Friday, 22 June 2007

NEWS: Berghaus goes green

In response to increased consumer awareness of environmental issues and demand for eco friendly products, Berghaus will be launching a world exclusive recycled fleece in its autumn/winter 2007 collection. Berghaus and its long-term partner Polartec® are introducing new fabrics so that all Polartec® materials in the Berghaus range will be made from recycled fleece. Among the recycled fabrics being used is a Berghaus world exclusive - Recycled Polartec® Thermal Pro 200. Patagonia have been doing it for years, of course, but it's good to see a mainstream brand like Berghaus help the industry towards what will surely be an environmental tipping-point.

How recycled fleece is made
The process to produce the new fabric begins with post-industrial waste, including yarn and fabric by-products. These are then made into polyester chips which are melted and purified before the molten mix is turned into a fibre. Once this fibre is spun into yarn, it can be made into the fabrics which appear in the new Berghaus Polartec® products.

The Sangar jacket (shown) is made from the Recycled Polartec® Thermal Pro 200 with reinforcement on the shoulders and hips provided by Berghaus’ Airfoil fabric, making it ideal for use with a rucksack. Berghaus are also using Recycled Polartec® Classic 300 fleece in the men’s and women’s Polarplus IA fleece, and Recycled Polartec® Thermal Pro 200 in the men’s and women’s Activity Jacket IA. These styles are already popular jackets in the range and now have the added attraction of being more environmentally friendly.

For information visit Berghaus web site

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Written by Graham Thompson

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

REVIEW: Anquet 1M Aerial Photography

When it comes to planning a route, maps are a good starting point but they are only one of the tools available. The problem is that even with digital maps you are still reliant on the surveyors skills at plotting the paths in the right place. More importantly most maps only show rights of way, rather than all the clear paths that may exist on the ground, so you are quite limited for choice in many areas if you want to stick to the paths rather than having to clamber over rocks or tussocky grass.

It's good For the past few months I've been using Anquet's new 1 metre resolution aerial photography mapping. Each pixel on the image matches a 1 metre square on the ground. The result is that the image even shows the footpaths as light worn areas between the grass and rock. Prices vary depending on the size of the area you download but start at £10 and you just download the maps into your computer. This has transformed my route planning and allowed me to confirm that a path does exist on the ground, even when not marked on the map and also allows me to be prepared for navigational problems in advance, when a right of way is marked on the map, but not clear on the ground. On the hill the extra preperation has been really useful too. Particularly when guiding a group across the fells with no path underfoot, as I was able to confidently say, "don't worry lads, the path will be clear underfoot in about 1 km!"

But the 1metre resolution maps are only available from the Anquet server, rather than on CD. Coverage includes England, Wales and most of Scotland, so some areas are not covered. Like most mapping products they require a PC rather than an Apple Mac and these are running on Windows 2000 or XP rather than the latest Vista systems.On my broadband connection it took about 20 minutes to download the whole of the Northern England 1m Aerial Photography map, which is quite slow if you are not expecting it ... but now you are expecting it you'll be prepared to walk away and have a brew while you wait.

Buy it if you want more detail than any map could provide ... brilliant for spotting footpaths that actually exist on the ground.

For information visit Anquet Map Server

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Written by Graham Thompson

NEWS: Chaco children's sandals £25

It's hot and humid again, so it is time to ditch the shoes and grab the sandals. No need to leave the kids out either, as US Company Chaco has hit the UK with its range of children’s trekking sandals, which are great for urban exploits, river roams and trekking the trail.
The new range of sandals are modelled on the technical grown-up version (which has been scoring well in gear tests on both sides of the pond) and feature an easy-pull-on design and a glow-in-the-dark buckle to keep kids safe. The Z/1 [shown above for boys and girls] and ZX/1 [for girls only] have an open toe design and feature a heel cup and arch support for comfort. For smaller sizes an elasticised strap enables little hands to pull on the sandals easily.
The sandals’ polyester webbing straps come in 29 colour options, so there should be a model to fit every child's tastes.
There are loads of other models too, so definately something for everyone ... including adults!

Vital stats:
Chaco Z/1 £25 – for boys and girls (shown)
Sizes: 11-13 and 1-4
Chaco ZX/1 £25 – for girls only
Sizes: 11-13 and 1-4

For stockist information: tel. (01202) 572775 or visit Chacousa Web Site

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Written by Graham Thompson

REVIEW: Macpac Amp Light 35 rucksack £80

Now that summer is here, scrambling is a great way to avoid the more popular routes, while long days in the hills are a great way to make the most of the long hours of daylight. A clean lined rucksack, that is narrow, figure hugging and stable is just the ticket for the scrambles, while minimal weight is ideal for the long days. So I've been using the Macpac Amp Light 35 rucksack over recent months.

