Thursday 31 December 2015

Favourite New Outdoor Gear 2015

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 low
247 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.

Hilleberg Enan

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. 

Jetboil MiniMo

The MiniMo is the first integrated stove/pot/heat exchanger unit that I’ve really liked as it’s the first with a wide rather than tall pot, which makes it more stable and easier to use for cooking and eating. In fact I was so impressed with the MiniMo that I ended up using it on almost all my 2015 camping trips.
 Sherpa Nangpala

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.

 Berghaus VapourLight Hypertherm Hood
 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

The Zero G is another Nigor product that resembles an old GoLite one, in this case the popular Jam pack. The Zero G is made from the same tough Dyneema fabric and has the same big rear pocket. It’s more comfortable with heavier loads though as it has an internal frame and a thicker hipbelt. The capacity is 53 litres and it weighs 1.1kg. I found it comfortable and stable and ideal for summer backpacking.
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
These unusual-looking boots have a very thick midsole that provides great cushioning. The leather/nylon uppers have an eVent lining. I find these boots very comfortable and quite warm – I’ve worn them in the snow.

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.

Fjallraven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket
The chemicals used for DWR treatments on waterproof jackets have been found to be harmful to the environment. With this jacket Fjallraven has used a different eco-friendly treatment and also recycled polyester. The design is good too with a wired hood and large chest pockets. I’ve used the jacket in heavy rain and found it comfortable and breathable.

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.

PHD WaferLite
Down clothing has become lighter in recent years but this vest is just ridiculous as it only weighs 84 grams. It’s still warmer than a midweight fleece though. Packed size is minute of course. I find it very comfortable and at this weight and size it need never be left at home.


  1. Some nice choices there. The lightweight down vest is great and its worth noting at that weight its not only lighter than a fleece but is also lighter than a tshirt. I have a similar Mont Bel jacket and its fab. Interested in your comment re the Fjallraven jacket having a more environmentally friendly DWR. I was made aware of the issue re PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) after reading the Greenpeace report earlier this year but I'm not sure if the wider outdoor public are aware. It would be nice to see more comments re this in gear reviews and in the magazines. I subscribe to and enjoy TGO and I think an article highlighting the issue is due. We all love the outdoors and want to do our bit but if people are not aware they won't demand products and the manufacturers won't develop alternatives if there is no demand. Enjoying the blog and your articles in TGO. Have a Happy New Year. Matt

    1. Hi Matt
      You make a great point when you say there should be articles highlighting the more sustainable brands, I totally agree. There are a number of brands doing great work in sustainability but many of their products never reach more than a small number of retailers, one of the reasons is that the processes and fabrics used cost more so the end product costs more, we live in a world where price is key, there is an over supply of very similar products from many manufacturers (just look at the number of skinny baffle down jackets)and not too many consumers or dare I say retailers looking behind the brand. I looked after the UK for a leading Scandinavian outdoor brand for 5 years, they had more blue sign products than Patagonia in their range, but as they were 10 - 15% more expensive sales and exposure was small. More credible articles highlighting why these brands are different and that buying good quality is also more sustainable would be good.

  2. I like the Fjallraven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket not just for its design and look but because of its environmental footprint moreover. It's made from fluorocarbon-free impregnation and recyclable polyester. Now that got to be a good step forward, which many are now emulating or even pioneering. Patagonia of course is one of those leading lights. I also like the Nigor brand although the Wikiup is a bit to heavy. A new brand to me I am on their website now and like the PioPio solo. Will be looking into that. Thanks for the tips Chris. There is some good stuff to be checking out. All the very best. Mark WyeExplorer.

  3. Is the Enan your 'go to' tent now Chris? The similarities with the TN Laser Competition are clear, but the Enan has a slightly thicker pole and the advantage of double guylines each side and not the clumsy TN hood system. I still think I'll go for a MLD Duomid though as the Enan is quite pricey.

    1. I don't really have a 'go to' tent Jay. It all depends on where I'm going, when I'm going, for how long, what the forecast is, and what I'm testing. As it's new, interesting and expensive I wanted to give the Enan a good test last year so I used it a fair bit. I think it's more like the Akto than the Laser Comp (the latter being based on the former anyway) - the porch and outer door are virtually the same. The end vents are the best new feature apart from the weight.

  4. The Enan looks remarkably similar to the Tarptent Moment DW which is lighter (sub 1Kg), cheaper ($295) and has double entrances. Only problem is getting one from the USA but try - just over £300 (I have found them excellent and no import duty from EU) countries)

  5. Highland weather certainly tests out your equipment!!! We just got battered again I suppose it's all part of the game really. Regards, Mark.

  6. Hello Chris I was wondering if I get a inter tent from nigor 3 will it fit my go lite sl3 I really like the way the inter tent comes up really high to keep wind and cold out

  7. It should do Noel. The two tents are the same size and shape.