Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Reviews of some of the gear we’ve bought for our adventures

Ternua Four Winds Jacket – first look

I’ve been looking to replace my softshell jacket for a little while now, as my Mountain Equipment G2 Alpine jacket just wasn’t cutting it (pilling and bobbling from pack wear after only a couple of days, and black – I’m not a fan of black on the hills!), so when Sport Pursuit offered a flash sale of Ternua gear, it piqued my interest!

Ternua, as a brand, is not one I’d heard of before, but the jacket I was interested in was using known fabrics (in this case, Gore’s Windstopper Soft Shell fabric) which I knew and trusted, so I figured I would investigate further.

After a few fruitless searches (as they’re a Spanish company, and not generally distributed in the UK, information in English was sparse), I eventually found this post on Scottish Mountaineer, regarding a couple of their other products. Michael suggested that the build quality of the products were of a high quality, so although he’d not reviewed the specific jacket I was looking at, I decided to give it a punt – after all, it was still a Windstopper Soft Shell jacket, for less than £100. You just can’t argue that!

As is always the way with Sport Pursuit, I had to wait about a month before the jacket arrived (due to the way they do business – they only offer items for sale for a week, and don’t order from the manufacturers until the sale has ended. They clearly don’t ship to customers until they receive it!), which happened a few weeks ago.

OK, to get this bit out of the way… I know some people are not fans of Soft Shell, and prefer fleece, and I know a lot of people don’t like Windstopper, as they don’t find it good for the Scottish climate. (better for cold & dry, as opposed to cold & wet, they say). I quite like only needing one layer (besides the baselayer!) and as I tend to be a fair weather hiker in the colder months, the other complaints about Windstopper don’t really apply. Now, on to the jacket itself.

image

Here’s the blurb from the Ternua website: Gore-tex® Windstopper® Soft Shell technical jacket with hood, three zipped pockets, armpit ventilation, toggle adjustable bottoms and Velcro adjustable cuffs. Comfortable windstopping, transpirable, waterproof that stays comfortable and offers the necessary freedom of movements to maximise performance while you carry out different activities in all types of climates. Very useful, ideal for trekking, hiking, classic climbing, ice climbing and mountain ski.

The interesting part from that is the bit where it mentions armpit ventilation. I had automatically assumed that would mean either pit zips or a different fabric mix under the arms. That isn’t the case for this jacket. In the photographs on the website, I saw the little hexagon shapes on either side of the torso. I’d assumed those were purely aesthetic. It turns out they’re not. They’re actually cutaways from the main fabric. I can only assume that these are the advertised ventilation. I have to admit, the jacket does seem to breath a little better than the Mountain Equipment one (with the core venting zips closed), but I’ll definitely need to give it more time to see how well these work in the long term, and more importantly, how resistant they are to the elements – I have a couple of concerns about having vents that can’t be closed, but we’ll see how it goes.

image

I’ve worn the jacket a few times now, and I can confirm that the face fabric is definitely harder wearing than that of my old jacket. That’s a big plus for me, and I’m definitely more confident about using it.

So far, it’s been plenty warm enough when I’m walking, though definitely not warm enough for any prolonged stops, but that’s what down jackets are for. Another big plus.

I have to admit, I love the colours of it. Another plus

So far, nothing but plus sides, and one thing I’m not sure about.

There is, however, one negative about the jacket. The hood. There simply isn’t enough material for forward and back head motion. If you look down (which you’re gonna do!), don’t expect the hood to stay in place. It’s fine when looking side to side, and does a good job, but there’s not enough fabric at the rear of the hood to cope with any forward motion. For me, that’s really not a deal breaker. I tend to wear a hat on the hills, so will probably not be using the hood, anyway. If the weather turns bad, I’ll have thrown my waterproof jacket on, and that’ll be the hood of choice, anyway.

I guess we’ll see how it goes. I definitely prefer it to my Mountain Equipment soft shell, as it feels much harder wearing and more breathable. If the current cold spell continues, I suspect I’ll be wearing it more than I’d originally planned over the next few weeks (I’d expected to retire it to the wardrobe when daytime temps got to double figures!)

image

Haglöfs Tuff Pants – an update.

