Saturday 31 July 2021

In Praise of Hiking Shirts

Paramo Katmai shirt. Pacific Northwest Trail, 2010

This summer I’ve been testing two t-shirts for The Great Outdoors (see reviews here and here). Now, both t-shirts are fine but using them reminded me why I don’t normally wear t-shirts in warm weather, but much prefer a long-sleeved shirt with front opening, pockets and a collar. 

This wasn’t always the case. Through the 1980s and 1990s I wore t-shirts or long-sleeved base layers on warm weather walks. On those trips I also used a waist pack to carry small items I wanted quick access to – hipbelt pockets on packs were in the future. I never found the latter as roomy, useful or accessible as a waist pack though but once I was carrying lighter loads and taking my pack on and off wasn’t a chore to be avoided I stopped bothering with a waist pack and carried the same items in pack pockets. 

On the Arizona Trail, 2000

Then, sometime in the 1990s, I tried a long-sleeved synthetic conventional shirt designed for general travel but that I thought might work for walking. It was a revelation. Big pockets, sun and insect protection, ventilation, versatility, comfort.. How had I ever worn anything else! Since then I’ve worn such shirts every summer and on every long walk. Until I tried this summer’s t-shirts I took hiking shirts for granted. But wearing a t-shirt I missed having all their features. 

Paramo Katmai shirt, Colorado Rockies, 2019     

I don’t often see anyone else wearing a hiking shirt, especially in the British hills, so to promote them I thought I’d post this article I wrote for The Great Outdoors in 2019. I’ve only included the shirts I recommended that are still available and I’ve updated the prices. Otherwise the feature is mostly unchanged. 

In the High Sierra, 2004

Hiking Shirts Review

In warm weather a hiking shirt is often cooler and more comfortable and versatile than a wicking base layer. Good hiking shirts (often called trekking or travel shirts) can provide protection against sunshine, biting insects and breezes. The best materials are woven nylon and polyester. Whilst they don’t transport moisture quite as well as wicking base layers these thin synthetic fabrics absorb very little water and dry fast. I find a loose fit gives good air flow and reduces dampness as well as being cool and comfortable. Short sleeves are airy and cool but useless against insects and hot sunshine so I prefer long sleeves, which I can roll up when I want cooler arms.

If the weather does turn stormy hiking shirts are also surprisingly effective worn under other layers, as I found on the GR5 Through the Alps in 2018 during cold, wet weather. You can wear a wicking base layer under a hiking shirt if necessary too. 

On the GR20, Corsica, 2005

While hiking shirts are ideal for hot weather walking abroad – as well as the GR5 in the Alps I’ve worn them on the Arizona Trail, the GR20 in Corsica, and the Pacific Northwest Trail, and in the High Sierra, Death Valley and for trekking in the Himalaya – I like them for British summers too. I wore one on my Scottish Watershed walk, which was more wet and windy than warm, and it performed well. I’ve also worn one on the TGO Challenge.

I find the best shirts are ones with large pockets. Much of the year I wear a windproof or waterproof jacket over a base layer and carry small items in the jacket pockets. Shirt pockets are great when it’s too warm for such a jacket. As hiking shirts are also somewhat wind resistant I find them good substitutes for a windshirt/base layer combination when it’s too hot for the latter.

Paramo Katmai shirt, Death Valley, 2016

Although often made from high-tech materials hiking shirts are not very technical garments and style is more a matter of personal preference than performance. I find loose-fitting shirts with big pockets closed with Velcro or studs – buttons can be fiddly – and long sleeves that roll up easily the most versatile.

Hiking shirts are quite light and can also be carried to wear in towns and when travelling. Many are made from crease resistant fabrics and can look surprisingly presentable after days in a rucksack. I find rolling the shirt rather than folding it is the way to minimise creasing. Because they dry so fast sweaty synthetic hiking shirts rinsed out in camp will usually be wearable the next morning.



Synthetics are lightweight, breathable, wind resistant, non-absorbent, fast drying and have high sun protection factors. Many are made from wicking fabrics and have anti-insect treatments too. Polyester/cotton is a little more absorbent and slower drying but very comfortable and still a good fabric. Cotton alone is ok on warm days but dries slowly and feels cold when damp.


