FOOT SOLDIERS Out-of-the-box comfort is something we have come to expect when we look to invest in a new pair of walking shoes, plus, naturally, breathability, intuitive support and great traction. Oh yes, add to the mix athletic styling. Now cut to the chase with Merrell’s Moab FST 2 GTX. This classy low ankle shoe (mid-cut also available) has a nubuck leather and mesh upper, breathable membrane and bellows tongue, so you are not going to experience any uncomfortable grit or dirt down the sides. A secure lacing system enhances the protection and connection.
VERDICT If, like us, you were wondering what FST stands for, it is Fit and Superior Traction, and that is exactly what you get. £135, blacks.co.uk
GO GREEN Any athlete worth his or her salt will tell you that natural foot motion is essential for uniformity of stride. Runners expect nothing less from their shoes when they hit the trail. Hoka supplies the competitive edge with the Hoka One One Torrent, weaving in some midsole magic, a well-cushioned heel and a stable ride over both flat and rough surfaces. £85.95, https://www.hokaoneone.eu/
VERDICT A soft landing and a responsive toe-off is a marriage made in running heaven. Throw in thought and ingenuity, and you will be rocking and rolling to your heart’s content in no time.
MOUNTAIN MAGIC If you enjoy heading to the heights, then consider taking a different approach with the 125 Intrepid, Zamberlan’s latest iteration. There are shoeboxes full of things to like about it, but what particularly caught our eye was the all-terrain, all-conditions Vibram Predator+sticky Megagrip compound outsoles. Essentially, the tread design ensures superb grip and traction on and off the trail. There is no compromise on durability or flexibility, either. Elasticised mesh collars wrap the ankle, enhancing both comfort and fit. £99.99, zamberlan.com
VERDICT These beasts are built to last.
BRANCHING OUT There is something quite magnificent about America’s giant redwoods, the world’s longest living trees, so it would seem reasonable that Zamberlan would name a pair of boots after them, particularly as the manufacturer deems them appropriate for not only hikers, but also forestry workers, such is their versatility over variable terrain. The Sequoia uppers are constructed with Hydrobloc full grain soft tumbled leather, and lined with a GTX Performance membrane. £175, zamberlan.com
VERDICT A custom fit and durable all-rubber outsoles mean you can strike out with confidence.
PLIABLE PERFORMER With its form-fitting heel cup, sculpted mid-foot, generous forefoot and toe box, you have pretty much everything to hand for the feet, so to speak, with the Oboz Bridger Mid. Forget break-in time. Features include a comfortable collar, waterproofing and breathable membrane, moulded rubber toe cap and heel counter, and aggressive Granite Peak outsole, with both directional lugs studding the sole, plus toothy side lugs. £150, obozfootwear.com
VERDICT Hikers will like the traditional, enriching all-leather upper, with a nod to modernity.
TOP PERFORMER We thought it appropriate to bring to your attention a rather classy, high performance, cold weather boot that will keep the feet warm on those wintry days. Muck Boot has a reputation for quality, and the Arctic Short AG is no exception. In fact, the warmth factor has been stepped up with a 5mm neoprene inner boot layered with a fleece lining. The stretch-fit top-line binding makes sure the boot fits snug to the leg, keeping cold air out and warm air in. We also love the outsole, featuring Vibram Arctic Grip, a new sole technology specifically engineered to perform on wet ice. £160, muckbootcompany.co.uk
VERDICT Grab a pair, and your partner can stay cosy with his feet in the hearth, whilst you take the dog for a walk round the block with toasty toes to boot, so to speak.
LADY LUCK Multi-purpose boots are a boon, and Oboz has come up with an excellent all-rounder in the Sapphire, a lightweight, hydrophobic nubuck leather boot in a women-specific design and fit. They are available in a particularly trendy Huckleberry colourway (pictured) or Java, but they are certainly not just about the look. The EVA midsole offers soft cushioning, whilst the chassis offers excellent protection, with a sturdy outsole providing traction over varying terrain. £135, obozfootwear.com
VERDICT From the high street to the high fells, wear them with confidence.
