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Kit Reviews

Hoka One One Evo Mafate 2 Trail Shoes

Uncategorised Posted on September 26, 2019 2:06 pm

They Say – Created with input from our elite trail athletes, the EVO Mafate 2 takes performance on the trails to the next level. With an entirely new upper, the EVO Mafate 2 utilizes lightweight, secure and durable MATRYX fabric and features a breathable vamp for an improved fit and a soft, flexible feel. And the EVO Mafate 2 still has our signature cushion with an aggressive outsole, so you can attack any trail. Run far and wide in comfort.

  • Patented MATRYX® technology offers a lightweight, durable and secure fit
  • Breathable vamp provides a comfortable fit with improved forefoot flexibility
  • Gussetted tounge prevents migration across the instep
  • Early stage Meta-Rocker geometry optimizes heel-to-toe transitions
  • Lightweight compressed EVA midsole provides comfort
  • Rubberized foam midsole/ outsole provides responsiveness and resistance to compression
  • Sculpted arch pod includes support for medial control
  • 5mm Vibram® Megagrip rubber outsole
  • Sculpted, agressive lugs for the most critical conditions
  • Rubber composition for unparalleled grip on wet rocks

We Say – This shoe is made for aggressive running on technical terrain. Some Hokas in the past have been quite narrow, in my opinion, but the Evo Mafate 2 is quite a bit roomier. There’s a nice amount of space in the toe box, which I liked. I don’t have big feet yet still, with many brands, I’m made to feel like bigfoot at times. Not here. There’re not as roomy as, say, a pair of Topo Athletic which I find excellent for training and running on fairly easy terrain. But for going hard over long distances, these Mafate are a good bet.

The shoe offers plenty of cushioning and protection without feeling in any way unnatural or out of touch with the ground. The rubberized foam midsole provides a soft landing for comfort, but with increased energy return to supposedly help you go fast. I’m not fast or scientific enough to really know if that happened with me or not, but if you are, maybe it will appeal.

What I can say is that after wearing Hoka for a couple of years, I do trust the brand so I didn’t hesitate to make my first wearing of them an 80km mountain ultra in Florence, Italy (one of the Ecotrail races) which had around 2,400 metres of vertical. I know this may read similar to my other review of the new Topo Terraventure shoes, where I took them straight out the box for wearing in a 24 hour race. Well, that’s where it is with me, I know the advice is to check all your gear out before you use it in a race but if the shoes arrive late in taper week and I trust the brand then I’m going to give them a go on race day, especially if my only other shoes available at the time are at their end (which mine were).

I did well in the race, well, I finished it at least! And I didn’t fall over or have any discomfort in my feet. Success.

A short while later I took part in a 15 hour trail event in Canada and covered about 108km in 15 hours, gaining 2nd place.

I had no foot problems at all during that race, neither did I have to stop more than once to empty out debris. And that is all I am looking for really. To sum up, the shoe has great grip, the toe box is quite roomy and offers good protection against rocks and roots, the sole is supportive without being intrusive, the ankle fit is tight enough to prevent much debris in without being too tight, and they don’t give me blisters or any other foot problems.

Now, granted, I’ve been running so long my feet are pretty tough and blisters are very uncommon but regardless, these shoes suit me well for ultras over tricky terrain. They could perhaps be a little wider, so if you have wide feet and want to give them a try, order a half size up, or try them on first in your local running shop.

Check out the Hoka One One Evo Mafate 2 here

Topo Terraventure 2 Trail Shoes & Gaiters

Outdoors Gear Posted on September 11, 2019 8:36 pm

They Say – Combining the lightness of a running shoe with the rugged durability of a trail shoe, the Terraventure 2 features a 2-density injected EVA midsole on a rugged Vibram’® XS Trek outsole. Deeper, more generously spaced lugs improve underfoot traction in mud and slush and a flexible forefoot rock plate adds protection against rocks and roots. With a fully gusseted tongue, the durable mesh and PU printed upper now features drainage ports for water release and quicker drying. A 5mm anti-microbial Ortholite® footbed resists compression set and odor and our uniquely fitted gaiter attachment makes it compatible with our stretch nylon Topo gaiter (optional and sold separately).

