If you are looking for a jacket with weatherproof qualities that won’t look out of place with your casual wardrobe, then the Trespass Thundurus Waterproof Jacket is for you.
A couple of months ago in the last fading rays of summer light, I made a resolution to maintain my summer cardio fitness levels year-round. No more excuses of evenings getting dark too soon, or Christmas festivities getting in the way, this year I was going to make sure I stayed at peak, all-round fitness 365 days a year. And in that spirit, I signed up for the Osteoporosis Society’s 10k run around Hyde Park on Saturday. Continue reading
Back 2 the Trenches, a punishing obstacle course that combines steep, hilly terrain with over 70 military-related obstacles, advertises itself as a tough, yet achievable race. With runners offered the choice of 5km, 10km and 20km routes, the event offers something for almost everyone. Continue reading
I’m really excited to share the latest product in my new post. I recently discovered them at the Arch climbing wall’s shop (that place gets me every time!) and have since fallen in love with all their products. They are the slightly ominous-sounding Bleed. Don’t let the name fool you though, they’re one of the greenest companies around. Continue reading
With the sun (finally) peeking its head out of the clouds in the UK, I am already anticipating long summer days spent hiking around national parks and weekends exploring cities. To help me make the most of my explorations, Gregory packs recently let me test their new SULA 18L women’s rucksack, which offers added lumbar support and ventilation – ideal for intensely sunny days. Luckily the weekend’s sunny forecast meant I didn’t have to wait long to put Gregory’s SULA daypack to the test.
Finding a summer hat that simultaneously protects your face from the UV rays whilst looking good is like striking gold. Most high street options are flimsy and crumble against the elements. Of course, there is always those crisp white hats your grandparents wear, but sacrificing over £70 and the knowledge that you will resemble an antiquated BBC documentary host are factors few people are willing to accept.
So when Tarp Hats got in contact with me about testing one of their namesakes, one quick look and read made me confident I had hit the jackpot (in vogue sun protection, anyway).
But first: what is a Tarp Hat I hear you ask?
Way back when trucks were the primary use of goods transport in the Amazon, tarpaulins were used to cover and protect the trucks and goods. Over the years the tarpaulins became worn from the elements and were discarded in the remote villages in Brazil.
Tarp Hats are constructed by the local villagers in Brazil using the discard tarpaulins and giving them a new lease of life. Each hat is waterproofed to protect against increment weather and brass eyelets are used to prevent rusting.
These are pretty big claims for what looks like an incongruous hat, and so I decided I really wanted to put it through its paces, starting with a little jaunt over the Malverns.
The first trip was an initial test to see how it would cope with a general summer day’s hike the average joe would take. What started as a harmless walk through fields of wildflowers……
……escalated quickly into a tiring 20+ mile hike through all the Malverns on a blustery day, to the summit of Great Malvern.
Luckily the Tarp Hat pulled through, only blowing off twice against the fierce wind and the brim proved wide enough to protect my face from sunburn. On a side note ladies, it also gave me much less hat hair than any other hat I have tried in the past. Sure, it’s not the most important thing when outdoors, but every little helps, right?
So overall, the Tarp Hat could easily handle what the Malverns threw at it. However, the Malverns were going to look like a walk to the shops compared to the next test I put the Tarp Hat through: a long-distance hike through Scotland.
Rain and sun, beaches, storms and their gales of wind, not to mention the surprisingly endless summer hours of blistering heat trudging up and down pine forests and hills, the Tarp Hat performed well throughout all the elements, and then some.
Of course, I then decided to test the Tarp Hat through even harsher, more varied terrain: the Salkantay mountain pass to Macchu Picchu. Frosty mountains, rainforests, scorching days spent traversing desert hills and roads, the Tarp Hat proved to be in its element, whatever the elements.
After all the adventures we have been on together these past few months, it’s fair to say the Tarp Hat has become another trusty edition to my essential kit list for the outdoors. In fact, it hasn’t just been popular with me alone – countless other hikers, guides and friends have tried it or expressed interest in the Tarp Hat, proving it makes friends wherever it goes.
It is not only the fit and the durability of the Tarp Hat that makes me like it so much, but also the company itself. The hats are produced by the local villagers using materials that would have otherwise been littered in the Amazon, thus giving jobs to a remote region and creating treasures from trash. In addition to this, 50p of every hat purchased goes towards installing freshwater wells to remote villages in the Brazilian Amazonian rainforest. The video below shows one of the typical villages in the Amazon that is helped by Tarp Hats.
It is rare that I find myself so enthusiastic about products, but Tarp Hat’s ability to combine a simple, good idea with eco-friendliness and sustainable, social practices can only make me like it further.