TOASTIE TOOTSIES There is nothing worse than suffering from cold feet on a chilly day. You could always double layer up, but there is always the risk of chaffing. So here is an alternative for you in the 1000 Mile Heat Sock. An inner layer of Nilit Heat yarn captures body heat, whilst the merino wool regulates body temperature and activates wicking properties that prevent moisture on the skin. The environmentally conscious – and that includes us – will be pleased to learn that Nilit Heat yarn is created with coffee charcoal, a natural surplus from coffee bean shells, integrated into the nylon fibre for natural insulation. £17.99, 1000mile.co.uk
VERDICT A perfect mid-calf length sock for the bleak mid-winter.
PACKING A PUNCH There are socks, and there are more socks, and then there are Bridgedale socks. For this time of year, you can safely leave the lightweights in the drawer, and instead opt for the heavyweight brigade. The Summit supplies warmth and cushioning, thanks to merino WoolFusion technology, a blend of high-quality yarn wrapped with high performance microfibres. £18.99, bridgedale.com
VERDICT Cushioning and mesh panels are targeted in all the right places, and ensure super comfort and ventilation.
BACK TO BLACK You may have always presumed that black was, well, black. Let us enlighten you. Surrey NanoSystems developed Vantablack, which, apparently, is the darkest substance known. Made of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays, the material absorbs up to 99.965 per cent of radiation in the visible spectrum, and absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, and looks more like a black hole on earth. I guess you may be wondering where this is all going. Directly to Sprayway and its latest technical pieces. The Vanta Collection combines uniquely sourced fabrics using a Vantablack inspired matt optic. The pinnacle of the collection is the Vanta, a warm hybrid fleece hoodie in knitted marl polyester and DWR coating. It has an elastane bound hood and cuffs, two large zipped hand pockets and an internal zipped security pocket, plus drawcord adjustable hem. The Obsidian is an ultra lightweight micro baffle down jacket. With 700+ fill 90/10 duck down, it is highly compressible and tough, too, with a polyester ripstop fabric and a DWR coating. A water-repellent Teflon treatment allows the down filaments to resist moisture and dry faster. The jacket features elastane bound hood and cuffs, two zipped hand pockets, inner zipped security pocket, split drawcord adjustable hem, and it comes with a stuff sack. Competing the collection is the Preto, a knitted fleece top. Vanta £100, Obsidian £160, Preto £75, sprayway.com
VERDICT An excellent trio of technical pieces. If you wear any of the collection, though, it is doubtful that anyone will see you in the dark.
NEAT STUFF When you are travelling this winter, you will want a jacket that is going to be light in weight, highly compressible, but also extremely warm. Well, bring forth the Essens Down Hood, which has it all. What’s more, we are keen on promoting the fact that Haglofs as a brand incorporates sustainability into everything it does, including developing new technologies with lower environmental impact. The 800 fill power Essens Down, for example, utilises recycled, fluorocarbon-free materials in the build, as well as traceable premium down, making it supremely comfortable in cold climates. The fabric is tear- and wind-resistant, the 3-way adjustable hood has a reinforced peak, the elasticated sleeves and hem provide closure, there is a wind baffle with an integrated chin guard behind the full front zipper, freedom of shoulder movement is enhanced by the insertion of Polartec Powerstretch, and the two handwarmer pockets and single chest pocket with micro zippers are voluminous. Phew. As for packing, the jacket stuffs into its own pocket. Neat. £240, haglofs.com
VERDICT Lightweight, super comfortable, stylish and very practical, a must-have for cold spells.
SOFT TOUCH When softshell was first launched, it took the public a while to cotton on, unsure of trusting the benefits of the fabric, compared to the hardshell equivalent that they had been used to. Made from woven fabric, we liked the material from the outset, having tested it in jackets, trousers, gloves and the like. Keela’s Hydron has a stylish look, with a scooped tail, two decent-sized hand pockets and two smaller vertical chest pockets. The Stretchtec Advanced fabric, which is paired with two-way stretch, is high water and wind resistant, and features a matrix inner face, which helps regulate the movement of air and moisture away from the body. It has a helmet compatible attached hood (which we found to be best left unrolled to reduce bulk behind the head), hook and loop adjustable cuffs, pit zips (always a bonus), shockcord with locks at the hem, full length main zip with inner stormflap, and an active fit. £149.95, keela.co.uk
VERDICT It is soft and lightweight and flexible and sturdy and warm and not entirely waterproof, but we will forgive it for that.
