URBAN WARRIOR: Break down the word Lifeventure, and I like to come up with ‘life’s adventures’. The brand is at the forefront of travel, and you can understand why when they adopt a clever mix of urban styling with backpacking capability. Take the Kibo 42 RFID Backpack as an example. It’s a travel backpack with bags of storage capability, combined with that ever-important RFID-shielding technology, making it an excellent carry companion for a weekend city break or when breaking trail. It is made with a water-resistant waxed cotton canvas fabric with a RUCO-DRY ECO PLUS hydrophobic fabric treatment to dispel rain if you happen to be caught out. It has a mesh back system, padded shoulder straps and supportive sternum strap, and the addition of a hidden, RFID-shielding pocket and hidden padded laptop pocket, which means you can keep your valuables safe from both cyber criminals and pick-pockets. Neat.
VERDICT: Perfect for weekends away and off-trail adventures. £99.99, www.lifeventure.com
LIGHT AND EASY: There was once a time when I possessed several Deuter backpacks of varying sizes, then I kind of lost contact with the brand. Well, I am glad to say that we are back up to speed, and I happily present to you the AC Lite 18, the latest version of the brand’s lightweight daypacks. In a nice colour range of leaf, steel, cranberry or black, it has all the practicality of a modern pack and comes with an extremely comfortable Aircomfort back system. You also get bags of features for your money, including roomy pockets, contoured, softly padded shoulder straps, lid pocket, zipped valuables pocket, practical single lid closure, reflective print, hiking pole loops, stretch side pockets, reflective attachment for drinking tube, hydration system compatible, oh, and a handy, detachable rain cover.
VERDICT: Wanting room for all your daily needs but at minimum pack weight, then this is for you. £70, www.deutergb.co.uk
BALANCING ACT: Vaude have expanded their Prokyon range of packs with the Prokyon ZIP 28. Described as a ‘new high performance backpack that will quickly become your best friend on walks and mountain tours’, the pack has a sophisticated suspension system which aims to provide good freedom of movement and stability. The ergonomic shoulder straps are thicker over the shoulders to improve load-carrying comfort. Features include a compression system, attachment point for a bike safety light, and a padded compartment for a hydration bladder or tablet. It has an integrated rain cover and a spacious front pocket, too. Access to the main compartment is via a large zip. With a clear focus on sustainability, the brand continues in its efforts to create a balance between ecological, social and economic responsibility.
VERDICT: Take a load off your shoulders and you will feel all the better for it. £120, www.vaude.com
DRY RUN: Overboard have built themselves an excellent reputation with lovers of watersports, but there is a definite crossover to hiking and backpacking with their products. Take, as an example, the 20-litre Waterproof pack, which effectively protects gear from not only water, but also sand, dirt and dust. That 100 per cent waterproofness comes courtesy of the seamless high frequency welded construction and roll top sealing system. It has a ventilated back flow with air-flow design, comfortable and buoyant lightweight straps, adjustable sternum strap, three D-rings for multiple attachment options, a large outer elasticated mesh side pocket, and top carry handle. You needn’t worry about your gear either should you drop the pack in the water, because it floats.
VERDICT: Multi-purpose pack with seamless appeal. £39, www.over-board.co.uk
PACK THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: It would not be reasonable to carry a gear review, and particularly one featuring backpacks, without including one of the top brands. Berghaus have a large range to choose from, but we settled on the new Remote 28 with its unique ridge-moulded system with mesh, which is great for keeping you cool whilst on the move. The pack is suited to long day hikes, particularly as extra storage is gained from the front adjustable pocket, which allows the bag to expand so you can add to those essential supplies – the kind of, ‘just in case’ scenario. Inside is a pocket for a hydration bladder and hose, and other features include a height adjustable chest strap, top tension straps, stretch side pockets, side compression straps, zipped front glasses pocket, hip belt with zipped pocket, walking pole holder and top grab handle. That should just about do it.
VERDICT: Perfect for a day hike or as a carry-on companion. £70, www.berghaus.com
Still with Berghaus, if you are planning for a big trip, then you could do a lot worse than check out the Expedition Mule 60. As the name suggests, this 60-litre bag will portage all your kit for those long away days. Weighing in at 1150g, the Mule is loaded with handles, which offer various easy pick-up points, and it even converts into a rucksack if that is your preferred method of transport. With detachable shoulder straps, you can sling it on your back at the airport or that final tramp to base camp. There are zipped pockets to keep essentials safe, and side compression straps help synch it down to a manageable size. What we particularly like about the Mule is that once you have unpacked, you can simply fold it away into a compact zipper pocket.
VERDICT: No jokes about a mule, but this is a perfect pack animal. £70, www.berghaus.com
BACK-UP BAGGAGE: Another manufacturer making great strides in the outdoors market is Lifeventure. We had a look at their 22-litre packable Waterproof Backpack. To say it packs down small is an understatement. In an ultra-lightweight 30D siliconised ripstop Cordura fabric, the main compartment has a roll-top closure, and it comes with contoured shoulder straps and webbing hip belt. Waterproof, with taped seams and front cord compression, there are also two deep stretch mesh side pockets, reflective tabs and a bike light attachment point.
VERDICT: Ideal as an extra bag to bring out when required, it packs into its own storage pouch. Great value for money. £29.99, www.lifeventure.com
MAKE MINE A MOJITO: Perfect for a range of activities, from walking the trails, pounding the streets or bulldozing your way through busy airport concourses, Scarpa‘s Mojito GTX is a great go-to shoe. A more technical derivative of the classic Mojito, it clearly comes from good family stock, and is both waterproof – thanks to the GTX lining – and colourful, too. Weighing in at a mere 400g ((½ pair size 42), it features a water-resistant suede upper and a chunky Vibram Spider Trek sole, which offers both excellent grip and traction. The Mojito is available in sizes 36-48 and, usefully, half sizes.
