Saturday 26 February 2022

A Brief Respite From Storms and Thaw In The Cairngorms

Today the wind is howling in the trees again and the thaw that started last night has cleared the low level snow and reduced it on the Cromdale Hills to small patches. The pattern of the winter continues. Strong winds most days. Heavy snowfalls quickly followed by a thaw. One day a week seems to be calmer. This week that was yesterday so I set off to see what the snow and wind of the previous day had done to the Cairngorms.

The view of Meall a'Bhuachaille showed the wind direction during the snow fall. The north-western slopes were scoured. They were scoured too on the east ridge of Coire na Ciste. There were only small patches of snow but the ground was frozen and icy and I was soon wearing crampons.

As I approached the broad north ridge of Cairn Gorm the ice axe came out too as the snow was now extensive and a slip could have sent me a long way. Up here a chill wind picked up and I sought the shelter of boulders for brief stops.

The light was soft under rushing grey clouds, a feeling of the Arctic rather than the bright sharpness of the Alps. The Cairngorms can supply either. A bleak beauty today. And a feeling of remoteness and a different world even though I was only a few hours from the car. Height can make such a difference. 

I had thought I would wander up Cairn Gorm but the wind was strengthening and the clouds dropping. Gazing over Strath Nethy was enough. Turning back I retraced my steps. Lower down the air was warming. As I descended I slowly shed, crampons, ice axe, hat, gloves. The thaw was beginning.

Although the car park was busy I'd seen few people, as usual for this part of the Cairngorms despite its accessibility. On the ascent I watched a small group making their was up a wide swatch on snow on the side of Coire na Ciste. On the descent a lone walker crossed the ridge below me and headed off into Coire Laogh Mor.

Thursday 24 February 2022

A Look At The April Issue Of The Great Outdoors

The April issue of The Great Outdoors has just been published. In it I have a review of Alex Roddie's The Farthest Shore, the story of a wild night in the Cairngorms, a comparison of three rugged smartphones, and reviews of the Rab Generator Alpine Jacket, Arc'teryx Beta LT jacket, and a couple of cold-weather Tilley Hats. Also in the gear pages Alex Roddie reviews seven smartphone navigation apps.

In the main features David Lintern walks the Cape Wrath Trail, James Forrest attempts the Dales High Way in winter, Hanna Lindon picks out ten UK long-distance hiking routes, and Mark Waring goes hammocking on the Finnish taiga. 

The issue opens with a tremendous double page spread of skiers on Braeriach in winter by James Roddie. In shorter pieces Alex Roddie describes a circuit of Kinder Scout, adventurer and expedition leader Chaz Powell shares stories of his trips in a Q&A, there's a look at oudoor clothing as fashion, mountaineering instructor Mike Raine gives his view on some controversial path repairs in Snowdonia, also in Snowdonia Jim Perrin praises Carnedd Elidir, and James Forrest gives some tips on blister prevention. 

In the Wild Walks section Keith Fergus climbs Stob Binnein in the Southern Highlands, Ian Battersby climbs Helm Crag and High Raise in the Lake District, Andrew Galloway has a coastal walk round Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire, James Deboo takes tracks to Malham Cove and Malham Tarn, and Vivienne Crow climbs Cold Fell in the North Pennines.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Thoughts on Winter Sleeping Bags

With snow settled on the Scottish hills I’m looking forward to a winter camp soon. It’ll be my first camp of the year – later than usual due to waiting for my hand to recover from an operation just before Christmas. Planning what to take I started thinking about sleeping bags and decided to share my thoughts. I’ve combined parts of various introductions to winter sleeping bags I’ve written for The Great Outdoors over the years with some additional ideas to make what I hope is an interesting and useful feature.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Britain is a chilly -27°C. That’s cold. Very cold. However, it is an extreme and most winter nights don’t get anywhere near that. In fact, temperatures below -10°C aren’t that common and most winter nights in the hills are in the +5 to -5° range.  So, whilst you certainly need a warmer sleeping bag in winter than summer it needn’t be one that can cope with sub -20 temperatures. For most winter nights a bag with a rating of around -10C and 14-16cms of loft (thickness), should be adequate. You could carry a -30°C bag just in case but it’ll be heavy and bulky and at zero degrees probably too hot. Better to have a bag that will keep you comfortable most nights and if the temperature does fall much lower wear warm clothing, which can increase the warmth of a bag considerably. This said, those who sleep really cold might well do better with a bag with a bit lower rating.