TAKE A HIKA Keeping warm when the temperature has plummeted is essential, and most of us will turn to a trusty fleece. In days of old, they tended to be bulky and uncomfortable, but not any more. Sprayway’s Hika Hoody is constructed with a Core C polyester fleece fabric, sourced to combine the very best in warmth, weight and comfort. You also have an elastane bound hood, perfect for when you need to zip up nice and snug. The Hika also comes with a zipped chest pocket and two zipped hand pockets. £80, sprayway.com
VERDICT Zip up and stay snug in this toasty offering.
SOFTLY, SOFTLY We appreciate the fact that ladies often like a jacket that they can wear for everyday use, as well as when out walking the dog or on the fells. They also want something that is stylish. Mountain Warehouse continues to roll out nice, affordable product, such as the Exodus Softshell, which pretty much fits the bill. It comes in a water- and wind-resistant fabric, with zipped side pockets and adjustable cuffs, hood and hem, and a chin guard. £69.99, mountainwarehouse.co.uk
VERDICT Perfect for walking the dog and hitting the trail.
PREMIUM FIT There is a reason why Columbia has such an excellent reputation in the outdoors world, as you only have to put on one of their products to see why. Take, for example, the Titan Ridge III Hybrid jacket, with its hi-tech textiles affording the wearer maximum comfort and performance, as well as water and mud repellency, and thermal insulation. Breaking it down further, one layer brings thermal insulation, while another brings Columbia’s advanced repellency. This is combined with power stretch fabric for premium fit and comfort, no matter what the activity. Features include a zippered chest pocket, zippered hand pockets, and drawcord adjustable hem. £115, columbiasportswear.co.uk
VERDICT Comfort and performance from a brand you can rely on.
WARM FRONT If you are seeking out a warm pair of trousers for the cold snaps, then the Compass Challenger will fit the bill nicely. Constructed in a TecWEAVE warm stretch double weave fabric, Sprayway’s iteration is coated with a durable water-repellent finish. What we particularly like is the semi-elasticated crescent waistband with belt loops, which is comfortable, but also wicks well. With a UV rating of UPF 50+, they are not your average hiking trousers, either, as they are smart enough to wear down to the pub. Two zipped hand pockets, a zipped thigh pocket and a hook and loop tabbed rear pocket make up the package. £80, sprayway.com
VERDICT Set your bearings on the Compass, and you will not go far wrong.
WHAT’S IN A NAME It is always interesting to delve into product names, and how the design departments keep coming up with something original. In Regatta’s case, Leesville, the name dedicated to the brand’s adventure-ready trousers, is a city in Vernon Parish, Louisiana. While it is doubtful that you will be splashing through any swamps, the Leesville will help protect you from the sun, with 40UPF and a showerproof finish. In lightweight polyamide fabric, they have a part elasticated waist, two-way adjustable toggles at the hem, and multiple pockets. £45, regatta.com
VERDICT Stay out the swamps, and you should be fine.
GO BAGGY Whilst we appreciate that it is winter, we thought we should bring to your attention a pair of Baggy Shorts, courtesy of Berghaus’s excellent Extrem range – just in case you are heading off to warmer climes. The lightweight fabric has a water-repellent finish and is also fast drying. The longer styling offers plenty of freedom of movement, and a comfortable fit is guaranteed with the extendable/retractable waist adjuster tabs. Should you find yourself overheating, there are two side vents to provide additional cooling. £75, berghaus.com
VERDICT Bag yourself a pair and you will not be disappointed.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT With so many excellent products on the market these days, it can be quite baffling, if not daunting, to find exactly what you are looking for. Rather than have to shop around, many of us tend to veer towards our favourite brand, which is fine. If you like what the manufacturer produces, there is no harm in that. Right up there with the favourites, and has been for a long time, is Berghaus, who produce quality clothing and footwear at reasonable prices. Check out the Fast Hike Light trousers, for example. Constructed with a two-way stretch fabric, they feature articulated knees and a diamond gusset, two front zipped hand pockets and a zipped back pocket, and there is even a rear attachment point for a chalk back. Think of everything, don’t they! £75, berghaus.com
VERDICT Extremely lightweight, fast drying, and they pack down small.