When I first looked at these trousers on the blog, I hadn’t really had much chance to use them, as it was just a bit mild out. However, over the past couple of months, I’ve had plenty of chance to put them through their paces.

I’ve been hiking in Glenshee, Glen Nevis, Glen Banvie, Glen Lui and Glen Tilt in them, as well as visiting Ben Vrackie, Auchnafree Hill and Coire Ardiar, in Creag Meagaidh, and this has given me a good indication of what they’re capable of.

The overall result is that I love them! They’ve been my go to trousers for the past 3 months, and will probably remain my go to pant for the next month or so, too.

My initial thoughts about them potentially being too warm in anything but winter conditions are probably quite accurate. I suspect once daytime temperatures stay in double figures in the glens, they’ll be retired until next winter.
In saying that, I’ve been out in them at temperatures of -5º, with some pretty serious windchill, and I’ve been kept really comfy in them, with nothing but boxer shorts on underneath. That’s a testament to how great the Flexable Pro fabric is at blocking the wind, and providing that little bit of insulation.

On the few occasions when I have felt a little warm in them, unzipping the pockets has helped provide that little bit of ventilation, which has been more than enough to cool me down again.

There are stretch panels at the back of the knees, the crotch and at the rear, near the top. With these, and the brilliant cut of the trousers, I get complete freedom of movement. They’re not the lightest trousers in the world, but when worn, you barely notice they’re there.

The only real drawbacks I can mention are relating to the belt, and those who have Haglöfs trousers will probably be familiar with the first of these.

When you put the trousers in the wash, the belt has a habit of slipping through the pre-formed loops, and can be a real pain to get out again. I’ve found that if you keep the belt clasped shut, it does reduce this happening, but it sadly doesn’t eliminate it completely.

The other issue I have is also related to the belt. It loosens itself over time. I’m pleased to say that all of the walking above has caused me to lose a tiny wee bit of weight since 2013 began, so I’m finding that I actually use the belt, but as the average day in the outdoors progresses, it loosens off a little. It only takes a few seconds to hitch the trousers up and tighten it again, but it is still a minor irritant.

After a few months or regular use, the trousers still look like new, and I’m hoping they’ll last for several years to come. I think if I was to get another pair of haglöfs trousers, I might go down to a regular leg length, as the long leg is a tiny bit long, even for me!

image
The Tuff Pants in action, this morning on Ben Chonzie

The Loch Leven Heritage Trail and a first look at the Samsung NX1000 camera

I’ve walked the Loch Leven Heritage Trail several times, but I’ve never quite got round to writing about it. If you’re a keen hillwalker or backpacker, the almost completely level nature of the walk will be of little interest to you. However, if you’ve got a love of wildlife, it really is an amazing place!

I decided to spend the morning on Christmas day walking the trail from Kirkgate Park in Kinross to Findatie, near RSPB Vane Farm, a walk of about 8 miles in total. There were a couple of reasons for the walk… Mainly to get out from underfoot with the whole cooking of Christmas dinner, etc and to give my new Samsung NX1000 camera a bit of a first outing.

About the camera

The Samsung NX1000 is my first break from the standard point and shoot camera, so for me, there is quite a big learning curve to go through to get to grips with it. Its a Compact System Camera, which basically means it has changeable lenses and a sensor similar to that of a DSLR, but in a more compact, lightweight body. photo below of the entire kit.

image

My NX1000 kit includes the following:

Samsung NX1000 body and 20-50mm kit lens
20mm Pancake lens
50-200mm zoom lens
Hoya UV filters for all lenses
Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW carrying case

Pretty much everyone I know will tell you that I like to dive head first into an idea, when I get one.., thus there’s a whole lot more kit there than most people would have right from the offset! Still, it gives me a wide range of gear to play with.

