Archive for the 'Shiny new kit' Category


Posted by on February 19th 2016 in Bargains, Shiny new kit

The trouble with being "unbusy" is that it allows too much time to spot online bargains.

Since being told that I'd have to wait about 18 months to be well enough to get back in the mountains, I've been snapping up outdoors kit at fairly decent prices.

I nabbed some new Keen Newport H2 sandals to replace my ~10yo originals which have been stuck back together (not to each other, obviously) too many times. A bargain at a reduced price of £48, even better with a 25% discount on selected items code, and only £3.95 p&p. So, less that £40 all in. Tops! Milletsports (not to be confused with Millets) was the place to be looking that day - the deal was for only my size, in an acceptable colour-scheme (India Ink and Rust?!?!) and the 25% discount was applicable that day, so I was just plain lucky and I'm not complaining. Go have a look online and see if there's anything that floats yer boat.

Then I found the almost half-price Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee in my size and with free P&P at Joe Brown. It's a brilliant bit of kit for the money - works as baselayer or midlayer, asymmetrical zip, hood, face-guard, drop-hem... so many good features, and perfect for the recently-shaven bonce & chin.

Resistance was futile.

I may post pics soon depending on camera availability and whether I can be arsed. I doubt that anyone will be interested in a review of the Keens, but I sure as hell want to be wearing that ME Hoodie up a mountain for the first time during Late Spring 2016, not during Summer 2017 as the doom-mongers predict, so I might try to hash together a review with pics of it in action before the garment is discontinued. I'll have to regain some body-bulk beforehand though. And some hair would be welcome too.

The kids made me do it

Posted by on August 31st 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit

After seeing Avatar they've acquired a liking for digital camo:



Instead of shelling out about £40 for a set of branded pre-cut vinyls I saved myself 90% by taking the cheaper option from eBay.

I doubt that the Woodpigeons and Grey Squirrels can see any improvement.

Pop gun

Posted by on June 27th 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit

When I was a kid I was never allowed anywhere near anything like this:



Now I'm 40 years older and getting into this "growing old disgracefully" malarkey, so I thought that I might as well give it a pop.

It's a tad more interesting than reading all of that Saga Holiday junkmail 🙂

Here's the business-end:



Shooting with the fibre-optic irons is OK but I'm hoping that a suitable scope will be forthcoming on my birthday. After all, I've dropped enough subtle hints.


Delivery mileage only

Posted by on March 24th 2014 in A bit of a rant, Shiny new kit

Due to the disintegration and subsequent disposal of my "holy" Trezeta Peaks I was in the market for a new pair of knocking-about boots. Nothing technical, just something suitable for the lowland walking required as part of the cardiac rehab programme.

I found some on clearance on the Go Outdoors website - the reviews were middling but the price was right so I took a chance and ordered a pair. All I had to do was sit back and wait for them to arrive.

Of course, that's when it started to go awry. Go Outdoors did their bit perfectly - I was kept informed via email and they sent me a working tracking-number. It was the courier that managed to conjure a balls-up from what should have been an easy process. I waited in on the assigned day, referring hourly to the tracking page that kept telling me that the goods had been scanned as "out for delivery" at 08:45 on Tuesday. Sometime after 16:00 I checked again only to find it telling me that I'd been "carded" at... wait for it... 10:24. No way! I'd been in all day, at no time more than 30ft from the door, and I'd seen nowt, heard nowt, and there wasn't a card.

I got Go Outdoors to contact the courier to find out WTF was going on. The courier insisted that he'd called at and left a card at our house, "the one with a white door" but he couldn't confirm that the door bore the correct number. Hmm... most of the houses in our Close have a white door. Anyway, the boots were on their way back to the distribution hub and couldn't be redelivered that day. I insisted on a redelivery before noon the next day.

