Axes are great. I use them every week, and have been swinging them around for at least 20 years. They are versatile tools, and as important as a crafting item as an outdoor safety/survival tool. I couldn’t do my job without one. Continue readingRead more... →
I reviewed the 2019 Mountain Equipment Firefly down sleeping bag for UK outdoor news and discussion site UKHillwalking.com. It’s small, light and cleverly designed – but is it warm enough for a Welsh spring? Continue readingRead more... →
After reviewing their Raptor waistcoat I was contacted by UK brand Country Innovation to take an early look at their brand new waterproof smock design – the Woodlark. It’s listed on the Country Innovation website as being “made from a tough cotton outer fabric, which, when combined with the waterproof/breathable lining, offers great protection from wind and rain“.
With the wet and windy months of December and January coming up I accepted the offer and did my very best to try and kill, or at least maim, this waterproof outer layer. I was mildly surprised with how good the Raptor waistcoat was, so would I be as impressed with a sub-£300 waterproof from a smaller British brand?Read more... →
Water filters are becoming increasingly popular in the Uk hiking and outdoors market, and what was once seen as a niche item for overseas travel and expeditions are now starting to be habitually carried in the UK by adventurers of all types.
The Grayl Ultralight purifier bottle is a bit of a hybrid between a filtration bottle and something that can be used to transfer that cleaned water to another container – something that dedicated water filter/purifier bottles often struggle with.
I have been trying it out since late summer, using it on wild camping trips and expeditions with clients in Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scotland. Continue reading
It won’t take long to run through the features of this bag – but that is, I suppose, a feature in itself; the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel is pretty simple.
There’s an unpadded adjustable shoulder strap running between two clips, and slightly curved ‘ends’ where these clips attach. There is no padding anywhere on the bag, and it hangs symettrically – it isn’t contoured or ‘handed’ to fit on one side of the body or other. Continue readingRead more... →
Photography waistcoats like this are basically load-carrying vests and systems for a very civilian market, and the Raptor waistcoat from Country Innovation seems to be pitched straight at that market of photographers, birdwatchers and anybody who regularly points optics at wildlife.
I admit from the start that Country Innovation was a new brand for me, but a quick look through their website shows that their kit is trusted by the outdoor and wildlife photographers that I admire – so if it’s good enough for the likes of Simon King and Bill Oddie then it might be good enough for a scruffy outdoor instructor in North Wales? Continue reading
Head torch technology has come on a long way since I started working in the outdoors. My first ‘proper’ head torch was a Petzl Zoom. It had a massive alkaline battery and came with a spare bulb – it was also like a candle in a jam jar.
LED head torches started to creep in soon after, with the early ones being fairly disappointing affairs – and quite expensive. Now it seems we can’t move for fear of tripping over inexpensive and fairly powerful LED headlights – is the new Xplor range from pocket-power supplier GP Batteries worth a look, and does their 300 lumen Xplor PHR15 rise above the competition? Continue readingRead more... →
The two Wunderbird items I have been trialling are the Gyrfalcon Hoodie and the Kestrel Short-Sleeve Tee. Both garments have some interesting design features, including slightly padded shoulder areas and zipped pouches on the chest and similar pouches on the front of the stomach area. The Kestrel is a technical base layer and the Gyrfalcon is more of a thermal mid-layer shirt.
The idea with this range of garments is to provide the user with technical outdoor-appropriate clothing that also supports (literally) the use of binoculars. The chest and stomach pouches both support the weight of binoculars when worn from a neck strap or chest harness (what some of our instructors call a ‘Binocular Bra’) and stop them from bouncing around too much when walking over rough ground or uphill. The padded shoulders give some relief from tripods and similar long, heavy items being carried across the shoulder. Continue reading
We cover knife and axe sharpening at different levels on our bushcraft and campcraft courses, and it’s one of those subjects where the course participants ‘lean in’ to the topic – most of those who attend the course have tried to sharpen their own equipment and had, shall we say, a variety of results? Continue readingRead more... →
Wisport is one of those brands I had heard of or seen in product catalogues and on websites, but had no direct experience of. Military 1st offered the Wisport Raccoon 45L rucksack to me to try out on some of our courses and I gladly took the opportunity. It’s not like I NEED another rucksack, but it’s a different style to what I am used to and I was curious to see how it performed. Continue readingRead more... →
Firepot are a relatively new supplier in the UK expedition food market but the information both on their website and what I had heard from other users was encouraging. I’ve been trying them out on wild camping and bivvying trips over the past few weeks – and so far I haven’t died. Continue readingRead more... →
Cheap, stupidly-bright Chinese LED torches have been around for several years now and there are many to choose from. I’ve used several over the years with varying degrees of success – and to be perfectly honest my hopes weren’t THAT high for this tiny keyring torch from Olight when it was offered as a review item. But it turns out to not be that bad – in fact, to be quite good. With a few important caveats that I will come to later… Continue readingRead more... →
In the past weeks the news has featured several stories on UK knife crimes, knife law and the perception of knives as weapons as well as tools. This was followed by the announcement of a new Offensive Weapons Bill which will begin the process of changing of what is considered a legal knife, where they can be used/carried by the general public and how they can be acquired.