The Walk

I arrived at Findatie at about 9:20am, just before sunrise. As I had a little bit of waiting to do, I figured I’d try and take a couple of shots in the pre-dawn gloom. These are shown below

image

image

Not long afterwards, my lift arrived, and drove me to Kirkgate Park. (There are plans to make the trail a complete circuit, but until completed, you need to organise transport from the start/finish) Now I could get on with the walk itself!
There are signs at every point where you can join the trail (of which there are several), detailing the route, and normally highlighting wildlife that can be seen at the particular time of year, as shown below

image

Almost immediately, your eye is drawn to one of Loch Leven’s main attractions… The castle. This is where Mary, Queen of Scots spent a large part of her life, as a prisoner. Boat trips and tours can be had during the summer months, but don’t run at this time of year.

image

Already, there was plenty of wildlife to be seen an heard, with Wrens in the undergrowth, Buzzards being flushed from the trees and a myriad of wildfowl species on and around the loch. Only a few minutes later, you reach a sign advertising a wildlife hide… But the hide itself is no longer in evidence. Only a few support struts remain to show that it was ever there.

image

Basically, during the colder winters of 2009 & 2010, when the loch froze, the pressure of the ice buckled the supports and collapsed the hide, and it hasn’t been rebuilt. It’s a little annoying, as this particular location was one of the best spots to watch the geese at dawn from, in mid October. You can’t beat watching 10,000 geese taking off all at once just after dawn! It really is a sight to behold!
Sadly, at this time of year, the number of geese is significantly smaller, so there was much less of interest to see.

The path itself was showing signs of having suffered a bit from the recent spate of bad weather, with plenty of puddles, and even flooded in places later on.

image

After a wee stretch next to some open ground, the path quickly turns into a patch of woodland, next to the loch. These patches of woodland are amazing places for wildlife… Little pockets of life, which,enduring the spring and summer, in particular, are alive with birdsong! At this time of year, the number if birds is slightly less, but the mosses, etc are vivid in colour (particularly after such a wet year!)

image

image

Once out of this patch of woodland, there’s another small patch of farmland before you cross a river by a wooden bridge.

image

It’s at this point where things started to get a little interesting. There’s a bird hide here, with some nice views across the loch… I was happily taking photos with the zoom lens of a distant male Goldeneye when the light changed and the sun started to make a real effort (it was almost 11am at this point, so I’d been walking for a little over an hour at this stage). A quick change to the 20mm lens, and my favourite photo of the whole trip was taken!

image

image

I know my point and shoot simply couldn’t have pulled off the photo above… Really chuffed with it!

The walk continues to Burleigh Sands, past the car park and through a stand of pine trees. It was here I decided to see the difference between the 50-200mm lens and the 20mm lens, so took the same photo at 50mm, then at 20mm with the results below (I forgot to mention… I didn’t bring the 20-50mm kit lens for this trip!)

image

image

The difference in colour, let alone scale is massive! It was this point I realised that any landscape photos at all should be captured with the 20mm, where possible!

Below are two more photos from the same stand of woodland. The Kestrel shot was a lucky one, as it flew in just as I’d changed to the 50-200mm lens!

image
image

The walk then continues past some more farmland, then on to the goose roost, where thousands of geese can be seen in the autumn months. It’s at this point where Loch Leven’s Larder can be found, which is a small cafe and farm shop (though if you plan to eat there, be prepared to remortgage your house!). This more or less marks the half way point of the walk.

The second half of the walk is much the same, in terms of immediate surroundings. Woodlands and farmlands, with the loch on your right. Unlike most walks, which would quickly become boring, this one stays fresh and interesting throughout, mainly due to the wildlife content. On Christmas day, however, there was an additional bonus, in the form of Bishop Hill. It was looking rather stunning, with a lingering cloud top!

image

With the hill looking so stunning, it was a good time to test the panorama mode of the camera, as seen below

image

I have to admit, I’m quite impressed with the results. It looks pretty sharp throughout!

At the entrance to Levenmouth woods, the final straight, I was greeted with something I was hoping not to see.., a suitably flooded path! And yet again, another one (which, unlike the first, was impossible to skirt round) about 500m further on. At that stage, though, there really wasn’t any choice but to carry on (since my car was about a mile and a half away!). Obviously, it wasn’t really an issue for me, but could be for those who come unprepared.

image

image

Both of the above shots were taken with the 50-200mm lens (too lazy to switch at that stage!)