We Say – I love Topo shoes because of, primarily, the room they give my feet to move. The toe boxes are wide, and that’s perfect for those of us with normal to wide width feet. They also look good and offer good cushioning underfoot and protection up front. The Vibram soles are grippy and last forever. My last pair of Topo shoes gave up after about 500 miles – which is a little more than standard for trail shoes these days if you use them for running – but when I say gave up I mean the upper on one shoe split by the little toe and the cushioning collapsed a little. The soles were still fine though. Note that this split and cushion collapse didn’t stop them from continuing to be used as a trail walking shoe, it’s just when you’re running it’s a different matter.

I trust Topo, so much so that I took the new shoes straight out the box, and wore them for a 24 hour trail race. I’d ordered a half size larger than my usual to account for the foot swell that often occurs in ultras. The race consisted of 7km loops with plenty of climbs, descents and muddy bits, and on the first lap I got a few stones in my shoes so I stopped and put the gaiters on. Perfect. I ran the rest of the race, totaling 125km, without any foot issues.

The next race I wore them for was a 50km on rail trail, which was a flattish gravel path through the woods. I paired the gaiters up with them from the start and really liked the ride. No stones at all, no reason to stop, and no blisters.

I wear them now for training sessions around the local woods. Lots of rocks and roots in there, easy to trip. The shoes are light enough and, despite them being a size 12, compact enough, that I haven’t yet tripped over, which is often an issue with some shoes when you’re putting in 100km or more a week, you’re tired, and you’re running in the gloom of dawn or tree cover.

I could talk all day about the technical side of the shoe, but really, if you want that I’d advise you to go on their website as they have great info there plus a video of somebody talking you through the shoe’s main points. For me, I think it’s enough to repeat that I pulled on these shoes from the box, ran 125km over trails in them, felt good in them and didn’t get a single foot issue. That’s what I want from my running shoes.

They’ve got about 250 miles on them at the moment and are still feeling good. I expect them to last me another 250 miles or so, and they feel solid enough that if the winter closes in quick they’ll be able to handle the cold and wet. I’ll update if the winter comes soon (I hope it doesn’t though).

To discover more check the Topo site out here

Hoka One One Clifton 6 Road Shoes

Outdoors Gear Posted on June 27, 2019 12:25 pm


The shoe that changed runners perceptions of what HOKA ONE ONE® could be, the Clifton 6 joins the award-winning Clifton family.

Building upon the Clifton’s best qualities, the ‘6’ continues to deliver that perfect combination of soft and light. The Clifton 6 has a smoother ride with a more comfortable fit and includes an embroidered design that improves lockdown without extra weight. Find your sweet spot in the Clifton 6.

Embroidery reinforcement reduces layers and offers support and midfoot lockdown.

Reinforced eyestays provide increased durability

Early stage Meta-Rocker offers a smooth ride

Full compression EVA midsole provides signature HOKA ONE ONE® cushioning.

Moderate heel bevel gives a smooth transition

Flat-waisted geometry provides inherent stability

Full ground contact design.

Strategic high-abrasion rubber zones to reduce weight.


I’m really only looking for a few answers from my trainers, and they are;

Can I train hard, daily, in them in the sort of variable weather I get in spring and autumn.

Can I race hard in them and do my training justice.

Will they last me more than 300 miles (obviously I’d like them to last double or triple that distance but training shoes these days don’t tend to last much past 400 miles, sadly).

I’ve been using these Clifton 6 shoes this past spring to train for the Gozo Half Marathon, the Milan Marathon and the EcoTrail Florence 80km. They held up well to the rigors rain and some slush. They’re not that waterproof but they’re roomy enough for me to be able to wear thick waterproof socks so I got by just fine.

The toe box is wider than some shoes. Not like a Topo Athletic style wide but comfy enough for me, and I do have fairly wide feet (the sort of feet that make Salomon trail shoes tricky for me).

The sizing is correct. I am an 11.5UK but I always go for a 12UK to give myself space to wear thicker socks in winter and for my feet to expand in summer. If you’re going to train and race in the heat a lot then I suggest you go a full size larger than you would normally. That’s true for all trainers, though.

The cushioning is there but not so you feel like you’re not in touch with the ground. This is what I want, to be able to run my miles with some help but not with an unnatural, disconnected feel.