The weight of a bag doesn’t necessarily determine its warmth. Heavier down bags may have more down of a lower quality to achieve the same temperature rating as lighter bags and often thicker shell fabrics as well. But if they’re as lofty as lighter bags then they should be as warm. Their big advantage is much lower cost. Synthetic bags are always heavier than down bags with equivalent ratings though the difference is not as great as it used to be. Again, the cost is an advantage.


The warmth rating standard EN 13537 is useful for comparing bags but should only be taken as an approximate guide. Those who sleep warm may find ratings understated, those who sleep cold may find them disappointing. There are other factors that determine how warm you sleep too, especially your sleeping mat. If this is inadequate you might be cold even in higher temperatures than the bag’s rating as much heat will be lost to cold ground. However good it is the fill of the sleeping bag will be flattened under you and so much less effective.

Your shelter plays a part too. A double-skin tent with a solid inner is much warmer than a tarp. Which is not to say don’t use the latter – I often do, or else a single-skin tent – just that you will probably need a warmer sleeping bag. 

Also important are the clothing you’re wearing (remove anything damp!), how cold you are when youget in the bag (it’s easier to stay warm than to get warm), and how recently you’ve eaten.


Winter sleeping bags are usually mummy-shaped with hoods and a tapered body. Companies usually show sleepers flat on their back in them, face framed in the hood. If you sleep on your side or your front – I do both – lying in a mummy bag doesn’t look so neat. If the bag is roomy enough for you to turn over in it you end up with your face inside the hood. If the bag turns over with you the hood may end up on top of your head. As mummy-shaped bags were the only ones available for many decades I adapted to using them. One feature I did watch out for was bags with less fill on the bottom on the assumption this would stay under you. After waking chilly when testing such bags with the bottom on the side or above me I now avoid such designs. In recent years different-shaped sleeping bags have appeared from a few companies designed for side or front sleepers. I’ve tried a couple and they are more comfortable.

The right size bag should fit reasonably closely while still allowing you freedom to move. Masses of room may be comfortable, but it also means lots of dead air space that has to be heated up and that can feel chilly when you turn over into a patch of it. Close-fitting bags are the most thermally efficient but can feel restrictive. There won’t be room for wearing thick warm clothing in them either – this can be draped over the top if extra warmth is needed.  Many bags come in different sizes and it’s worth seeking out one that fits.

Hoods come in different designs. Ones that can be opened fully are good for warm sleepers, like me, who only use hoods when it’s really, really cold. If you always use a hood then shaped ones that don’t open fully are very snug. With any hood, check you can easily pull it in close around your head without any big gaps appearing as these will let in cold air, and that the drawcords are easy to operate in the dark – it’s not pleasant struggling to open a bag in the dark.

Rather than neck baffles that operate separately from the hood many bags now have baffles, sometimes called neck gaskets or collars, that run round the edge of the hood and pull in round the face and neck. These work well and are easier to use than neck baffles as only one drawcord is required.

Most sleeping bags have full length zips. These need to have thick baffles behind them to prevent cold air entering. Some bags have short zips, which saves weight but makes the bag a little less versatile. It’s even possible to have a bag without a zip, which makes for a light bag with no chance of cold air getting in at the zip but which you can’t unzip if you feel too hot. Side zips are the most common, but central ones make it easier to use your arms while sitting up in the bag.


Even the best synthetic fills don’t approach down for warmth for weight or low packed bulk. -10°C rated synthetic bags are big and heavy. For backpacking I think down is far better. As well as being much lighter it’s comfortable over a wider temperature range and far longer lasting. It does need to be kept dry but so do synthetics, as sleeping in any wet bag will be very unpleasant in the cold. I’ve used down bags on many winter camping trips, some up to 6 weeks long, and have never got one more than slightly damp. I keep my bag in a stuffsack inside a waterproof liner in the pack and air it whenever possible. 

