Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Webtogs Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Webtogs Reviews. Show all posts

Monday, 12 March 2012

Gear Review - Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack

 Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack
I recently wrote about my last backpacking rucksack, the Golite Quest, here.

I’m very lucky in that over the past year or so Webtogs have been sending me useful items of kit to review.  I was therefore delighted when Gareth agreed to send me the closest of the rucksacks stocked by Webtogs to a direct replacement for the Quest.

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

So way back in October last year the Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack plopped through my letter box (well, perhaps it’s not quite that small!).  At approximately 1400 gm the Nanon is perhaps slightly lighter than the Quest, and it is more compact, topping out at about 60 litres capacity compared with the Quest’s 72 litres.  However, the lightweight Dyneema fabric of the Nanon feels to me to be rather more robust than the old Quest’s less durable nylon fabric.

I’ve delayed reviewing the rucksack to give me time to make objective comments rather than a ‘first impressions: brilliant’ sort of review, but I also have to admit to not having used it all that much.  Yet!  It’ll get a lot more use in the coming months, after which I’ll append appropriate comments to this review.

Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack

I have used it on an overnight backpacking trip (pictured above – not very well packed, and I lowered it a little after the pictures had been taken), for which it was perfect.  Once I’d spent a few minutes adjusting the straps I found it extremely comfortable, and it had plenty of room for all that I needed.  I’d have been quite happy to fit another couple of days’ food into the sack, but beyond that I may have been struggling.  I don’t however travel particularly ‘light’, and some of my gear is fairly bulky, so I reckon that someone who pays more attention to carrying lightweight gear than I do might get their kit and up to 5-6 day’s provisions into this bag, especially in summer.

Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack - as a day sack

The rucksack has also been used as a day sack (as above – recognise the hill?) for a number of winter walks, on which I tend to load a fair amount of extra gear – gloves, hats, down jacket, emergency shelter, etc - in case of ‘problems’ (some of my companions being less prepared than others for wintry conditions).  I’ve found it brilliant for this as the straps allow it to compress to a small size – you really don’t realise that you are carrying a 60 litre sack, and the ice axe stashes neatly rather than floating about in mid air.

     The Nanon’s main compartment sits below a removable, floating lid with a large and easily accessible external zipped pocket with a key clip.  On the underside of the lid is a secure internal lid pocket.  Two small hip belt pockets accommodate items such as a mobile ‘phone or a wallet, but these wouldn’t be big enough for GPS units much bigger than a Geko.  The main body of the rucksack can be entered from the bottom via a long zip – this is a large ‘plus’ over the Quest for me as it enables me to load the rucksack before striking camp, and the tent can then be slotted into the bottom of the rucksack without the need to remove the other contents.  There’s a deep pocket on the front that’s suitable for all the provisions and snacks you may wish to have ready access to during your walk, and behind that pocket is a cavernous space in which I have been keeping my waterproofs, but others may wish to stash their tent here.  Other features include extra external lashing points, large stretch side pockets, an SOS panel, ‘unique’ walking pole tip grabbers for secure storage, reflective logos, hydration pocket, and a ventilating harness.
I noticed one review that raised concern about the robustness of the buckles, but whilst these, and the straps, have clearly been cut down to minimise weight (“10mm web reduces weight with no loss of function” – according to the manufacturer), they appear to me to be well made, securely attached, and hopefully they will prove to be durable.

On the hill 
     I soon managed to adjust the rucksack to a comfortable position – it comes with clear fitting/adjustment guidance. The manufacturer has clearly put considerable effort into achieving a comfortable design, and they want customers to take advantage of this by following their guidance on how to achieve a comfortable fit.

I didn’t need to make significant adjustments to switch the rucksack from its role as a backpack for a multi-day wild camping trip to its role as a winter day sack, apart from drastic tightening of the compression straps.

At risk of being repetitive, here’s Lowe Alpine’s blurb on the product:

“The Nanon targets those people who want a lighter packs but also want functional features that help to organise their loads during the trek.
Key Features and Benefits: • Super lightweight pack that still carries well
• Lightweight but durable Dyneema fabric body
• Lightweight Centro adjustable back for maximum comfort from a precise fit
• Lightweight version of AdaptiveFit hip belt ensuring maximum comfort
• 10mm web reduces weight with no loss of function
• Airflow mesh in back panel reduces moisture build up
• Front compression pocket for wet gear or additional quick access items
Additional Features: Extra external lashing points, large stretch side pockets, key clip, lid lash points, SOS panel, secure internal lid pocket, unique walking pole tip grabbers for secure storage, reflective logos, hydration pocket, ventilating harness, hip belt pockets, extendible lid.
Volume: 50lt+10lt extension=60lt 4000+600cu.ins
Load Zone: 10-15kg / 22-33lb”

My comment on that would be that I feel that it would cope with a little more than 15 kilos if necessary.  I also note that there’s an ‘XL’ version for people with long backs, though Lowe Alpine don’t seem to say how long your back needs to be to require this version.

