Here’s a run-down of my favourites kit purchases from this year* –
After year of lugging round an impossibly heavy pack, I decided it was time for an upgrade. And the Osprey Sirrus 50 litre backpack came out trumps. Being on the petite side, this is one of the only bags I could find that actually fits my body size. The back can be adjusted to your torso length and the hip straps just about go tight enough for me – although only just.
There’s padding in all the right places, but the tensioned back panel ensures it’s still breathable. There are countless compartments, zippered pockets, loops and attachments – in fact, I’m still discovering some! At the bottom you’ll find an integrated rain cover neatly stashed away, providing protection during precipitation when needed. Oh, and being made of denier nylon means the whole thing is incredibly light.
The downsides? I could only get my hands on a plum coloured pack, which I don’t exactly dig.
I use this little lantern while on camping and hiking trips. I love that it can be recharged via a USB port or compatible solar panels. The USB cable neatly wraps around the device itself, ensuring it can never get lost. The dual LED light itself is dimmable and can you select to light just one side (allowing you to save on battery), or both sides. Because you can adjust the light as needed, I even use it at home as a bed-time reading lamp when my partner wants to sleep.
And what of the running time? The specification says that if you have both sides lit on full, it will last for four hours. However, if you keep one side lit on low, then run-time is 500+ hours. Other cool features include fold-down legs and built-in hooks and magnets, so you can stand it up, hang it up or mount it as you please! You can also charge other devices (like your phone) from the USB port.
The downsides? At 210 lumens it’s not overly bright, so it won’t light the way if you get stuck on the trails in the dark. Also it doesn’t pack down as small as a head torch, which might be an issue if space is tight.
As someone who feels the cold, I decided to progress from a foam sleeping mat to the Exped Downmat Lite 5 M. Weighing in at 683g and with a packed size of 26 x 13cm, I was a little hesitant. After all, there are more compact, more lightweight versions on the market. But boy is it comfy! It’s a decent length and width, and the air-filled cells run vertically, all of which works together to prevent you from rolling off. In fact, it cocoons you. The air cushions are thick and spread evenly, preventing any random cold spots. And with 650-fill duck down and an RV value of 4.1, this is a solid three-season sleeping mattress.
I’m always wary of popping the fabric on an untoward stone, but so far, the 75-denier fabric has proved durable enough. The duck down is less robust, meaning it is important not to inflate the mat with your breath, or it will fill with moisture. That is why the mat comes with a pump, as well as a handy repair kit.
The downsides? Inflating the mat with the hand pump can be a little trying after a long day, especially when you just want to flop into bed. There is a valve to deflate it, but again, you’ll need a bit of patience if you want to roll it tightly enough for the sack. Lastly, it is heavier and bulkier than other products available – but really, it is so comfortable, I think the extra weight is worth it.
Being made of aluminium, this trowel by TheTentLab is strong but light. You can cut into tough, stony terrain without fear of it snapping, and you’ll be helped along by the serrated edges. This has been a really excellent addition to my backcountry hiking stash. Because you know, sometimes you gotta go!
The downsides? While seriously light at 17g, the Deuce 2 trowel doesn’t pack down any smaller. What you see is what you get.
Thank you, Patagonia, for my favourite ever windbreaker jacket. At 94g it is incredibly lightweight and the zippered chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack. So, you can scrunch it up until it magically transforms into an oversized jellybean. Hence the name, the Houdini Jacket.
The 100% nylon fabric is an effective wind block. That’s why I like to wear it running or cycling in inclement weather. I’ve also worn it over base layers while hiking. The specification says it has a durable water repellent coating, but I’ve found that any precipitation causes it to soak through. However, that’s not what it’s meant for, so I can’t include this as a criticism.
What’s more, this jacket comes in an XS (and goes up to an XL) and actually fits my 5’2’’ petite frame. Highly unusual! The drawcord hem, elastic cuffs and hood adjuster all ensure maximum snugness.
The downsides? My partner was so envious, he bought himself the men’s version. So now we match. Great.
*(Please note, these are entirely my own opinions and I have not been paid or sponsored to write any of the above).