Tuesday 25 December 2018

Favourite New Outdoor Gear 2018

Tilley Hiker Hat on the GR5

After another year of testing gear for The Great Outdoors here are my favourite items of 2018. As in previous years they don't necessarily replace old favourites and they're in no particular order. More detailed reviews of some of the items can be found in my column on the TGO website, along with other reviews.

Some of these items came on the GR5 Trail Through The Alps with me, along with some old favourites. You can read about the gear I took on that walk here.

Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag

Weighing just 850 grams and with a comfort rating of -7C this sleeping bag is very warm for the weight. It also has an unusual and practical design with a front rather than a side zip that makes it easy to get in and out. This centre zip is also excellent for sitting up in the bag and for using your hands with the hood up. The zip can be adjusted from top, bottom and in the middle so you can have ventilation wherever you want. I find it very comfortable.

MPowerd Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 

This inflatable light is the best camping lantern I've ever used. It folds flat for packing and weighs 173 grams. It charges via USB or by the built-in solar panel. The variable light is very bright and easily lights up a campsite. I've used it when walking too and it's excellent.

Millican Fraser The Rucksack 32L

At a glance this is just a retro-looking daypack but it does have some excellent features and is very comfortable to carry. It has a padded back, internal framesheet and padded hipbelt.

The Fraser is made from a tough wax impregnated polyester/cotton fabric that looks like old-fashioned canvas. There's a minimum number of fabric panels to reduce the seams and maximise strength. I reckon it should last a long time.

There are eight pockets including one for valuables and documents that's on the back rathert than inside the lid. The buckled side pockets are roomy and there are open pockets behind them. Capacity is 32 litres and it weighs 1.35kg.

Tilley Hiker Hat

I've worn a Tilley Hat on every long walk I've done since discovering them in the Yukon in 1990. This latest model went on the GR5 and was excellent. The design is very similar to the original Tilley Hat but it's made from organic cotton and has a mesh band round the crown for ventilation rather than brass eyelets. The thin pad inside the crown is made from an evaporative cooling material that soaks up water and then cools you as it slowly dries.

Trail Designs Kojin Stove

Trail Designs Caldera/TiTri cone units have been my choice for long distance walks for the last decade. This year a new meths/alcohol burner was launched for these cones and it's excellent. It's a tiny tin full of absorbent wadding and weighs just 17 grams. The wadding absorbs the fuel so it can't spill and if you don't use it all you can screw on the lid so it doesn't evaporate. I took it on the GR5 and it worked well.


I've liked ULA packs for many years, using the Catalyst on many long walks. The 54-litre CDT is a lighter, simpler, frameless pack designed for 5-8kg loads. It only weighs 680 grams but has a padded back, padded hipbelt and five pockets and is made from tough Robic fabric. With light loads it's very comfortable.

Land Rover Explore

I've used a smartphone for navigation, photos, social media, blog posts, TGO articles and more for a decade now. During that time I've gone through a number of different cases to protect the phones from water, dirt, and being dropped. No need with the Explore. It's designed for the outdoors and very rugged. I took it on the GR5 and it performed fine. As a smartphone it's much like many others but the toughness makes it stand out for outdoor use.

Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody

Ultralight and packing into a tiny ball the Micro Puff is the warmest for the weight synthetic filled jacket I've ever used. It only weighs 264 grams and is warmer than the thickest fleece. It's also soft and very comfortable.

Matrix Powerwatch X

Smartwatches can do all sorts of amazing things but to do so they need power and batteries are tiny and generally need recharging often. This watch may not have all the functions of other smartwatches but it never needs charging as it works off body heat. I find this amazing!

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

Weighing only 945 grams the 60-litre Mariposa comfortably carries 15kg. I took it on the GR5 and found it superb. I especially loved the seven external pockets that held everything I needed for the day. It's proved tough too and shows little sign of wear.

Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Low Mesh

These are the third version of the Lone Peak I've worn and I think they're the best. The wide toebox allows freedom of movement, grip and cushioning are excellent, and the zero drop feels fine. The best trail shoes I've used. I took them on the GR5 and had no blisters or any foot problems.

Lightwave S10 Sigma

Last year the S20 Sigma was one of my favourites. This year it's the smaller, lighter S10, which is ideal for solo use. I still can't quite believe a single-skin tent can be so condensation free. It's roomy and stable too.

Rab Microlight Summit

In really cold weather nothing beats a down jacket and this winter I've been wearing the latest in Rab's Microlight range and it's superb. It's light at 455 grams and very warm. It has hydrophobic down, an adjustable hood and roomy pockets. 

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