FLEXIBLE FRIEND A brand that always finds favour in the office, Didriksons’s Spencer USX pant is made with a four-way stretch material, which is highly breathable, and will withstand ‘light’ weather conditions, so make sure you carry some overtrousers with you, should you anticipate the elements turning nasty later in the day. The pant features an ankle zip opening, which can be adjusted at the cuff, two hand pockets and a zipped thigh and rear pocket. £72, didriksons.com/en
VERDICT Flexible, functional, comfortable and affordable.
ODDS AND SODS
OUT OF THE ORDINARY There is something about a Tilley hat which makes it stand out from the crowd. Recognised for its iconic and classic hat designs, the manufacturer has launched the Tec-Wool Hat, which comes with hidden features and technologies, as well as the famous Tilley ‘lifetime’ guarantee. The hat has a Schoeller c_change technology membrane built into the fabric, not something we at Essential Journeys are familiar with. Apparently, it acts like a pine cone or pores of the skin, in that it reacts to temperature change. When hot, it opens to let heat and moisture out, and when chilly it stays closed to keep cold at bay. Being windproof and waterproof, c_change also protects the wearer in all kinds of weather, including the most extreme conditions. Other features include discreet ‘tuck-away’ ear warmers, which can be pulled down in cold or windy weather, a Hydrofil headband to wick sweat away, an internal size adjustment device, and a secret valuables pocket. It looks great on, too. £80, tilley.com
BACK TO BASE Most keen walkers will appreciate the benefits of wearing a base layer… that layer of fabric against the skin, which allows sweat to evaporate through the material. And yet there are many that still insist on wearing a cotton tee under a fleece, and then wonder why they end up either shivering and/or dripping with perspiration when they take a lunch stop. Wise up, guys and gals. Base layers are worth their salt in sweat, so to speak. The Roola is a classic example. A lightweight top with all the benefits of natural merino wool, blended with synthetic polyester fibres, it is naturally anti-microbial and odour-resistant. The Sprayway long sleeve top has a half zip, and flat locked seams. £55, sprayway.com
VERDICT Very comfortable next to the skin.
HEADS UP You have probably seen the film: the trapper, trudging knee-deep through snow in deepest Canada, done up to the nines in fur, feet cosy in mukluks, and on his head, a rather attractive beaver hat. Well, we won’t go that far, but Trekmates has introduced the particularly nice Brinzlea, inspired by trapper-style headwear. Made of durable Polyamide fabric, the Sherpa fleece lining combines with a GTX insert, and is waterproof and breathable. The Brinzlea has a triple-fold peak, earflaps with chinstrap, and an adjustable rear drawcord cleat. £30, trekmates.co.uk
VERDICT The fashion conscious will like the trapper look.
KEEPING IN TOUCH If you like the sound of the Brinzlea, you could pair up the hat with Trekmates‘s Aretzz gloves, which are perfect for those winter mountain walks. They have a water-resistant polyester outer, and hollowfibre insulation with a combination of microfleece and high pile lining. An elasticated wrist with drawcord adjuster retains warmth, whilst a stretch inner cuff keeps the snow out. If you are worried about losing touch with the real world, then fear not, because the pre-curved, rolled tip fingers ensure touch screen compatibility. £40, trekmates.co.uk
VERDICT Technophiles will love them.