If you have stuck with this blog for awhile, you probably already know I’m a big fan of howies. This small, independent company sits in Carmarthen, Wales, making lots of outdoor clothing and accessories for us outdoor types. Funny enough, I also love receiving their newsletters filled with refreshing, friendly words, warnings to get off social media and get outdoors, and regular discounts, which I think is saying something considering most brand newsletters go straight to the spam folder for a majority of people.
So you can imagine my delight when their newsletter pinged in my inbox this afternoon. Even more so when I saw they are currently offering 10% off and freepost to anyone who buys a merino wool baselayer before midnight on Monday May 11th.
Their long-sleeved merino tops are a wardrobe staple of mine and have so far lasted three years, so I can vouch for their quality. However they can also be a little on the pricey side, and I understand that wallets and purses work really hard, and deserve a break from time to time, so here is the code to use at checkout:
The best part? If after 30 days you don’t like it, simply wash your merino baselayer, send it back and howies will refund you your money. Have a good weekend folks!
For those readers that have been following this blog for awhile, chances are you already know I’m a big fan of the merino wool buffs. It was one of the handiest things I brought with me when trekking around the Himalayas, and is versatile enough for everyday situations, such as weekend walks or evening climbing sessions at the gym.
So when Kit Shack got in touch and asked whether I would be interested in trying out a buff in one of their other ranges, I jumped at the chance. Having already tested and proven the reliability of their merino range, I decided to go on the other end of the spectrum and chose the Kew High UV Insect Shield buff.
With an upcoming race I’m preparing for, summer hiking trips around Scotland (also known as the midge capital) and Peru, not to mention a city break and numerous hikes and climbs, I knew I was going to put it through its paces. After a month of testing it with various activities and excursions, it soon became apparent that just like my beloved merino buff, the Kew proved itself to be a handy addition to my summer rucksack gear list.
Buff’s company name originates from the Spanish word ‘bufanda’, meaning scarf. The company was started by Juan Rojas, a Spanish off-road trials motorcyclist with extensive experience in the textiles industry, who was looking for an accessory that could double has neck and head gear in any riding conditions. After experimenting with a propriety knitting process that created a seamless design, the Buff was formed in the late nineties in Spain, and has continued to be manufactured in its home country ever since.
The buff is essentially a seamless, tubular length of fabric that can be twisted and manipulated into 12 different designs.
Its multifunctional capabilities make the buff a good option for those travelling light, or any easy accessory to slip on or off when exercising.
Measuring approximately 53-62cm in diameter, the Kew buff provided a relaxed fit around my neck, and a snug fit around my head. Unlike my merino buff in the past, I found the Kew buff left a slight bunching of fabric at the top when twisted into a hat, but this presented no issues and could easily be attributed to the lighter weight of the fabric of the Kew buff or my twisting capabilities.
The buff range comes in a ‘One Size Fits Most’ sizing range, but there are options available for a slim fit for women and children’s sizes. For myself, the Kew buff was an ideal size in proportion to my size measurements.
Another good feature of the Kew buff is its seamless design. It was a relief to not have to worry about chaffing on my face or neck whilst wearing the buff during running, or causing general discomfort when wearing it in casually.
The Kew buff is constructed from man-made polyester microfibre, which is handy at wicking sweat away from the skin. Whilst most man-made wicking fibres heavily absorb body odour, the Kew buff has also been treated with Polygiene Odour Control technology, a natural silver salt solution that prevents the micro-organisms that cause odours from growing on the material.
What makes the Kew buff different from the original buff range however is its UV and insect repelling capabilities. Buff claims the UV Insect Shield range can offer at least 93% protection from UV rays, and the insect repellent technology is good for 50 washes. Buff uses an insect repellent chemical naturally found in chrysanthemums that is undetectable to humans, but repels mosquitos, ticks, ants, flies, midges, fleas and chiggers.
I initially tested the Kew buff multiple times on my commute run home from work, which is approximately 10k through London’s tourist spots, parks and residential areas. It proved very useful in keeping the sun off my neck as a scarf, and later keeping my head warm as a beanie after the sun had gone down. Whereas my merino would begin to feel heavy and damp after several miles, the Kew buff quickly wicked the sweat away and remained lightweight throughout my commute.
Later on I tested it on several climbing sessions, where it provided my neck a good amount of protection from the wind, and was also a useful item for wiping sweat off my hands during brief pauses!
I also took the Kew buff with me on a weekend break to Prague. With the weather report alternating daily between sunny days and winter storms, and with only hand luggage allowed, the Kew buff proved an invaluable accessory that weekend, particularly when we decided to have an open-top vintage car tour of the city in the freezing weather! Not to mention, it also proved valuable when John was required to cover his head visiting the religious sites in the Jewish Quarter.
