Gear Guides, Issue 11

Tried and tested

Four outdoor items are put through their paces by the #LiveMoreYHA team.

KEEN Ethos

KEEN’s Terradora range is made for women from the ground up and falls into what KEEN call their ‘TrailFit’ movement. In short, it’s a do-everything shoe. A quick trail run? No problem. A few days in Bari, Italy? They’re all I took. The Ethos is the latest model in the range, a ‘water adaptable’ warm-weather shoe. This is designed for holidays by the sea. I could wear them running along coastal paths or stand-up paddleboarding (I’ve even worn them to a dog-agility class). They have an anti-odour treatment too.

The verdict: The shoes fit to size and are as comfortable as you’d expect from KEEN. The lacing is secure, and they’re supportive enough for the trail.

Icebreaker Cool-Lite Sphere Crew

Anyone who’s tried hiking in the tropics wearing a standard cotton t-shirt (guilty – just be glad you weren’t doing my laundry) will know the value of investing in a technical tee. They’re not cheap – this one retails at £54.99 – but the difference they can make is immeasurable. Icebreaker are masters of getting their materials right, and here they combine merino wool and TENCEL, two natural performance fibres. The end result is substantially cooler than pure merino, wicks well and keeps odour to a minimum. It’s also very comfortable.

The verdict: One for warm-weather walkers who don’t want to compromise on the right kit. Soft-seamed, comfortable and effective in the heat.

Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket

Much of the innovation in the outdoor industry focuses on the realm of insulated jackets. Why? Because down – that is, soft feathers from geese and ducks – still remains the best way to keep warm in a jacket. However, alongside some ethical issues, a practical problem is that when it gets wet, it loses its ability to insulate. Developments have included treating down with a waterproofing, and creating synthetic insulations that are just as warm. Patagonia’s new Micro Puff falls into the second category. It uses PlumaFill, which is the nearest to down that I’ve come across. This is an exceptionally light jacket, just 235g, and warming even when wet – I wore it stand-up paddle-boarding. There are hooded and non-hooded versions, both with two side pockets and a chest pocket.

The verdict: This is a warm, versatile jacket that can be thrown in your pack at any time of year. It’s a new favourite.

Columbia OutDry EX Featherweight Shell

I don’t think I’m alone in looking for two key things from a waterproof shell: firstly that it’s light and packable, and secondly that it does the job where heavy rain’s concerned. I want to be dry even when it’s bucketing down. This, from Columbia, is new for Spring 2018, and doesn’t disappoint. You may have noticed the spring’s been a wet one, and this shell stood up well in some pretty merciless downpours. It’s fully seam-sealed, with underarm and chest vents. The hood’s roomy enough to fit over a hat, and the sealed front pockets are big enough for OS maps. It folds down small into a very tight package. It’s a light a bit of kit too, weighing in at 200 grams – and the women’s version is even lighter. All in all, this waterproof is hard to fault.

The verdict: A light, practical waterproof shell that does everything it should. Good for hiking.

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