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Review: Men’s 100 Khyber 1/4 Zip Fleece Top

>I have had this Men’s 100 Khyber 1/4 Zip fleece top for almost three months now. I have worn it on hills and in fields, on hot days and showery days, whilst on campsites and in pubs – I have even worn it watching TV! North Face describe it as “soft, lightweight, breathable and stylish” and do you know what – it is all those things. I like it!

[Disclosure – this fleece was provided by Webtogs for me to keep and to give my own personal opinions on it and they have no influence on these views and no editorial control. Webtogs have a whole range of fleece tops available on their site]
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Praising online outdoor retailers

Over the last few days, I have ordered some outdoor goodies from a selection of online retailers. It would be unfair to ‘review’ the website and ordering process for each one, as they range from small businesses, to larger dedicated online stores, all the way up to large retail chains – each with a different budget and need for their website (and I managed to find, order and pay for the goods I wanted on all the sites!). The one thing they all have in common though is fantastic speed of service, especially from Webtogs, Alpkit and Chcolate Fish who do not charge extra for postage.

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Review: The North Face Men’s Apex Bionic Soft Shell Jacket

I love the idea of soft shell jackets – jackets which are nicer to wear and more breathable than traditional waterproofs, yet give you more protection from water and wind than a fleece. It is a combination that sounds brilliant, and I was finally able to put one to the test this month when I was sent a North Face Apex Bionic Soft Shell Jacket to review by Webtogs.  Can a soft shell replace a fleece / waterproof jacket combo?

[Disclosure – this jacket was provided by Webtogs for me to give my own personal opinions on it and they have no influence on these views and no editorial control.]

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Inspiring hikers of the future… or not!

As a kid, I always loved the outdoors. We lived in a house in the countryside with a large garden, orchard and three small fields, and I have memories of being outdoors in all weathers climbing trees, playing soldiers with my brothers (fir cone wars) and creating bmx tracks. Although I do remember going on walks, it was not until I was about 13 that I discovered the joy of hiking when I did my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.

At my school, the expedition element of the award was done in a single week based at an army base in Devon. The kids doing the award were split into teams, with each team assigned an older leader from the cadets. After lectures on kit, route planning, and safety – the teams, under the guidance of their leader, planned and undertook a two day route across Exmoor. This practice hike was a chance to learn the basic skills needed for backpacking. Afterwards there were a few rest days where there were activities like abseiling, an assault course and a mock night time military exercise on the dunes. The mission for the exercise was to navigate as a team to contacts on each dune in the dark, whilst avoiding enemy “soldiers” hunting you (for extra effect there were usually a few flares fired into the air to keep you on your toes). The exercise, as well as being fun, was a chance to learn and practice map reading and navigation. Finally at the end of the week, the teams, this time without their leaders, had to plan and undertake their own expedition (this time along the more populated coast).

I enjoyed the week so much, that I went back every year for the next three years as a leader. The whole experience inspired me and provided the ground work for the pastime I now enjoy so much. I do not think I actually ever completed my Duke of Edinburgh award, but it achieved what it was there for.

When I found out a friend’s 15 year old daughter had decided to do her Duke of Edinburgh, I was excited for her – then the kit list turned up.

With that list you could be forgiven for thinking they must be going on some epic expedition… but nope this is the kit list for a two day hike in Northamptonshire in June. My overall concern is the thought of these kids having a miserable time lugging all this unneccessary kit across the countryside – that is not going to inspire them but put them off for life!

Sure, most of the kit on the list has a use, at some point or another, on certain types of trips in certain conditions. But no one has explained to these kids what half the stuff is (apparantly the teacher was unsure what was meant by ‘binos’), how to use it (rope for example)) and how to decide what equipment to take on what trip. Their first training walk is tomorrow (with all this kit) – when they planned their routes they were told not to walk near any water (rivers, canals, ponds etc.) as the school insurance only covers such dangerous areas for their main hike……

In an age where kids are unhealtier, fatter and stuck indoors on their game systems, is this really the best we can offer them? Surely we should be inspiring them and teaching them skills to reconnect with the great outdoors, not sending them out as overloaded dumb pack animals?

Fortunately this 15 year old girl has already climbed her first mountain, experienced the beauty of moorland bleakness, and discovered the joys of camping – she just wants the award!

Review: Keen Men’s Targhee II Walking Shoes [updated]

Hiking boots or walking shoes? Until recently I would have said hiking boots – I have a pair of much loved Brasher Supalite II GTX boots, which I wear on most hikes.  I also have an old pair of North Face waterproof shoes (now less waterproof) but, while they were convenient for dog walks, I found my ankles were left aching when I used them for longer distances. So what has changed? Well, I was recently sent a pair of Keen Targee II walking shoes to review by Webtogs, and over the last 100 miles I have learnt to love them!
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Putting together my hiking first aid kit

Whilst there are very few parts of the UK far from civilisation, I still think it is a very good idea to carry a basic first aid kit with you when out hiking. Not only does having a first aid kit mean that you can provide basic aid if a serious accident occurs (like stopping / reducing  bleeding etc) whilst you wait for the emergency services, it also means you can handle more minor injuries like strapping up a twisted ankle, or treating cuts and grazes.

I have recently put together a new first aid kit, and as a few people seemed interested, I thought I would do a brief write up of the process.

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