STARRY NIGHT Spending a night under the stars can be a magical experience, especially if you have room to enjoy the view. That is where the Journey Duo comes in handy. There is a lot to like about this latest offering from Snugpak, and it is good to see the brand moving more towards the consumer end of the market, as opposed to its more military stance of old. Like most two-person tents, it has a low-profile design, but that does not mean you are going to be lacking in space. There is plenty of room for yourself and your partner, your packs and other clobber in the front porch, the door of which incorporates a mosquito net ventilation panel. Dampness is taken care of with a bathtub-style durable groundsheet with a tailored tent footprint. The fly is made of ripstop polyester, with a water resistant coating, and the inner tent is nylon with a polyester No-See-Um mesh. The colour-coded poles are alloy, and the tent comes with a basic repair kit. £169.95, snugpak.com
VERDICT Weighing in at 9lb, it is not the lightest on the market, so it might be of more practical use as a weekend basecamp tent rather than used for backpacking.
SOFTLY SOFTIE If you find yourself spinning around in your sleep, forever getting tangled up in your sleeping bag, finding that you require more room, then Snugpak has the answer in the Softie Expansion 5. The bag incorporates an expanding system called the EEP (elasticated expander panel), so you can make the bag wider, as required. Not only does the option offer you more room, but it also works effectively as a body regulator, helping cool the bag. £122.50, snugpak.com
VERDICT: Unzip the jumbo zip baffle and jiggle away to your heart’s content.
SNUGGLE UP If you have you ever turned up at a sleeping barn, been supplied with a sleeping bag, and then forgotten to bring with you a liner, then you will not be alone. They are incredibly handy things to have in your backpack, as they can add a season to your sleeping bag, and are even great as a standalone in warm climates. I was recently in Corsica, and used Snugpak’s new Fleece Insulating Liner at a night’s stopover in a remote lighthouse, where I used the supplied sleeping bag rolled up as a pillow. £44.95, snugpak.com
VERDICT The fleece is particularly cosy, and although the liner does not pack down particularly small, it does come with a compression sack.
COOKABILITY Backpackers will be familiar with integrated cooksets, and many of you may know of Sea to Summit for their range of camp kitchen accessories and other outdoor ranges. Their Alpha Set 2.2 is certainly a nice addition. There is nothing worse than an assortment of cookwear and utensils merrily clanging away in your pack. The Alpha Set does away with that. The pair of hard, anodised aluminium alloy pots come with pivot-lock handles that clamp down the lids. The set is completed with a pair of bowls, two 350ml insulated mugs and a microfibre towel. The weight is a factor to bear in mind, at 765g (27oz), which really is not bad considering the set’s robust nature. £80, seatosummit.co.uk
VERDICT If functionality and orderliness are your primary objectives, then the Alpha Set will fit the bill nicely.
SOME LIKE IT HOT Once upon a time you would fill a flask with steaming hot tea and an hour later it would taste, well, rancid, lukewarm and certainly stewed. Not any more. Take Lifeventure’s TiV Vacuum flask, for example. TiV stands for thermally induced vacuum, which in essence regulates temperature change by creating an airless cavity between the food-grade stainless steel walls of the flask. The vacuum insulated double wall has a copper-coated inner wall, and it has a screw top stopper with a simple twist and pour feature. In a range of sizes, the flask is coated in a durable scratch-resistant finish, and the lid of the flask doubles as a cup. From £14.99 (300ml), lifeventure.com
VERDICT We like the long-lasting and effective thermal insulation layer, which keeps liquids hot for up to eight hours or cool for 24 hours.
CARD SHARP If you are worried about identity thieves using scanners to intercept the radio frequencies emitted by microchips found in most credit cards and passports, and therefore accessing your data, then Lifeventure has the answer in its slimline RiFD Travel Wallet. Using weatherproof fabrics for organising and securing documents on extended trips, it boasts nine card slots, one with ID window, Smartphone stash pocket, passport and board pass slot pockets, external slip pocket (not RFiD), three note/ticket pockets, a zipped pocket, and pen loop. Most importantly, the wallet utilises a blocking material, which acts as a barrier against RFiD signals. £24.99, lifeventure.com
VERDICT Play your cards right, and you will have a safe and secure journey.
Words | Michael Cowton