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Mountain Hardwear Trango™ 2 Tent

Kit Review – Mountain Hardwear Trango™ 2 Tent

The Trango™ 2 from Mountain Hardwear is a durable four-season tent that delivers a slice of basecamp luxury.

Product description

Mountain Hardwear says: “First introduced in 1995, Trango™ tents have become standard issue for mountaineering expeditions year-round. This Trango™ 2 features D-shaped front and rear doors that conveniently tuck away; welded loops for securing the fly; and a bathtub-style floor for better weather protection.”

The review

Make no mistake: the Trango™ 2 is heavy, at 439g. It’s also pretty chunky, with the packed size coming in at 20cm x 61cm. But that’s because it’s designed as a basecamp – not a lightweight expedition tent. It offers a comfortable, generous-sized shelter to retreat to at the end of the day. The fact that it’s a double wall tent does mitigate the weight problem, as you don’t have to carry it all by yourself: it can be divvied up between two or more people. Realistically for me, sharing the load is the only viable option, as it’s too heavy for a solo backpacking trip.

As you would expect from a four-season tent, the Trango™ 2 can stand up to the elements. I’ve exposed it to snow-loading and high winds in the sub-alpine. It excelled on every occasion. This is thanks to various design features, including the double wall, bathtub floor and direct connection points between the tent body, frame and fly. I was concerned it might be too hot for summer camping, but actually, there’s sufficient ventilation for year-round use. There’s a small ceiling vent and a D-door at each end. These can be partially opened to promote air-flow, with the separate mesh doors keeping the bugs at bay.

Mountain Hardwear Trango™ 2 Tent
The Mountain Hardwear Trango™ 2 Tent is designed for snow-loading and high winds
Mountain Hardwear Trango™ 2 Tent
Colour coded tent poles are helpful!

My favourite things about the Trango™ 2 is just how roomy it is. With a footprint of 40 square feet, it comfortably fits two people and all your gear. In fact, it could probably accommodate three smaller-sized humans (although I admit I’ve not tried). The front vestibule is an ample size, while the smaller back vestibule adds that extra bit of storage space. Inside, it feels like Mountain Hardwear has made a concerted effort to include as many internal mesh pockets as possible. As someone who loves to organise their gear, this is much appreciated. I especially like the ceiling compartments, which are perfect for water bottles, headtorches and books.

The generous footprint makes for a comfortable camp. The front and rear doors, and the double door on the front vestibule, make life that little bit easier. You don’t have to clamber over your companion to reach your bag or go for a wee in the night. Personally, I find the inside of the tent quite dark, even with the window in the fly. Sometimes this is a bit disorientating, as I have absolutely no idea whether it’s night or day. It’s also possible to have the fly on the ‘wrong’ way round – for example, if you spin it round due to a change in wind direction. If so, the window doesn’t align with the canopy vent.

As for making and breaking camp, the Trango™ 2 is fairly user-friendly. At first glance the instructions seem a bit overwhelming. However, I found the design to be quite intuitive – and the five poles are colour-coded, which helps! It has taken me a while to get to grips with the various line tensioners and guy-lines. But as Mountain Hardwear’s promo video states, the Trango™ 2 has all the bells and whistles – all of which can take a bit of getting used to.

The other downside? The price. This tent is a big investment at over CAD$1,000.

The verdict

The Trango™ 2 is heavy and bulky, but that’s because it’s designed as a basecamp. The trade-off is a spacious, comfortable tent that can easily house two adults and a significant amount of gear. It performs well in all weather conditions, including high winds and snow.

Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals

Kit Review – Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals

I’ve been putting the Merrell Terran Ani Lattice sandals to the test over the past couple of years. Here’s how they fared.

Product description

Merrell says: “Pack light. Live big. Terran Ari Lattice has breathable materials and a bright color pop keep your feet feeling as cool and carefree as you look wearing them.”

Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals
Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals

Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals – the review

Straight out of the box, the Terran Ani Lattice sandals definitely have one thing going for them: they look good. Sandals can sometimes look like they’ve been prescribed by an orthotics clinic. Not so with these bad boys. While they probably won’t please the purist fashionistas, they are way sleeker and more slimline than other products on the market.

Pop them on your feet and one word will spring to mind: comfy. These sandals have contoured footbeds, complete with arch support. Merrell has chosen to make them from EVA, a material with special cushioning properties. The soft and squishy effect is further enhanced by the PU coating (aka. memory foam), which see that your feet mould to the footbeds over time.