There is another hide in Levenmouth Woods, at the pools, where I stopped for 10 minutes. Sadly, there wasn’t much of note to see. In the past, though, I’ve seen Otter from this hide and a variety of waders, some quite rare for the area. U

On leaving the woods, you cross the river Leven as it flows from the loch. Seeing a Heron along here is almost a guarantee, too. You don’t normally get to see them as close as this, and they really are quite beautiful, in a primitive sort of way.

image

image

image

That more or less had me back at Findatie, where my car was, but with enough time before going home to unwrap presents and eat Christmas dinner for one last shot in panorama mode of Loch Leven in all it’s glory!

image

Walk Summary

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve done this walk several times, and each time is slightly different. I’ve never once failed to enjoy it, though. The wildlife never fails to amaze and impress, and that’s the main focus of this walk, rather than the scenery.
It’s definitely not a walk for the die hard backpackers, as it’ll be a bit too easy and boring. However, if you’ve got an interest in wildlife, particularly bird life, this is a great walk! I don’t think I’ve ever done this walk in less than 3 hours, but I reckon 4 hours is the norm for me. There’s just so much to see!

Camera thoughts

I love the NX1000! It’s as simple as that, really!
I took in total 274 photos while out, but a large proportion of those were burst shots. As the camera can take photos at 8fps, it’s a good way to try and get photos of birds and other mobile wildlife.
I clearly need to get to grips with the 50-200mm lens in terms of getting the right settings, as the photos ain’t turning out brilliantly.

The 20mm pancake lens is producing some stunning shots, though! It’ll definitely be my main lens when out backpacking, with the 20-50mm as backup. I’ll probably leave the 50-200mm at home, unless going somewhere where the main focus is the wildlife.

The Smart aspect of the camera is really appealing to me, too. With the built in WiFi and the Mobilelink app, I can transfer all the photos directly from my camera to my Nexus 7. It’s brilliant, and I can see the uses when backpacking… The ability to write blog posts out in the middle of nowhere, and add high quality images will make blogging so much easier!

And for those that are interested, after taking 274 photos, then transferring them all to the Nexus 7, I only just went beneath 50% battery life. I’ll definitely need a spare for multiday trips, but they’re easy enough to get!

I reckon in time, I’ll get to grips with the camera more (remember, this is the first time I’ve moved from a point and shoot), I’ll be able to improve the quality of the pics. Even more so, if I can find a suitably cheap lightweight tripod that I can use on the hills (suggestions welcome!)

Long story short, I’d highly recommend the NX1000, based on the limited use I’ve had of it so far. As a step up from a compact, it’s very simple to use, and the WiFi features are brilliant (some people see those as gimmicky, but I’ll wager the big brands have wireless enabled phones in no time!)

Haglöfs Tuff Pants – First Look

The blog hasn’t seen much love in the past few weeks, as I’ve not been out very much. A few weeks ago, I pulled a thigh muscle when I made the mistake of getting on my bike for the first time in a couple of years. Instead of taking it easy, I decided to go full pelt. That was just not going to end well!
I’m feeling a bit better now, though, so should be back out and about in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I figured I’d talk about some of the new gear I’ve received recently, but haven’t really had chance to test out much. First up, we have the Tuff Pant, from Haglöfs.

I’ve decided that I’m going to start getting out and about during the winter months a bit more, rather than sit at home putting on weight. (Which is normally the case!) As a result, I needed to get some suitable winter trousers. Luckily, right about the time I was thinking this, Sport Pursuit had a sale of Haglöfs clothing, and the Tuff Pant were reduced from a massive £175 down to an only slightly eye watering £85! Sure, they were less than half price, but at the same time, they were the most expensive trousers I’ve ever bought!

