Odlo Evolution Warm LS Crew Shirt – Our Review

Odlo Evolution Warm LS Crew Shirt – Our Review

It’s not every day a new base layer comes through the door makes us take a second look. But that was exactly the case when Odlo brought these along for us to have a look at over the summer. For years now, I have been using merino wool base layers for almost all my outdoor activities, so I was initially a little suspicious about these new base layers from Odlo. However, since having the opportunity to try them out, they really do appear to be an evolution of the base layer as we know it.

Odlo have been around since the late 1940’s, but have been specialising in base layer technology since the 1960’s. Their skiing base layers have been used by national csm_ODLO_Heritage_01f_55c80617e8ski teams around the world, so they are very much at the top of their game. Their latest offering, the evolution range, is very different to any other products that we have come across. It uses a combination of five different fabrics throughout the garment, specifically placed to offer the user warmth in those key areas, and increased ventilation and moisture management in others. The reason this is able to work so effectively, is down to the seamless technology that is used to create the base layers. As a result of this, the comfort is taken to another level.

We have the ‘Warm’ variation in stock, which is suitable for a temperature range of between -28°C and +14°C, dependant on your activity level. 81519-tableau-odlo-evolutionThis means that they are ideal for downhill/telemark/cross country skiers, walkers or cyclists to name a few. Seeing that we are stuck down in the New Forest, and we have not seen any snow as of yet (and don’t have any mountains to ski down anyway), I was a little limited at my activity choice. So I took them for a day’s cycle through the forest – nothing particularly technical or challenging, but the temperature was probably around 3 or 4°C. I have to admit, that I do feel the cold – so I  wasn’t very keen to head out of a grey, gloomy, cold day. However, once I had taken my bike off of the car rack, and got going my legs going, after a couple of miles, I started to warm up (and cheer up…). After about 5 miles, I remembered that I was meant to be reviewing this base layer. I suddenly realised how warm I was, yet how well ventilated and comfortable I was. The fact that I had been cycling along, and not really noticed the base layer stands for a lot. The long arms kept themselves in position around my wrists, not riding up at all. Likewise, my lower back was kept covered and protected, even if other layers had started to move around. After around 15 miles, the temperature seemed to drop again, and I did notice that my arms were getting a little bit cool, but otherwise, I was warm, dry and comfortable. My colleague, who has also been testing one of these, also encountered this, but I am not sure if this is because we were not wearing enough layers on top of the base layer – we really wanted to see how warm it was!

When I arrived home after the bike ride, I was relieved I didn’t have to throw a stinking, sweaty base layer into the wash – the odour-reducing silver ions were certainly doing their job – effectively ending the odour problem once associated with synthetic underwear.

The Verdict

On the whole, I have been very impressed with the Evolution Crew Top. Would I choose this over the much loved merino? Well, I think I would – it is definitely warmer than other base layers I have had from Smartwool or Icebreaker, but offers a much better degree of moisture management and ventilation. The Evolution range from Odlo certainly changes things. It really is a game changer.

+        Excellent seamless technology combined with wide range of fabrics creates a very comfortable base layer.

+        No more stinking base layers thanks to silver ions.

–        Arms were a little cooler than I would have wanted.

Available in crew neck tops, and full length bottoms, in both men’s and women’s.

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-1220-odlo-evolution-warm-shirt-ls-crew-neck.aspx

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-1221-odlo-womens-evolution-warm-shirt-ls-crew-neck.aspx

Norrøna Svalbard Flex1 Pants – Our Review

Norrøna Svalbard Flex1 Pants – Our Review

My wardrobe is full of softshell trousers. Thin ones, thick ones, stretchy ones, tough ones, lightweight ones – they’re all there. So with so muc  svalbard_normal-7h choice available why did I add to the collection with a pair of Norrøna Svalbard Flex1 Pants? Well, to put it simply, they are the most comfortable, most versatile, and the best fitting softshell trousers I have ever worn. Not forgetting the fact that they are made by Norrøna, and that counts for a lot!