The soles are seriously grippy, so much so that I’ll often wear them when walking in the forest (when I can’t be bothered to put actual shoes on). Merrell puts this down to their M Select™ GRIP technology. The flexibility of the sandals is also spot on. They move with your feet, but they’re not as bendy as flip flops, meaning I’ll sometimes wear them while cycling.

Another plus point is that these sandals are lightweight, making them great for backcountry camping. In fact, that’s the primary reason I bought them, as I really wanted a camp shoe. They fit the brief in that respect perfectly. The lattice design across the top of the foot doesn’t rub, while the extra padding around the heel provides extra cushioning.

From a practical point of view, they’re easy to use. There’s just one clasp and it’s quick to adjust, so there’s no fiddling around when putting them on/taking them off. However, the clasp does have a tendency to wiggle loose. I’ll cinch the strap tight, and soon enough it’s slipped back. Not so much that they’ll fall off my feet, but enough so that it’s nuisance. The result is that I have to keep bending down to re-tighten them, which is a tad annoying.

The cinch issue is certainly the biggest drawback of these sandals. I do have one other qualm with the Terran Ani Lattice sandals, which is that they don’t dry very quickly. I often use these sandals for water-based activities, like wading into the sea and kayaking. Once wet, they stay wet for ages. When backcountry camping, for example, I used to wear them while dunking in streams or lakes. Afterwards, I couldn’t wear my usual socks and sandals combo because the footbeds were saturated. They would still be wet the following morning.

Merrell Terran Ani Lattice Sandals
The Terran Ani Lattice sandals have just one cinch

The verdict

The Terran Ari Lattice sandals from Merrell score top marks for comfort, grip and aesthetics. The memory foam footbed is a double-edged sword, as it delivers top-notch cushioning but retains water like a sponge. However, where these sandals really fall down is the cinch. If you don’t like a loose sandal, then this may prove frustrating.

Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy People 2021

The 2021 gift buying guide: 12 gift ideas that outdoorsy people actually want to receive, ranging from stocking fillers to big budget ideas.

1. Merino wool socks

Merino wool socks are the only socks that outdoorsy types really want. These Women’s Hike Classic Edition Full Cushion Solid Crew Socks by Smart Wool are great for hikers. There are other options designed for cyclists, runners and snow sports enthusiasts, so you can browse according to your loved one’s favourite pastime. (Men’s and kids range also available).

Perfect for: hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, skiers and snowboarders.

Women's Hike Classic Edition Full Cushion Solid Crew Socks by Smart Wool

2. Paddling North by Audrey Sutherland

In Paddling North, Audrey Sutherland recounts how, at the age of 60, she decides to quit her job and paddle her inflatable canoe around Alaska’s inside passage – entirely on her own. Featuring illustrations and some of Sutherland’s recipes, this book is a real treasure.

Perfect for: bookworms.

Paddling North by Audrey Sutherland

Side note: If you like this idea, you might want to check out these 10 Must-Read Outdoor Adventure Books.

3. Reusable storage bags

Join the zero-waste movement by gifting these (re-zip) reusable storage bags by Blue Avocado. Lightweight and durable, they’re great for stashing snacks, sandwiches and homemade dehydrated meals while out on adventures.They’re food-safe, lead-free and BPA-free. And of course, they can be used time and time again.

Perfect for: the eco conscious.

(re-zip) reusable storage bags by Blue Avocado

4. Personalised enamel camping mug

Treat your favourite person to a personalised enamel camping mug from That’s Nice That. When ordering, take your time choosing the personalised message. Whether it’s a classic John Muir quote (the mountains are calling!) or one of your own, it’s sure to make for one very happy camper.

Perfect for: campers and fishing enthusiasts.

personalised enamel camping mug from That’s Nice That

5. Patagonia R2 TechFace® jacket

For mid-layers, you can’t get better than the R2 TechFace® jacket by Patagonia. The price tag is on the high side, but your loved one will thank you as it really does deliver on warmth and breathability. 87% of Patagonia’s line uses recycled materials, so you get bonus points for buying from an eco-friendly brand.

Perfect for: anyone who plays in the mountains.

R2 TechFace® jacket by Patagonia

6. Camp soap

A lovely little stocking filler, this small bottle of Sierra Dawn Campsuds goes a long way. Designed for campers, backpackers and travellers, this biodegradable soap can be used in the wilds with little environmental impact. The Nalgene bottle is leak-proof and reusable. The go-to camp soap for washing dishes, clothes and humans!

Perfect for: backcountry campers.