Practical Use:
  • I’ve used this rucksack for backpacking and for winter day walks over the past five months.  It has been a pleasure to wear for both those activities
  • I’ll expand this section of the review in due course for comments of the ‘used and abused’ nature (see below)
  • Webtogs’ price was £134.99 in March 2012, including a discount of 10%
  • There are numerous alternatives, so much dependent upon personal requirements and preferences that I will leave readers to take their own counsel 
Used and Abused:
  • It's now early 2015 and this is still my rucksack of choice for backpacking. It accompanied me across the for two months in 2013, and it will shortly embark on its fourth TGO Challenge - a two week backpack across Scotland. I still think its an excellent piece of kit, though I have heard complaints from people taller than my 5 ft 8 inches - they say the back length of the sac is insufficient lengthwise, so they have sought alternative products. I don't know whether they investigated the XL version referred to below?
Update - it wasn't used for the TGO Challenge, I decided on a Karrimat rather than Neoair Thermarest, so the Karrimor Jaguar 65 was a more suitable container.

August 2015: just back from walking GR11 (Spanish Pyrenees, coast to coast) in seven weeks, during which this rucksack's life ended. The straps started to deteriorate, with the attachment shown below failing. Luckily there was a piece of elastic with which to effect a temporary repair.

Then the long zip on the rucksack that enabled insertion of the tent or other items without having to empty the rucksack - it failed. Whilst this zip was very useful, once it has failed the rucksack is pretty useless as the contents are prone to falling out. Luckily I managed to get the zip to grip, but every time I unzipped it another half hour would be spent trying to get it to grip again.

You can also see that the Dyneema fabric has started to show serious signs of wear, with some holes appearing.

 Time to recycle this item....

  • The Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Hyperlite Backpack is great for use as a compact backpacking rucksack or a voluminous day sack, and will also be ideal for Alpine hutting trips or similar
  • It’s well constructed from what appear to be quality components, and comes with clear instructions on how to achieve a comfortable fit.  There’s an ‘XL’ version for people with long backs
  • I like the ‘bells and whistles’ whereby this sack has lots of features for very little added weight, including a zip that facilitates the stashing of a wet tent at the bottom of my load without having to first empty the sack
  • Thanks have to go to Webtogs for providing a piece of kit that is a pleasure to use and will accompany me on many trips in the days to come
  • Can you tell?  I’m impressed with this one… initially, anyway
  • It was good while it lasted, but durability was not this rucksack's strong point. The indestructible Karrimor Jaguar 65, 20-30 years old, will resume it's position as my rucksack of choice.
Note: Whilst the rucksack was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket – A Review

Western Mountaineering's Flight Jacket

I felt I needed a lightweight insulated or down jacket for an Alpine trip involving long afternoons and evenings in high mountain refuges that I know from experience can be quite cool when the weather isn’t sunny.

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Gareth at Webtogs suggested that I could review one of their wide range of down jackets, a North Face Nuptse jacket . This is undoubtedly a fine jacket, but at nearly 800gm weighs almost as much as my tried and tested RAB Summit winter jacket that still has many years of life but is too hot and heavy for a summer trip to the Alps.

I’d hankered after a RAB Xenon Primaloft (synthetic) jacket, which comes in at just 340gm, but Webtogs don’t stock it, nor do any of the outdoors retailers in Manchester or in Hathersage, so far as I could ascertain, so I couldn’t even look at one.

Another product that I was attracted to was Western Mountaineering’s ‘Flight Jacket’, a high quality goose down jacket weighing in at just 330gm, and available from Webtogs, albeit for nearly £220.
“We are discontinuing that line” remarked Gareth, after waxing lyrical about the quality of the product, “but I can do you a good deal on one”. I noticed that the jacket had just one review on the Webtogs website, compared with many reviews of the Nuptse jacket, and as Webtogs are actively marketing Western Mountaineering’s (no doubt excellent) sleeping bags, perhaps the demand for the Flight Jacket, given its price, just wasn’t there.

Anyway, I got Webtogs’ last medium men’s Flight Jacket and took it off to the Alps. Where the sun shone, so it wasn’t really needed. But I did use the jacket, and here’s what I thought of it.
First impressions were of a light, well made jacket, with no ‘bells or whistles’. A label indicated that it was made in Canada, from ‘the finest large cluster 850 fill power goose down from Eastern Europe’. [‘Don’t they have geese in Canada?’ I wondered!] Apparently it has a minimum of 90% goose down, a shell fabric of 100% polyester or nylon, and a 100% nylon lining fabric.

The jacket has two hand warmer (no zips) pockets, but that’s it. No hood. No stuffsack. Not even any external labeling- you have to look inside to discover who made it (I like that).  My pockets now have contents to remedy the omissions – a small stuffsack in one pocket, and a buff in the other, as I can envisage wearing the jacket in conditions where a hat of some sort, eg a buff, will be desirable.
There’s more technical stuff below, but what about my experience of wearing the garment? I used it to wander around some high (3000 metre ish) Alpine huts after dark, and the buff was handy as it was cool. I was glad not to be wearing the jacket for more than a casual wander though – I would have overheated in no time at all.

