Every month in The Great Outdoors Magazine we review the latest and best outdoor gear on the market. From boots to backpacks, tents to thermals, sandals to sleeping bags we’ve got everything you need to hit the hills. Here we look back at Part One of the items we picked for our Best Buy award over the last year…
Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody (Women’s)
Cerium LT features Arcteryx’s Down Composite Mapping, combining synthetic insulation with 850-ﬁll down. Small patches of Coreloft are used on the shoulders (where down would get compressed by a rucksack), cuffs, hem and the collar in front of the mouth, and a lighter version under the arms, all places which get damp from sweat or moisture. Two zipped side pockets have ample room to shove gloved hands inside. A stuffsack is included but the jacket also packs into one of the pockets. The DWR on the outer fabric has proven effective too, adding to this jacket’s genuine versatility.
Pros: Elective synthetic panelling partnered with down, weight, cut
Grivel Helix walking axe
The Helix is a near perfect walking axe with a unique feature that does make a noticeable difference. This is a plastic cover over the head that makes holding the axe more comfortable and warmer as well as protecting your gloves. Grivel says this is provided because ‘walking axes are carried 99.9% of the time by the head’. The Helix is very much a walking axe. The pick isn’t that sharp and the adze isn’t wide. It does weigh a bit more than some other walking axes but is still quite light. If you are unlikely to do much stepcutting or use the pick for climbing this axe is a great choice, especially given the low price.
Pros: head cover, cost
Cons: not as light as some
Grivel Monte Rosa crampons
Lightweight and the least expensive of the crampons reviewed. The ﬂex bar really is ﬂexible and these crampons can be used with every type of boot. The cradles are easy to ﬁt and feel secure as they tension themselves against the boot. The points vary in length and sharpness. The front three pairs are slightly rounded at the ends with the middle pair the longest.
The next pair are the sharpest and also have subsidiary points to the rear. The back points actually have ﬂattened ends. How much this affects the effectiveness of the crampons I can’t say. They do hold well on hard ice though. The Monte Rosas have excellent anti-ball plates, which Grivel describes as ‘dynamic’. What this means is that there’s a ﬂexible bubble in the centre of each plate that pushes snow away.
Pros: Very ﬂexible, quite light, cost, anti-ball system
GoalZero Venture 30 portable recharger
The Venture 30 takes the form of a hard plastic block with roughened panels for a good grip. A long rubberised cable ﬁts in a slot that runs around three sides. This has a USB connector at one end and a micro USB connector at the other. There’s a second USB port – a separate cable is needed to use this, as one is for charging anything without a standard micro USB port. The ﬂat cables don’t tangle and can’t catch on anything when not in use. The whole unit is waterproof against rain, splashes and dropping in puddles but not if submerged for any length of time.
There are ﬁve blue indicator lights on the Venture 30 that ﬂash when it’s charging a device or being recharged. The faster the lights ﬂ ash, the faster a device is being charged. Each light represents 20% battery capacity; when that’s used up the light goes out so you can see roughly how much power is left. I’ve only recharged the Venture 30 from the mains but if you have a Goal Zero Nomad solar panel you can also recharge it from that. The Venture 30 also comes with a useful torch that makes a good backup to a headlamp. This has three settings – high, low and strobe.
Pros: Powerful, Smart Charge, torch, built-in connectors
Hi-Tec Laguna Strap sandals
Excellent walking sandals at a low price from Hi-Tec. They have fairly ﬁrm and supportive uppers made from fast-drying synthetic material with soft neoprene linings for comfort. There are Velcro fastened straps at the forefoot and instep.The footbed is soft and patterned to prevent foot slip and the midsole cushions well, especially at the heel. The tread gives good grip and is a bit deeper than on some sandals. The sole curves slightly at the toe and heel to help keep the foot in place.
The sole ﬂexes easily at the forefoot but has a little stiffness longitudinally. I found the Lagunas very comfortable to wear. In fact I can’t really fault them. However they are only available in men’s ﬁt and sizes. The similar women’s Galicia Strap costs the same but has a different sole unit.
Pros: Low cost, quite light, grip, supportive uppers
Cons: Only available in men’s fit
Tundra Pure & Dry -5 sleeping bag
The Pure & Dry -5 is the lightest of the Pure & Dry expedition series. The warmest is rated to -40. As it is I used the -5 over the last winter and found the rating accurate. I reckon I’d be warm a few degrees below -5 in fact. The bag is much roomier than most mummy bags and doesn’t taper as much to the foot. I can easily turn over in it. I didn’t notice any cold spots though and the extra space did make the bag feel very comfortable and more like sleeping under a duvet than in a conﬁning bag. The bag has extra down in the foot area for more warmth here – my feet did overheat one night. The zip is a two-way one so I was able to open it at the bottom and let some heat out.
The bag also has a differential cut – the inner is smaller than the outer, which is meant to help the down loft better. The inner lining is soft and feels pleasant against the skin. It has an antimicrobial treatment which would be useful on very long trips. The outer is waterproof (though the bag isn’t as the seams aren’t taped) which as well as repelling drips and spills should help with the warmth as it slows down warm air escaping. It’s quite breathable however and I’ve not noticed any dampness inside the bag. The zip doesn’t snag and there’s a thick bafﬂe behind it. The hood and draft collar drawcords are easy to use. The shaped hood ﬁts the head well and is very comfortable. The weight of the Pure & Dry -5 is low for the warmth and the price is excellent for a top quality down bag.
Pros: Ethical down, weight, cost
Cons: Only available direct
Helly Hansen W Dry Elite 2.0 LS (Women’s)
The test top was worn for two or three days at a time, before it became anti-social. It wicks brilliantly, dries fast, feels good against the skin and, for a lightweight and silky-feeling top, is impressively durable. So the fabric is fantastic – and the cut and features are too. The Helly Hansen Dry Elite has minimalist ﬂat-locked seams: there are only two seams on the garment, attaching sleeves to the body; the rest of the top is a single piece of woven polypro, almost like a tube.
There are construction variants for different body zones: thicker, textured shoulder panels, vented (almost perforated) panels under the arms, between shoulder blades and around the back where a rucksack generates sweat. Length is generous, well past the hips, so even with the very stretchy fabric it stays where it’s supposed to.
Pros: Stretch, wicking, fast drying, length
Cons: Minor odour