The Clifton 6 is a little lighter than the Clifton 5 and that means, very light indeed! Generally when trainers are this light it means they’re going to fall apart pretty quick but these haven’t so far, which is a bonus. I’ve put around 200 miles on them to date and they’re looking good and feeling fine. I’ll update this review when they wear out to give you a better idea of how long they might be expected to last.

The laces pull together easily, the tongue isn’t too puffy and the feel is just right.

I was able to run my best on race day, in the heat of the Mediterranean, and enjoy the run without having to think or worry about my feet. So, breath-ability is good.

During my time of training and racing in the Clifton 6 I’ve never got a blister. It’s hard to imagine how Hoka might update this shoe. It seems pretty much perfect to me.

Check the Hoka Clifton 6 out

Snugpack Journey Solo Tent

Outdoors Gear Posted on May 29, 2019 12:56 pm

The Snugpack Journey Solo tent is a one person tent that we think will be good for multi day hiking or cycling expeditions. We’d hesitate taking it on expeditions to harsher climates, as it’s a small tent and if you’re confined to base for a few days it’s not large enough to live in, but that’s just personal choice. To see more about the solo tent and the full range of tents Snugpack produce – we’d opt for the 2-person tent next time – check the Snugpack website out here.

The Journey Solo is a lightweight, durable single person bivvi tent. Its waterproof fly can be easily removed to allow for you to use the full mosquito net inner on its own, perfect for dry, warm nights for a cooler night’s sleep and a view of the stars.

Constructed with a durable groundsheet in a bathtub style. Supplied complete with a tailored tent footprint to help protect the groundsheet.

I was happy to take this tent straight into the wilderness with me, no need to test it out at home beforehand. I’ve been using Snugpack for years and trust them as a brand. For me, they’re up there with Vaude and Helly Hansen when it comes to reliability. When you buy Snugpack, you know that whatever the item, it’s going to be fit for purpose and do what it says on the box/bag.

I did, however, attach the outer fly sheet to the inner tent at home, as this gave me a chance to give the layout a once over and not have to fiddle with velcro if the conditions were rough the first time I put the tent up when out in the forest.

Which they were! I’d been paddling and portaging through the rivers and lakes of Algonquin all day, it was 6pm and the rain had been coming down for the past 2 hours. I pulled the canoe up on an island as it was getting gloomy, and too dark to safely continue in what were worsening conditions. It wasn’t a pleasant way to break camp for the first night but the tent made things easier. I just threw the groundsheet down – there’s a right way of placing it but in an emergency it didn’t really matter – and then threaded the 2 poles through their loops. Simple, and done in 5 minutes, even with hands that were numb from gripping a wet paddle for the past few hours.

The ground was soft and the pegs went in easy. The only confusion was that the front 2 loops of the inner tent were not big enough for the pegs supplied. I had a few spares, luckily, that were much thinner pegs, and to this day I can’t work out why I had to use them. Very odd that the inner tent would have to be secured with pegs that weren’t supplied with the tent. Unless there was some special trick to securing it all. Which quite frankly I had no time to work out, and because I had the small pegs didn’t need to ponder upon.

Interior space is restricted but I could stuff my main bag under the front outer fly, as you can see in the photo above, between outer and inner, with no effect on the performance of the tent. This freed up space for me inside the tent and avoided having to take a wet bag into my dry inner area.

The rain and high winds continued all night, as they did for 4 of the 5 nights I was to camp on this expedition. The tent was solid during this time. I never felt any hint of the storms and the ventilation was excellent.

There were also a few flies around but they never got in, there’s a nice feature on the inner tent that prevents it. The place where the inner tent zips meet, often a gap develops here as you pull the tent out of shape by either pitching it minutely wrong or just getting in and out of it in a rough way. This gap can be fixed by the reality is, when you’ve fixed it a few times you just get tired of doing it and a little complacent so the flies and bugs start to get in. But on this tent there’s a simple flap of material that sits between the 2 zips that creates an extra barrier to keep intruders out. It’s really simple but it works.

The tent is small for me. I’m 6ft 1″ and had to go in feet first as once inside it was pretty difficult to turn around. Once inside I could lay down comfortably without touching either end, although sitting up was impossible without touching the roof. If I was on expedition in the Alps and confined to tent for a day or so, which I have been at times in the past, I wouldn’t want to be in this tent. I’m confident it could withstand the weather, but I like to be able to sit up in a tent, and I can’t in this.