The cut is fairly short, as can be seen in the picture below, and Western Mountaineering do observe that “a certain amount of durability is given up in order to manufacture a garment this light. The fabric we use in our Flight Series jackets and vests is extremely light and does not have the tear strength or abrasion resistance as other fabrics.”

Western Mountaineering's Flight Jacket - rear view

So that’s clear – a quality piece of kit that won’t stand too much abuse – we know where we stand, then!

This is a jacket that I’ll use a lot. It’s light enough, at well under 400gm including stuffsack and hat, to carry in any winter day sack, and can be compressed into a very small space if necessary. It feels light, but not too flimsy, so I hope it has a modicum of durability.

I’ll report again in due course on its longer term performance, and perhaps Gareth, from Webtogs, will either comment on this posting or let me know what his best alternative to this jacket, other than the rather heavier Nuptse, may be.
Here is some more technical stuff, together with my comments:

Fit and Finish:
  • the men’s medium fits me quite snugly, but you wouldn’t want to be wearing an awful lot under this jacket stuffed with goose down
  • the jacket is fairly short
  • whilst I’m not an expert, the stitching looks tight, the seams are indisputably straight, and the manufacturer asserts that ‘all ends are backtacked’
  • 850 Plus Fill Power Goose Down
  • down Filled Front Pockets
  • lightweight Reversed Coil Zipper
  • lightweight 0.9 oz. Dot-Ripstop Nylon Shell Fabric
  • down Filled Draft Tube Behind Zipper
  • generously filled down collar
  • made In Canada

Technical details:

Weight: 326g / 11oz
clip_image001 ‘850 Fill Power  The top end of the market, offering exceptional warmth to weight ratios. 850 fill power is rare and expensive but gives expedition level performance or options for ultralight construction. The high loft down compresses well, keeping pack size down whilst standing up to the most extreme conditions’

Practical Use:
  • I’ll be using this jacket indoors and outdoors in cold weather, or in the cool of a summer evening at camp, but not in the rain without a waterproof shell, and certainly not whilst engaging in serious exercise – it would be far too warm
  • I’d take the jacket on a hutting trip again, and on a winter backpacking trip, but it would be overkill for me for summer backpacking 
  • it was £219.99 from Webtogs, whose service is excellent, with free delivery in the UK, and you won’t be charged until the goods are dispatched, but at the time of writing (25 August 2011) they only have small and XL sizes in stock, so you’ll have to be quick if you want to join the elite band of owners of this brilliant piece of kit
  • as stated above, the North Face Nuptse jacket is an excellent, and cheaper, alternative if you don’t mind doubling the weight
  • RAB’s Xenon Primaloft jacket could be a good weight for weight alternative but is not currently stocked by Webtogs; it may not be as durable or nearly as warm, but could suit some users
  • RAB’s Infinity down jacket weighs only about 440gm, has a hood and a stuffsack, uses the same 850 fill-power down, and costs slightly less than the Flight Jacket
  • RAB’s Microlight Alpine eVent Down Jacket, available from Webtogs, may provide the best of all worlds – 750 fill-power down, with a breathable waterproof outer that enables the jacket to be used in wet weather without an outer shell, weighing in at just 600gm
  • there are of course many other alternatives – Webtogs alone stock over 150 different outdoor jackets including some 50 down jackets
  • I’ve hardly used it so far, but I think I’m going to get to love this minimalist but hugely warm piece of kit – I’ll report back in a few months when it has received more use
Note: Whilst the jacket was provided by Webtogs at a discount, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier (Papoose) – A Review

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 8 week old baby

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs delighted my daughter by sending the Vaude Soft 111, one of their range of Baby Carriers, for me to review.

Here’s what she thinks of it:

“I first took Jake out in the papoose when he was five weeks old.  At this age he was beginning to hold his head up and I was confident that the papoose provided him adequate support.  I tightened the adjustable straps at the top of the outer facing part of the papoose to help support his head.  He seemed comfortable, and must have been as he fell asleep as soon as I started walking.
I had help putting the papoose on the first time I used it, but have subsequently put it on myself without difficulty.  I fasten the strap that goes across my back first (pictured),

Vaude Soft 111 - demonstrating rear fastening strap

then put the papoose on over my head.  With the buckles undone I  hold Jake against the part against my body and then carefully do up each buckle, making sure his hands and feet are not trapped.
My husband helped me to adjust the back strap and the two lower side straps (on either side by my waist) to make the papoose comfortable the first time I used it.  The side straps have stayed in that position and don’t need to be adjusted each time I use it.  I can reach the back strap and pull it to tighten it to myself, which I do when I feel I need to – the strap is shown below, with the buckle obscured by my hair.

Vaude Soft 111 - showing back strap

I’ve now used the papoose quite a few times whilst taking the dog for a walk as well as Jake.  It makes walking with both Jake and Oscar (the dog) really comfortable and easy to do. (Oscar is usually on a lead!)