It's good It's new from Macpac this summer and is designed for lightweight hiking. However, unlike other ultralight gear the Amp Light still maintains a good level of durability and comfort. The pack tips the scales at 1.3kg. It has one main compartment and there is a drawcord snowlock extension to help keep out any rain when the pack is overfilled. There's a large pocket on the front, that I've found usefully large, and it's been home to maps and hats on numerous occasions. They've also stuck a drawcorded mesh pocket on the front, which would be useful for stowing wet items, but I've not found it very useful to be fair. To side mesh wand pockets or bottle holders are also provided and these are much more useful. Side compression straps allow trekking poles to be stowed on the sides as well as allowing the capacity to be squashed down and kept neat when not fully loaded. There are padded side panels that give extra stability to the pack, something that other lightweight sacks often lack. The back system is simple, well padded and very comfortable. The hip belt is also a lightweight design that wraps close to the body. Top tensioning straps allow extra contol of the load too. In general this all worked well and certainly made scrambles easier as the pack sat so close, while 10 hour mountain days were no doubt less tiring for the comfort and low weight the sack provided.

But there are a couple of niggles in the design. I found that the hip belt adjustment was a little messy as there are pair of webbing straps and often I found that the lower of these get dragged below the hip belt. The problem is that they have designed the hip belt so that it can be removed, while leaving a narrow webbing tape to be used as a hip belt, The idea is great, as often the wider hip belt would not be needed when travelling light, but they haven't quite pulled it off neatly enough in my view. Don't get me wrong it is not a disaster, but a tad annoying none the less ... a little like boot laces that come undone too easily and require a double knot to keep them tied! The front mesh pocket is large enough to take a waterbottle, but as the pocket is so far back it tends to wobble about a lot. Arguably a lid under the pocket would be a good addition. Finally on my sample, the pull cord for the zip on the lid pocket kept coming off. This may be a sample production issue, as the other zip on the front of the pack was fine.

Buy it if you are after a lightweight, close fitting, narrow rucksack for scrambling or hillwalking as this is among the best.

Vital stats
Manufacturer capacity 35 litre
Trail tested capacity 34 litre
Materials Titan Grid Fabric 100D high tenacity nylon
Features padded back system, front pocket, lid pocket, mesh pocket on front, mesh wand pockets, compression straps, walking pole and ice axe attachment points, hydration system compatible
Weight 1300g
Made in Philippines
For more information visit the Macpac Web Site

Check out the August issue of Trail for a review of this rucksack and 11 more rucksacks that are specifically designed to keep you comfortable on the hills this summer.

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Reviewed by Graham Thompson

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

NEWS: Hydration system taste issues

Eurohike (Millets) and Stormshield (Blacks) have taken the concept of anti-bacterial growth a little too far judging by my recent experiences of their hydration systems.

I've been playing with hydration systems for the August issue of Trail and you can see which ones I like when the mag appears on the shelves in early July.

However one thing I will say now, as a warning, is that I'd recommend you give your newly purchased hydration system a taste test as soon as you can. The water from some of them tasted like they had been dunked in TCP and actually made my tongue go numb! Millets and Blacks are looking into it, but it looks like they have taken the concept of anti-bacterial growth a little too far.

We did not have space to feature all the hydration systems we recieved ... yes everyone is making them now ... but the ones we liked the most will be in the next issue of Trail. Judging by my experience the Eurohike and Stormshield models are worth taking a bypassing ... unless you need an antiseptic mouth wash!

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Reviewed by Graham Thompson

REVIEW: Naylor's Run DVD

What did you give or get on Father's Day?

My father-in-law got Naylor's Run, a DVD showing the stunning efforts of Joss Naylor to tackle 60 Wainwright peaks on his 60th birthday year! He did the peaks in just ... wait for it .... 36 hours! The run was almost 110 miles long and involved nearly 40,000 feet of ascent. Beautiful weather, aerial photography and lots of amazing images of Joss running over all the major Lakeland fells. Afterwards, the father-in-law was ready to hit the hills with a bumbag and a pair of fell shoes.
Well worth checking out if you are lacking some motivation or have the feeling you are over the hill!

If you missed out this Father's Day, then put it on your wish list for Mothers Day, birthdays or Christmas.


For more information check out: Striding Edge Productions

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Reviewed by Graham Thompson

TECHNICAL: What does waterproof mean?