I’d say it was perfect for stealth camping, but perhaps not with this colour. Unless you’re going rogue in the Sahara. A green or black colour would be a better choice, I imagine, for blending in with the surroundings of Europe, the UK or North America. Also, flies are attracted to the colors orange and yellow, so an orange tent does attract them.

On the plus side, the small size of the tent allows you to camp in places that a larger tent wouldn’t fit. Like a few of my campsites, nestled between tree roots or trunks. I got some pretty sweet sunset or sunrise views from my sleeping bag thanks to the tent’s ability to squeeze into tiny waterside spaces.

So, the Snugpack Journey Solo offers superb stormy weather protection, is light and very well priced. It kept me dry and warm in tricky weather conditions and I had confidence that no matter what state I got in out on the water, once on dry land I could put the tent up in minutes, throw my sleeping mat and bag in there and get myself warm.

If you don’t mind restricted living space then maybe it’s for you. If you like more space in your tent, I’d highly recommend Snugpack as a brand and advise you look at their larger tents.

Check the Snugpack website out to discover local stockists and more info.

Water To Go Water Bottle Filter

Outdoors Gear Posted on May 29, 2019 11:51 am

The Water To Go bottle is a water bottle that also filters almost any water you put into it. We’ve been using it since December 2018 during our expeditions in Costa Rica and Canada. We’ve found it reliable and despite drinking water from all manner of river, water hole and tap, we’ve never got sick, which is the end result we’re all looking for when we’re travelling. Check the Water To Go website for more details, or read on.

Our Water Bottles use a Unique 3-in-1 Filter Technology
The filters used in our BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme.

Three different (1 traditional and 2 nano) technologies are forged together in one filter to remove over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants in water.

The three technologies used in a Water-to-Go filter are:

Mechanical filtration; a very small pore size which stops contaminants passing through.
Electrical (by a positive charge) which reduces the pore size even further and attracts the contaminants like a magnet would, trapping them inside the filter.
Finally, our filters use activated carbon but instead of using adhesives to glue the carbon particles together, (which vastly reduces the carbon’s efficiency) it is contained within the membrane, helping to reduce contaminants whilst eliminating bad tastes and odours. Try filtering water from your domestic filter and taste the difference!

What impact does drinking bottled water have on the environment?
Unless it has been incinerated, every piece of plastic ever made still exists; Reason? Plastic takes over 500 years to degrade!
Over 70 billion (seventy thousand million) single use plastic water bottles are consumed annually in the US and Europe alone; National Geographic estimate that a maximum of 20% are recycled. That means that over 50 billion bottles go into landfill or end up in our oceans every year.
Fill up your bottle with oil to a fifth of its capacity to witness how much oil is used in manufacturing the bottle and shipping it to you!
For every 1 litre of bottled water in your local supermarket, 3 litres have been used to make and ship it to you.
Bottled water is commonly more expensive than petrol or diesel, at £1 or more per 50 cl bottle, compared to petrol and Diesel at £1.40 or 1.40 per litre!
By consuming bottled water you are contributing to killing over 1 million sea birds and 100,000 mammals annually, who die by ingesting or becoming trapped in plastic waste.
Get the taste and convenience of bottled water at a fraction of the cost.
Get water where you are certain of the quality by filtering it yourself, help reduce plastic waste and preserve natural resources by using a Water-to-Go reusable bottle and filter!

This is an easy to use and reliable water filter. To activate the filter lid, you follow the instructions that come with the bottle, which are basically you soak it in water for a short while. Then you screw it into the bottle and you’re ready to go.

We’ve taken it to water holes in rural Costa Rica.

To the beach in Costa Rica, where we drank from estuaries emptying into the ocean.

To the lakes of Canada, where we filled up whilst canoeing along.

And we filled up from the lakes and rivers that we camped beside.

At this stage, you may play devil’s advocate and say, well what’s the point in all that. Why risk possible contamination from agricultural pesticides, or other diseases? Why not just buy bottled water at a local shop? You save the risk, and you input money into the local economy.

Well, there’s too much plastic in the world already, as the stats listed above in this article highlight, and if we can find a way to stop buying single use plastic water bottles then we will. And also, I’ve been travelling for over 30 years and if I had to give you a dollar for each time I’ve seen a shop owner collecting used water bottles, refilling them from the local tap and then gluing lids back on to make them seem like they came from the factory, man, you’d be rich. Full marks to the shop owner for recycling though! Many don’t like to believe this sort of thing goes on, it’s not nice to think such things. But I’m less interested in being politically correct than I am in avoiding extended stays on the toilet, so I figure it’s worth speaking up about.