VERDICT: A cocktail of features, making it the perfect summer choice, but then, you can always extend that through other seasons, too, should the fancy take you. £140, www.scarpa.co.uk
RUGGED PERFORMER: Designed for day-long support, Berghaus bring us the latest iteration of the ever-popular Fellmaster, the Ridge GTX Tech boot. A perfectly cushioned OrthoLite Hike footbed offers comfort where it counts, and your feet will stay snuggly dry, due to the 100 per cent waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex lining. These boots are certainly built to last, thanks to the hardwearing, yet flexible, oiled nubuck leather upper, with rubber rand protection on the toes. You can also tough it out with the Opti-Stud sole system, sound in the knowledge that those tricky surfaces are not going to present you with any real problems. As for any mudslinging, that is done by the boot due to the anti-mud clogging system releasing the mucky stuff when you walk, so there is little detraction from the grip.
VERDICT: Stylish, modern, soft and supple, with a nice, wide fit that won’t suit everyone, these are built for tough nuts. £120, www.berghaus.com
SUPER-CHARGED: We are fans of Tilley, here at Essential Journeys, because their range of hats are perfect for the travel fraternity, whether you are heading to the desert, the mountains, the beach, or the jungle. So when we caught sight of the Hiker’s Hat, we just had to try one, and we weren’t disappointed. The sun-protective headwear is designed with an evaporative cooling insert, powered by HyperKewl (a new name on us). Essentially, this helps relieve heat stress when you are trekking. It features a rear brim loop, which provides a place to securely clip your hat in place when not in use. These unique features, plus all the usual Tilley Hat benefits, make this a great hat for the trail. The fabric is certified UPF 50+, the highest actually given, and shade comes via the broad brim, which not only keeps off the sun, but rain, too, which we found out for ourselves. A bit more about HyperKewl – the evaporative cooling material absorbs and slowly releases water through evaporation to help ‘super charge’ the body’s natural cooling process. As to other features, a three-quarter inch mesh insert around the top provides extra ventilation, the front and back wind cords system secures the hat in windy conditions, the water-repellent finish keeps off the rain, a pocket in the crown holds the insert and is made with mesh to help increase airflow for maximum evaporation, oh, and if you happen to drop it in the water, it stays afloat.
VERDICT: Extraordinary amount of features and unique evaporative cooling system makes this the perfect go-to headwear for hiking. Hatty days. £85, www.tilly.com
HAVE YOURSELF A GOOD STRETCH: As I write this it is bucketing down, so it is hard to believe that we are are into the season of wearing lightweight walking and travel trousers. It is just as well, then, that Sprayway‘s Compass Stretch Pants are water-repellent. Add to that wind-resistant and breathable, and you have an excellent pair of bottoms for the summer. TechWeave, the two-way stretch fabric, is both soft to the touch and tough, ensuring an excellent fit with easy body movement over varying terrain. The material is also quick drying, and with that DWR finish, you needn’t worry about the occasional wet spell. They are quick drying, too. You get two zipped, half mesh lined front pockets with TechWeave at the base. This is to prevent holes from forming in the mesh. The mesh lining also permits cross ventilation when the pockets are open. The pants have three zipped security pockets with mesh lining for ventilation, plus an inner mesh security pocket and a rear mesh pocket with velcro fastening. There’s a zipped thigh pocket with mesh lining, and an internal mesh security pocket. The Compass have been specifically designed as an active cut, with a high lift crotch for unrestricted leg movement. There’s more. The part elasticated waist has a micro fleece lining to the waist band, and they come with a UPF rating of 50+. Finally, they’re available in both short and regular leg length.
VERDICT: Active cut trouser with stretch, bags of pockets, sun protection and water-repellent. Of course we rate them. £55, www.sprayway.com
KEEP THE SPRAY AWAY: We all hanker after perfect wet weather protection, and sometimes you can end up spending more than you can really afford to achieve the end result. Well, we have news for you. Whilst it isn’t exactly cheap, Sprayway‘s lightweight Gore-Tex Paclite jacket, the Rask, impressed us a lot. For the money you could go cheaper, for sure, but then think what you are getting for your money: reversed centre front zip with inner storm flap, two zipper hand pockets with mesh venting, adjustable cuffs, drawcord adjustable hem, grown on, adjustable hood with wired peak… all par for the course, you are probably thinking, but then you are getting a jacket that weighs in at only 330g, and that polyester fabric packs down small.
VERDICT: Worth its weight in wet weather protection. £150, www.sprayway.com
PEOPLE IN GHLAS HOUSES: Ah, Softshell, we know it well, and are always happy to bring you new styles on the market. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Berghaus‘ new midweight, the Ghlas, a traditional, functional jacket, with two large hand pockets and a small outer zipped chest pocket. The Ghlas has stretch fabric under the arms and in the side panels, which aids both comfort and ease of movement. You can easily batten down the hatches with the drawcord hem, Velcro cuff tabs and the stretch bound collar.The jacket also benefits from a fleecy inner fabric. As you probably know already, Softshell garments are great when it comes to breathability, providing warmth and wind resistance, but will normally only accommodate a light shower, so it is always worth taking an outer hard shell in your pack, just in case.
VERDICT: It’s from Berghaus. It’s reasonably priced. It’s a lovely jacket. What’s not to like. £100, www.berghaus.com
REVIEWER: MICHAEL COWTON