Finally, I took the Kew buff along for various weekend hikes, including the Mid Wilts Way and the Dollis Park Greenwalk. Given the sunny weather and all the insects that had congregated around the fields from the rain the night before, the Kew buff did a decent job of keeping the mites at bay. However its benefits were really felt on the summit of the ridges for several miles along the Mid Wilts Way, with the wind howling and the rain spitting intermittently. It did such a good job of keeping my head warm that John wanted one for himself!
At £21.00 the Kew buff is £6 more expensive than the original buff range, but contains additional insect repelling and UV protection capabilities. After testing it multiple times in various environments and sports, the Kew UV Insect Shield buff is a handy and multifunctional accessory for spring and summertime sports and travel. Its insect and UV ray protection technologies appear to work decently well, and its lightweight, seamless construction makes it comfortable to wear. A good piece of kit for travellers wanting to save space in their luggage, athletes looking to keep the elements at bay with carrying multiple items, or those looking for a cheap and simple gift for their adventurous recipient.
Where Can I Get One?
Kit Shack provides an extensive collection of buff lines and patterns, plus a loyalty discount scheme, but it is also possible to buy buffs at high street outdoor retailers.
Do you have a buff?
As outdoor brands continue to compete against one another in producing boots with versatility at the forefront of design, this offering from the Italian brand Asolo is a definite contender on the market.
The upper part of the boot is made from water-resistant suede leather, with a rubber-reinforced toe to protect the front of the boot on rocky terrain and where boot deterioration would be most prone. Not only that, but the boot also contains the Gore-Tex Performancce membrane, making it waterproof and breathable. The sole of the shoe is constructed of Asolo’s own Duo AsoFlex, which the company claims provides anti-torsion and anti-pronation support while maintaining flexibility and anti-shock capabilities. Similar to the toe box, the heel of the boot is reinforced with a rubber material to protect it from wear and tear.
Overall, the boot is constructed of a mixture of high-tenacity nylon and suede leather that makes it light enough for day trips, yet sturdy enough for multi-treks in the mountains. In particular, the snug, well-cushioned ankle support makes it a good choice for hikes with rocky terrain or varying inclines.
One of the biggest complaints about the Asolo Stynger is that it attempts to market itself as a mountaineering boot while only possessing features suitable for hiking or trekking. In regards to this, I would strongly recommend not using this boot for any mountaineering expeditions. The Stynger cannot accommodate crampons and does not provide an adequate amount of insulation for extremely snowy or icy conditions.
In regards to versatility however, the Asolo Stynger succeeds in this aspect. Whether you are conducting multi-day treks with high inclines or declines, walking in flat, snowy conditions in urban areas, or simply going on a day hike, the Stynger is light enough for short walks yet possesses the right amount of durability and waterproofing for more taxing expeditions.
Like many Italian shoe brands, the Asolo Stynger has a narrow fit; those with especially narrow feet are recommended to try this boot, as it also has a narrow foot volume and close-fitting heel in addition to narrow width. Hikers with wide feet and/or ankles will most likely find these too tight.
Given that I myself have very narrow feet and bony ankles that are prone to sprains without support, the fit of this boot was ideal. My foot was supported around the ankle without constricting it, and the ankle provided enough support but still gave me enough freedom of movement. However, I have tried fitting these boots on dozens of people, and would not recommend these boots for individuals with very wide feet; in most cases I found many customers with wide feet were unable to completely pull slide their foot into the shoe.
For the past year, I have tested these boots in a variety of conditions. From snowy London walks, to rainy English coastal walks with steep inclines and declines, to multi-day treks around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and day hikes in tropical conditions in Pakistan, the Asolo Stynger managed to keep my foot warm in the higher elevations of Nepal’s Himalaya region while also keeping it cool in Pakistan’s autumnal heat. In particular, I must praise the boot on its lightweight capabilities, which makes it a good choice for backpackers that must adhere to weight requirements. In addition to this, the boot’s flexibility and comfort meant they required minimal time to wear in, and so far I have suffered no blisters or foot injuries when wearing them.
The only forewarning I give to those interested in trying this boot is to make sure you have enough space at the end of the toe box for declines. The reinforced upper toe is very sturdy, and if you haven’t given your toes enough space or cut your toenails before wearing them out for a hike, you will feel the reinforced upper reverberating against your feet on every declining step.
For hikers with narrow feet or backpackers wanting a lightweight, versatile boot, I would strongly recommend the Asolo Stynger. The boot’s combination of nylon and suede leather provides enough support and resilience to ensure the boot will last, without making sacrifices in terms of bulkiness/weight or movement. The boot’s waterproofing properties, in addition to its balance between ankle support and freedom of movement, make it an especially strong candidate over other boots. Despite these factors however the Asolo does not provide hikers with the insulation or the support or durability required for mountaineering boots in snowy/icy conditions.