Not content with the Tuesday balls-up, the courier tried to compound the error on Wednesday. True, he did arrive in good time, but my correction of his "Hello, mate" to "Hello, sir" didn't go down well and the parcel he bore didn't look right. He got annoyed when I took the time to inspect what I was being asked to sign for - it was an insulated polystyrene crate with "Fresh Food - Handle With Care" or something similar printed on the sealing-tape. I took great pleasure in refusing to sign for it, pointing out bluntly that he really should try harder to match the address digits on the package label with either of the two sets of digits identifying my property - the food parcel was for number 11, we're at 20-something. After uttering a curse he took back the food parcel and threw it through his open driver's door. It hit the passenger door and fell onto the seat, I assume that the contents didn't benefit from the impact.

After much rummaging in the back of his van he emerged with another package. "Definitely yours, mate!", he proclaimed. "Definitely yours, sir!", I insisted. Of course, I took some time to inspect the package, just to be sure, but eventually I signed for it and took it indoors. I expected him to return immediately to his van but in a final act of dumbness he looked around, turned back to me and asked "Which one is Number 11, mate?"

What else could I say?

"You mean "Which one is Number 11, sir". Try the one with the white door".

He scowled and drove the 20 or so yards to number 11. Or it could have been any number between 9 and 14, I really couldn't have cared less.

I think that there's a lesson to be learned here - courier drivers should be capable of visually comparing digits even if they're unable to actually count.

Oh, and I've yet to find out who received the card, if it ever actually existed.

Anyway, the boots are fine. So far they've been walked into town and back and have done light duty in the garden and around the house. Later this week I might treat them to a walk to the pub followed by a stagger home. I'll keep you posted about how they fare in wilder parts.


Trezeta Cyclone Mids. Cheap, very comfortable, durability TBD.

Review – Berghaus Faroe Softshell Jacket

Posted by on May 13th 2013 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

This item has been supplied on a "review-and-keep" basis by an agent representing Berghaus.

The jacket being reviewed is the Men's Faroe WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket, the relevant Berghaus web-page is currently here, and here's a screenshot of that web-page:



This jacket was billed by Berghaus as "a perfect lightweight barrier for those cool, breezy, summer trails" and they claimed that "The WINDSTOPPER® Softshell fabric will stop wind chill in its tracks and the 4-waystretch AF softshell fabric allows you to stay mobile". Well, now I've had time to test the thing and to see how it stood up to expectations.

Let's start with the general fit. I'm a medium bloke, that's the size of jacket that I tested and yes, the jacket did fit. It's not a what you'd call a "technical" or a "sporty" fit, it's straight up-and-down and relies on stretch to go around my middle-age curves even when the only garment under it is a lightweight baselayer. Basically it's fine on the shoulders, chest, belly and waist but it's tight around the arse, making the hem draw-cord system redundant:



As you can see, the jacket's arms are long enough for the cuffs to stay put during extension and there's a bit of a back-end drop-tail that doesn't ride up more than an inch. The light-blue "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels are responsible for that, they stretch really well. There is a downside to that fabric but I'll come to that later. In short, wherever you put your arms, the rest of the jacket stays where it should be. Ideal for dodgy folk with dodgy armpits:



Now, let's look at some of the details. Pockets, zips, cuffs and that sort of thing. Here's a full-frontal:



What juicy bits can we see here?

  • A one-way front zip with an anti-snag strip and a puller-garage thing at the top end but no beard-guard. The zip's nice and smooth as you'd expect from YKK.
  • Hem draw-cords: Two off, single-handed, externally-adjustable.
  • Collar: Comfy when up, won't stay folded down. A snug fit around a 15" neck when fully zipped up:



  • Cuffs: These are a bit cheap and naff. They're ever-so-slightly elasticated and there are no adjusters. This means that they're too slack (and hence not windproof) on the wrist but don't allow the sleeves to be pulled or rolled up over the forearm:


    Cuff detail


     Too slack


     Too tight


  • The two pockets are zipped (again with smooth YKKs and puller-garage things at the top ends). The zips don't chafe wrists and the pockets are roomy and well-placed for casual hands-in-pockets walking (but a tad too low if you're carrying a pack with a hip-belt). With hands in pockets the "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side-panels stretch forwards to give some volume to the pocket area:




    The pocket inners are mesh which means lightweight but also draughty when open. If you're using this jacket as a windproof and you're using the pockets to keep your hands out of the wind, you get a draught around the torso. That said, the mesh inners are sewn in on three sides so they form pockets that can be accessed internally. As you can see, they're plenty big enough for a folded OS map:



  • Those "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels... they both make and break this jacket. As I've stated, they allow a full range of arm-movement and they stretch forward to allow the pocket area to expand... but they're NOT windproof at all! Stand in a wind and you get cold armpits and more torso draughts. In short, they work wonders for achieving fit and flex, but they completely ruin the windproof potential of this garment:




Overall, the construction is sound - the fabric panels are overlocked and then stitched through, it's generally neat stitch-work and there were no dangly threads to snip off before use.

So, is it really a softshell? Well, no. It is soft but it isn't a shell. There's no working DWR and the main fabric (WINDSTOPPER® Softshell) is windproof but isn't showerproof. The "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" is so permeable that it leaks air and water like a sieve. To be fair, if it had been promoted as a general lightweight summer jacket then I would have been OK with it.

Would it have been worth the £110 RRP? No, because it doesn't do what it says in the advertising blurb.

I suppose a lot depends on what you're used to. Rab make excellent softshells and Montane make excellent windproofs. This garment tries to compete but doesn't really cut the mustard in either category. Mind you, this jacket was part of the Berghaus Spring/Summer 2011 range. The 2013 range may well be a lot better - the Men’s Cadence WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket seems to be the current equivalent (and a tenner cheaper) but for that outlay you could have the Men’s Pordoi Softshell Jacket with a hood and more (and better-placed) pockets, and which looks to be an altogether-better bit of kit.

Details of the current range of Berghaus softshell jackets can be found at

Anyway, I'll continue to use it and I'll try to like it. If my opinions change I'll let you know.

Ah, that’s better

Posted by on January 12th 2013 in Shiny new kit, Thanks

As you know, I've had my fill of poor customer service recently.

I can now report that good order is beginning to be restored. Top marks go to Nevisport, who took the time to do it right and wasted no time in sending the goods. Furthermore, they were kind enough to extend the 14-day returns period so that I could buy on Boxing Day and still have a return option up until the end of January, thus covering a rather important birthday.

To be fair, I don't think there's the slightest chance of me sending them back. Right now there's no way that Chris is going to be parted from her new Scarpa SL M3s.

Thanks, Nevisport!


Proper boots, none of yer Jessiehiker membrane rubbish.

Lucky Bs

Posted by on November 24th 2012 in Bargains, Shiny new kit

No, not


I'm on about the Extremities® Lucky Bags that Terra Nova have on sale here.

I ordered a couple after reading about them on Grahame's blog - see here.

So, what did we receive?

Chris got these:


Winter Hacking Gloves (RRP £27.00)


 Boreas Windy Took Hat (RRP £29.00)


 Merino Took Hat (Est £25.00)


Super Neck Gaiter (RRP £21.00?)


 I got these:


Lightweight Mountain Mitts (RRP £80.00) - outers on the left, inners on the right


 Balaclava (RRP £22.00)



 Windy Took Hat (RRP £26.00)


and between the two of us we got five mini-karabiners and a bottle-opener:


Unless I've lost the ability to do basic addition, that lot comes to a total of £230.

Yes, I know that Extremities® kit can be had from discount outlets such as TKMaxx, but I've yet to see the Mountain Mitts there for less than £20.

I'd say that these Lucky Bags are worth getting. If you're considering getting one, act soon - they're going fast.

  Now, you'll have to pardon me but I have to get back to the fight for possession of that Merino Took!

Oh and if you're wondering what a Took is, this might help.

Review – Vango Banshee 300 – Re-jigged

Posted by on June 25th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

I've re-jigged the lines on the front-end of the Vango Banshee 300. I didn't like the way the running-loops at the line-lok ends ran through fabric loops on the vent-flap, there was potential for "sawing" during adjustment. Also, having vee-lines meant that it was impossible to adjust the angle of the vent-flap without altering the angle of the line that pulls out the centre of the end wall - the direction of pull there should be fixed. Weightwise I've measured nowt but I've lost a yard of line and gained a peg and a line-lok. If there's any extra to carry it's hardly going to break my back, is it? 

