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Kit Reviews

Oakley Field Jacket Sunglasses

Outdoors Gear Posted on June 18, 2020 6:32 pm

These sunglasses are made for multi-sport use – running, road cycling and mountain biking. We used them for road and trail running for over a year, since the start of 2019. Before we list our observations, here’s what Oakley say about them on their website.

“Whether you’re trail running, wheeling down a mountain or turning the pedals on the road, this sunglass offers the ultimate in performance for any in-the-field excursion. Field Jacket comes optimized with Advancer technology, an innovation that instantly opens airflow to combat fogging and overheating.

• Advancer™ nosebridge positions the frame to block light while opening airflow to combat fogging and overheating
• Increased FOV
• Full frame design allows for Rx compatibility
• Interchangeable temple lengths for improved helmet compatibility
• Durability and all-day comfort of lightweight O-Matter™ frame material
• No-slip Unobtainium™ nosepads: Increase grip with perspiration
• Three-Point Fit: Comfort and performance that holds lenses in precise optical alignment
• Frame suitable for medium to large faces
• Prizm™ lenses enhance color, contrast and detail for an optimized experience
• HDPolarized: Minimizes glare via technology that produces a comprehensive, single-layered lens (optional)
• Plutonite™ lens material offers top UV Protection filtering 100% of all UVA, UVB up to 400nm and some of harmful blue light
• Glare reduction and tuned light transmission of Iridium™ lens coating
• Optimal precision and impact resistance that meet or exceed ANSI Z80.3 optical and impact standards
• HDO™ Optics for crystal clear vision and impact resistance
• Available with Oakley™ Authentic prescription lenses

Prizm™ Lenses – Prizm™ is a revolution in lens optics built on decades of color science research. Prizm™ lenses provide unprecedented control of light transmission resulting in colors precisely tuned to maximize contrast and enhance visibility.

I’ve worn these Field Jacket glasses on several ultra runs and in all my shorter races and trainings during 2 sunny Toronto summers. They’re great glasses in my opinion, with several features worthy of highlighting.

They offer huge coverage so there’s never a time I’ve had to squint, no matter what angle the sun. The eyes are always covered, and there’s very little chance of dust getting in. This is no doubt super helpful for mountain bikers, as well as those who suffer from hay fever (large glasses like this offer far more protection from pollen). I’ve also found it of benefit for city road running during the summer when heavy construction means the air is often extremely gritty (it’s said we have 2 seasons in Toronto; cold, and construction, and I’d concur that this is 1 accurate way of describing the city!).

An issue that effects anybody moving fast in the woods – or on uneven ground – is those few seconds of less than perfect vision that occur when you pass from brightly lit area to deep shade. This is a common occurrence when mountain biking or trail running. These lenses handle the transition superbly, there’s almost no adjustment period at all at you move from bright path to dark forest. I’ve always been able to keep my tempo and not have to slow down for fear of tripping on rocks and roots, because I’ve always been able to see where I’m going.

They’re also really comfy, sitting tight enough so there’s no movement whilst wearing them, but not so tight that I can’t wear them for 6 hours (which I’ve done often).

I really like the nosebridge feature which allows you to move the glasses slightly away from the face so as to prevent fogging. In these Covid influenced, hot summer day of wearing a mask, this helps immensely!

Finally, they’re hard wearing. I did get a scratch on them but that was because I put them in my running jacket pocket and didn’t realize that I had a coin in there as well, until 10 miles later (a rookie mistake, but one that I often make despite my advancing years and extensive experience of making silly errors!). It’s a testament to their hardiness that they’ve only sustained a little scratch during their time with me, actually.

The glasses are quite pricey compared to many sports glasses that are available but I believe they’re worth it. The clarity of vision they offer is superb, their coverage and feel is great, and that anti fogging nosebridge feature is genius. Check out the Oakley site for more details – https://www.oakley.com/en-us/product/W0OO9402?variant=888392342393



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.

THEY SAY
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.

WE SAY
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.

THEY SAY
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!

WE SAY
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.

THEY SAY

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.

WE SAY

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.