Tag Archives: gear

The Best Sun Hat for Outdoor Adventures and Trips

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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……

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……escalated quickly into a tiring 20+ mile hike through all the Malverns on a blustery day, to the summit of Great Malvern.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Salkantay Pass Jump

Inca Slide

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.

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What Outdoor Clothing and Gear Should I Splurge and Save On?

Spring is (finally) rearing its pretty, sunshiny head, and as a result people are tentatively stepping outdoors again. It’s the season of mild weekend walks, morning runs and the anticipatory exercises for summer trips.

It is also the season of renewed fitness promises, as we leave the back end of the winter season holidays, and all its gluttonous festivity, and herald in our new, fitter selves.

For many of you though, this year might mark the beginning of your first foray into hiking (and may I say good choice!) and as you head to the various outdoor retailers to prepare yourself for the elements, it is understandable that your bank balance might shudder at some of the prices of the outdoor clothing and gear. While spending within a budget is important, it is just as important to choose the right outdoor clothing for your activities – otherwise it might cause you to end up disliking the sport, not to mention injuries or illness. Listed below are what I believe are the most important items to spend a bit extra on (knowledge gained from multiple unfortunate experiences by yours truly), followed by items you can get away with tightening the budget over.

Waterproof Jacket

If you plan on doing any walking over five miles, or spending a considerable amount of time outdoors in changeable weather, then this is the most important bit of outdoor clothing to splurge on. Comfort benefits aside, getting soaked in torrential rain in cold weather can cause all kinds of health problems, not to mention chaffing between a wet shirt and heavy bag. When looking for a waterproof jacket, look for one with a breathable membrane, such as Rab’s E-vent technology or the renowned Gore-Tex brand. Basically, these jackets have a thin film of plastic-like substance between the inner and outer layers that bears lots of small holes. These holes are small enough that water cannot penetrate it, but big enough that air molecules can pass through, allowing any hot air caused by exercise to ‘breathe’ through the jacket and prevent excessive sweating.

Cheaper jackets will be covered in a laminate coating on their surface. This will cause water to bead and glide off, but is not permanent and will need relaminating after awhile. This also means no breatheability, essentially trapping heat exerted through exercise close to your body and producing sopping wet base layers as a result. Unless you are looking for something compact to throw on while walking the dog, don’t be tempted with the cheap prices of laminate coats – you will thank yourself later!

Hiking Boots

Your feet are what get you up and down those mountains and trails, and they won’t thank you if you force them to do it in shoddy footwear. Hiking boots come in a very wide range of sizes and widths, and walking in the wrong shoes can cause serious damage to your feet. I have written previously on how to choose the right boots, so make sure you give it a read before visiting a store!

Rucksack

Rucksacks can come in a wide range of sizes, features and quality, which also means pricing can vary wildly. Before buying a rucksack, decide how you plan to use it and pick one that contains features that match your needs. Most importantly, choose one that fits well. A poorly-fitted rucksack can cause extreme back, shoulder and hip injuries, and the last thing you want to happen is your bargain-bucket rucksack to break and lose all your belongings in the middle of nowhere.

I can say I have learnt not to scrimp on these items from my own first foray into hiking. Being a relatively poor student and taking on the Ten Tors challenge, I decided to find myself some bargains, and went on a sojourn to Bath. After a quick dash to a discounted camping goods store I emerged an hour later, my purse £100 lighter and burdened with all the gear I could possibly need. Gleefully self-congratulating myself, I began to anticipate all the future camping trips I would take with the money I saved.

All seemed to go well, until the day before my team were supposed to take on the Ten Tors challenge. In the middle of a field in Dartmoor, the bottom of my bag decided to give, unceremoniously spewing my possessions over a particularly muddy patch of ground. We managed to patch it up, but uncertainty over how long this quick-fix would last loomed like an overcast cloud in my mind as we began hiking.

As for my boots – hot damn, I think I can truthfully say I have never cursed so much in my life at something as I did those few days in Dartmoor. At the time I assumed hiking boots were all the same size and style, and as a result picked the cheapest, widest, stumpiest pair possible. Turns out I have long, scrawny feet, and as we trundled our way round Dartmoor my feet at times literally swam in the shoes, repeatedly knocked against the end of the boot like a door-to-door salesman, and wiggled about in such a wanton manner I began to have visions of my ankles snapping like twigs.

In the end my feet had so many blisters and sores, they had to be bandaged until I resembled a mummy.

So where can you afford to save some money on outdoor clothing?

Fleeces

We are talking about basic fleeces here, not the non-pulling, temperature regulating fleeces you will find in the mountaineering and climbing sections of stores. Fleeces are made essentially from the same fabric, but some might be more soft than others depending on the quality of the fabric and whether it’s been treated. Technically speaking however, there’s no difference between the £80 basic designer fleece that you catch non-skiers posing in by the chalet bar, and the bog-standard £20 range you can find in most outdoor stores.

Base layers

Now don’t get me wrong, base layers are important outdoor clothing. They help transfer sweat off the body and through the layers. But these too can cost upward of £40 or more, and if you are doing any multi-day treks then multiple purchases can easily add up.If you need to save a bit of money, then look at wearing any tops you already own that are manufactured from man-made materials. These are more breatheable than cotton, and will help transfer it through your layers, but you will be quite smelly by the end of your trek!

Do you have any tips on saving money on outdoor clothing and gear? 

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Outdoor Gear you Want to Use in Public- Icebreaker Long Sleeve Crew Flourish

You could be forgiven for thinking that all baselayers looked the same. With the athletic fit, basic shades of black, grey, or pastel hues of blue, pink or purple that are normally on offer for women, the only choice you are really given is whether you want a contrasting colour on the chest stitching or not. Luckily one of the original innovators of merino wool baselayers, Icebreaker, have released a line of baselayer tops that combine functionality with gorgeous colours and prints that will easily take you from the hills or slopes and into the pub.

The Flourish Oasis Crewe is 200gm midweight merino wool fabric, with a choice of dip-dye colours of blue, pink or purple, and a botanical scene on the bottom left hip. The shoulder sleeves are offset so there is no annoying hem-rubbing on the shoulders from rucksacks, and flatlock stitching to avoid chafing. This lightweight, odour-resistant and breathable baselayer comes in a ‘Bodyfit’ design that comes a fashion fit with athletic movement. The Flourish Oasis Crewe is the perfect wardrobe addition to weekend trips outdoors with friends, or ski holidays!

For more information, please look at Icebreaker’s website here.

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