If you’re really concerned about getting your bag wet one with water-resistant down could be worth considering. I think this is more useful for jackets though. Or you could use a bivi bag. I carry one but rarely use it as I find my bag gets damp from condensation inside it.

Down is available in different grades, measured by the fill power, which is the volume that thirty grams of down in a cylinder will fill. The higher the fill power the higher the quality of down and the warmer the bag will be for the same weight of down. There are different machines for testing fill power and these produce slightly different results. Generally American methods produce higher fill power figures for the same down. Rab, for example, says that its top grade down has a European fill power of 750 and an American one of 850.


Sleeping bag shells are made from windproof, breathable, fast drying fabrics with a light water repellent finish that sheds the odd drip but isn’t waterproof. More water-resistant shells are available, but these aren’t fully waterproof either, as the seams will leak. Bags with waterproof shells with sealed seams are very expensive, and heavier than ones without such shells. I’d rather have a separate bivi bag and only use it when essential.


Good winter sleeping bags are expensive. There’s not a big market for them and the materials are costly. So, do you really need a bag that’s probably too warm to use at least half the year, the half when you’re likely to spend more time camping? If you camp regularly in winter I’d say having a winter bag is worthwhile but for the occasional winter camper there are other options.

The first is to use two bags, one inside the other. Combine a three- season bag and a summer bag and you have the equivalent of a winter bag plus you can use the bags separately at other times. Two bags generally weigh a little more than one and may not be as comfortable – the inside one can get quite twisted – but the system does work. If you’re worried about damp the outer bag could be a thin synthetic one. A liner bag made of fleece is an alternative but doesn’t add as much warmth and is even more prone to tangling in my experience.

Rather than two bags you could use a bag and a quilt. The latter can be tucked in round the edges of the bag. I haven’t tried this combination, but it should be less prone to tangling than two bags.

Next you could plan on wearing warm clothing inside a three-season bag to boost the warmth. Insulated jackets, trousers, and booties can all add many degrees to the rating. The main drawback to this is that if the temperature is exceptionally low you’re already wearing your insulated clothing and might feel chilly when you exit the bag.

A bivi bag also adds a little warmth but as I said earlier condensation can be a problem.


Sunday 20 February 2022

Contrasts: same place, different days

February 18

February 19

Following my last post here are two selfies. Sums up the conditions on each day!

Today is a mix of thaw, rain, sleet, snow.

Storm & Sun: The first big snow fall of the winter arrives with Storm Eunice and gives two contrasting days.

For once the high winds brought by the latest big storm stayed well south of the Highlands. Up here on its northern edge we had a day of snow - heavy snow, by far the heaviest of the winter so far. It fell steadily hour after hour, plastering the fields and the woods. Out in the big meadows it was almost white-out conditions. In the the forest the trees were hazy and mysterious.

I ventured out into the blizzard. The snow was soft and deeper than I expected and the walking laborious. I should have had my skis or snowshoes. As so often the snow levelled out the bumps and dips, the rocks and rabbit burrows, so they couldn't be seen, but wasn't deep or dense enough to stop your feet finding them. I came close to breaking a leg in a rabbit hole a few times. My local fields had become dangerous terrain!

I returned home via a track with a bit firmer surface. The snow continued to fall. Sometime during the night it ceased. Day came with a clear sky, soon blue and bright. Time for the skis. 

The snow was still soft. I didn't get much glide. But the skis evened out the terrain, sliding over holes and bumps. It was a joy to be on skis for the first time this winter too. The fields felt like vast arctic tundra, so much bigger and wilder than when snowless. In the distance the white Cairngorms rippled.

The sun was warm and I'd soon stripped off gloves and undone jacket. The snow glare and bright sun made dark glasses essential. Under the blue sky the Cromdale Hills looked fine, the horrible scars of muirburn well hidden.

