Advice from Les and Others Edition 2
The Walkers Companions are:
The rain on your face and the pack on your back,
The stones in your boots and the mud on the track,
The unreadable map and the weight in your sack,
The wide open spaces and the chat of the pack.
Best buy Kit and how to buy
The Ramblers Agony Corner is just for you to talk and gossip around all these issues and many more. We will kick off with a few suggestions on clothing and walking boots. But first let's take a look at just how you choose it. Do you just go into the shop and buy because it looks good, on recommendation or on scientific testing? I think we need to understand that retailers are there to make money and why would they tell you if the seams leak on a waterproof jacket in heavy rain, or the zip is a bit dodgy, and how would you really know by looking at the item in a nice warm shop? It must also be remembered that many retail outlets buy items for resale, not because they are the best, but because they give the best profit margin even though the ones they buy maybe at the same price as the best, but the best may have a lower profit margin!
So we seem to be left with recommendations by experienced walkers or clothing and equipment which have been scientifically tested. I have listed a mixture of all with the very best being at the top of the list. Shop around on line, prices do vary considerably and the difference over several items may pay for the next holiday. More useful advice next month!
So next month arrives and on the same theme we will look at a few items of Ramblers essential clothing and equipment. You don't need to spend a fortune but if you want clothing and equipment which will be comfortable, deal with the weather and above all last have a look at what we have to say and benefit from experience!
The White Cliffs Ramblers Good Kit Guide Continued
Rohan Socks walking socks Rohan walking socks are comfortable, fit well and have good breathability which prevents your feet getting clammy when you're climbing and walking. About £13 and only from Roan shops or their online shop Smartwool Walkers say these socks are the best they have ever worn. Among their plus points, they don't slip down when walking, and remain comfortable to wear even for multi-day treks. The only down side is that some don't find them quite as durable as other brands. Smartwool say that their socks are machine washable and can be tumble dried, but don't use a fabric conditioner as this coats the Merino-wool fibres which can reduce its ability to regulate moisture levels. About £13 online or from a limited number of retailers. Bridgedale These socks are made using a selection of natural and synthetic fibres, from Merino wool to viscose made from bamboo, which the manufacturer claims keeps your feet cool when walking in warm conditions. Bridgedale socks are well-cushioned and have good breathability. There are reports that these socks have shrunk after repeated washing. About £12. Widely available from retailers
Another sock to report on is the TOG 24 which are half the price and which I recently used on the Coast to Coast and I found excellent! Can be bought Debradlie Wharf Stores in Dover. Cost about £9 on Amazon
For the vast majority of our members a good day sack is all that will be required. Like most clothing and equipment it needs to be able to cope with bad weather and be big enough to carry enough clothing and equipment to be able to deal with wintery weather or summer downpours. Think also not just of local walking but in a wider context. You may aspire with friends in the group to do some of the excellent long distance walks and stay in B&B overnight so you will need a good day sack to meet all of these possible walking scenarios. A 25 or 30 litre sack should be just about right. Here are a few tips you may consider before you fork out your hard earned money.
Adjustable frames allow you to lengthen or shorten the back. They tend to be heavier, but the upside is you can adjust them to you your torso length until you get the perfect fit. And you can share one pack between two people simply by adjusting the frame depending on who's turn it is to do the carrying.
If you're buying a fixed frame model it's even more essential that you try the pack on, load it with a few heavy items, and walk about to see how it feels. Good retailers will be happy for you to do this in the shop. If you're buying online, don't remove the tags or throw away the packaging until you're sure it's right. Women may find they get a better fit from a women's backpack that's designed to fit the female hip to torso ratio more effectively.
Despite the fact that they're called backpacks, the bulk of the load should be supported by your hips, not your back. A well-fitting hip belt (that sits on the hips, not round your waist) is the key to minimising the strain on your spine and shoulder muscles.
Some sacks come with rain covers and others need to be reproofed whichever one you buy a black poly bag should go into your rucksack prior to any other items! On mountains and moorlands and even worse they have never let me down being able to pull out crisp dry cloths at the end of the day every time! Make sure the hip belt is wide with good durable fastening buckles and with good robust pockets on the side which allows you to put a litre bottle of water in. Most side pockets are of the netted variety and it must be said are often a weak point on the sack however they do allow you to snatch a drink without taking off your pack. Some sack are hydration compatible so a hydration system can also be carried in the pack. However they do need to be kept clean and are not as easy as just washing out a bottle! Look for good compression straps (adjustable straps which can be found on the top, side or down the front of backpacks) can be pulled tight to reduce the volume of the pack and to minimise movement of items within. Adjustable straps are essential for ensuring a good fit. Chest straps ensure the pack is secured and help distribute some of the weight of the pack. They are also essential for stopping the shoulder straps from slipping. Ventilation: If you tend to build up a sweat, look for a backpack with a specially designed ventilation mesh or shaping that allows air to circulate between your back and the pack. You may wish to shop around for some of these best buys.