Long sleeves are more versatile than short sleeves as they provide sun and insect protection when rolled down. Most long-sleeved shirts have tabs inside the upper arms to hold the sleeves in place when rolled up.


Chest pockets are useful for carrying items such as compass, phone, GPS, notebook, sunglasses, snacks and more. Zipped security pockets are useful for passport, tickets and money when travelling to and from the wilds.


Collars can be turned up for sun protection. Some shirts have extra flaps for this.


Many shirts have mesh vents covered by flaps in the upper back. These are ineffective when wearing a rucksack.


Shirts should be long enough not to pull out when tucked into trousers.




Paramo Katmai Light   210 grams (M) £75  *****   Best Buy

Katmai shirt on the TGO Challenge 2019

Likes:    silky fabric, roomy pockets, wide cuffs, quite light

Dislikes: nothing 
Fabric:              Parameta A polyester 
Front closure:    buttons 
Pockets:            2 Velcro-closed, 1 zipped security, 1 zipped map 
Cuffs:                Velcro 
Vents:               none 
Sizes:               men: S-XXL, women: XS-XL (Socorro Shirt – no Velcro pockets) 

This shirt has been my favourite for over a decade now and my first one has worn out after many long-distance walks. The latest version is exactly the same design and fabric as the original, the only difference being that it’s now available in a check pattern as well as a plain colour.

The Katmai Light is made from Paramo’s Parameta A polyester, a silky feeling fabric that draws perspiration away from the skin and spreads it over a large area to provide fast evaporation. In hot weather this helps to keep you cool. In cold weather it helps keep you warm by drying fast. The fabric is wind-resistant and has an SPF of 50+ and a dense weave that deters biting insects. The shirt is very comfortable to wear.

The design is excellent. The sleeves have wide Velcro-closed cuffs without the usual open slit so when closed biting insects are kept out. When the cuffs are open there’s good ventilation and the sleeves are easy to roll up. There are no tabs to keep them in place, but I haven’t found this a problem.

The pockets are the best on any shirt I’ve tried. There are two roomy bellows pockets on the chest easily big enough for GPS, smartphones, notebooks and more. Velcro tabs make these pockets easy to access compared with ones with buttons. There’s a zipped security pocket inside one of them. There’s also a big map-size pocket with a vertical jetted zip that’s almost invisible.

The hem is straight cut, and the shirt is long enough to stay in trousers when tucked in. The weight and packed bulk are low. The fabric resists creasing extremely well even when screwed up in a rucksack for several days.

I can’t fault this shirt. Studs rather than buttons on the front might be an improvement but I haven’t found the buttons awkward.


Alpkit Woodsmoke Mountain           380 grams (L)             £65   ****   Recommended 


Likes:              warmth, stud fastenings, cost 
Dislikes:          not that light
Fabric:             95% Thermo-Tech polyester/5% spandex 
Front closure:   studs 
Pockets:          2 stud-fastened chest 
Cuffs:              studs 
Vents:              none 
Sizes:              men S-XXL, women 8-16 

The Woodsmoke is different to the other shirts reviewed as it’s designed as a mid-layer and it’s quite warm. Rather than one for coolness on sunny days it’s an excellent lightweight alternative to a microfleece. In the heat it’s still reasonably cool, though not as much as thinner shirts, partly because the fabric isn’t very wind resistant.

The shirt is made from Thermo-Tech, which is a polyester with hollow fibres that trap air for warmth. The fabric is thicker than other shirt fabrics and quite stretchy, so it doesn’t restrict movement. The fabric is brushed and very soft, feeling very comfortable against the skin. It wicks moisture away too and dries fast. A Polygiene treatment stops it from stinking.

The design is good. All the fastenings are studs rather than buttons, which makes opening and closing them very easy. The pockets are quite roomy though they won’t close over a large smartphone.

The cost is quite low, the weight on the high side. I think it should be compared to microfleece tops rather than thin shirts, however. For year-round wear it’s a good choice.