7. Survival kit in a can

The Coghlan’s Survival-Kit-In-A-Can contains 38 essential items to aid survival, all neatly encased in an easy-to-carry tin. It seems like a novelty gift, but it has real practical benefits – and might even save a life one day. Can be easily stowed in backpacks, glove compartments and pockets for emergency situations.

Perfect for: all outdoorsy folk.

Coghlan’s Survival-Kit-In-A-Can

8. Cast iron skillet and dutch oven set

Know an expedition chef in the making? Add a vital piece of equipment to their camp kitchen with this cast iron and Dutch oven set. The heavy-duty cast-iron pan can be placed over the campfire or stove, while the skillet doubles as a secure-fitting lid. Ideal for whipping up delicious camping meals.

Perfect for: the basecamp chef.

Cast Iron and Dutch Oven Set

9. Sunglasses

Combining complete eye protection with old school mountaineering chic, these Julbo Vermont Classic sunglasses are all the rage. They come in a wide range of colours and coatings. Whoever wears them will instantly be the coolest kid on the mountain.

Perfect for: style gurus.

Julbo Vermont Classic sunglasses

10. The Field Guide to Knots by Bob Holtzman

Make sure your loved one doesn’t get caught in a bind with the Field Guide to Knots by Bob Holtzman. This practical guide outlines over 80 essential knots that all outdoorsy folk should know. Whether it’s building a shelter or rappelling down a cliff, this is an indispensable resource for those who spend time in the wilderness.

Perfect for: any self-respecting outdoors person.

The Field Guide to Knot by Bob Holtzman

11. Soy Wax Candle

Inspired by rainy hikes in Bergen’s seven mountains, these Nordic Woods Soy Candles smell of fir needles, citrus and green foliage. One whiff will transport the lucky recipient back to times spent frolicking in the forest – even if they’re stuck at home.

Perfect for: the house-bound.

Nordic Woods Soy Candles

12. Poncho towel

Make the knicker twist a thing of the past with the Original Poncho Towel Changing Robe by Vivida Lifestyle. The water babies in your life will love being able to change in and out of wetsuits and swimsuits in privacy and comfort. Available in a variety of colours.

Original Poncho Towel Changing Robe by Vivida Lifestyle

Perfect for: surfers and wild swimmers.

Still in need of inspiration? Check out the gift guides from Christmas’ past:

Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy People 2020

Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium

Kit Review – Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium

The Exped DownMat Lite 5 M is a three-season sleeping pad that can be used for both car camping and backcountry camping.

Product description

Exped describes the DownMat Lite 5 M as “light in weight and affordable” with a “super comfortable convergence of features and price”. They add that it has “down insulation” and is “surprisingly light and compact when packed”.

Exped DownMat Lite 5 M – the review

Weighing in at 682g and with a pack volume of 3.5 litres, this sleeping pad definitely cannot be defined as ‘ultralight’. There are certainly smaller products on the market. It is, however, incredibly comfortable – in my personal opinion, at least. It’s also mercifully quiet – no crinkling or crisp packet noises here! (Unlike some others I’ve come across).

Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium

Being a rectangular shape, and measuring 183cm long and 52cm wide, it’s a decent size that feels very spacious for one so short as myself (5’2”). The air-filled cells also run vertically, rather than horizontally. This makes it feel as though you’re being cocooned, limiting the risk that you’ll roll off while you sleep.

Grey sleeping pad
The Exped DownMat Lite 5 M

With 5cm thickness, I find the Exped DownMat Lite 5 to be sufficiently elevated from the floor. I’ve used this on wooden slats, lumpy sand and stony ground. I’ve always been completely impervious to the terrain underneath me. You inflate the mat manually with a mini-pump (which is included), meaning you can choose how firm to have it, which I think is a bonus.

Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium
Conked out after a long day of kayaking

I’m always wary of popping the fabric on an untoward stone, but I’ve put it through a fair amount of abuse, and so far the 75-denier fabric has proved durable enough. The duck down inside the mat is less robust, meaning you have to inflate it with the pump, as opposed to your mouth. Otherwise, the moisture from your breath can damage its effectiveness.

Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium
The pump

In all honesty, inflating the mat in this way can be trying after a long day, especially when you just want to flop into bed. There is a valve to deflate it, but it doesn’t win any points for speed on this front either. Getting it small enough to fit back into the sack requires a degree of patience. Making and breaking camp therefore takes a little longer than it might otherwise.