In customer satisfaction surveys Osprey scored top marks for comfort, and proved popular with both men and women. Top comments received about their innovative custom moulding service, which allows some of their backpacks to have the hip section 'heat moulded' to fit your precise body shape. This is done using a special oven in some of the larger specialist outdoor retailers.
Other innovations include the Osprey Cyber Port; a small day sack with a zipped window that allows you to use your tablet without having to take it out of the pack. This could be ideal for commuters and students, or day trippers who want quick and easy access to their tablet.
Deuter now make a range of women's and men's backpacks, including the EL (extra long) series which the manufacturer claims provides a better fit for tall people., Good airflow and ventilation around the back means that you don't get too sweaty. Another popular feature is the integral rain cover than many Deuter backpacks have. Available at specialist outdoor retailers and online.
Lowe Alpine backpacks
Lowe Alpine make separate backpack ranges for men and women, with the women's packs being shorter and wider. They are well thought of for durability. Lowe Alpine's 'Airzone' ventilation system helps to keep your back cool and dry, There was downside in that its fixed shape limited how much gear you can get inside, which made packing a little awkward.
Dauter Futera 32 Shop around you can get it for £80
On the next post we will talk about how to prolong the walking life of your clothing and equipment.
Looking after your kit
Hopefully having read our previous scribbling and recommendations on choosing and buying good clothing and equipment a few tips on how to wear it and look after it may interest or amuse you!
Getting the most from your waterproof clothing
To get the best possible performance from your waterproof gear there are some basic steps you can take:
o Only wear your waterproofs when it's raining hard. If it's windy then a decent lightweight windproof will do the job. Keep it in a side pocket so you can put it off and on when needed. Open the zips! If the openings in the jacket are effectively getting rid of the moisture vapour, then you remain comfortable and the fabric doesn't have to work so hard.
o Check your other layers. It's so easy to worry about your waterproof one, yet the crucial ones are the ones next to your skin. That's where comfort matters, not on the inside of your shell.
o If you feel like you're too hot then take some clothing off. It is obvious, but a shell can add a lot to your insulation. Don't leave the car park wearing four layers so that in ten minutes you melt and have to stop to take some off. Put those extra layers on when you reach the top of the hill and walking is easier.
o Look after your clothing: wash it and waterproof it when it needs it and don't leave it to rot in the bottom of a pack. Don't wear it every day of the week then expect it to last ten years; instead save your best kit for when you need it most. If the zips don't seem to be working so well try putting a little lip salve on them, work the zips up and down and hey presto like new again! This treatment carried out a couple of times a year should ensure your zips are fit for purpose.
Waterproofing Clothing and Equipment
Most outer garments now have an element of Gortex in them and need reproofing at least once a year dependent on how often you use them. Before we get to this stage its useful to know that after a good soaking you can reinforce the outer waterproof membrane by drying it in a tumbler dryer. Not on full heat, but on a moderate setting. This will give the garment a new lease of life. At this stage it may also be useful to treat the zips with lip salve. Further advice on waterproofing garments can be found at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/advice/walking-gear/re-waterproofing-walking-gear.aspx
Most walking boots are made of synthetic materials with leather seemingly being on a slow decline. Leather boots are heavier and more expensive and are treated with Dubbin which helps preserve the leather.
Synthetic made boots or leather do need to be cleaned especially after a long muddy walk in winter. The best way to do this is a bucket of water and a soft scrubbing bush with a thin tent peg to help loosen the mud from the sole. Stuff the boots with newspaper to help keep their shape and quicken the drying process. If you really want them to dry out quickly change the paper every two hours or so otherwise leave them to dry naturedly. Dubbin leather boots when you can see they need it. However I treat my synthetic boots with Nikwax waterproofing solution, yes the same stuff that goes on my waterproofs. After you have cleaned them and stuffed them with paper, and they are still damp, using a half inch paint brush I paint directly onto the surface the Nikwax which then dries into the boot and once again they look like new! Picking a nice warm day I do the same with my rucksack about once a year. However, it must be said that a plastic bag placed in the inner well of the sack is the final arbiter of keeping your rucksack contents dry. Never been let down yet, even in a jungle downpour. My hat from time to time gets the same treatment.
More tips in a month or so