As the afternoon started to fade into dusk thin high clouds increased in the west. Tomorrow is forecast to be stormy again, with high winds, rain, sleet, and snow. But this was a perfect day.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Winter's Not Over Yet!

So far this winter has seen less snow in the hills than in many years, leading some to declare it the worst winter for snow ever or that the winter is over. No, no, no! It's much too soon to say either of these. Come May we'll know what the winter has been like but not before. Some years the greatest amount of snow is in April Some years you can go ski touring in May. 

What this winter has been is very windy. Changes in temperature have been even more rapid than usual with snow starting to melt almost as soon as it's setlled. The coming week looks like more of the same, with another big storm coming in with very high winds. There's snow forecast on the Cairngorm Plateau every day too. How long will it last this time?

With a brief window of low winds forecast two days ago I wandered into the Cairngorms to see just what conditions were like. The day was cloudy with the highest tops mostly hidden though Cairn Lochan did appear occasionally. There were big drifts of snow and scoured areas with patches of ice. The freezing level was around 800 metres and the temperature change was immediately noticeable. I went from being a little sweaty to chilly in minutes and soon stopped to don jacket, hat and gloves. The cliffs in Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain came and went hazily in the clouds, looking massive anf foreboding.

I climbed the broad ridge leading to the little 1083 metre bump called Miadan Creag an Leth-choin then wandered over to the edge of the trench of the Lairig Ghru and the dramatic view along this tremendous pass.

Cloud-shrouded summits had me returning the same way. I had no desire to navigate in the mist. A walker I met descending as I ascended said he'd been to Ben Macdui and had had just one brief view of Braeriach. He seemed to have enjoyed his day anyway.

I met few other people but I did see many farther away. On the big snow drifts on the west side of Coire an Lochain many groups were practising winter skills. High on Cairn Lochan I could see tiny figures. 

The path was obliterated by snow in places and icy in others. I almost donned crampons - Alan, the walker I talked to, was wearing them and I could see the marks of others. If it had been icier or steeper I would have done. And probably also if I hadn't had trekking poles, these keeping me upright when I slipped a little occasionally. 

The temperature change was just as noticeable on the descent and suddenly I was far too hot, needing to stop and strip off the warm layers. By the time I reached the car park rain was falling. High up this would be snow.

Maybe winter is really just beginning.

All photos taken February 13. Converted to black and white. There was little colour anyway.

Thursday 10 February 2022

On The Edge Of Torridon: A Trip Report With Gear Reviews


Last year I began an occasional series of trip reports with the emphasis on the gear used for The Great Outdoors (there’ll be more this year). This is the first one, a spring trip in April.  Edited slightly.

For this first backpacking trip in over three months (due to the lockdown) I decided it was wise not to be too ambitious. I knew I'd lost some fitness and wasn't sure how my body would react to carrying a big pack. There was snow on the hills too, soft deep snow. Wanting to break myself back in with an easy trip I decided on a short walk, a low-level camp, and an ascent of some lower hills. I picked two Grahams - hills between 2000 and 2500 feet (610 and 762 metres) - that I hadn't been up before. Carn Breac and Beinn na Feusaige lie on the edge of the Torridon hills and reputedly had great views whilst not themselves being at all distinctive. On the map the walking looked easy on wide slopes with no obstacles though no paths were marked beyond the first few kilometres into Coire Crubaidh.

The corrie floor was boggy, but I found a dryish patch just above the stream for my camp. The only noise was the water racing over the stones. The evening was chilly with clouds soon covering the sky. The morning came with a hard frost. There was a touch of sun then the clouds rolled back in. I breakfasted from my sleeping bag, delighted to be here.

Leaving the tent I set off up the glen and climbed to the long broad ridge of Carn Breac. The going was tough on boggy tussocks and as I gained height more and more snow patches appeared, far more than I'd expected. Hills of similar height back home in the Cairngorms were mostly snow free. High up the snow patches were soft and deep and often unavoidable. Not that the bogs between them made for much easier walking. I weaved about trying to find the easiest line between soft snow and squelchy ground. The views however were, as promised, superb, especially those of Liathach and Beinn Eighe, white and alpine.