Rain has returned to the Lakes. Within minutes the email and Trail forum was buzzing with the question every walker wants to know about. How to stay dry and why am I getting wet in my waterproof jacket!

To stay dry on the hills you need clothing made from fabric that can withstand the driving force of rain. To be called waterproof a fabric must be able to withstand 2.1 pounds per square inch (psi) to conform to British Standards for low activity use such as golfing and fashion. For high activity such as hill walking and skiing the fabric be able to withstand 7.1 psi.
To give you some idea of what this means, 1 psi is roughly equivalent to rain hitting the jacket at 35mph, while it is possible to exert a pressure of 15psi on the fabric when kneeling. Sadly very few manufacturers state how waterproof their fabric is and those that do use so many different testing methods that it is difficult to compare fabrics.

Levels of waterproofness
So Trail uses a league table to compare levels of waterproofness as follows:

Water Resistant - means ‘water resistant’ and will only resist light rain
Waterproof - meets the ‘low activity’ British Standard to be called waterproof
Very waterproof - meets the ‘high activity’ British Standard.
Extremely waterproof - means it can withstand a pressure of 25psi, so it offers a very durable level of waterproofness

To complicate the story, Paramo garments are not waterproof when using the terms described above, as water can be forced through them quite easily if you lean on a wet area of ground. But when used for walking they keep you dry as body heat pumps the sweat away from the inside of the jacket and as the garment comprises of two very water resistant layers, driving rain does not pass through the garment. So although they are not truly waterproof, you’ll stay dry when wearing them for walking in driving rain.

Design effects on waterproofness
While a jacket may be made from waterproof fabric, its design can easily allow water to leak in. The seams should be seam sealed, but on lower priced jackets the sealing tape is sometimes poorly applied and allows water though.
The front zip can leak easily if it is not protected by a system of storm flaps. There are now many jackets with unprotected water resistant zip fitted. These leak quite easily, especially when the zip is stretched of flexed in a convex manner to expose the teeth, which tends to happen when a waist belt of a rucksack is buckled tightly against the waist area of a jacket.
Pockets with openings that are not protected by a double storm flap can easily fill with water and if they are mesh lined this water will leak into the jacket.
Water will always follow gravity along a route of least resistance, so it tends to follow creases and folds in the fabric, it follows channels of fabric like water flowing down a ravine so not surprisingly water easily finds it ways down the neck of a jacket through a front zip not fully zipped up and down the sleeves when climbing.
Some designs of jackets actively encourage water to enter the jacket by having designs that catch the water and encourage it towards zips and other openings. For example if a single storm flap on a chest pockets of a jacket lies diagonally or vertically and faces towards the front of the jacket it will collect water when walking into the rain. In high winds the water will be forced through the zips. So look for storm flaps that face down the jacket so that they don’t collect water even in driving wind and instead force running water to flow away from zips rather than towards them.
In fact it it’s amazing that any waterproofs actually keep us dry in the hills. But on the whole they do a good job if looked after properly.


The durability of the waterproofness varies. A jacket with minimal levels of waterproofness will tend to leak sooner than a jacket with the highest levels of waterproofness. This is because the waterproofing treatments applied to the materials tend to wear off with use.

In tests carried out by Cumbria Trading Standards in 1998 on jackets priced between £15 and £50 pounds, only the Craghoppers Pakka Jacket passed the British Standard for Water Repellency (BSEN 20811). This suggests that jackets that meet the lowest levels of waterproofness may lose some waterproofness through manufacturing due to quality control problems for example.

In tests carried out in 1999 by George Fisher of Keswick (George Fisher Online) the majority of waterproofs costing under £80 started to leak inside 3 years.
Jackets costing between £80 and £100 performed much better and it was only after three years that they started to find more failures than non-failures, with many jackets in this group maintaining waterproofness for 9 or 10 years.
Jackets priced at £150 and over using fabrics such as Gore-Tex, Sympatex, Triplepoint, Rab Downpour and H2No for example performed the best with only 1% of them leaking inside 3 years and over 80% of them maintaining their waterproofness for up to 6 years or more.

So it appears that higher priced jackets are generally made from more waterproof fabrics and that these fabrics remain waterproof for longer. In other words you get what you pay for.