With 650-fill duck down and an R-value of 3.8, this is a solid three-season sleeping pad. It has a temperature rating of -10°c. However, I’ve taken it winter camping a couple of times in temperatures hovering at around – 8°c. I could clearly feel the cold seeping up from the snow-covered ground, so it definitely isn’t for year-round use.

Exped DownMat Lite 5 Medium

Coming in at $169.95 from MEC, it has a decent price point for its quality and comfort. It’s certainly compact enough to take backcountry camping, although it won’t please the ultralight brigade. So, if you’re a stickler for every gram, you might want to explore some alternative options.

The verdict

The Exped DownMat Lite 5 M is heavier and bulkier than other products available, and inflating/deflating it does require patience. But really, it’s so spacious, comfortable and quiet, I think these drawbacks are worth it.

Kit Review – Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Kit Review – Patagonia Houdini Jacket

The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is a lightweight and versatile windbreaker that excels across a range of activities, be it hiking, mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing, kayaking or cycling.

Product description

Patagonia describes the Houdini Jacket as a “100% recycled nylon, take-it-anywhere jacket with weather-resistant protection for high-output endeavours.”

Patagonia Houdini Jacket – the review

The Houdini Jacket is a windbreaker, and it performs that role brilliantly. The fabric has a durable water repellent finish – but is not water resistant – so it won’t keep you dry in a downpour. But that’s not its purpose. It’s intended as a shell, and it does an excellent job of blocking the wind and repelling light precipitation. It’s a vital piece of my trail running and mountain biking get-up. I also wear it while kayaking, hiking and road cycling. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Houdini Jacket is my most-used item of clothing – so much so that I own two of them.

Even when I’m not wearing this jacket, I typically carry it with me, just in case I get cold. At 96g it’s 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. Thanks to this design it takes up next-to-no space in your backpack, running vest or hip pouch There’s also a little loop so you can attach it to a carabiner.

Kit Review – Patagonia Houdini Jacket
The Houdini Jacket scrunches up into an over-sized jelly bean

In my personal opinion, this jacket has the added benefit of actually looking good. It has a slim fit and comes in a range of sizes from XS to XXL. The XS fits my 5’2’’ petite frame perfectly, but there’s enough room to wear a base layer and a mid-layer underneath if needed. The drawcord hem, elastic cuffs and hood adjuster all ensure maximum snugness. It also comes in a range of colours, so there’s something to suit all tastes.

Kit Review – Patagonia Houdini Jacket

What impresses me most about the Houdini Jacket is that it’s ultralight. However, this might be a drawback for some. The nylon fabric is wafer thin and there’s only one pocket, which is the one that doubles as a stuff sack. It’s also not breathable and moisture can accumulate on the inside of the jacket if you start to sweat. Even so, it’s not billed as having Gore-Tex technology – it’s a windbreaker! That’s why I don’t use this jacket for high output activities unless the air temperature is very cool. If I’m mountain biking in late spring, for example, I’ll keep this in my hip pouch until I’ve finished the climb. I’ll then wear it for the descent, ensuring I don’t get cold from air whipping past me.

Kit Review – Patagonia Houdini Jacket
The Houdini Jacket always accompanies me on the trails

The verdict

Patagonia’s Houdini Jacket does exactly what a windbreaker is supposed to do. It’s ideal for anyone looking for an exceptionally lightweight shell to use for layering or outdoor activities where wind-chill is a factor.

Osprey Sirrus 50 backpack on the Howe Sound Crest Trail

Kit Review – Osprey Sirrus 50 Backpack

Comfortable, compact and created with women in mind, the Osprey Sirrus 50 backpack is a firm favourite that accompanies me year-round on day hikes and backcountry camping excursions.

Product description

Osprey says: “Now featuring adjustable torso lengths, improved women’s specific fit and comfort with updated aesthetics, the Sirrus® 50 is the go-to choice for everything from big day hikes to overnight jaunts in the backcountry.”

The review – Osprey Sirrus 50 Backpack

Finally, a 50 litre backpack that actually fits women of different shapes and sizes. At least, that’s how I felt when searching for a new pack. Having scoured the stores with little success (everything was too big or just didn’t sit right) I had my a-ha moment with the Osprey Sirrus 50 backpack. This is thanks to the back panel which can be adjusted to your torso length. Combine this with the multitude of adjustable straps and the pack can, it seems, be customised to fit just about anyone. The hip straps have an ‘ErgoPull’ design which makes them easy to cinch in, and have enough leeway to fit both petite and plus size waistlines.