They arrived a few weeks ago, and I have to say, I’m quite impressed with them! (Which is good, considering how much they were) I ordered a long leg, and for the first time in my life, I can say that they’re actually a bit long! Normally, when I order a long leg trouser, it’s a generic 33″ inside leg, which is a wee bit short for me. The Tuff Pants feel like they could be as much as a 36″ leg. I even considered returning them for a regular leg, but I think a wee bit extra material is better than a bit less.

image

They’re not too loose, but not too tight, either… they’re just about right, in terms of fit. They’re made from Haglöfs own FlexAble Pro fabric, which is basically a tough softshell, with membrane, similar to Gore’s Windstopper fabric. They’re windproof, water resistant and incredibly abrasion resistant. They’re also incredibly warm, which will hopefully make then ideal for winter!

image

They’ve also got Kevlar based reinforcement to the inner legs, to prevent damage from crampons and the like, as shown below

image

There’s 4 pockets, 2 mesh lined pockets at the front, one at the back, which can provide a bit of ventilation and a thigh pocket (not mesh lined). The thigh pocket is less than useless, but the other pockets are about the right size for storing valuables. Being zip closure helps, too.

I’ve not had them out on the hills yet, but I should be able to get out and about in them in the next few weeks. Besides, they’re a bit warm to be wearing still, at least at low level.

The Google Nexus 7 – a backpacking essential?

Since the Kindle arrived in the UK, it seems more and more people are taking them backpacking with them… after all, it’s generally lighter than a paperback book, reads as easily, and you can have several books stored on the device, so you can choose from several books to read. It’s pretty much a guaranteed win for those with a Kindle, really!

Up until this week, my Kindle went with me for every single backpacking trip, for all of the reasons mentioned above. Now, though, it has become all kinds of obsolete.

On Thursday, a brand new Google Nexus 7 arrived on my doorstep, and it became immediately apparent that it would be more useful in the outdoors than the Kindle.

Why?, I hear you ask!

Well, it all comes down to the colour screen and the apps.

With it’s 7″ screen and small form factor, it’s not overly large. The photo below shows it next to my Kindle 3… not a massive difference, really!

image
Kindle 3 Vs Nexus 7

On my scales, including its Aquapac waterproof case, it weighs in at 394g. OK, it’s not exactly ultralight, but when compared to the Kindle, at 283g, it’s not too bad.

Now down to the real beauty of the device… believe it or not, as a naturalist (no, not naturist… I’m not the naked rambler! 😉 ), I’ve been looking for something like this for years… something that I can use for colour books.

Basically, the idea occurred to me when the Kindle was released in the UK, that a colour version would be able to store all of my field guides, so that I could have ID guides for absolutely everything in one portable device. Colour e-ink was just going to be too expensive, so a tablet seems like the sensible choice. I got myself an iPad, but it was just too heavy, too big and just too clumsy… then Google announced the Nexus 7. A portable, lightweight tablet, that wasn’t gonna break the bank. I knew straight away, this was the one for me!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. First of all, a lot of the good field guides are not available in eBook format, and after speaking to British Wildlife Publishing on Thursday, sadly, may not be. They advise that the costs and licensing implications makes eBook versions of their guides impractical. It’s a bit of a shame, as most of my favorite field guides are made by them.

There are ebooks out there, though, which are of use. When I got the Nexus 7, it came with £15 worth of Play Store credit, which I immediately put to good use, by downloading the following ebooks:

Wild Flowers
Collins Gem Birds
Collins Gem Insects
Collins Gem Trees
This gives me a reasonable selection of content, so that I should be able to identify most of the common species I might see when out backpacking.
They’ll do until I can go through the laborious process of scanning some of my own field guides in, and then creating PDF versions of them.

image
The Ptarmigan, from Collins Gem Birds

That’s not all, though!

As it’s a tablet, rather than an eBook reader, for all those nights you’re stuck in the tent, bored out your skull, while it chucks it down outside… there’s games, movies and music, too!

What more could you possibly want???

Did I hear you say mapping?

Oh yeah, that’s right… we’ve got us a fully fledged Android tablet here, with a GPS chip set, so all those mapping apps with offline viewing… yeah, we’re talking to you Viewranger and Memory-Map, work a treat, too!

image
The Tarmachan Ridge, using Memory-Map

And let’s not forget the old WordPress and Blogger apps, allowing you to write a local draft of your blog while out and about (to then upload when home and add photos to – as I’m doing right now!)

image
WordPress app in action

The downsides

OK, there’s always some… perfection hasn’t quite been created yet…

It’s Wi-Fi only, so even if you’ve got the best signal in the world, there’s no WiFi hotspots at the top of a Munro! (Unless there’s one accessible from The Cairnwell or Carn Aosda, but since those are the least exciting hills in the whole world, we’ll safely write that off!). Admittedly, if you’ve got a mobile which is capable of creating a portable hotspot, that negates the issue entirely.