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Reviewed by Graham Thompson

COMMENT: Green fever doesn't spread to outdoor industry

Shares in companies fighting climate change are soaring. The UK’s ethical finance market is now worth £12 billion according to a recent survey by the Co-op Bank. According to Sir David Attenborough, there is a “moral change” in the public’s attitude to global warming. This view is supported by research showing that three out of four British families would boycott firms that do not take real steps to cut their environmental impact. However, more than half were sceptical about firms' commitment, believing they made only superficial changes to win public favour.
Some of the biggest new green evangelists can be found in the retail sector, with supermarkets. Wal-Mart, the owner of Asda, has committed itself to using 100% renewable energy, reducing waste and selling more sustainable products. Marks and Spencer has introduced ‘Bags for Life’ to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, a move that comes as part of M&S's drive, called "Plan A", towards ethical trading and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. The five-year scheme will see M&S become carbon neutral, stop sending waste to landfill and extending its sustainable sourcing by 2012.
The outdoor industry already plays a significant role in fighting climate change by connecting people with the outdoors and championing its benefits in terms of personal development, fitness and well being. Getting out and being a part of nature undoubtedly encourages understanding and protection of the natural environment and ultimately of the planet.
Perhaps it is no surprise to see that Patagonia still leads the field on environmental philosophies and they continue to raise the bar for those brands that have jumped onto the ethical bandwagon. A look through Patagonia catalogue is like reading a green guide to life.
Recycling is a major method of reducing human impact and Patagonia has installed recycle bins in many of their stores. Polartec have been making recycled fleece since 1993 and are launching a new recycled base layer in the Autumn. Osprey are now making a rucksack that is made from 70% recycled materials. Merino wool is now a common alternative to petro chemically produced materials in base layers and socks and used by many companies. Going carbon-neutral is a common direction for the eco-conscious brand and Craghoppers have followed this route to gaining their green credentials.
Inov-8 are fresh new brand and they are also tackling their ecological footprint and implementing a wide range of practical steps from reducing their travel to changing their method of transport when importing products from China.
To reduce travel and in particular importing from China, a manufacturing base in the country of sales is an excellent course to take. Altberg continue to make boots in the UK as well as investigating the use of wind turbines to run their factory.
These examples give an impression that the outdoor industry is well ahead of the game, but in reality I had to scratch and scrape to find anything new to report apart from Patagonia’ dominance.
Nick Brown of Nikwax presented 'Climate Change in the Mountains - its significance for your business' at the 2006 Outdoor show in Friedrichshafen. It appeared to generate much thought and talk. One year on has anything changed? Not a lot from what I can tell!

For more information on how climate change could effect your enjoyment of the hills, check out the July issue of Trail, which went on sale at the start of June.

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Written by Graham Thompson

NEWS: Ethical socks

As Al Gore plans his Live Earth gigs, and asks the world to respond to climate change, the outdoor industry is beginning to look at self and respond. While Patagonia still lead the way, and few other companies appear to be making a big commitment, there are some bright lights if inspiration that may start to change the carbon footprint of the outdoor industry.
Teko socks are not yet available in the UK, but they are already being talked about across the waters and may soon appear on this side of the pond. Jim Heiden, founder of Teko, has over 35 years of Outdoor Industry experience in marketing, product development, and company management. His experience and knowledge made him certain that making high performance outdoor products didn't have to leave a heavy ecological impact.

Using only quality fibers, sound manufacturing processes, and recycled materials for packaging, Jim wanted to ensure that his products were safe for the environment. With that, Teko™ was born. Sustainability is one of the core values of Teko. In terms of products and manufacturing, sustainability means a product can be assembled, taken apart, and put together again without needing extra parts or sacrificing quality and purity. A great example of their focus is using Ecopoly recycled polyester in their socks. Using recycled material is essential to sustainability. The more we use Ecopoly to replace fresh, more toxic materials, the lower the environmental impact.

It is Teko's belief that by heading in this direction that they will set a positive example that our ecosystem doesn't have to be compromised for high performance apparel. In fact, nothing would thrill Teko more than if "the least environment impact" became an essential part of product competition. This would be the start of transforming the industry into a more sustainable trade.

Teko recognizes that our #1 contributor to green house gases in the atmosphere is the way the electricity we use gets produced. So they've purchased enough wind energy credits to ensure that 100% of the electricity used in manufacturing and operations get put back into the energy grid from clean, sustainable American Wind. They also strive to Reduce, recycle, reuse and are minimizing the amount of packaging needed for our products. They use chipboard, which is a unique product made from recycled materials. In a previous life, chipboard may have been a cardboard box, newspaper, paper bags or any other general paper product. Teko packaging is 100% recyclable.

Teko are a welcomed addition to the outdoor industry and indicate the way forward as companies look to have the edge, where the edge may be determined by how green a brand is rather than purely how well their gear performs.

For more information go to Tekosocks

To talk about gear check out Trail Forums

Reviewed by Graham Thompson