable really.
Winter Kit – Buffalo Systems Parka:
According to Buffalo this is, “The warmest garment we make”. Designed for the British Antarctic Survey, and made from PolarTherm, (a hardier fleece pile than the Special 6), yes, it probably is. I bought this for a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where at the time, it was looking like a cool -30 Celsius from the weather reports. I, (unfortunately), narrowly missed experiencing these temperatures, at worst being subjected to, (merely!), -20 with windchill. I still never got round to using it, my Special 6 being sufficient for the nature and level of activity I ended up undertaking. The Parka is long, cut to just above the knee, there are two drawcords, one at the hem and one at the hip, the cuffs have hook & loop fasteners, and the snorkel-type hood zips all the way up leaving space for you to see and breathe, whilst restricting any potential for a draft. I intend to use this piece for future field recording and photography trips in low temperatures. With a double-zipped, double storm flap on the main zip, the Parka is like a winter sleeping bag, it is definitely for those doing very little in the way of movement, or activity, in temperatures around and well below -10 Celsius.