There’s also the matter of weight. Instead of having to take kilos of bottled water about with me I just took the Water To Go bottle and filled up as and when. True, the water wasn’t always cold when I wanted it to be, but this ‘existing in the modern world’ thing isn’t all about me, is it. The same as it isn’t all about you. If you’ve got to drink warmish water when you’d rather cold water, in order to help save the world from being enveloped in plastic, well, it might be personally uncomfortable but it’s a small price to pay and we’ve each got to do our bit.

Aside from this, I like to do business with companies who are trying to create positive change in the world. Water To Go give a lot of their profits to decent charities, so in my eyes they’re a company worth supporting. Click here to read more about their charitable work.

Additional points to note are:

The bottles are very good value and will save you a lot of money over bottled water.

The bottles are sturdy. If you throw them into your kit bag or rucksack alongside sharp objects such as tent poles or pegs, or cooking kit, the bottle is safe. It’s not likely to puncture or break.

The bottle is meant to be used in a very simple way. You fill the bottle up, you replace the lid then you suck the water out. Don’t try to squeeze the water out into a glass, you’ll have a hard time doing it, the bottle isn’t made for that. This is important to understand for hygiene; if you’re a couple who share everything you can get by with one bottle but if you’re travelling with your mates you’ll probably want a bottle each.

The filter lasts for about 3 months. The exact time will depend on how much you use it. Refills are well priced, starting at around $15 for a single unit.

Having used it in varied conditions over a 5 month period, we’re happy with this bottle and recommend you check it out if you’re going on a wilderness expedition or just on an adventurous holiday where the local tap water has potential to cause upset, as it is in certain Central American, North African or Asian destinations.

For more info and to buy, see the Water To Go Website

The Kelly Kettle Ultimate Scout

Outdoors Gear Posted on May 28, 2019 3:07 pm

The Kelly Kettle website has all you need – videos, diagrams – if you’re unsure about how this kettle works. Basically the base holds your fire and your cylindrical kettle sits on top. The kettle has a double wall, inside of which is a chimney which allows the fire to leap upwards and heat the water. As the fire heats it from the inside out it’s an effective, quick method of boiling water that works well in all weathers. For more info check the Kelly Kettle website out, or read on.


This ‘Ultimate Kit’ includes the following items:

1.2ltr Aluminium ‘Scout’ Kelly Kettle, green whistle & fire base. (Anodised Aluminium Kettle + upgraded steel fire base)

Cook set – which includes: 0.85ltr Pot / Frying Pan (pot lid) / 2 Piece Grill / Gripper Handle

Base/Pot Support – two pieces which flat pack for easy packing.

Camping Cup set – 500 & 350ml cups with silicone CooLIp pieces, silicone coated foldable handles, measurements on the inside of the cup & polished interior for easy cleaning.

Hobo Stove – for cooking over the fire base.

Camping Plate Set (All the accessories are made from Stainless Steel)

Drawstring carrying bag

A popular Green Whistle has replaced the Orange stopper on this Kettle and will let you know when the water has boiled.

Total Kit Weight 2.54 kg / 5.6lb (excluding packaging)

Cost-FREE to run! Never worry about running out of fuel again. Simply gather deadwood, twigs, dry grass, pine cones or whatever natural fuel you find lying around in the area and you can bring 6 cups of water to the boil within a matter of minutes while at the same time (and using the same fuel) cook small amounts of food over the chimney (using the pot on the support) as the kettle boils. Hence, a very small amount of fuel will both boil your water for hot drinks, washing up, personal hygiene, etc. and cook your meal at the same time!

This kit works in ALL weather conditions. The Hobo Camp Cook Stove makes camp cooking simple and easy. Simply drop the Hobo Stove accessory onto the fire-base of the kettle and cook. You can add fuel to the fire via the opening in the side of the stove, without removing the pot/pan from the top. Outdoor cooking made easy! Enjoy your hot drinks and meal with our quality Camp Cups and Plates.


