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Kit Reviews

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