Mum, baby, and dog, all enjoying the freedom offered by the Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier

To make sure I’m comfortable and safe, I make a conscious effort to walk with a good posture, bend down using my knees, and support the outward facing part of the papoose (where Jake’s back is) with my hand if I have to lean over when I bend down.

So far, I’ve only used the papoose with Jake facing me, and every time he has fallen asleep as I walk.  He always seems comfortable and I can feel his hands, feet and head to check that they are warm enough.  His body stays warm as it is close to mine, so he doesn’t need extra clothes, just a hat if it’s sunny or cold, socks/shoes and gloves if it’s cold, and suncream when sunny.

I intend to use the papoose with Jake facing outwards when he is around three months old and can hold his head up: I don’t think his head would be well enough supported at the moment (he’s now 8 weeks/11½ pounds).

The papoose has been excellent for taking the dog out on terrains that don’t permit a pram (and on terrains that do permit a pram) as it makes holding his lead easy, enabling me to walk comfortably.  There’s even a pocket for Oscar’s biscuits!”

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier, showing motif and dog biscuit pocket

So, that’s Kate’s comprehensive appraisal of the Baby Carrier to date.  She’s delighted with it and sees it as accompanying her for another 6-9 months, after which time a more substantial carrier, such as the Littlelife Cross Country S2 Child Carrier, with space to store clothes etc will probably take its place.  In the meantime I’m sure that when Jake gets a bit bigger, she will try using the carrier on her back – that does not seem appropriate for a very small baby – and will notate this review accordingly.

So, to summarise:

Fit and Finish:
  • this is a well made piece of kit, thoughtfully designed
  • the baby carrier can be adjusted (within reason) to suit any user
  • baby can face forwards or backwards and be carried on the user’s back or front
  • fully adjustable for custom fit
  • useful mesh compartment for dog biscuits etc
  • not an issue for this product
Practical Use:
  • ideal for babies up to 9-12 months old
  • £44.99 from Webtogs, whose service is excellent, with free delivery in the UK, and you won’t be charged until the goods are dispatched
  • there may be alternative products around, but Kate has no desire to seek them out; this one is perfect for her present needs.
  • a well constructed carrier for a very young baby, this piece of kit frees mum from the drudge of pushing a pram and sends the baby to sleep instantly.  Brilliant!

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Finally, a view more images, as I was asked to provide ‘lots of cute pictures’.  That isn’t so easy when the baby falls asleep immediately he’s inserted into the baby carrier!

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old babyVaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old babyVaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old baby Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old baby
Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 8 week old baby

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Brief Interlude in Timperley

Kate and Jacob

This time we are back at home for 36 hours, rather than 20 minutes, so there has been time to visit grandson Jacob, now six weeks old, to whom I have sub-contracted Webtogs’ latest offering for testing, the Soft III Baby Carrier.

He says it’s so comfy it makes him very sleepy, but he’ll try to draft a proper review shortly!

I see that I have 530 unread items on Google Reader.  I’m afraid they’ll remain unread for a while – I’m loathe to rush through the TGO Challenge reports (not to mention the photos already on the Message Board) and other interesting items, but I hear there’s going to be a heat wave tomorrow!

See you out there, perhaps?

Here’s another view of the Baby Carrier in action.

Kate, Simon and Jacob

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks – A Review

Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs sell a range of quality socks.  Recently they were kind enough to send me a pair of Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks for review.

I’ve been wearing these socks for the last couple of weeks.  (Yes, they do get a bit smelly after about three days!)  I’ve also been using a pair of a sister product, Xsocks Trekking Light Short Socks, for the last three years.

Made in Italy, the socks come with a two year guarantee.  They are certainly hard wearing.  The socks I’ve been using for three years – just the one pair, all year round, are only just starting to show signs of wear.  The new socks, at 54 gm just 5 gm lighter than the Trekking Light socks, are just as comfortable and look to be equally hard wearing.

The socks come with anatomically shaped footbeds for the right and left feet.  They feel odd if you put them on the wrong feet!  There are numerous other features that I’ll reiterate below in the product specification, and the composition is a mix of nylon, merino wool and other materials.
My favourite ‘feature’ is the capacity of these socks to dry quickly.  Even on a wet day, they can be washed by a backpacker in a pot of warm water and a few soap flakes (or shampoo, etc), wrung out, rolled a few times in a hand towel to remove most of the water, and hung in the tent to dry overnight.  Obviously they may dry more quickly outside in fair weather, but even inside the tent, if the wearer puts them back on in the morning they should be perfectly dry by the time he or she needs to start walking.  Using this method, I walked the entire two week TGO Challenge last year using just the one pair of Xsocks and some thin liner socks for the evenings.  Some Goretex socks I’d taken in case my boots leaked were not used at all.

The Xsocks are not uncomfortable in the wet, but personally I prefer to avoid fungal infections by keeping my feet dry by way of a Goretex liner either in my footwear or my socks.