Haglofs Salo LS                                    210 grams (L)       £70     **** Recommended


Likes:                            stud fastened roomy pockets, bluesign approved fabric, quite light 
Dislikes:                        costs slightly more than alternatives 
Fabric:                           Climatic 93% polyamide/7% elastane 
Front closure:                 buttons 
Pockets:                        2 stud-fastened chest 
Cuffs:                             buttons 
Vents:                            mesh liner across back, holes under arms 
Sizes:                            men S-XXL 

Haglofs’ Salo shirt has big roomy pockets that swallow smartphones and GPS units. They’re stud-fastened and so easy to use. I really like them. The bluesign approved fabric has a silky feel and is treated with a PFC-free wicking treatment. On warm days I’ve found it comfortable. There are tiny ventilation holes under the arms. I don’t think these make any significant difference. Work hard and I still get sweaty armpits. The fabric does dry quickly, which I think is more important. There’s a long vent in the back with a mesh panel under it. This is flattened by a rucksack so only of any use – and that’s not much – when you’re not carrying one. There are inner straps for keeping the sleeves in place when you roll them up. The fabric is quite stretchy, so the shirt moves easily with you.

The Salo shirt is quite light but a little more expensive than some alternatives. However, it does have some of the best pockets.


Columbia Silver Ridge II                240 grams (L)             £60      ****   Recommended


Likes:                             Velcro-closed pockets, cost 
Dislikes:                         pockets could be a little bigger
Fabric:                           nylon 
Front closure:                 buttons 
Pockets:                        2 Velcro-closed chest 
Cuffs:                             buttons 
Vents:                            mesh liner across upper back 
Sizes:                            men XS-XXL

The Silver Ridge is a shirt that’s hard to fault and which has a lower price than similar ones, making it excellent value for money. The fabric is quite thin and surprisingly wind resistant. It feels pleasant next to the skin. It has a UPF 50 sun protection rating and Columbia’s Omni-Wick treatment for good breathability. When damp it dries quickly.

There are two chest pockets. They close with Velcro patches rather than fiddly buttons and so are easy to use. They’re quite roomy. My smartphone will just fit inside with the flap closed. A little more room would be nice, but they are more useful than the pockets on many shirts.

There are sleeve tabs for keeping them in place when rolled up. The back has vents at the sides rather than across it, with a mesh panel inside. This is more effective than a vent completely covered by a rucksack though it still doesn’t make much difference. The collar has an extra flap inside so it can be turned up higher for extra sun protection.


Kathmandu buzzGUARD Kangsar               190 grams (M)                 £70    ****  Recommended


Likes:                            lightweight, Velcro-closed pockets, insect repellent 
Dislikes:                         nothing
Fabric:                           nylon 
Front closure:                 buttons 
Pockets:                        2 Velcro-closed chest 
Cuffs:                             buttons 
Vents:                            mesh liner across upper back 
Sizes:                            men S-XXL 

One of the lightest shirts tested the Kangsar is also one of the only two with an insect repellent treatment. The fabric has a wicking treatment too. It’s quite thin and comfortable to wear. In warm weather it does let moisture through quickly and dries fast when damp.

The design is good. The pockets are big enough for a smartphone and close with Velcro tabs. There’s only one tab per pocket though, which isn’t quite as secure as the double tabs found on other shirts. There’s an extra flap inside the collar so it can be turned up high for good sun protection. There are big vents either side of the upper back, with a mesh panel inside. These do let some damp air out as they aren’t completely blocked by a rucksack. Tabs in the sleeves keep these in place when rolled up.

The Kangsar is pleasant to wear and does everything I require from a hiking shirt.



Friday 30 July 2021

First Hilleberg Akto review - in 1996 after a trip to the Grand Canyon


Looking through old copies of The Great Outdoors for short quotes to use in current issues I came across my first review of the Hilleberg Akto in the February 1996 issue with pictures from a Grand Canyon trip the previous year. The Akto has been a favourite tent ever since.

I'd completely forgotten about this review. I'm interested to see that I start off by saying that "functional solo tents are rare". I also note that the Akto weighs "a mere 1.6kg" but "at £265 it is not cheap". How things have changed! There are many good solo tents now, most weighing less than 1.6kg, including Hilleberg's own Enan at 1.2kg. The Akto is still expensive though (£680 now), still top quality, and still a great tent.

Monday 26 July 2021

Heat & Mist in the Torridon Hills

My first camp as the mists cleared on the second morning

Heading for the Torridon hills last week I was looking forward to some sunny weather and hoping it wouldn't be too hot, not something that often concerns me. I was planning on climbing some Corbetts I hadn't been on for many years, hills that lie between the Torridon giants and Loch Maree. Starting up the Mountain Trail from the latter I wondered about the forecast as the summits were all in cloud.