The Osprey Sirrus 50 is stable on your back

Once you’re on the trails, the pack is incredibly comfortable. There’s padding in all the right places, with the seamless hip belt doing wonders to eliminate the discomfort that usually comes with a heavy pack. The whole thing sits slightly removed from your body due to a tensioned back panel. This promotes breathability and improves balance, as your pack isn’t swinging around and dragging you from side to side. Oh, and being made of denier nylon means it is incredibly light.

As for the design features, there’s everything you’d hope for, plus some. There’s an integrated rain cover neatly stashed away in its own dedicated compartment. The pack has hydration bladder compatibility, along with an integrated whistle, hip pockets for snacks, and a clip to secure your keys. There are countless compartments, zippered pockets, loops and attachments – in fact, I’m still discovering some! Just the other day I realised there was a sneaky side zip, allowing you to access the main compartment without having to open the bag right up.

Woman wearing Osprey Sirrus backpack standing in front of waterfalls running off cliffs
The rain cover working its magic!

What also impresses me about this pack is how versatile it is. Sometimes I will take it on a longer day hike, or a winter hike, when I need more clothes. Then I cinch down the straps and it becomes a relatively compact day pack. Other times I loosen the straps to their maximum capacity and suddenly, it’s transformed into vessel capable of multi-day backcountry excursions. In fact, this pack accompanied me on a four day hike along the Juan de Fuca trail.

Having said that, I was travelling extremely light. That is perhaps the limitation of this pack – it doesn’t always hold quite as much as I would like. Take the sleeping bag compartment at the bottom, for example. This is a nice idea, but you’d need an ultra-light sleeping bag in a compression sack to get it in there. The Osprey website also says the Womens XS/S is actually 47 litres, meaning you lose three litres. This doesn’t sound like much, but is the equivalent of a few extra layers or a hydration bladder.

The only other downside is that I could only get my hands on a ‘ruska purple’ pack, which I don’t exactly dig.

Woman hiking through forest
Hiking the Juan de Fuca trail

The verdict

An excellent backpack ideal for day hikes and lightweight overnight trips. It gets top marks for comfort, adjustability, ventilation and stability. However, if you have bulkier gear or a larger load, you’ll probably need something with a greater volume.

Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

Kit Review – Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

I put the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock through the ultimate test: a Vancouver winter. They more than stood up to the challenge, scoring highly on waterproofness and warmth.

Product description

Sealskinz says: “We designed the Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock to keep you dry and on the move in wet or cold conditions…Ideal for a variety of temperatures, this sock will keep you dry and warm in rain, snow, and mud, through stream crossings, and standing in leaky waders.”

The review: Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

For anyone who isn’t familiar Canada’s west coast, you should know that Vancouver is commonly known as Raincouver. Because guess what? It rains. A lot. If you want statistics, then I can tell you that it rained a total of 171 days in 2020. So, what better way to test a pair of waterproof socks than a wet, cold winter in British Columbia?

Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock
Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

At first glance

Straight out of the box, you’ll notice that these socks feel a bit ‘strange’. It’s hard to describe, but they don’t feel like your ordinary sock. The reason being is that they are constructed of three layers. The outer layer is made from nylon, which is known for its durability. The middle layer is the waterproof hydrophilic membrane, which is the clever technology that keeps water, mud and snow out. Finally, the inner layer is made from merino wool, which is prized for its warmth and sweat-wicking abilities. Slip them on your feet and yes, they still feel a bit unconventional. They don’t fit snug to your feet like other socks. But that’s kind of the point – these aren’t conventional socks.

The size chart on the Sealskinz website indicates what size sock you should buy. I’m a UK size 5 and the small socks fit me perfectly. Bear in mind that these are thicker than your average sock, so if you’re at the upper end of a small, Sealskinz recommends that you select a medium (and so on). I definitely found that my shoes were tighter than normal, although the socks weren’t so chunky that it was a problem.

In the field

My first jaunt was a road run in the pouring rain. My road running trainers are incredibly thin and have zero waterproofing. Out and about, I found the socks to be really comfortable, which I wasn’t expecting because they have such an unusual fit. Back at home, I squelched out of my soggy trainers and found the outer part of the socks to be completely sodden. This wasn’t a cause for concern, as the outside layer isn’t waterproof.

Inside the socks, my feet felt like they were wet, which raised some alarm bells. But when I took the socks off, my feet were pretty much dry. What I could feel was perspiration from my feet. The socks are described as ‘extremely breathable’, as the waterproof membrane is meant to ‘release perspiration steam and warm air from inside the sock.’ However, it seems this function may be compromised with high intensity activity. I’ve also read that when the outer layer becomes wet, the socks lose breathability. Whatever the cause, I do find that sweat builds up inside the sock, both while road running and trail running.