I appreciate there are other issues relating to the wearing of socks.  As a youth I always wore two pairs, or even three in the winter, but many years ago I discovered that life became much easier with just one good pair of socks, and even in cold conditions I find that adequate so long as I remain active.  I’m not sure how people who wear multiple pairs of socks would find this fairly snug product – perhaps they would use a liner sock underneath, or a larger pair over the top.  Either way, in my opinion all you actually need is just the one pair of socks, and these Xsocks are perfect for that purpose.

So, to summarise:

Fit and Finish:
  • the EU size 42-44 socks fit my size 43 feet perfectly, and pleasantly snugly with no uncomfortable tightness or loose ‘wrinkles’
  • the Italian construction is excellent.  I can verify that the Trekking Light socks are extremely durable (the most durable hiking socks I’ve ever possessed) and I would expect the Expedition socks to be the same
  • the socks come in a choice of two dark colours and could be worn with any sort of footwear.  Mine will be worn with anything from 4-season boots to casual shoes
  • Xsocks stated features are reiterated below
  • I like the anatomically shaped footbeds
  • these socks are much quicker drying than other hiking socks I’ve owned – a great advantage on a long trek
  • at 54gm (59gm for the Trekking Light version), they are not going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  They are the lightest hiking socks that I have ever owned
Practical Use:
  • these socks are ideal for… well, hiking and trekking!
  • their quick drying and hard wearing qualities make them an excellent choice for long trips
  • the two year warranty is testament to the manufacturer’s confidence in their durability  
  • the Trekking Expedition socks are available from Webtogs for £15.49, whereas the slightly heavier Trekking Light socks are just £12.49
  • there are lots of alternatives to these socks, a good selection being available as part of Webtog’s product range.  As in the case of all footwear, different products suit different feet.  But I haven’t found anything better than the Xsocks products I’ve been using for three years
  • these socks are excellent.  They are my personal first choice for hiking, backpacking and trekking
Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

FEATURES of the Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks
  • Self-adjusting Cuff – adapts to any size leg without slipping or constricting.
  • AirConditioning Channel – ventilates and dries
  • Toe Protector – protects against blisters and chafing
  • Instep Protector – distributes pressure
  • Stretching Rib – for an optimised fit
  • Anatomically shaped footbed – for a precise fit
  • Achilles Tendon Protector – reduces the incidence of pressure points and the risk of scraping and bruising
  • X-Cross Bandage – cushions and stabilises the sensitive ankle area without restricting freedom of movement
  • Heel Protector – reduces friction and the risk of blistering
  • Traverse AirFlow Channel System – lateral ventilation under the sole

Technical details

33 % Nylon
28 % Merino wool
14 % Robur
12 % Mythlan
9 % Silk
4 % Elastane
45 % Nylon
28 % Merino wool
14 % Polypropylene
9 % Silk
4 % Elastane

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Keen Men’s Targhee II Walking Shoes – A Review

Keen Men's Targhee II Walking Shoes

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

After the demise of my last pair of trail shoes, the relatively smart HI-TEC V-Lite Thunder HPi ‘Adventure Sports’ Shoes, I was delighted to receive these Keen ‘Walking Shoes’ for review from Webtogs.

Out of the box they seemed chunkier and more substantial than the 400gm HI-TECs. Weighing in at 490gm for each shoe for my size 9’s they are a little heavier as well.

Anyway, I put them on straight away and have worn them on 11 outings since they arrived three weeks ago, culminating in a 27 mile Challenge walk a couple of days ago.  So they have done about 100 miles in anger already and are well and truly broken in.

The shoes have a wide toe box, but the UK size 9 / EU size 43 shoes are only just long enough for my feet.  Keen’s website does observe that “We find this style runs about a 1/2 size small”.  Really?
Made in China, they look to be solidly constructed, with an upper of leather, webbing and mesh, and a ‘non-marking rubber outsole’, but it’ll be some months before I can comment on their longer term durability.

Unlike any trail shoes I have previously owned, these feature a ‘KEEN.DRY™ Waterproof membrane and breathable textile lining’.  My initial impression is that this lining is brilliant.  I’ve been out walking on dewy mornings and in boggy conditions that have rapidly given my walking companions soaking wet feet due to water flowing through the fabric uppers of their trail shoes.  These Keens have repelled the water, although the leather has got pretty wet from the dew. On return home, I have simply washed off the mud and sprayed on some proofer.  The insides of the shoes were just a little damp from sweat, but the whole lot dried out remarkably quickly and they could have been worn dry again immediately.  This is quite a revelation to me, as my previous trail shoes have all needed time to dry out after a good wash.

The sole seems quite solid and grippy, but you’d need to be careful to avoid using the plastic at either side of the midsole to balance on a plank, rock or stile, etc – it could result in a nasty slip.

Keen Men's Targhee II Walking Shoes

I found the heel box rather roomy and initially tried to reduce the volume by way of tight lacing, in an attempt to pull the tape you can see below as tight as possible.  That was a mistake, it pulled the laces tight over the thin tongue and caused a tendon on the top of one of my feet to rub painfully.  The other foot had its problems as well, as the fabric on the outer side of the shoe came right up to my ankle bone and rubbed it slightly but annoyingly.