It’s got an advertised battery life in the region of 8-10 hours of video, 10-12 hours of book reading, so, assuming 2 hours use a day while backpacking, you’re talking about 4 days use. I’ve not really had a chance to confirm how long it lasts, in the two days I’ve had it…

It only comes in 8Gb or 16Gb format, with no option for expandable memory. It does limit, to a certain extent, the amount you can put on it. The maps for Memory Map are 2Gb in themselves! (For full GB OS Landranger maps)

Conclusion

I do think this has the potential to be one of the most useful tools for backpackers and naturalists. Sure, it has its limitations, but considering what it can do, I think it’s fair to overlook those. It’s certainly not something I’ll be leaving behind when I’m out backpacking!

I will point out that if you don’t live in the UK, there may be other options available to you in the same sort of price range, such as the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet. Also, if you’re willing to pay more, there’s the Samsung Galaxy 7.7, and if you believe rumors, Apple are planning on jumping on the small form factor tablet bandwagon with some sort of mini iPad… at this moment in time, though, the Nexus 7 has easily the best performance for its price range.

Mountain Equipment Supercell – An Update

Well, I’ve had the Supercell for a few weeks now, and as my First Look was quite favourable, I figured I’d give an update on how I’m feeling about it now, and how it has performed so far.

I’m still quite chuffed with it, and the design is good.  I’ve taken it out a few times, but believe it or not, I’ve managed to avoid the rain in all but one of the occasions! (and that one was deliberately to test the jacket in the wet!)

Breathability in the Dry.

Well, I’ve had a good few chances to compare it to my other Gore-Tex jackets in the dry, and the difference is astounding! There’s very little in the way of clamminess, even when working up a bit of a sweat.

Does it make you sweat less? No… I still sweat as much as I would when I’m not wearing a jacket, but this stops me feeling as clammy

Do you get hot inside it? Yes, to a certain extent, you do feel warmer with the jacket on than you would if you were just wearing a baselayer. It definitely feels better than any other jacket I’ve had before.

Clearly, in the dry, the jacket performs significantly better than any other Gore-tex jacket (at least it does to me – remember, everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for everyone else!)

Wet Weather Performance

I took myself and the jacket up into the Lomond Hills of Fife for a few hours last Saturday, to give it a wet weather test. The weather was persistent heavy rain, though reasonably calm conditions. There were a few exposed sections when the wind was driving the rain, too, but those were in total about 30 minutes of the trip.

Robin over at Blogpackinglight has recently been commenting on water-resistant zips and how they can fail to keep the rain out, particularly in driving rain. I can safely say that the side pockets of the Supercell performed admirably, and let in no rain (as far as I could tell). However, I think it’s only fair to mention that although they had to endure close to 3 hours of persistent heavy rain, they only had to endure approx 30 mins of driving rain, which might just be the factor.

The hood performed perfectly, keeping the rain off my face with absolutely no problems at all (see pic below).

Supercell Hood

Once again, apologies for the gormless model!

I’ve always found the hoods on Mountain Equipment jackets to be very good at keeping the rain off, as well as turning with your head really well. A big thumbs up for this one!

The DWR works a treat (as shown below), but in honesty, you’d expect that in a brand new jacket. A longer test to see how well this lasts will be required, methinks!

DWR

Now, for the breathability… is it any better in the wet than Paclite?

Well, yes it is! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, but it is a significant improvement. You still feel clammy at the high sweat areas, and areas where it’s in direct contact with the rucksack are understandably clammy (hard for the moisture to escape when there’s something against the outer face!), but it’s leagues apart from Paclite in terms of breathability. It’s a significantly nicer experience.

