|Testing the Hoka One One Tor Ultra boots in the Cairngorms|
As every year I tested a large range of outdoor gear for The Great Outdoors magazine in 2015 (you can see my 2014 choices here). These are the items that impressed me most. Again as always this doesn’t mean they replace old favourites but they are products that I’ll go on using. So, in no particular order, here we go….
Jottnar Hymir Neoshell Smock
Lightweight (350 grams) and compact this waterproof top is ideal for long trips. Being made from Neoshell it’s very breathable and the design is functional with an excellent hood with wired peak and a mapsize chest pocket. I’ve used it in torrential rain and daylong drizzle and it’s proved very comfortable.
PHD Elite Racer
Truly ultralight this sleeping bag weighs an astonishingly low247 grams. The shell fabric is very thin but still wind resistant and downproof. There’s no zip but there is a hood and a shaped foot. It’s filled with 950 fill power down and is rated to +12°C. At +3° I was warm wearing just light clothing in it (thin base layers, very thin insulated top, medium weight wool socks). For summer backpacking this is a tremendous bag. The rest of the year it could be used as a liner in another bag.
The Akto has been one of my favourite tents for two decades now. However there are now quite a few good alternatives that weigh less. The Enan is Hilleberg’s own one of these. It weighs 1.1kg but has the same inner and porch size as the Akto. Ventilation is actually better than with the Akto due to two large mesh panels at each end.
Insulated with Primaloft Gold Down Blend, a mix of 70% water-repellent down and 30% Primaloft, this warm jacket is water-resistant, quick drying and breathable. It weighs 444 grams and packs up small. There’s a warm hood and handwarmer pockets.
At just 224 grams this insulated jacket is amazingly warm. It has a hood and handwarmer pockets and is great for three-season conditions or combined with another warm top in freezing weather. The shell fabric is windproof so it can be worn as a mid or outer layer.
Nigor Wickiup 3
Amongst many products I was sad to see disappear with the demise of GoLite the Shangri-La 3 pyramid tent was especially missed. The Wickiup 3 is a more than adequate replacement however. It’s the same shape and size as the SL3 but has more guyline attachment points and is made of lighter fabric. I mostly use the flysheet with just a groundsheet, a unit that weighs 1.3kg.
Nigor Zero G
Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus Light Suspension Upgrade
The Exodus was one of my 2014 favourite new items of gear. This new version is designed to carry more weight (14kg rather than 11kg) and has an inflatable frame and a slightly larger and more padded hipbelt. I found it fine with loads up to 16kg. The total weight is 652 grams, making this a real ultralight pack.
Hoka One One Tor Ultra
Osprey Atmos AG 65
For heavy loads where comfort and support is more important than the weight of the empty pack the 2.25kg Atmos AG 65 is superb. It has a frame and a tensioned back and hipbelt. The latter wraps itself round you to really take the weight off your shoulders. As well as very comfortable this pack is also capacious and stable.
Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat
Sea to Summit mats have an unusual dimpled appearance as the air chambers are small and circular rather than the usual long tubes. These chambers deform individually when weighted to conform to your body. The Ultralight Insulated version weighs 462 grams and has synthetic insulation inside. There’s also an innovative valve that makes inflating and deflating the mat easy.
Rab Paradox Pull-On
Designed as a midlayer this insulated top is very breathable as the shell fabric isn’t windproof. That makes it very comfortable to wear under a waterproof jacket. The filling is Polartec Alpha which, like the shell, is very soft. The Paradox weighs 360 grams.