Peat hags made the going even worse as I approached the second summit. At one point a snow patch collapsed under me and suddenly I was over my knees in freezing water. I levered myself out awkwardly then stomped uphill trying to warm my feet. A herd of deer watched me and then wandered off, probably thinking that such a clumsy, lumbering thing couldn't be a threat. I love seeing deer, but I was well aware that these hills shouldn't be as bare as they are and that over-grazing was the reason for that.

A very steep descent down heather thick slopes brought me back to the corrie floor. At times I was clinging to heather roots. The walk was much tougher than I expected. Back at the tent I slumped down with relief and revived myself with hot chocolate and minestrone soup. I was asleep early. Another frosty starry night ensued but the next morning I was woken by the sun shining on my face from a cloudless sky. I lingered outside over a breakfast of muesli and coffee, just listening to the stream rippling and watching the hills glowing, before packing up and heading back down to the car.


Planning the route on the map was easy. Planning gear required some thought. The weather forecast was for calm dry weather with some sunshine. As this was a spring trip that probably meant sub-zero temperatures at night, so a warm sleeping system was advisable. As there was still some snow on the hills and the ground would be wet from snowmelt, I might need ice axe and crampons and boots would probably be more comfortable than shoes. Playing safe I went for similar gear to that I’d have taken in midwinter, other than lighter boots and, given the forecast, a lighter tent.

As always some of the items were well-proven, some were first-time test gear, and some were long-term test gear. This meant the pack was a little heavier than it could have been but at 14kg with three days food quite manageable. I was only going to carry the full load for a few hours to camp anyway, leaving the camping gear behind for the day on the hill.

Would I have changed anything? I’d have taken a lighter pack if I hadn’t needed to test this one. I should have taken waterproof socks so I could wear them in wet boots round camp. I didn’t need the ice axe or crampons, but I almost did and wouldn’t leave them behind with snow on the hills. I didn’t need my warm hat or several pairs of gloves either but again at this time of year I wouldn’t go without them. My waterproofs never came out of the pack but of course I’d never leave them behind.




Osprey Aether 65 Pack    2.4kg     £220       ****

Likes                  comfortable, adjustable hipbelt
Dislikes              heavy

Capacity            65 litres
Materials           420D High Tenacity Bluesign Nylon
Closure              lid with buckles, zipped front panel
Back System     adjustable, frame, injection moulded HDPE backpanel
Back Length       61cms (S/M)
Compartments    2
Pockets             2 external lid, 1 front, 2 side mesh, 2 hipbelt
Sizes                 S/M, L/XL

 As I was taking winter gear I needed a sizable pack, so this was a good opportunity to try the latest version of Osprey’s well-established Aether 65 pack. I found it very comfortable to carry and I loved the easy access to the contents provided by the panel and top lid openings, lower compartment, and seven pockets. It handled 14kg well and should be comfortable with much more. Stability was good on rough ground. On the day on the summits I used it as a daypack and the side and bottom compression straps meant I could reduce its volume so the contents didn’t move around. The back system is adjustable and there are two sizes. The smaller one fits me well. The padded sections of the hipbelt are adjustable too, which I really like. The fabric feels tough, and the pack should last well. There is just one drawback. The weight. This is a heavy pack. Now if you’ll be carrying 20kg+ loads regularly I think 2.4kg for the pack is acceptable but for loads below 20kg there are lighter weight packs, some much lighter, that are just as comfortable.