I’ve just returned from a week long wilderness canoe camping trip to Algonquin National Park in Canada and have been very happy with the Kelly Kettle. Here are some points I think worth mentioning.

The bottom of the kettle, known as the base/pot support, where the fire is lit and burns, conducts heat downwards out of it’s base as well as upwards. So be aware that it’ll leave a burnt patch wherever it stands. No problem on a wild campsite, as all of mine were in Algonquin. I just kicked the grass around a little before I left and all looked fine. Maybe this will be an issue if you’re staying on a serviced campsite though, or trying your kettle out for the first time on your back garden decking. Yes, I did that. I know, I should have known better, but I just didn’t think. The only saving grace there was that it wasn’t my decking, it was my sisters, and she’s been talking about replacing it for years so I like to think I gave her the perfect impetus to make that happen…

You can see the charred decking under the burner above. If you’re going to use it in setting like this, put an old bit of wood or something like that underneath before you light the fire. Better still, use it for the first time in the wilderness instead, as in the photo below. There’s no need to test it, the kettle works excellently and is really easy to get to grips with.

A friend of mine said, after seeing it in action, ‘great, it’s the sort of thing I can use whilst out on the boat fishing.’ Yes, this is possible, but bear in mind what I’ve just said before you do that. You don’t want to be burning a hole in the bottom of you canoe or rowboat.

The biggest cup that is included is really very big, probably equal to 2 cups of regular coffee, or one large whiskey toddy (pictured above, next to a cous cous dinner). It’s so big that my breakfast fitted in there nicely; here it is, a muffin with blueberries and maple syrup.

Although the stove does burn any twigs, branches or pine cones you can find laying about, it’s not a miracle worker. If your raw material is wet through, as mine was (Algonquin had only a week before been opened up after a long winter and everything was just free of ice and on the defrost, so very wet in other words!), you might well need some help starting your fire. I used simple firelighters. Once going though, the base kept the heat well and burned everything I put it in very well.

My kettle boiled as expected in a very quick time – about 3 minutes. But if I wanted to keep the fire going in order to boil another batch of water or cook up some dinner, then the fire would have to be watched and near constantly attended to. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t get it doing and then nip off for a quick swim. As long as you’re very quick. Which I was, as the water had been covered in ice just a week before our trip and it was still only hovering around the 0C mark. Good for a refreshing dip but not somewhere to linger!

The kettle packs up well and whilst not as small as many kettles it’s very robust. I could stash it away into my main bag along with tent and sleeping bag and throw it into the canoe without worrying it would dent or malfunction.

After use it cools quickly, so it’s no problem to use it for breakfast even if you plan to break camp very early and get away quick sharp. I boiled water and then as my coffee was cooling I would break camp, sipping my drink as I went, and by the time tent and everything else was packed up the kettle was cool enough to pack away.

It’s great in bad weather. I like to camp on islands and exposed places so I can really feel the weather and the kettle or stove never let me down, no matter how windy.

I liked the feeling of using natural fuel in my stove, and unlike my friends who came on the trip with me, I didn’t have to spend the day before we went frantically looking all about the city for fuel canisters that worked with my stove. They came from England, you see, and had an MSR stove and another brand I can’t recall. They thought it would be easy to find gas canisters in Toronto but as is almost always the case, if you land in a new country needing stove fuel your search will most likely cause you a headache. On top of this, I enjoy being in nature, and I like to do all I can not to wreck the natural world. If I can get away with burning natural fuel that is laying all around my tent instead of buying yet another metal canister, then that’s a big win for me. It felt really good to just walk a few feet from my tent site to dip the kettle into the lake, fill it up, then put it on the stove and fuel it with twigs and debris that was laying all around.

This is not a stove and kettle combination that I would use on a multi day mountain hiking or any other foot powered expedition, unless I had pack horses like I did in the High Atlas one time. It’s too bulky for that. Although the base could well be used separately if I knew I would have access to plenty of forest debris for fuel.

But as a stove and kettle for use on a canoe or car camp expedition I’m very impressed. I trust it’ll give me hot water and heat in any weather conditions, I will definitely use it in future expeditions, and I recommend you give it a go.

Check out the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Scout on the website.

Haglöfs Essens Mimic Jacket

Outdoors Clothing Posted on January 17, 2019 12:19 pm

It’s long been held as fact that down has the best warmth-to-weight ratio out there. But as the clouds gather, the temperatures drop, and we prepare for our autumn and winter adventures, Haglöfs are challenging this assumption.