Anyway, here's what it looked like out-of-the bag:



 Front with original (dodgy) guy configuration - 2 vee-lines and 2 pegs


And here are a couple of shots showing the new config:



 Front with revised guy configuration - 3 single lines and 3 pegs



 As previous


There, that's better. You can't beat having adjustable flaps  🙂

Next I'll be adding a webbing-strap across the secondary entrance. Experiments with a bit of shock-cord indicated that it makes getting the correct pole-spacing much easier on that side, leading to less strain on the entrance-zips.

Review – Vango Banshee 300 – First thoughts

Posted by on June 13th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

This item has been supplied by Christoph Hitchin, representing

The tent being reviewed is the 2012 version of the Vango Banshee 300, the idealo link is here and the Vango link is here.

It's been pitched on the lawn for a while and that's given me time to have a good look around and inside it, already I have the feeling that it's going to be as good as, if not better than, previous Vango offerings in the same price-bracket. The spec's good and the features are generally well-presented.

Let's start at the beginning - what do you get and what does it weigh?

  • Fly: 1270g
  • Inner: 898g
  • Tent-bag: 73g
  • 17 Pegs: 252g
  • Peg-bag: 8g
  • Poles: 352g
  • Pole-bag: 13g
  • Spares-pack: 22g


That's a total of 2888g which compares well with the published claimed weight of 2.75kg. It's not bad for a split-carry between two people - about 1.45kg each - an Akto comes in at more than that. For those who prefer imperial, 2888g is about 6lb 6oz. Price-wise the tent's a bit variable - the MRP is £140 but I've seen these on sale for around £75 recently.

Putting it up was a doddle, it's hardly rocket-science. For the terminally-inept there's a crib-sheet .pdf file online and there are three sheets of printed instructions sewn to the inside of the compression-bag. Pitching took 10 minutes first time out, that included attaching the inner and faffing with the lines. YMMV. It pitches outer-first or all-in-one, the poles and pole-sleeves are colour-coded and you'd be hard-pressed to get it wrong, there are only two poles and they are significantly different lengths so they won't fit in the wrong place. The pegs are standard Vango-issue ally hooks, fairly strong but they will bend if mistreated, unlike the harder-and-lighter top-class versions issued with my F10 Spindrift. There are webbing straps between most of the pole-ends which means that the pole-spacing should end up dead right every time (but read on...)

Anyway, here's what it looks like closed-up:




 Front with original (dodgy) guy configuration


Rear with original (dodgy) guy configuration


Rear with corrected guy configuration

You'll note the minor gripe about how the end-guys were attached. It's probably just me being a tad fussy, but I don't like running lines passing through static fabric loops - every re-tensioning saws away at the loops and eventually they fray, it's worse with icy lines. Far better to have static lines in static loops, IMO. I've corrected the lines at the rear, I'm waiting on some bits so as I can correct the ones at the front. The side ones were fine.

Those front and rear lines don't just hold the tent up, they hold up the vent-flaps too, and the front lines also steady the front wall where the inner is attached. The mesh vents are always open, there being no means of closing them, but they are well-protected:


 Rear mesh vent


Front mesh vent


Unlike the tent pictured on Vango's website, all of the fly's nine main pegging-points are tension-adjustable via reflective-webbing and buckle arrangements:


Adjustable pegging-point


It was while looking at these pegging-points that I noticed that the seam-taping was a bit errant - in some places the edge of the tape was very close to the seam-stitching. A thorough check of the fly's taping was conducted and this was the worst bit. It's OK but only just:


 Seam-taping could have been done with more care


There are orange bungee-loops at the bottom-edges of the fly right next to the entrance-flaps. I'm told that they're for the handles of clacky-sticks if you have a mind to prop open the flaps in fine conditions, the points go into the metal eyelets. Guying-out the clacky-stick would explain the two unused pegs:


Orange loop

Also shown above is one of the neat zip puller-loops on the fly, here's a better view:


Fly zip puller-loops

I like these puller-loops, they feel good and they stay open and finger-ready (unlike fabric or shock-cord loops) but they'd have been better if the cord that they're moulded onto was of the reflective variety. Sadly these puller-loops aren't fitted on the inner's zips or on the top pullers of the fly's zips, where cord-loops are used instead. A trick missed, I think, and hardly a budget-breaker, but it wouldn't be a deal-breaker.