Sea to Summit Alto TR2 Plus 1.405kg £450 ****1/2 Best Buy

Likes                       roomy, good headroom, two porches, multi-pitch options
Dislikes                   floor hydrostatic head on low side

Pitching                   multi option
Flysheet                  15D sil/PU nylon ripstop, 1200mm hydrostatic head
Inner                       20D nylon
Groundsheet            20D sil/PU nylon ripstop, 2500mm hydrostatic head
Poles                      DAC Featherlite
Pegs                       8 x 15cm V
Porches                  2
Inner Dimensions     215 x 134/97cm, peak 105cm

In a two-person tents review in The Great Outdoors I gave the Alto TR2 Plus Best Buy. Using it since then I’ve come to appreciate it even more. Although designed for two it’s light enough for one and I really enjoyed the space. Headroom is excellent and the porches are big. I put my pack and boots in one porch and cooked in the other. On this trip there was no rain or wind so I left the inner and outer doors open at night, revelling in the views of the stars whenever I woke. As the nights were frosty condensation did form on the flysheet despite the doors being open. This didn’t drip through the inner though and the space meant I didn’t accidentally push against the damp material. The hydrostatic head of the groundsheet is quite low but although I was pitched on damp ground no moisture came through. On a long trip I’d use a footprint though.

Sleeping Bag.

Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20 1.05kg (R) ****1/2 £300 Recommended

Likes                   lightweight, centre zip
Dislikes               zip snags

Fill                      650 fill power water repellent down, FireLine ECO recycled polyester
Shell                   nylon ripstop outer, polyester taffeta inner
Construction        box wall
Zip                      centre, full-length
Sizes                  regular, long
Rating comfort     -1C, lower comfort -7C

Most sleeping bags are designed on the assumption that you sleep on your back. I don’t. Ever. I sleep on my front and sometimes on my side, so I was very interested to try the Sidewinder SL 20 as it’s designed for side sleepers and meant to roll with you from one side to the other. It does too. I found it very comfortable and although close-fitting it felt a little less restrictive than some mummy bags. It has a centre zip, which I prefer as it makes it easier to sit up in the bag and use it as an item of clothing. I was expecting temperatures a little below zero, so the rating of the bag seemed just right. The first night the overnight low was -1.8C, the second night -0.8C and I was very warm on both.

As well as an unusual shape the Sidewinder has an unusual fill. The main one is water-resistant down, but layers of a high loft synthetic are added in the foot and at the hips to alleviate common pressure points for side sleepers. The down doesn’t have a high fill power and the bag is a little heavier than ones with higher fill power down but it’s still quite light.

Sleeping Mats.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Regular    392g            £92.50          ****1/2       Best Buy

Likes                comfort, light weight
Dislikes            quite expensive 

Type                 airbed
Materials          40D TPU laminated nylon
Dimensions      183 x 55cm
Thickness         5cm
Rating              R-Value 0.7

Lomo Folding Camping Mat     410g                      £20        ****    Recommended

Likes                tough, can’t deflate, low cost
Dislikes            bulky, not that comfortable 

Type                 closed cell foam
Materials          silver coated egg box style closed cell foam
Dimensions      180 x 57cm
Thickness         2cm
Rating              n/a

I took two sleeping mats, one for comfort and one for warmth. The combination worked really well. The Sea to Summit Ultralight was very comfortable but definitely not warm enough on its own. With it directly on the groundsheet I could feel the cold coming through. Once on the Lomo mat it felt perfectly warm. I also used the Lomo mat folded up as a seat. In terms of carrying the Ultralight packs away into a small bundle. The Lomo mat is very bulky however, so I strapped it on the outside of the lower compartment of the pack. Here it had one advantage. It meant the pack would stand up on its own.


Jetboil Stash       200 grams £140   ****1/2               Best Buy

Likes                 lightweight, compact, efficient, heat exchanger
Dislikes             poor wind resistance 

Total Weight       200 grams
Burner Weight    60 grams
Pot Weight        140 grams
Pot Capacity      800ml

This little stove and pot combination is fast becoming a favourite. It’s ideal for one person, boils water fast, and doesn’t weigh much.  The pot works well as a bowl as it’s not tall and narrow and has a secure insulated handle. The burner isn’t designed for simmering as it’s not regulated but I managed to turn the flame down enough to cook a pasta meal for ten minutes without it sticking – I did stir it a fair bit. As I’ve found the stove isn’t very wind resistant I brought a foil windscreen. However, I never used this as the only breezes were light. The stove worked well on the frosty mornings after being left in the tent porch. I didn’t notice any diminution of boiling times. The stove doesn’t have an igniter, so I lit it with a Fire Steel. I used the canister stabiliser supplied with the stove but will probably leave this at home in future as the stove is quite stable without it.