They’re doing this with a jacket that’s insulated with a specially-developed synthetic material: one that performs as well as down in some respects, and even better in others.

The Essens Mimic jacket (SRP £165), hood (SRP £180) and vest (SRP £140) from Haglöfs is insulated with QuadFusion Mimic – a material developed, as the name suggests, to mimic the properties of down. This material is made from spiral-shaped fibres, formed into small balls, that trap and hold air – and warmth – extremely effectively. Just like down, in fact.
In the Essens range, the QuadFusion Mimic is blown into the ergonomic channels and panels of the garment, meaning that it feels like down and performs brilliantly as an insulating layer.

But that’s not all. The synthetic QuadFusion Mimic maintains its performance when the garment gets damp, managing moisture effectively. Not only does this avoid the usual problems faced by down in wet weather, it also means that the panels Since the Essens Mimic range is also treated with a fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment, it works well as an outer garment – and is just as suitable for a cold, rainy day in the city as it is under a shell layer when you’re out in the wilderness.
Best of all, it’s constructed from cleaner bluesign approved materials, and the QuadFusion Mimic insulation is made from post-consumer recycled polyester. So not only does the Essens Mimic offer a great alternative to down, it’s also made in a sensible and more sustainable way.

Trek and Run’s Nita checked the jacket out over the past 3 weeks, here are her thoughts:

“Haglof’s Essens Mimic Hood arrived just in time for the early onset of winter in southern Ontario, Canada. The colours I chose are gorgeous – deep plum and fuchsia on the outer side and a bright mango lining on the inside. The sizing is accurate. I am used to North American sizing in outerwear, which is usually much bigger than indicated; in this jacket’s case a small really is a small, and it fit me perfectly at 5’3”, 34B, and 120 lbs.
If I wanted to wear anything bulkier than two long-sleeve layers underneath, I would definitely need to size up to a medium. Bustier women may also consider a size up, as the chest area is not overly generous.

The jacket is very lightweight to wear, but toasty in a cold wind, especially with the hood that can be cinched around the head and face (you can also get a version of the jacket with no hood). It’s ideal for temperatures of 5 C to -10C, and possibly a little lower, depending on what you wear under it.
The jacket crushes up nicely, so it can be stuffed into a small backpack. The zippered pockets at the waist are very deep; great for warming hands or carrying small gear. There is also an additional zippered pocket on the left side of the chest that is deep enough to hold a sizeable smart phone or wallet.

The best part about the jacket for me, however, is that it’s cruelty-free and an excellent alternative to down, which is mostly cruelly sourced from geese and ducks. Made from Quad Fusion Mimic and quilted in inch-long rows, this jacket feels as lightweight and warm as a down jacket, but won’t bunch up or lose insulation when wet. I love it.”

Discover more about the Haglöfs Essens Mimic Jacket at

Olympus TG5 Tough Camera

Electronics Posted on January 17, 2019 11:25 am

I wanted a camera to take to Costa Rica that could handle itself well in all situations (in the bright day but also in dimly lit restaurants) whilst providing protection from water, sand and humidity. I settled on the Olympus TG5 as it rated higher than any other ‘Adventure’ camera in all of the online reviews, and nobody I spoke to who had one had anything bad to say about it.

Which is probably because they never actually used it whilst on an adventure holiday!

All the images I’m going to show you here were taken on the RAW setting then fixed up using Adobe Photoshop Express (a free program) unless otherwise stated. The images tend to come out slightly overexposed when put on the auto and mode settings, so mostly I just had to darken a little and increase vibrancy and saturation.

I’ll start with the camera’s major fault. I’m shocked that no review site that I looked at mentioned it. Basically, there is lens flare which takes the form of a light purple haze in the centre of the photo, when pointed in a certain direction, which I can say broadly is when the sun is quite high and in front of you (between about 10am and 2pm in Costa Rica). Think shooting contra jour in the middle of the day and you have your danger area. Here’s how it looks when you get it wrong and the purple haze appears.

You can try to use your hand to block out the sun but it’s difficult to do as you’re looking into the sun in a contrasty situation and the purple haze isn’t easy to see on the screen. There was no problem when the sun was lower, earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, though.