In dull evening light I found a spot to camp wondering what the view was like. I didn't find out the next morning as I woke to find my tent enveloped in thick mist and dripping with dew and condensation. Leaving it to dry I set off for Ruadh-stac Beag, a spur of Beinn Eighe that is most easily climbed apart from the rest of the mountain. Only when I reached the summit after some laborious final steep scree and boulders did the clouds begin to clear, the temperature rise, and the spectacular mountain landscape all around reveal itself.

The eastern summits of Beinn Eighe from Ruadh-stac Beag

The heat built rapidly and by the time I was back down the scree slope I'd drunk all my water and was longing for the first running stream. Many were dry as there had been little rain for several weeks.

A welcome water stop below Ruadh-stac Beag

As the heat increased I sweated my way up Meall a' Ghiubhais. Further west there was still cloud drifting round the hills. That's where I was going next.

Beinn an Eoin & Baosbheinn from Meall a' Ghiubhais

Back at camp late that evening the sky was clear though and the views of Beinn Eighe superb. 

Beinn Eighe

Overnight the mist rolled in and again I woke to a damp tent and no views. The sun broke through more quickly though and the sky was clear by the time I set off back down the Mountain Trail. The air was hot and stuffy, and I was feeling the heat so I took time to sit in the cafe in Kinlochewe with cold drinks for a while before driving along Loch Maree and round to the start of the walk-in to Beinn Eoin and Baosbheinn. My feet were sore and my trail shoes felt too tight so I removed socks and insoles to make more room.

By the time I camped near Loch na h-Oidhche the sun had gone. I was soon asleep. As on previous nights mist drifted in and moisture formed on the tent. The night was a little too hot but nothing like the heat that blasted me as the sun appeared over the shoulder of Beinn an Eion, making the dew on the grasses sparkle. I was quickly outside watching the clouds slowly fading from the hills. 

Loch n h-Oidhche and Liathach

A few midges appeared (most of the trip there were none) and I retreated to the tent for breakfast. It was cooler now, with the doors open. 

View from the tent

Not cool enough for long though and as soon as the midges vanished I was back outside to eat the rest of my muesli in the sunshine and drink plenty of coffee and water before setting off for Baosbheinn. 

Baosbheinn's behind me

The ascent of Baosbheinn, a wonderful and much under-rated hill, was hot and sweaty but I was beside a stream most of the way and so could drink my fill and regularly soak my hat and shoes to keep my head and feet cool. The views from the summit were superb. Westwards the sea was covered with another sea, a mass of white clouds. The Torridon hills shone in the sunshine. The heat had ended my plan of climbing Beinn an Eoin as well and I welcomed the decision as it meant I could spend time on the summit enjoying the wild landscape. It was a marvellous place to relax.

Beinn an Eoin & Beinn Eighe from Baosbheinn

Saturday 24 July 2021

Munro Reminiscences: On the Cuillin Ridge on my Munros and Tops walk 25 years ago.


On July 24, 1996, I was joined by two rock climber friends, Chris Ainsworth and Paul Riley, for the Cuillin Ridge section of my summer long Munros and Tops walk. Although I had done a little rock climbing many years earlier and had climbed most of the summits at least once before I knew I hadn't the confidence to tackle the Inaccessible Pinnacle or the Basteir Tooth solo.

Chris and Paul arrived with a good forecast for the next day but poor the day after so the plan was an early start and do as much of the ridge as possible before the weather changed. We were off by 6 a.m. Very early for me! The peaks were in cloud as we went up Sgurr nan Gillean, which had been the last Munro of my first round in 1981. 

In clearing weather we continued along the ridge, cutting below the difficult Bidein Druim nan Ramh as there are no Munros there, to the Inaccessible Pinnacle. The views from the summit of this rock tower were sensational, the sky now clear. 

By the time we reached the Bealach Mhic Choinnich clouds were rolling in and rain was starting to fall. It had been a brilliant day but after 16 1/2 hours and 14 summits it was time to go down. This turned out to be a very sensible decision as the storm that blew in was quite ferocious, battering the campsite where we were staying. The next day we went to the Sligachan Hotel for breakfast and stayed there for six hours watching the rain lashing the windows. The rest of the Cuillin would have to wait.