For those of you who have not heard of Norrøna, I’ll give you a bit of a rundown. Norrøna dates back to 1929 when a Norwegian outdoor enthusiast, named, Jørgen Jørgensen began searching for durable outdoor equipment that would work in Norway’s harsh winter climate. He started out by sourcing quality materials and began making his own leather straps, canvas backpacks, and cotton clothing; this set the precedence for Norrøna’s quest to produce clothing and equipment from the finest materials available. 84 years and 4 generations later, Norrøna are still producing some of the highest quality (and brightest…!) clothing and equipment available.

The Svalbard collection is designed as ‘essential outdoor gear’ and sits at the heart of the range. svalbard_normal-4The Svalbard Flex1 Pants, as the name suggests, are made from Norrøna’s proprietary fabric, Flex1 – a single ply stretchy fabric that provides wind and water resistance. I would not call them a lightweight softshell, nor would I call them a heavyweight softshell – kind of in the middle, making them perfect for a really wide range of activities. I have been using them throughout the autumn for short hikes through the forest, and all day mountain bike rides across the Purbeck hills. I have walked and ridden with these in almost all conditions (no snow… yet!), and they have come through it all with a thumbs up from me. The degree of stretch that they have is very high for a softshell of this weight, and this allows for an excellent degree of movement, particularly noticeable when walking across rough terrain. With the wet weather we have had recently, and the one of the biggest storms the UK has seen in years, it seems that all of my local MTB trails have been thick with wet mud. Singletrack around the Swanage and Corfe seem to have turned to small streams in places, but the water resistance has been brilliant, and water is still beading off of them as it was on day one.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, the fit of these trousers is another real plus point. This is down to a couple of key features. The custom-fit waist system is basically an integrated hip belt – nothing particularly revolutionary there – but the way in which it wraps around your waist means that a perfect fit in almost always guaranteed. And because the belt is not made from a thin, flimsy canvas, but instead a wide, padded strip of Flex1 fabric, there is no digging in, and the trousers are always secure and comfy. Secondly, they have articulated knees, which means that these are not straight cut, but purposively designed to match the shape of the leg when you’re going about your adventures. Again, nothing we haven’t seen before, but in this case it’s never in the way and just lets you get on. Snap tightening around the ankles allows you to create a seal around the shoes/boot – meaning that mud, scree is not going to get down into your footwear. When you combine this by using the integrated lace hook to secure the trousers to your boots, you end up with a very high level of protection.

The Verdict

The Svalbard Flex1 Pants are Norrøna’s bestselling trouser – svalbard_normal-1and it’s clear to see why. Superb levels of weather protection, along with with a brilliant fit and excellent breathability result in a softshell trouser that is hard to beat. Whilst there are other softshell trousers available in Norrøna’s range, perhaps more suited to some activities, these stand out as a do-it-all trouser. What does this mean for me? I can clear out the rest of my softshell trousers, and get a second pair of Flex1 Pants!

+        Custom-Fit Waist System, articulated knees and snap tightening around the ankles result in a brilliantly fitting trouser.  .

+        Excellent levels of stretch and weather resistance.

+        Very versatile design.

–        Price, at £150, they are at the top end of the softshell trouser market (but you won’t need to buy any more softshell trousers again…!).

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-853-norrona-svalbard-flex1-pants.aspx

Scarpa SL Activ – Our Review

When you think of 3 – 4 season leather boots, what do you think of? Big, cumbersome, heavy boots? Well not any more. The ‘new’ Scarpa SL Activ was released a couple of years ago (so not particularly new!) and is the latest version of one of the most iconic names is the industry. The SL has been around for many years now, and this latest model sets out to take on any rugged terrain you can throw at it.

I received a pair of SL Activ boots this time last year and I used them throughout the winter (they are just starting to emerge this year!) They have seen 3 or 4 trips to Dartmoor, and one up to Wales, as well as plenty of longer walks through the New Forest & over the Purbecks. When I first received them, I have to say I was initially a little worried about the weight of the boot – however, as soon as I slipped them on, I realised that this was not going to be an issue. The weight was actually only a little higher (100g more per boot) than my normal walking boots, but you cannot feel this once they are on your feet.