Overall Thoughts

I still really like the jacket, but I still have the same concerns as I did when I first got it… how durable is it going to be? In wearing it, there’s already a mark at the base of my back, where the backpack is touching the pack – I’ve tested it, and it’s still well and truly waterproof, but for how long?

Luckily, that’s at one of the reinforced areas, designed to take the rubbing from the pack, so I’d hope it will be just fine… but I don’t know.

It’s purely down to my concerns for the durability of the jacket that I’ve not yet retired my Montane Lite-Speed as my windshirt. The Supercell breathes at least as well, if not more so, but I’m still not sure I want to be wearing it all day, every day… I just don’t know if it could cope with that. Strangely, this looks like the summer where it might just be getting tested, though!

I’ll report back on any issues I have with the jacket in the long term, as there’s still little to no information out there about how well Gore-tex Active Shell survives – it’s only been out since this time last year, though, so I’d hope that there aren’t any horror stories to report yet!

I do feel a little weird, being an ‘early adopter’ in something to do with the outdoors. I reckon I’ve spent the past 3 or 4 years replacing gear simply just to catch up, and now I find I’m out there in the forefront – normally, I’d reserve my early adoptions for technology! (more on that subject in a future blog post – I have a new tablet arriving in a week or two!)

Mountain Equipment Supercell Jacket – first look

This morning I received a new jacket in the post. It was a Mountain Equipment Supercell jacket, in Light Ocean.

I’ve been looking for a lightweight jacket for summer use for a while now, as my Outdoor Research Furio, although bombproof, isn’t really light enough or breathable enough for the summer for my liking.

The Supercell jacket uses the new Gore-Tex Active Shell membrane, which has had really good views from a number of sources – though not everyone is a big fan. Terrybnd, for example, has a bit of a love/hate relationship with it, noting that he didn’t find it much more breathable than Gore-Tex Paclite. At the same time, FionaOutdoors loved it to bits, and found it exceptionally breathable.

I guess the only way to find out for myself was to try it! I don’t have the luxury of getting freebies to test, so I’ve had to buy the jacket all by myself. I reckon if it’s at a worst case scenario, no more breathable than Paclite, it’ll still be pretty good for me.

The Jacket

The jacket is advertised on the Mountain Equipment website as

Definitive fully featured lightweight mountain jacket for fast moving trekking and backpacking

That sounds like me! (though maybe not the fast so much!)

The big concern I’d had about Active Shell is the constant marketing of done in a day use, implying that the material simply wasn’t going to be durable enough for extended use. As its a relatively new fabric, there’s little to no information out there about the longevity of the fabric.

What Mountain Equipment have done with the Supercell is to reinforce the high wear areas (shoulders, lower back, elbows and lower arms), with a slightly different fabric.

The difference between the two fabrics is shown below

20120612-141931.jpg

The jacket as a whole can be seen below

20120612-142153.jpg

It comes in at 390g, in an XXL, which is pretty good for a jacket that size!
It packs down reasonably small – the photo below shows it compared to my Montane Lite-speed and a regular orange, to give an indication of scale.

20120612-142413.jpg

Now, for it in use… Apologies for the exceptionally ugly, grumpy looking model… I blame my parents! 😉

20120612-142553.jpg

20120612-142638.jpg

It’s a pretty good fit for me, with enough space underneath to layer up with a micro fleece, etc if I need to. The reinforcements look to be in pretty much the right areas to prevent wear from the pack, too.

The hood is very good, as is normally the case for Mountain Equipment gear. It fits well, and moves with the head when’s closed down. I’m pretty confident the peak will keep the rain out adequately, too!

Photo below

20120612-142945.jpg

Obviously, having only arrived this morning, I can’t really comment on the jacket’s waterproofness or breath ability, but I’m quietly confident that it’ll be a winner for me. It’s got plenty length to it, the fit is about right for me… Not too figure hugging, but not overly baggy, and the reinforcements might just mean that it’ll last a few years. After all, being advertised for backpacking use, I’m hopefully that it’ll survive it!

I’ll update on it as I’ve had some proper use, so keep an eye on the blog for updates!

Update: I’ve now been out and made use of the jacket over the past few weeks, and an update can be found on my post HERE