The pictures are from my book about the walk, The Munros and Tops (Mainstream).

Sunday 18 July 2021

Backpacking Borrowdale feature in Lakeland Walker


For the first time I have a feature in Lakeland Walker magazine. Earlier in the year editor John Manning asked me to write a piece for the Great Lakeland Walks series, which is about personal accounts of walks of discovery, and this has now appeared in the July/August issue. 

In the piece I describe the backpacking trips on the fells round Borrowdale I made with Terry Abraham when we were filming the Backpacking in the Lake District DVD and talk about my discovery of the Lakes and how my first backpacking trips took place there. A few of the illustrations were taken on one of those early trips in the hot summer of 1976. 

A Look At The August Issue Of The Great Outdoors

The August issue of The Great Outdoors is out now. In it I have a feature on the gear I used on the walk in the NW Highlands I described in this post plus a review of the Columbia Zero Ice Cirro Cool T-Shirt (two reviews of the latter actually as it also appears in the gear trip report). Away from gear I review Andrew Terrill's marvellous book The Earth Beneath My Feet.

Also in the gear pages Alex Roddie has a detailed look at eight GPS watches. There are three more Alex Roddie pieces in this issue too. He writes about map-reading fundamentals in a piece with Plas y Brenin senior instructor Helen Teasdale, has an interesting comment piece on why social media gives a misleading impression of damage to the countryside, and describes Tryfan via the North Ridge in the first of a new series of detailed mountain route profiles with illustrations by Jeremy Ashcroft.

The main features this issue see James Forrest describe a weekend trip with three friends linking seven highlights of the Lake District, Peter Macfarlane taking a friend wild camping in the Arrochar Alps, Peter Elia on how group adventures have changed his life, and Jessie Leong backpacking through Iceland's most north-westerly peninsula. 

All four main features are beautifully illustrated with excellent photographs and another superb image opens the magazine, the view across Assynt and Coigach from Sgurr an Fhidhleir by Simon Atkinson.

Also in this issue members from a diverse range of walking groups share their experiences, Hanna Lindon looks at why our national parks are failing to protect nature, and Jim Perrin praises High Neb, the high point of Stanage Edge.


Friday 16 July 2021

Munro Reminiscences: Sunny weather 25 years ago on my Munros & Tops walk - but not 40 years ago on my Ben Lomond to Ben Hope walk

Picture from my book The Munros and Tops

July 16, 1996, was the second day of the longest period of dry weather - five days - I had on my walk over all the Munros and Tops. On that day I walked from Culra Bothy over six summits, including Ben Alder, and camped above Loch Ossian.I wore sandals, shorts and sunhat all day. 

I'd now been out 56 days and had climbed 266 summits. That left 251. I'd passed the half way point the day before on Geal Charn and Diollaird a' Chairn when I'd climbed the Aonach Beag hills on a day trip from Culra Bothy.

In the next four days I climbed the Loch Treig, Grey Corries, Aonachs, Ben Nevis and Mamores summits - 47 in all - in glorious sunshine. Then the weather broke and I cycled to Skye - but that's the next bit of the story.

Fifteen years earlier in 1981 I'd had a tough day over the Monadh Liath Munros walking into a strong cold NW wind that brought heavy showers.This was on a walk from Ben Lomond to Ben Hope over Munros I hadn't climbed before so this was my first time in the Monadh Liath. "Very wild and lonely", I wrote in my journal. 

These walks took place before the 1997 revision of Munro's Tables. There were 517 summits listed in 1996 - it's 508 now. In 1981 there were six Munros in the Monadh Liath - two have since been demoted. 

I wrote about the early part of the Munros and Tops walk here and the start of my Lomond to Hope walk here.

Friday 9 July 2021

Roe Deer in the rain


The last few days the weather has been, frankly, dismal. Low cloud, drizzle and rain, no wind. The hills are hidden, the woods and meadows damp and dripping. Walks need to be brisk with few stops to look at flowers or wildlife as any pause or slowness brings out midges. Oh for a breeze or a gale to blow them away along with the clouds!