My second thought of these boots was how comfortable they were. This is where Scarpa have really changed things with this latest version. The SL has undergone treatment from their Activ Fit programme, which focuses on improvements to the last that they use on their boots. Scarpa have created an all new last, the BD last, which was specifically designed for their latest range of Activ Fit boots. Without going into too much detail, the heel cup has been narrowed, the toe box has been given a little more volume to allow for more cushioning and a new profile for maximum foot hold. All of these changes and improvements has resulted in a boot that is incredibly comfortable – that’s not incredibly comfortable for a 3 – 4 season leather boot, but incredibly comfortable full stop. Ankle padding, made from memory foam gives cushioning around the heel and ankle whilst providing decent levels of ankle flex. A luxurious memory foam insole adds even more comfort to the boot.

The Heel Tension System and the V-Flex System allow the boots to excel on very steep ground, keeping the foot secure and supported, whilst allowing a comfortable degree of ankle flex. Another addition to the latest model, is the speed lacing. Basically, the eyelets have a small pulley in them, so that when you pull the laces, the adjustment is improved to the whole of the foot. Other brands have used something similar to this in the past (Hanwag & Asolo to name a few), but I don’t think I have come across a boot that it works so well on before.

To keep in line with the previous SL, this new version does not have a Gore-Tex liner – now everyone is bound to have a different opinion on this, but when you construct a boot like the SL from such a high quality leather you’re pretty much going to stay dry. When parts of the New Forest flooded last year, I found myself carrying my miniature dachshund through a very wet section of the walk. For about 4 miles, we were wading through 7 – 10 inch high water, and in combination with my trusty Rab gaiters, I came out of the other side bone dry. On the subject of the uppers, the highest quality leathers have been used here. Ranging from between 2.7 and 2.9mm thick, this super tough and durable leather is some of the most supportive around. Combine this with a new rubber rand, you end up with a boot that can take almost everything you could throw at it.

Finally, I wanted to mention the sole unit. Developed with industry leaders, Vibram, the Biometric Sole Unit is perfect for wet and slippy conditions. Deep lugs create excellent traction, with specific areas of the sole designed to improve grip on descents and ascents. I have always found that I struggle for grip with a lot of my previous boots, but once you place a foot with a SL Actibiometric_sole_09v, you know it’s not going anywhere. Now this is actually a B1 rated boot, meaning that it is capable of taking C1 crampons for winter walking, glacier travel and non-technical mountaineering. I have used mine for winter walking in Wales, for which it was simply superb. The stiff sole unit allowed me to easily kick steps into the snow and ice, and kept my feet stable and secure on loose scree slopes.

The Verdict

The SL Activ is a classic reinvented. Scarpa have brought this boot bang up to date, and once again, it is probably the most iconic 3 – 4 season leather boot available. If you are looking for a winter boot, capable of everything from trekking to non-technical mountaineering, or if you are simply looking for the best, then this must be the boot for you.

+       photo 5 Super stable and supportive design.

+        New rubber rand protects leather from damage.

+        Some of the highest quality leather we have come across.

+        Supreme levels of comfort from the new BD last.

+        Durability – these are built to last.

–         No Gore-Tex liner – not a problem in my eyes, but others will find this hard to live without…

For me, it is the most comfortable boot I have ever owned – everything that I have thrown at it, it has taken within its stride – you name it, it can do it.

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-1253-scarpa-sl-activ-boots.aspx

At Rough Gear, we understand feet, and that everyone is different, so we offer a free professional fitting and measurement service for every pair of footwear that we sell. Our customers range from dog walkers, those just starting out on their Duke of Edinburgh Award, experienced hill and mountain walkers, as well as hardened Himalayan mountaineers climbing the biggest mountains around the world – so we have pretty much seen it all!

Bunions, blisters, narrow, wide, flat footed – every foot is different, so come along to our shop in the Furlong Centre, Ringwood, in the heart of the New Forest for your next pair of boots or shoes.