GSI Coffee Rocket          75g    £13                  ****1/2         Recommended

Likes                   light, easy to use
Dislikes               small capacity

An unforeseen result of the pandemic lockdowns has been a change in my coffee drinking habits. Previously I had satisfied my liking for decent coffee a few times a week in local coffee shops. At home and in the hills I drank instant coffee – good quality instant but still not comparable with the real thing. Missing my proper coffee I started making it at home and having acquired a few little coffee makers I decided to take one on this trip. The GSI Coffee Rocket consists of a nylon drip cone with a stainless-steel filter and a clear polypropylene funnel. The drip cone has fold-out notched legs and fits on most mugs. I used it with an old double-wall stainless steel MSR mug – taken because I wanted my coffee to stay hot on frosty mornings but a bit heavy at 172 grams. The Coffee Rocket itself only weighs 75 grams. I’ll take a lighter mug next time.

The drip cone holds 10 grams of ground coffee and the funnel 230ml of water. I’d rather it was bigger, so I didn’t have to make two mugs in the morning, but it does produce good coffee and is easy to use and easy to clean. I’ll be taking it on more trips.

Clothing & Footwear


Roclite Pro G 400 Gore-Tex boot        830g (size 9)    £200      *****      Best Buy

Likes                    lightweight, durable, good grip
Dislikes                nothing 

Uppers                 Schoeller ceramic-coated fabric/Gore-Tex inner
Sole                     Graphene-Grip

 Since I started wearing these boots in the autumn of 2020 they’ve become a favourite. They’re very light, they fit me perfectly and they are very comfortable. The grip is excellent, as it needed to be on this trip where it had to hold on sodden boggy ground, soft snow, and wet rocks. The cushioning is good too and the sole just stiff enough for kicking steps in soft snow. After they got soaked when I went through the snow into a pool they quickly warmed up and stayed comfortable, undoubtably helped by the Gore-Tex inner and the midweight merino wool socks I was wearing. The next morning they were still sodden and a little crisp from the frost. Putting them and the wet socks on was unpleasant but they soon warmed up and were fine for the walk out. When the weather warms up I expect I’d find them a little hot. But then I’ll be wearing trail shoes or sandals anyway.

With a Schoeller ceramic-coated upper and a sole containing graphene the Roclite Pro G boots are designed to be tough and durable. So far, they show no signs of wear. I’ll be wearing them much more to see just how long they last.


Alpkit Woodsmoke Mountain           380 grams (L)             £70   ****   Recommended

Likes                   warmth, stud fastenings, cost
Dislikes               pockets could be bigger 

Fabric                  95% Thermo-Tech polyester/5% spandex
Front closur         studs
Pockets               2 stud-fastened chest
Cuffs                   studs
Sizes                   men S-XXL, women 8-16

I wore this shirt, another item that has become a favourite, throughout the trip as my mid layer, with a thin merino mix base layer under it. It’s quite warm and only in camp and at rest stops did I wear an insulated jacket over it. If there’d been much of a wind I would have needed a layer over it though as it’s not very wind resistant. Made from a brushed synthetic fabric the Woodsmoke is soft and comfortable, wicks moisture away and feels good in a wide range of temperatures. The fabric stretches slightly so it moves with you and has a polygiene odour control treatment so it doesn’t stink. Having studs down the front rather than a zip makes ventilating it easy without having to have it wide open. The two chest pockets are useful but could be bigger – my smartphone won’t fit in.

Other clothes

I wore Fjallraven Abisko Lite trousers throughout the trip, and they were just right in terms of warmth. I also took a Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking Jacket which I wore briefly during the walk-in to camp the first day when I cold breeze sprang up for a short while. In camp and when I stopped on top of Beinn Breac I wore a Patagonia Micro Puff, one of my favourite insulated jackets. My unused waterproofs were a Black Diamond Highline jacket and Berghaus Paclite trousers.