Even so, I still wear them for running in cold, wet conditions. They’re really warm and comfortable, with the blister-proof design living up to its promise. I like that the socks extend halfway up the calf muscles for extra protection against the mud and wet. And given the choice between sopping wet feet and dry (but slightly sweaty) feet, I’ll take the latter any day.

In any event, these socks aren’t actually aimed at runners. They’re billed as an “ideal choice when there’s a risk of getting your feet wet while hiking, cycling, commuting, hunting, fishing, or working outside.” I tried them while mountain biking and commuting around the city, and they do a terrific job of blocking rain, spray and wind chill.

In fact, these socks were particularly impressive while I was out on the mountain bike. My feet are normally so cold when I ride in the winter. But I finally found warmth with my trotters cocooned in the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock. At one point I slipped off a skinny wood feature and landed my foot straight into a puddle. Did my foot stay dry? Yes it did. I’ve since worn them riding in the snow and the rain, and my feet have always been nice and toasty.

The verdict

As socks go, the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock is a pricey option. In certain scenarios, the breathability may also be sub-optimal. Having said that, they have truly revolutionised my winter activities. They do a fantastic job of keeping your feet warm and dry – even when your foot is fully submerged in water. Sealskinz are so confident of their performance that they even offer a lifetime waterproof guarantee.

These socks aren’t built for summer adventures, but are ideal for wet weather activities in colder temperatures. They get bonus points for being low maintenance, as you can throw them in the wash with the rest of your laundry. This is a relief, because I’ve found myself ferreting them out of my sock drawer time and time again.

Woman in snowy mountains wearing the blueNorrøna Lyngen 35L Ski Touring Pack

Kit Review – Norrøna Lyngen 35L Ski Touring Pack

The Norrøna Lyngen 35L ski touring pack is the ideal pack for day trips into the backcountry.

Product description

Norrøna says: ‘The highly functional Lyngen 35L pack is our lightest backpack designed for ski touring’. It’s described as ‘a ski mountaineering pack with room for your equipment during a full day in the mountains.’

The review: Norrøna Lyngen 35L ski touring pack

At first glance, this bag has everything you’d expect of a touring pack. There’s a dedicated compartment for your avalanche safety gear and skins, including integrated dividers for your probe and shovel so they don’t slide around. And at 35 litres, there’s just enough space for layers and food.

When you come to inspect the pack more closely, you’ll realise (with some delight) that there are more design features than you initially thought. Some of them are simple, yet subtly work to make your life easier. Take the separate compartment for your safety gear, for example. It has red zip ties, while all the others are blue. In the panic of an avalanche burial, you’ll waste no time zippering and unzippering the wrong pockets. As they say, the devil is in the detail. And it seems Norrøna has really taken the time to consider the details, allowing them to create a product that’s truly fit for purpose.

When you reach the trail head, this pack starts working for you straightaway. First up, you can secure your keys to the internal key hook. Then, you can put your helmet in the external helmet carrier (which, by the way, can be rolled up and stowed away for the descent). The net does a great job of keeping snow out, because let’s be honest, no one likes a damp helmet. There’s also an ice axe/pole attachment, although I’ve not had cause to use this yet. The top pouch provides a convenient place to keep your googles. And if you need to boot pack, the two loops at the bottom of the bag enable an A-frame ski carry system. It’s also possible to carry your skis diagonally, if that’s your jam.

Woman on skis in snowy mountains
The helmet carrier at work

While you’re on the move, the large hip pockets allow easy access to snacks and other items, like your phone. You can also wriggle your way into the main compartment from the left-hand hip pocket, allowing you to drag out a deeply packed layer or camera without having to take off your pack.

Talking of the main compartment, this is where all your other gear lives, including your layers and water. The entire back panel opens up, a clever design that allows you to see and organise all your clothes, even when your skis are attached to the pack. Inside the back panel is a large zippered compartment which is perfect for housing a water bladder. You can then route the hose through a hole and straight into the shoulder strap, which zippers open and shut to provide a hydration sleeve. This is so pleasing, as your tube isn’t flapping around and benefits from a layer of insulation. The back compartment also has a mesh pocket for those items that can easily get lost, such as a head torch, compass and first aid kit.