Here’s another contra jour shot which I think the camera dealt with very well. Very contrasty lighting but it picks up detail in the figure nearest me and there’s no purple flare. This was about 9am, and the image hasn’t been altered in any way, it’s how it came out of the camera.

The purple haze also happens in low lighting, indoors, when the light is at the same angle – just above and in front. The way to counter this is to buy a lens hood, which my camera shop didn’t stock or suggest to me at first (I found out about it after I complained about the purple haze to the camera shop staff and we worked out what the issue was together) but which apparently you can get online. Now I know about this design fault and google it, it seems it’s a commonly complained about thing with this model. It’s a shame the review sites didn’t mention it before I bought it, otherwise I’d have got the lens hood before I’d headed off on my adventures!!

The other negative is that whilst it’s meant to be waterproof to 50 feet, it actually only works until 40 feet before it starts shutting down or malfunctioning. Here’s an image taken whilst scuba diving at 35 feet.

That’s not bad at all. But then going deeper, at 40 feet a Hammerhead shark approached us and the camera started giving error messages and refusing to focus, before shutting down. You don’t see this sort of shark every day, in fact it was my first, so having the camera refusing to work when it was still 10 feet within it’s working limit wasn’t good at all. Here’s an image taken of the shark before the camera shut down. Crap, huh? It wasn’t that far away and visibility was pretty good but this makes it look far away and blurry. Other scuba divers I met in Costa Rica said that yes, they’d heard that this camera shut down at 40 foot depth, so it wasn’t just my camera that was at fault, it seems like another design issue.

The final problem is that neither the screen or the lens are protected, meaning if you throw it in your travel bag after using you are risking scratches. Not a big deal on the screen, very big deal on the lens. Again, you can buy a lens cover but it’s an optional thing, not included in the basic camera package. This is a huge disappointment, as this is an adventure camera which can be ruined very easily if you treat it as it’s meant to be treated, without paying out more for a lens cover.

Ok, onto the good stuff. If you’re just snorkelling or diving shallow, you get some pretty good images. The screen is relatively easy to see with a diving mask on (before the mask inevitably fogs, as they mostly do when they are rentals) and the controls are basic. Here’s a snap I took, not cropped at all, with the camera on underwater snapshot mode.

I think the quality is great considering the price and the fact that it’s not a dedicated underwater camera.

The other set modes are fine if you don’t want to bother too much with your exposures/general creativity but pleasingly there’s also the option to go manual in most situations. You can’t change the shutter speed beyond the preset, but for sunsets, jungle, beach, interiors, etc you can make the image your own by fiddling about a little with the controls. Here’s a restaurant snap, the light was low, you can see there’s not much noise, with more practice with this camera I could have also added some gentle fill in flash.

And here’s another low light effort, plenty of contrast, colour and different light temperatures to deal with but again the camera did very well.

The focusing is good when confronted with complicated situations, such as furry monkeys in jungle. I had this on maximum optical zoom and was about 1.5 metres away.

For this next shot I put the flash on manual. It was midday and there was high contrast between shade and sea/sky. I’m very pleased with the results here, if I worked it up on Photoshop it’d be an excellent shot.

A feature I really enjoy is the macro. There’s a few settings, my favourite is the bracketed close up, which enables you to get good depth of field. Here’s a shot taken in shade, with the camera handheld 1cm from the spider. The spider itself was only about 2cm in size.

I figured that the Olympus TG5 wouldn’t offer as good a image quality as my Nikon SLR but I wanted something more compact whilst not compromising TOO much on image quality for web/home printing use. Overall I was happy with it.

Make sure you get a lens hood and cap, and stay shallow on your scuba dives, and I think you’ll have a happy experience with this camera, too. It has it limits, and I’ve highlighted the ones that affected me on my trip, but overall this camera delivers. And of course it’s far more portable and adventure-resistance than the average SLR or iPhone.

There are many more features to talk of, but the other online reviews take care of the tech pretty well so I shan’t go over that ground. There’s also an online manual available for free that helped me get to grips with the camera fast – I had about 4 hours looking through it before I felt confident enough to travel with it as my main camera – that you can download if you want to check out more before you buy.

If my camera turns up any more things I think are worth passing on when I use it next in a different adventure environment I’ll update this review. In the meantime, I hope this review helped you and if you have a specific question that you think I can help further with, the email is