Keen Men's Targhee II Walking Shoes

So these shoes weren’t a perfect fit.  But the rubbing tendon is now better, and for longer walks I have purchased some ‘Gel Heel Cups’ - £5 from Sports Direct – that lift my heels slightly and reduce the volume, to the extent that the 27 mile Challenge walk was completed with no problems whatsoever, confirming that the initial teething troubles had been completely overcome.  At no point has either shoe even vaguely threatened to give me a blister.

I’ve been using the shoes casually as well as for walking, and apart from the minor ankle rub they have been comfy with any sort of sock.  I won’t hesitate to use them for serious mountain walking in summer conditions (in fact the above-mentioned Challenge walk included 1750 metres of ascent), but I will sometimes choose to wear ankle gaiters to eliminate stones and avoid rain draining into the shoes from my waterproofs.

So, to summarise:

Fit and Finish:
  • the EU size 43 (UK 9) shoes are roomy, but only just long enough for me, so the shoes may be ideal for people with bulky feet, but not so good for long, thin feet
  • the Chinese construction appears to be good, but I can’t yet comment on long-term durability (regular readers will realise that the treatment they will receive will challenge any claim to durability!)
  • these are reasonably respectably casual shoes, though personally I find the wide slab of rubber across the front of the toe box functional but ugly
  • Keen’s stated features are reiterated below
  • unlike HI-TEC’s ‘ion-mask hydrophobic technology’, the breathable waterproof lining in these shoes really does seem to work.  Brilliant
  • the shoes are comfortable, once broken in, and in my case with the aid of Gel Heel Cups, for anything from walking to the shops to serious mountain walking, for which I would recommend the use of ankle gaiters to keep out stones, etc
  • at 980gm (490gm each), they are relatively heavy, so probably not ideal footwear for those who wish to run over the fells.  But I haven’t noticed their weight or bulk when trying to move quickly, and I’ve quite happily jogged in them, though the old HI-TECs were better for that purpose
Practical Use:
  • these shoes now sit in the porch and are my first choice for anything from an evening out in casual wear, to a serious mountain day walk in dry conditions
  • the shoes are robust and the soles (apart from the plastic mid section) grippy in the mixed conditions and ground over which they have currently been used
  • so far, (3 weeks, 100 miles, in mixed conditions) they have kept my feet dry.  But it’s early days - ‘watch this space’ as they say! (See below)
  • I’ll reiterate a comment made in relation to their HI-TEC predecessors: ‘with limited ankle support, many users may be reluctant to use the shoes on certain steep ground such as some of the scree slope crossings in the Dolomites, where the additional ankle support provided by lightweight boots may enhance both comfort and safety’
  • available from Webtogs for £80.99
  • there are lots of alternatives to these high spec trail/walking shoes, but I suspect that these relatively ugly shoes are more robust than most.  As always with footwear – different products suit different feet
  • these shoes got off to a questionable start, causing discomfort to both feet, but with the addition of Gel Heel Cups (only needed for more serious excursions) and the benefit of quite a few outings, they are now well moulded to my feet and will provide me with comfortable day to day use for the limit of their durability.  They do appear to be good all-round performers, with the waterproof lining coming as an unexpected bonus
Long Term Observations:
  • October 2011 (after six months) – I’ve been wearing these shoes all summer for walking (650km) and cycling.  For example, on the recent Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon I used them together with ankle gaiters and some old Sealskinz socks.  I washed them in a puddle after the ride, and didn’t need to remove them until I got home.  My feet, and the Sealskinz socks, were perfectly dry.  I didn’t see anyone else with dry feet.  The route was very boggy in places, and at times it was not at all easy to cycle through these bogs, so the shoes endured some deep dunks.  The Keens really are versatile shoes, and the waterproof membrane seems to be largely intact, though I’m sure that continuous walking through wet grass or similar would result in some seepage.  Here’s what they currently look like – exhibiting signs of wear but still with a fair amount of life in them.  The grey bits on the sole are coming adrift from the main sole, probably largely as a result of abrasion from the aggressive lugs on the pedals of my bicycle.
Keen Targhee 11 Walking Shoes after 650km
  • October 2012 (after 18 months) – these shoes have now walked 1400km and have been used for mountain biking.  The waterproof membrane seems still to be largely intact.  Here’s what they currently look like – whilst their basic structure remains impressively intact, the shoes are exhibiting signs of serious wear – the lining inside the heels has now split, the laces have had to be replaced, and the soles have worn fairly smooth, with the heels being particularly worn down.  They continue to be really comfy, so long as the heel inserts are used, and I’ll probably not be using them in slippery conditions.  However, they aren’t yet destined for the bin – I’ll provide a final report at that stage.
Keen Targhee 11 Walking Shoes after 1400km
Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