The hose sits inside the shoulder strap

When the pack is empty, it’s lightweight at 1.19kg. It’s also incredibly comfortable. The heat moulded back panel acts as padding, and there are plenty of straps and cinches so you can get the fit just right. I’m a petite female with a small frame. As such, I’m normally very aware of my backpack while skiing. But thanks to the ergonomic design, this pack sits tight when you need it to, regardless of whether you’re skinning up or making your descent.

If there is one drawback, it’s that the material is water-resistant and not waterproof, although this is pretty standard. My first ski tour with this pack was during a wet west coast day near Vancouver. The clothes in the main compartment fared well and were only slightly damp, thanks to their location at the back of the pack. Everything else got pretty soggy and I was glad none of my electronics were in the hip pockets. As a result, I’ve started putting things in waterproof stuff sacks to ensure they stay dry. Also, at 35 litres I would definitely class this as a day bag. Those wanting to do multi-day tours will want something with a larger capacity.

Open backpack on snowy ground
The back panel opens up

Time will tell how well this pack endures. Worryingly, Norrøna themselves have rated the pack as only three out of six for durability. However, the five-year warranty provides extra peace of mind.

The verdict

The Norrøna Lyngen 35L ski touring pack has been thoughtfully designed to meet all your day touring needs. It has a mid-level price point compared to other products, yet performs extremely well, combining comfort with high-level functionality. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

Woman stands on mountain wearing trail running vest

Kit Review – Patagonia Slope Runner Vest 4L

The 4-litre Patagonia Slope Runner Vest is a stripped-back, no-nonsense trail running vest, perfect for shorter training runs and races.

Product description

Patagonia says: ‘we designed the Slope Runner Vest for long-haul comfort with enough storage to keep extra layers, nutrition and hydration organised and within easy reach.’

The 4-litre version (as opposed to the 8-litre version) is described as ‘close-fitting and breathable for all-day comfort with just enough room for an extra layer and snacks.’

The review: Patagonia Slope Runner Vest 4L

Hats off to whoever wrote the product description because it’s bang-on. The point of the 4L Patagonia Slope Runner Vest is that it’s minimalist. It weighs just 160g (5.6oz) but still delivers the fundamental requirements of a trail running vest – simply without any unnecessary design features.

The vest fits really snuggly and doesn’t bounce around. The adjustable ties at the front, and the bungee cords at the sides, mean you can adapt the fit according to your shape. The back panel is made of high-flex monofilament mesh, which does indeed improve breathability, as promised.

It comes with two 500ml HydraPak flasks. These slot into the front of the vest, which itself sits high on the chest. This means you can bend your head down and drink straight from the bottles, without having to remove them. There’s a large compartment at the back, so you can carry a water bladder if you prefer.

Inserting the bottles can be a tad fiddly, but I’ve now mastered the technique of stretching both upper and lower chest pockets at the same time. This allows the bottle to drop back in. The elasticated fabric keeps them in place, so they don’t fall out or slide downwards while you’re running.

There’s a selection of storage pockets of varying shapes and sizes, most of which are easy to access while on the go. As the product description suggests, it might prove difficult to pack a lot of layers. However, the vest is surprisingly spacious. I went on a 30km outing carrying four sandwiches, two homemade energy bars, a Patagonia Houdini jacket, an extra base layer, phone, keys, and a headtorch – and I still had plenty of room leftover.

Woman stands in meadow
Plenty of room for sandwiches in this vest

There are two zipped pockets. One tucks into the back pouch and is useful for storing things such as keys. The other is hidden underneath the left-hand water bottle and is intended for your phone. This is perhaps my biggest gripe with this vest. It’s very difficult to insert your phone while the water bottle is full, and the space isn’t big enough for most modern-day devices. Even so, a phone can easily be stashed in one of the other pockets.

The only other downside is that this vest is so stripped back that some design features have been abandoned altogether, including an integrated whistle. This is a bit of a nuisance if you compete in long-distance races (which typically require that you have a whistle) or you’re heading out alone.

As you might expect from Patagonia, the vest is made out of 100% recycled polyester ripstop, giving it extra points for eco-credentials.

The verdict

All in all, the Patagonia Slope Runner Vest delivers everything you could want from a 4-litre vest – enough room for all the essentials, but so streamlined you hardly notice you’re wearing it.

La Sportiva trail running shoes

Kit Review – La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoes

When I was given a new pair of trail running shoes for Christmas, I immediately took them back to the store and switched them for a pair of Wildcat 2.0 GTX shoes by La Sportiva.