The best place to observe nature has been from inside the house and I've spent probably too much time (I do have books to write) watching birds, squirrels, rabbits, and, today, a roe deer in the garden. This doe has been around a few times today, wandering around grazing in the rain. She's a beautiful animal with a sleek coat the same colour as that of the red squirrels and that combination of delicacy and strength that typifies roe deer with her slim but powerful legs and long neck. 

The photos were all taken from my study window with my old Sony NEX 7 camera and new Sony 70-350mm lens. Given that they're taken through glass that I must admit isn't as clean as it could be I'm quite pleased with the results. Below is a crop from the top picture.

I'm checking the forecasts every day waiting to get back to the hills when I can see something (and take some needed photographs for a book) but until that happens I am enjoying the garden wildlife. Standing looking out of the window doesn't constitute exercise or work though. I really ought to be at the PC or out for a walk!


Sunday 4 July 2021

Finally, An Teallach in sunshine

Sgurr Fiona & Corrag Bhuidhe

I first climbed An Teallach forty-two years ago on my first long-distance walk over Scottish Mountains which took me from the Loch Treig hills to the Fannichs over 100 Munros. An Teallach was wreathed in cloud when I set off from Shenavall and stayed that way. Back then only one summit counted as a Munro, Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill. Like the rest of the mountain it was in dense cloud. A cold wind blew and it was raining. In my journal I wrote "very dark and gloomy ... I'd like to see it on a clear day". Now, all these years later, I finally have. There were still clouds, it was just that they were below me. 

Sgurr Creag an Eich

I have been back to An Teallach quite a few times since that first visit in 1979, including on my Munros and Tops walk when I did both Munros, Sgurr Fiona having been added, and all seven subsidary Tops, and every time the mountain has been in the mist and it has rained. I'd seen An Teallach sharp and clear in the sun from distant hills but whenever I approached it the clouds closed in. 

Camp at the head of the Allt Airdeasaidh glen with a view to An Teallach

As I walked up beside the rushing waters of the Allt Airdeasaidh An Teallach opened up before me, a spectacular range of summits. This is a massif rather than a single mountain. I camped on the col at the head of the glen where there was a light breeze I hoped would keep the midges away. The wind died away at dusk. There were no midges anyway and I sat outside watching the clouds turn pink and the blue of the sky darken. It was a beautiful peaceful evening.

 Out to the west an orange line ran above the cloudy horizon. 

When I finally retired to the tent I lay in my sleeping bag looking out at An Teallach. Tomorrow, I thought, I'll be up there in the sunshine. 

A few hours later a loud bark woke me. A deer, I guessed. I peered out and was puzzled. A huge mountain splashed with snow appeared to have arisen nearby. I rubbed my eyes and peered harder, quickly realising it was misty and the huge mountain was a lichen covered boulder not far from the tent. You can see it in the picture above. Hoping the mist would clear by dawn I fell back asleep.

 I woke to find the mist even thicker. Was this to be another day on An Teallach with no views?

As planned I moved camp deep into Coire Mor an Teallaich, right under the two Munros. The mist did not move. The air was still and dry. Again there were no midges. I sat outside my second camp over a long lunch, waiting. Waiting for what? A sign of a clearance, a sign I might have the views I expected. With what passed for darkness at this time of year not falling until near midnight I had plenty of time. And then it came, a movement of the mist, a shifting of clouds, hazy mountains appearing amidst touches of blue sky. 

I was soon heading upwards, energised, excited. The clouds sank below me. The high mountain world was shining and glowing in hot sunshine. I reached the summit of Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill and gazed across the mist filled depths of Toll an Lochain to Sgurr Fiona and the jagged pinnacles of Corrag Bhuidhe, a wonderful, dramatic, thrilling sight (see picture at the top). 

Glas Mheall Liath

All around mountains rose out of the cloud. I watched them and the mist and the goats (see last post) for maybe half an hour, maybe longer, from a perch by the trig point on Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill. Time didn't matter. The sun beat down. It was hot up here. Eventually I set off for Sgurr Fiona. The view south from this peak, looking over the Fisherfield hills to Torridon was splendid. 

The sun was still in the sky when I left the summits and began to make a slow way down into the mist, revelling in what had turned out to be a magnificent day.

Back at camp the mist almost lifted then thickened again and again. The sun appeared and disappeared, hazy through the clouds. It was a magical evening.