Sunday 29 December 2019

Favourite New Outdoor Gear 2019

Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor

Here are my favourite items of gear for 2019 after another year testing gear for The Great Outdoors. 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.

Kl├Ąttermusen Loride 2.0 EtaDry 

Windproof jackets are my favourite outer wear and this is one of the best I've tried. It's made from soft organic cotton that feels lovely. There's a good protective hood, big pockets and a zip that curves away from the chin. At 475 grams it's not that light but it is more protective than thinner windproofs. I love it!






Columbia OutDry Ex Featherweight Shell

With the waterproof layer on the outside this jacket needs no DWR or reproofing. The taped seams are on the outside too and the jacket has a shiny look. It works well though. I used it on several days of heavy rain on the TGO Challenge this year and stayed dry. The design is fine though the hood could be a bit better fitting. At 225 grams it's lightweight.

Lightwave Firelight 350  

Very comfortable and lightweight (620 grams for the Medium size), this is an excellent sleeping bag. The Polish goose down fill has a very high fill power of 900 (EU standard). The comfort rating is 3°C, the lower limit is -2°C. I've found it very warm at +2. The bag is a bit roomier than most mummy bags so you can move easily inside. The top zip is easier to adjust than a side one. 

Tilley Tec-Wool

This tweed-look hat is a bit more high-tech than it seems.The outer is wool but inside there’s a polyurethane Schoeller c-change membrane that opens when the temperature rises to allow heat to escape and closes when the temperature drops to keep heat in. I've found this works quite well.The hat also has stretchy ear flaps that fold inside when not needed. The hat is comfortable and warm. Not one for the high mountains but for woodland and valley walks it's great.


 Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L

Having used it for a few overnights I took the Flex Capacitor on my month long Colorado Rockies walk last summer. It performed really well, even when overloaded with nine days food. It's unusual in having a zip-round lid and volume adjustment straps across the front. The latter make it easy to reduce the volume without affecting the balance. At 1.2kg it's lightweight for a 60 litre pack, especially one that will handle 20+kg loads. It has a rigid curved frame and a well-padded hipbelt.

 Altra Olympus 3.5

For several years my favourite footwear has been Altra Lone Peaks, in various versions. This year I wore a different model, the Olympus 3.5, on my 400 mile Colorado Rockies walk and found them very comfortable.  Like the Lone Peaks they have a wide toe box and a zero drop sole. The Olympus shoes have much thicker cushioning though, which was nice on hard surfaces. At 600 grams for a pair of size 9s they are lightweight too.

Extremities Furnace Pro

These warm waterproof gloves are much softer and more flexible than similar ones and really comfortable to wear. They have a knitted wool mix outer, Primaloft insulation, and a soft lining. The fingers are curved and have touchscreen pads so you can use a smartphone with them. I've worn them often this winter.

Alpkit Woodsmoke 

An alternative to a microfleece jacket or pullover the Woodsmoke shirt is a soft, warm shirt made from stretchy hollow fibre polyester. It has big pockets and stud fastenings so it's easy to adjust. The material is fast wicking and drying. The Large size weighs 380 grams.

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated

This mat is one of the most comfortable I've ever used. I took it on the TGO Challenge and found it superb. It's made up of multiple air pockets that conform to your body. It's warm too due to the synthetic fill and a metallic reflective layer. At 540 grams it's not that light but it is extremely comfortable.

Rab Xenon Glove

These ultralight flexible gloves are insulated with Primaloft and have a Pertex Quantum outer, making them surprisingly warm. They weigh just 69 grams. The flexibility means it's easy to use your hands while wearing them. Last winter I wore them far more than any other gloves.

 Montane Prism

This winter I've been wearing these ultralight flexible gloves which have Primaloft insulation and a Pertex Microlight shell. They weight just 70 grams and perform the same as the Rab Xenon gloves. There's nothing to choose between them.

Montane Minimus Mitt

At 30 grams these are the lightest waterproof shell mitts I know. They're made from Pertex Shield and have taped seams.

PHD Wafer Ultima K Down Pullover

This is the warmest garment for the weight I have ever used. It is astonishing, weighing less than 200 grams yet being much warmer than the thickest fleece jacket. I took it on the Colorado Rockies walk and it kept me very warm in frosty camps. It has a half-length zip and a big handwarmer pocket. Fill is 1,000 fill power down, unique to PHD.

Billingham 72 

Billingham camera bags are arguably the best available. The 72 is the smallest model and just right for my Sony a6000 camera with 18-135 lens. I took it on the TGO Challenge and Colorado Rockies walks. It's a simple well-padded bag with a flap and front pocket. It's waterproof and very tough. The best camera bag I've used.

Alpkit Gravitas

For the Colorado Rockies I took this ultralight 165 gram waterproof, hoping it wouldn't be needed much, if at all. In fact in the second half of the walk I had many big thunderstorms and several days of almost constant heavy rain so it was worn a great deal. Happily it performed really well.

PHD M.Degree° 100 K Down Sleeping Bag

Like the Wafer K Pullover this bag is filled with 1000 fill power down and is astonishingly light, just 245 grams. It has a rating of +10°. The design is simple. It's a mummy bag with a hood. Being from PHD there are many options of course - side zips, different fabrics - and sixteen possible sizes. I took the basic bag on the Colorado Rockies walk and it was excellent, keeping me warm on its own on the warmest nights and with clothes on frosty ones.


  1. Thanks Chris, some useful pointers there. Is the rating on the PHd sleeping bag 10c or 10F, the bag looks much too light for it to be 10f but many British nights drop below 10c.

  2. 10C. Designed as an ultralight summer bag and to be used with clothes or a liner bag.