I’m not ungrateful! It’s just that the original pair were way too big, whereas the Wildcats were a good fit for my feet (which is why I have a pair of La Sportiva hiking boots, too).

Product description

Also, as the product description says: ‘The Wildcat 2.0 GTX Women’s is a highly stable, neutral trail runner that provides excellent cushioning and a secure fit. The waterproof Gore-Tex® lining keeps your feet dry in wet conditions, and the aggressive outsole and supple midsole combine to ensure comfort and stability on rough trails.’

Living on Vancouver’s North Shore, this ticked a lot of boxes for me. My local stomping ground is steep, technical and often slippery. So, I needed shoes that were waterproof, sturdy and had good traction.

La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoes

The review: La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoes

I can safely say that the Wildcats deliver on all these points – almost too effectively.

The Gore-Tex technology works well. I regularly cross creeks and splash through puddles but my feet stay dry. The uppers are described as breathable, although I find my feet get sweaty in warmer weather. So it’s not ideal as a summer trail running shoe.

The lugs on the sole provide great grip, which is exactly what you need for rough terrain. They’re not the lightest trail running shoe out there, coming in at 660g for a pair of size 38s, but they don’t feel especially heavy.

La Sportiva have included several features to enhance stability, including nylon shanks, heel stabilisers and resilient outsoles. However, I do find them quite stiff. While they are comfortable enough to wear right out the box, my feet often feel slightly sore after a long trail run. I’m not talking blisters – it’s more like they’re slightly beat up. This could be due to my petite build, and generally, it’s not too much of a downside. I’d rather have solid support than too much flex.

Sometimes I also take these on summer hikes and they always perform well. They have as much grip as a hiking boot and are waterproof. Yet they are much lighter, so you can travel faster when desired.

The verdict

Overall, the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX trail running shoes are a sound investment, especially if you’re going to be tackling wet, technical trails. If you live in a warmer climate, or will be running on mostly smooth paths, you might prefer something more lightweight with greater flexibility.

Woman stands on rock in front of blue lake

Kit Review – La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX Hiking Boots

There comes a time in every hiker’s life when their boots begin to give up the ghost. Cracks appear in the heel, the sole begins to fray, and water finds its way into every nook and cranny. If you’re like me, you’ll limp along a bit longer than you should. Then you’ll relent and go shopping for new ones.

Trango TRK GTX hiking boot by La Sportiva

So it was that I found myself browsing the shelves of Mountain Equipment Co-op. I was adamant that I wanted a fancy pair of Scarpas, but quickly discovered they are far too wide for my narrow feet. I tried on boot after boot. Finally, after much exasperation from the sales assistant, my Cinderella moment came.

The Trango TRK GTX hiking boot by La Sportiva was the perfect fit.

The Trango TRK GTX hiking boot by La Sportiva

The Trango TRK GTX hiking boot by La Sportiva

I was a little deflated. Don’t get me wrong, La Sportiva is a great brand with quality products. But boy, these boots are a little loud for someone whose wardrobe consists entirely of neutral tones. I’d been hoping for Nubuck leather. Instead I’d got synthetic materials in an array of jazzy colours.

But you can’t be so shallow about such things. This was the only boot I could find designed for slim feet. They are Gore-Tex. They have a seriously robust sole. And, as the description on the MEC website says, they are ‘built for abuse’. They were the boots for me. As they say, it’s not all about looks.

The verdict

The following day I embarked on an overnight hike to Hanover Lake from Porteau Cove near Vancouver. Unfortunately, I have very delicate skin. The steep ascent led to Deeks Lake meant there was a lot of pressure on my heels, and soon the skin had worn away, leaving fresh, open blisters.

Woman walks across logs on Deeks Lake

Road testing new boots at Deeks Lake

But alas, I’ve had no trouble since. The boots were well and truly broken in by the time I got home from their maiden voyage, and now I have only positive things to say. I’ve thrown a lot at them – hot and dry terrain, wet and slippery conditions, torrential rain, creek crossings and the odd bit of scrambling. They’ve stood up to the test in all.

Particular plus points include the high ankle support, the solid rubber toe and heel rands, the traction on the sole, and their all-round flexibility. They are sturdy, without feeling like you have iron clamps stuck to your feet. And thus far, they have remained waterproof. Which is an absolute must.

In all, the Trango TRK GTX hiking boots by La Sportiva certainly meet the necessary tick boxes. However, if you are looking for hiking boots, remember that they must suit your feet too. Otherwise you’ll never be comfortable while on the trails. If you have narrow feet, I recommend you give these a whirl.