Hot on the heals of my few months trying out the Target Dry Origin Thermalite Insulated Jacket, I was approached as to whether I wanted to try out the Berghaus Akka Mens Down Jacket. I was really impressed with the warmth of Target Dry’s jacket and I thought it would be interesting to compare it with a (almost double the price) down jacket. Unfortunately none of the sizes available fitted me so, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I managed to conscript Tim Cooper (@ukjeeper on Twitter) to try out the jacket on my behalf. Tim, whilst not a blogger himself, is a regular on several walking forums and social media sites across the internet, and he is as a regular sharer on Social Hiking (he was in fact the first user other than me!). There is hardly a footpath in Essex he has not walked (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at his map of his Essex walks 2009-2013) and he can be found by his fire pit most evenings whatever the weather!
Target Dry, an outdoor clothing company from Belfast, Northern Ireland, is not a brand I think I have come across before, so I was curious when they got in touch asking if I would be interested in trying out one of their garments. Their main product is the Mac in a Sac, which I have heard of, but, with winter drawing in, I opted for the Mens Origin Insulated Jacket. I usually have a Craighoppers Down Gilet (it was a bargain buy from a closing down sale) shoved in the bottom of my rucksack that I wear during breaks and when camping but it is not an ideal solution, so I have been looking out for a suitable replacement.
It turns out that three people and two dogs do not fit comfortably in an Outwell Arizona L – a three man dome. This was the discovery I made on a family camping weekend away a few months ago in Peak District. Originally bought for two people (and a dog), what I liked about the Arizona L was that I could stand up in it and it had a porch to shelter from the inevitable rain , but it was time to accept that my needs had outgrown it. So, after a bit of research, I bought a Kampa Carbis 5 from Camping World and took it on my trip to Cornwall.
To be honest, I had never really thought about where leather hiking boots (or indeed any other leather product) come from before I met Michael Redwood (@michaelredwood), visiting Professor in Business Development in Leather at The University of Northampton, at this year’s Innovation for Extremes conference (write up coming soon I promise!). Mike and I were both on a panel discussing whether wearable technology in footwear was inevitable and, as I live just down the road from Northampton, we got chatting about the leather industry and in particular the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University. A few weeks later Mike invited me to visit the Institute for a tour.
Navigating maps, taking and sharing photos, tweeting, listening to audiobooks and checking in with loved ones – I use my smart phone a huge amount when enjoying the outdoors. Phones are getting better – with rugged phones like the Motorola Defy (or a standard phone in an Aquapac), they can survive the elements more and with power solutions like the PowerMonkey Extreme, battery life for multi-day trips is becoming possible. Screen technology has also progressed away from the single tap resistive screens (remember those styluses?) towards multi touch capactive screens. This however creates a problem for outdoor use – capactive screens need contact with skin which means cold hands in bad weather! The North Face Pamir Etip gloves (slogan: “Get cold weather phone friendly function without removing gloves”) aim to solve this problem and I have spent the last three months trying them out.
A few years ago, before Offa’s Dyke – Alex and I were walking part of the Nantlle Ridge in Snowdonia. Alex was recording the route using Sports Tracker (I think), and I was using ViewRanger – what was surprising was the fairly large difference in calculated distance and height gain / loss.
This morning, I was reminded of this as I was mulling over a discrepancy in distance between Social Hiking and a GPS unit, and GPS tracker apps in general (as you do). For my 1000 mile challenge, I have been using ViewRanger to record my progress – ViewRanger is a fantastic app, but feels like overkill when you are not using the maps or Buddybeacon (to share the walk live on Social Hiking). With 170 miles still left to go, I wondered whether it would be a good opportunity to have a look at other options available for recording tracks.
The first proper head torch I bought was the Petzl MYO XP (I am excluding the cheap chain store head torches I went through that have poor performance and terrible battery life). My (former) neighbour, @documentally, had got himself a Petzl MYO RXP (his first look video is quite amusing) and, whilst the programming element seemed largely pointless, it seemed a good torch.
The MYO XP offers up to 150 lumens (in boost mode – shining up to 97 meters), has three lighting levels, a flashing mode, a diffuser and I found battery life to be good. It does however have some drawbacks – it weights in at 170g (including batteries), it is quite expensive (mine cost £58.50), the buttons are very fiddly (I really struggle to switch it on in a dark tent) and light gets reflected straight into your eyes when the diffuser is up (I never noticed this until @groovy_nut pointed it out – now it is like having the sun burning directly into my eyes. She has a fix involving matt black enamel paint).
The Petzl TIKKINA on the other hand is £19.99, offers a maximum of 23 lumens (shining up to 23 meters), weighs 80g (including 3 AAA batteries) and has two lighting levels (maximum and economic). The torch has a big push button switch – you press it once for maximum beam, a second time for economic beam, and a third time to switch it off. It comes in a variety of garish colours – french rose, electric blue, lime green and orange. I was initially not very fond of lime green (the colour of mine) – but having a bright colour certainly makes it easier to find in my pack than my dark ‘ninja black’ MYO XP.
But with 6.5 times less brightness, is the TIKKINA going to be any use? There is only one way to find out!
For my holiday in Snowdonia a few weeks ago, I had intended to put the Powermonkey Extreme through it’s paces to see if I could keep my phone running (starting with two full batteries and the extreme full charged) for the full trip. Unfortunately things did not quite go to plan – primarily the complete lack of sunshine which meant the solar panel was never used, so the results are incomplete and I want to run some more tests but here are the results:
There has been a lot of discussion recently amongst bloggers about kit reviews, particularly when kit has been provided free of charge to review. As I do kit reviews I thought I would take this opportunity to put forward my opinion.