FEATURES of the KEEN Men’s Targhee II Walking Shoe, according to KEEN
- 4mm multi directional lugs
- Dual-density compression molded EVA midsole
- KEEN toe protection
- KEEN.DRY™ Waterproof breathable membrane
- Removable metatomical Footbed
- S3 Heel support structure
- Torsion stability ESS shank

Shock, suspension, stability – otherwise known as S3 – is engineered to support the foot on impact, dissipate shock and reduce your odds of twisting an ankle. KEEN.DRY
A proprietary waterproof, breathable membrane that lets vapor out without letting water in. METATOMICAL FOOTBED DESIGN
This internal support mechanism is anatomically engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of the foot. KEEN.PROTECT
Can a sandal* protect your toes? The answer is yes. The reason is KEEN Patented Toe Protection where the shoe outsoles wrap up and over the toes for ultimate protection.
*  this must be Keen’s standard wording, as this shoe is definitely not a ‘sandal’!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Gear Review: Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Men’s Oasis Crewe – time to turn down the central heating

Ascending Base Brown on 2 March 2011 - the Icebreaker Bodyfit200 Men's Oasis Crewe kept me warm 
[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

I was delighted, on return from Canada a month ago, to receive this superbly made garment from Webtogs for review.  Whilst it’s a shame I didn’t have it in Canada, where it would have been worn in anger on most days, I’ve now had a chance to wear the garment for long periods in various conditions.

Here are my first impressions:

Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Men’s Oasis Crewe

The manufacturer’s product description is provided at the foot of this posting.

Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 - out of the box

First impressions:
Out of the box – it feels a little heavy compared with my regular long-sleeved t-shirt. Because it is – 200gm vs 155gm (TNF Polartec®).
This long sleeve Merino base layer garment appears to be a product of NZ, but was actually made in China – that’s a surprise – but it’s very well made and has a ‘BAACODE’ that traces the wool back to four ‘stations’ (farms) on NZ’s South Island.
It sells for £49.95 RRP, currently £40 from Webtogs (March 2011).
First day out – v comfy under NF fleece. Arms just a little on the long side.

Fit and Finish:
  • the medium size fits my 38” chest – it’s snug but comfy
  • the length is just right – long enough to tuck into trousers, but equally wearable outside them without it looking too long
  • I have heard that when Icebreaker first started to use Chinese manufacturers they encountered quality problems; there is no sign of any such problem with the well finished garment in my possession
  • the garment exudes ‘quality’, with the flatlock stitching and  seamless underarm reducing friction from internal seams, making it extremely comfy (I should know by now – I’ve lived in it for the last month)
Icebreaker Bodyfit200 Icebreaker Bodyfit200
  • in addition to the features mentioned above, the integrated raglan sleeve design also features a highish neck that helps trap in the heat when you need it most
  • the sleeves are generously long; I believe that this is a feature of Icebreaker clothing
  • at 200gm, this garment is about 45 gm heavier than the equivalent Polartec® garment that I am used to wearing, but it’s definitely warmer.  Ideal for winter use, but probably too hot for most people as a summer base layer, when the 150gm version may be a better choice
Practical Use:
  • I’ve enjoyed wearing this base layer, indoors and outdoors, for the past month.  It has certainly resulted in a reduction in our household heating bill, and has meant that in the outdoors, an extra windproof layer over the Polartec® fleece that I use as a second layer has rarely needed to be deployed
  • in warm weather most people will find this garment too warm
  • I’ve worn this Merino wool top for days on end, including some ‘vigorous activity’, without it becoming noticeably smelly.  This is a big advantage over Polartec® polyester clothing.  On the other hand, if you do need to wash the Merino wool garment, it takes longer to dry than polyester
    [Apparently someone has worn one of these garments non-stop for 196 days in extreme conditions – so there’s no need to try to repeat that particular test!]
  • it’s a smart top that can be worn underneath a shirt or v-necked sweater as casual wear, as well as it’s obvious usefulness in The Great Outdoors
  • numerous manufacturers make similar products, with leading producers charging similar or slightly lower prices, Icebreaker being an acknowledged market leader in this field
  • there are cheaper alternatives; I suspect that they are ‘cheaper’ in more ways than one
  • for really cold weather, Icebreaker offers heavier duty Merino wool base layers such as this one, that may be the choice of readers with poor circulation or a tendency to venture out in extreme conditions 
  • this base layer is ideal for winter use for walking and backpacking.  Some backpackers may wish to deploy it all year round for use around camp and on cooler evenings 
  • if you work from home in the winter months, you’ll find that wearing a Merino wool base layer such as this one may have a dramatic effect on your heating bills
  • I’ll be using it for winter walks, and for general casual wear, all winter, and I may even take it on the two week ‘TGO Challenge’ backpack in May if the forecast is for cool weather
That’s it for now.  I’ll add to this review when I have been using this base layer for a longer term.
Icebreaker’s own product description is reiterated below

Icebreaker Men's Oasis Crewe 

Icebreaker Bodyfit200  

Product Description:

Designed to fit close to the body, this raglan long sleeve top has a higher neck to trap in the heat when you need it most. Flatlock stitching and a seamless underarm reduce friction from internal seams, which will make this top one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing in your wardrobe.
  • Crewe neck
  • Raglan sleeves
  • Gussets for ease of movement
  • Forward side seam
  • Fits close to the body
  • Flatlock stitching
  • Icebreaker tonal embroidered logo
For Icebreaker’s Size and Easy Care guides, click here

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Gear Review: The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top – an Excellent Piece of Kit

Modelling the North Face fleece on Shutlingsloe - 1/1/11 

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs recently sent me this item, for review by the end of the month.  After wearing it virtually constantly for a fortnight, here are my first impressions:

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top
The manufacturer’s product details and specification is provided at the foot of this posting. I do not take issue with them.