Last year a consultation on offensive and dangerous weapons was published, which caused a lot of discussion online from knife makers, owners and collectors from all sectors.
Whilst this is currently a bill (not yet an Act of Parliament, see the differences here) it is likely that some significant changes are coming for those who collect knives or purchase them for outdoor use. Continue readingRead more... →
The MSR WindBurner range has been updated for 2018 with a wind-resistant remote canister stove, new pans and even a huge 4.5L stockpot. Richard Prideaux has been reviewing it in the mountains of Snowdonia and Scotland over the winter of 2017-2018 for UKHIllwalking.com Continue readingRead more... →
Rugged fleece jacket with windproof membrane
Helikon-Tex have been on the radar of outdoor enthusiasts and professionals, hunters, military personnel and security contractors for a couple of decades now, and they produce good kit. I have been wearing the Helikon-Tex Classic Army fleece for nearly 5 months and I think I’ve got a good angle on it now – it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damned good. Continue reading
The recent hullabaloo over the Strava heatmap reminded me of a strange case from a few years ago…
If you have any kind of interest in GPS, fitness apps, unusual maps or just technology news then you were probably at least vaguely aware of a story about the fitness app Strava and some analysis of the heatmap they published last month. This publicly-viewable heatmap of anonymised user data isn’t new – but the last update was from 2015 data. The 2017 data release included over 1 billion activities and 10 terabytes of raw data. The total distance clocked up was 27 billion KM – 180 times the distance from the Earth to the sun. It’s an impressive piece of user-generated information and it’s quite good fun to see which are the most popular routes to the summit of Snowdon, or the tracks made by people swimming, kayaking or SUP’ing in Llyn Padarn.
There’s also potentially a bit of a security risk – but that’s something I’ve got prior experience of, and it’s still a potential problem for those who work in ‘sensitive’ areas of the world. Continue readingRead more... →
MOLLE Day pack with versatile compartments
From a distance the First Tactical Tactix 1-Day Plus looks like pretty much any other MOLLE daypack – webbing systems along the vertical surfaces, zipped compartments and compression straps. I admit to having a bit of a prejudice towards MOLLE packs. The MOLLE/PALS system (Modular Light Load carrying Equipment) works well with small packs and pouches, and is great for quickly changing the gear carried on say, body armour or a tactical vest. It doesn’t work as well when it comes to… Continue reading
Mammut Ayako High GTX Boot Review A hillwalking boot that performs well on the rocks I have been using the Mammut Ayako High GTX boots for a few months and they are sticking equally well to rock and to mud. The full review is on the UKHillwalking.comRead more... →
MSR TrailShot MicroFilter Review Compact pump microfilter for fast-and-light travel It looks like a medical appliance and promises impressive performance – how does it hold up in the field? I reviewed it for UKHillwalking.com, and you can read the full review here.Read more... →
MSR Access 2 Tent Review Lightweight 4-Season Backcountry tent The MSR Access 2 tent is lightweight, innovative and comes with a lot fo features – but is it worth that hefty pricetag? I reviewed it for UKHillwalking.com, and you can read the full review here. The videoRead more... →
Simple pack axe from the Helko traditional range
My collection of axes needs to be carefully monitored. If I don’t keep it in check they will spread out of the workshop and take over the rest of the house. There are a number brands in there – Gransfors, Hultafors and even a few Elwell hatchets that I keep meaning to rehandle. Do I need another axe? No. Do I want another axe? Well, I could follow the tried-and-tested n+1 rule, where ‘n’ is the number of axes currently owned…
Helko UK offered the Black Forest Pack Axe for me to try out over the winter – will it make it into regular rotation or will it just become part of the collection? Continue reading
How to camp in the woods Setting up tarps and living by firelight with Kevin Field In this short time lapse bushcraft instructor Kevin and I set up two DD Hammocks 3mx3m tarps, light a fire between and settle down for the night in a simple woodlandRead more... →
I like this coat. I wear it pretty much every week and it has been deep into the mountains, dragged through forests and buried under piles of kit. But it has some serious issues…
Back in the middle of 2016 we visited the Fortis Clothing factory shop and this is the coat I walked away with. I wanted an all-round tough outdoor jacket, and the Fortis SAS Smock fitted my needs. I ended up with one of the last with the older ‘Country Covers’ branding, Fortis being the new name for the family business run by Oliver Massey-Birch, but as far as I can tell this is the same build and design as the current Fortis SAS Smock. It’s worth noting from the outset that I have sewn a patch onto the arm pocket, through the outer pocket layer only. Continue readingRead more... →
Gift ideas for outdoorsy people Christmas present ideas for that tricky adventurous person on your list There’s always one. That person who is always a bit untidy, always either just off on or back from an adventure. They are always a pain to buy for, and youRead more... →
MindShift Gear Rotation 180 Innovative gear bag for outdoor photographers At the Outdoor Trade Show at Stoneleigh Park earlier this year we stopped and had a good look at the photographer bags and accessories that Snapperstuff.com had on offer. Helen from Snapperstuff was kind enough to giveRead more... →