Still, the zips are all of good quality and the double-ended fly-zips allow venting under a cowl at the top-end of each entrance-flap:


 Cowled venting


So, let's see it in the full with the flaps open and toggled-up:


 The main entrance showing a reasonable area for storage or cooking


The secondary entrance


So, have you spotted the problem yet? Maybe this next pic will make it more obvious:


 Both entrances in view

Yep, there's no webbing-strap across the secondary entrance. In order to get a taut pitch the pole-spacing must be correct right at the start or the secondary entrance either flaps or pulls apart. I've a mind to retro-fit a strap, I reckon I've got a suitable bit of webbing somewhere. Would have saved me some effort if it had been right first time though.

You'll be wanting a look inside, I suppose.

The inner is predictably saggy in parts, it's a design-constraint, it can't be fixed to something that's not itself fixed or taut. The inner hangs from under the pole-sleeves and is clipped or toggled to the fly in various places. To be fair, it's less saggy when the inner flaps are zipped up but I needed them open for these pics. The groundsheet is of the bathtub variety but it's a shallow bath - two inches max. The inner walls and ceiling are well-designed and there's good headroom for sitting in comfort provided you're not over-tall. The head end is part-mesh so the ventilation is good. There are four basic mesh storage pockets and zipped access to the space under the front end of the fly. This access has two covers - mesh and full-fabric - and so can be used as a further vent:


 Head end detail


The foot end is basic, it's wide enough for two kip-mats, there's another mesh panel and there's good clearance for big feet:


Foot end detail


There's not much more in there. There's no gear-loft or hanging-loops. The TBSII "Tension Band System" bands pass through the inner in the same vertical plane as the main pole, I haven't deployed the system yet and so can't comment on its effectiveness or on its intrusion into the inner space.

It's quite a big tent, wider than I'd expected. It's billed as a three-person shelter but I think that's pushing it a bit. It would just about cope with three in an emergency and with most of their gear left outside, but if comfort's your thing then two-plus-gear would be about right.

Use the fly without the inner and you'd have plenty of room for three. And you'd have 898g less to carry. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime.

In order to give some sense of scale I decided to deploy our very own Banshee:






Widthways, just for the hell of it


The storage bag is of the side-compression type and it has an effective drawcord closure. There was a length of webbing that connected each compression-strap and acted as a grab-handle, a nice touch but I've removed it as I can foresee no use for it.



So far the tent's been out in some heavy rain and the fly sheds it well, directing it away from the zips and vents. Apart from the minor issues with the way the thing's been guyed and the more serious problem with the omitted webbing strap, I'm really impressed with this tent, I reckon that for the price it's well-specced, reasonably light and it'll be about right for two folk on the hills. I'm looking forward to seeing how it fares with me spending a night in it, but that'll be a tame garden-camping test. We're scheduled to take it on a wildcamp some time in the next few weeks when it'll see some proper action in the treeless wastes of Skiddaw Forest.

The big unknown is whether Chris will like it. She's used to the luxury of our 6kg 2006 F10 Spindrift which is bombproof, spacious and taut inside (pitches inner-first), and well-equipped with storage spaces at every turn. I've a feeling that for her, going lighterweight and downsizing is going to be quite a challenge.

Couldn’t wait

Posted by on June 11th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

You know what it's like... new toys and all that:





Besides, it would have been a shame to waste the rain.

So far, it looks good. Took about ten minutes to pitch.

Spotted a couple of minor assembly errors already, such as the tail-end guys being incorrectly attached. No bother, I'll sort them later.

I'll give it a more thorough going-over tomorrow.

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