First impressions:

This is a standard Polartec® 100 fleece top, currently retailing at £49.00, less 10% from retailers such as Webtogs.  Many readers will be familiar with the quick drying Polartec® 100 polyester fabric used in many lightweight fleeces.  This particular item, manufactured in the Philippines, is made to a very high standard
  • all the sewing is perfect
  • there’s a good solid baffle behind the front zip
  • the zipped handwarmer pockets are roomy and robust
  • the feel of the fabric is soft and velvety
  • the medium size fits my 38” chest with room to spare
  • the fleece is comfortable without being snug
  • the length is generous
  • there are some curious studs on the cuffs that may be useful to retain a compass or similar - I now understand this to be needed for attachment to other compatible layers from The North Face®
  • there is no drawcord, nor any elasticity to the cuffs, etc, so in time the stretchy fabric of the garment could become a little ‘loose’ 
  • the zip on my garment is left-handed, which (not being left-handed) I find a little strange, though not inconvenient - perhaps that is needed for the 'zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®' feature to work
  • at 275 gm out of the packet, this garment is about 40 gm heavier than the ‘smock’ style of fleece of the same material that I am used to wearing, so for lightweight summer backpacking when it may be carried for most of the time, the smock would be a little lighter to carry, but it’s really down to personal preference
Practical Use:
  • I’ve been using this fleece top as a casual top, indoors and outdoors, including several wintery walks.  The Polartec® 100 fabric should be fine in most UK conditions, over a wicking base layer
  • in cold weather an extra layer or a thicker fleece will be needed by most people
  • from my previous experience with this fabric, I have no reason to believe that this garment won’t last for years.  Indeed, whilst testing I’ve mentioned it to others who have unzipped their waterproofs to reveal an old model of the same top which has indeed lasted them for years
  • numerous manufacturers make similar products, with leading producers like RAB charging similar prices
  • there may be cheaper alternatives, but the price may reflect the finish, fit and durability
  • if you are looking for a lightweight full zip fleece top, I doubt you’ll find one better made than this one from TNF
  • the top is ideal for indoor casual use all year round, and for outdoor use between spring and autumn together with a base layer, and in winter with an extra outer layer
  • I could quite happily use this garment for UK backpacking trips from May to October, if I didn’t prefer the ‘smock’ style of fleece for that purpose
  • I’ll be using it for day walks, suitably layered, all year round
That’s it for now.  I’ll add to this review when I have been using the fleece for a longer term.

See foot of this posting for more.

The North Face’s own product details and specification are reiterated below.

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top


Product Details and Specification:

Engineered for optimum thermal efficiency, the Polartec® fleece makes the Men’s 100 Full Zip a hiking essential. It’s a lightweight, warm and breathable fleece, able to retain crucial body heat in the cold while letting moisture escape through its lofted fibres. There’s durability too, making the fleece resistant to pilling, fading and shape distortion, plus soft-to-touch comfort courtesy of the brushed face. Pockets provide space to warm chilly hands or stow belongings, and a full-length zip runs up to the high neck for comprehensive insulation. Quick to dry, a cinch to care for and zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®, this will quickly become an essential part of your packing for outdoor adventures.


  • Brushed face for soft handfeel
  • Fabric resists pilling and fading and maintains shape
  • Full length center front zip
  • Quick drying
  • set-in sleeves
  • Soft, thermally efficient Polartec® Classic Micro
  • Zipper hand pockets
100% Polyester - Polartec® Classic Micro
S, M, L, XL, XXL

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Further observations:
1.  [23/1/11]  James Boulter has reviewed the equivalent NF smock (or 'pullover') here.  Note that his NF fleece has no chest pocket, unlike its Rab equivalent.

2.  [14/2/11]  I've continued to wear my full zip fleece top for a number of day walks, and whereas the side pockets aren't easily accessible when wearing a rucksack, it's good to be able to unzip the 'Full Zip' to keep cooler on ascents, now the weather is warming up.  So - chest pocket vs full zip?  I suppose I'm easily pleased - happy with either.

3. [10/3/11]  After another month of fairly constant use, both in and out of doors, mainly over an Icebreaker 200 Men's Oasis Crewe (long-sleeved shirt), and several washes, the garment remains 'as new'.  It continues to be a delight to wear, and soon recovers from any condensation that forms inside waterproofs on wet days.  By my normal standards it looks quite smart as well!