Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket – Our Review

2I have been an avid user of Vapour Rise for about 5 or 6 years now. Wind resistance, water resistance, warmth and wicking all in one package. Vapour Rise (VR) works so effectively, thanks to its two layers. Firstly, Pertex Equilibrium, exclusively designed by Rab in conjunction with Pertex, balances high wind resistance with fast wicking and drying. It works by using two different yarns, which help to suck moisture to the outside of the fabric, where it quickly dries. Secondly, you have the fleece liner, which kick starts the wicking process as well as providing you with insulation. This combination of fabrics and technologies results in a product that can be used for a huge range of activities and now thanks to the larger collection, can be used all year round.

I have been using a VR Lite Alpine Jacket since its release in 2012 and it has become one of the most widely used pieces in my outdoor wardrobe. The ‘Lite’ range use a thinner wicking micro fleece liner in comparison to its larger, warmer counterparts as well as a thinner, but more densely woven outer. This actually provides you with a more wind resistant outer fabric than the standard VR jacket or the VR Guide jacket. Even with this extra protection, my size small, along with all of the packaging and tags came in at a little over 330g – not bad when you consider what you’re getting.1

The fit of the jacket is relatively snug, with a short cut and Rab’s familiar long arm length. A decent sized adjustable hood, with a wire peak and roll down closure is a very welcome feature, although the VR Lite Jacket does away with this for those hood haters out there. However, it must be noted that this is actually my second VR Lite Alpine jacket that I have owned. The first was let down by the hood adjustment tab, which started fraying, and eventually broke away entirely. I don’t know if it got caught at some point, or it was just a weak point in the design, but I missed the jacket enough to order a replacement this year.

The new colour for 2014, Twilight, arrived on my desk this morning and was a welcome return when I first slipped it on. The soft, lightweight, tricot liner adds just the right amount of warmth for this time of year but is breathable enough for when things and if things, do get a little warmer. Slightly elasticated cuffs combined with Velcro keeps the cuffs in order, whilst a drawcord on either side deal with any hem adjustments. The two Napoleon chest pockets sit well out of the way of a rucksack or climbing harness, meaning it won’t interfere, no matter what you chosen activity.

4That leads me nicely onto the VR Lite Alpine jackets best feature. Its versatility. I have used this jacket extensively walking and hiking, backpacking, cycling, playing tennis and am currently sat here with it on in a slightly cold office… There may well be other midlayers which offer more wind and water resistance, better warmth, or improved wicking, but nothing come close to Vapour Rises ability to perform in all four areas so well. It is the kind of jacket that you put on in the morning, and 15 miles later, and the end of the day, you take it off again, regardless of the weather conditions in between. It adapts itself to perform wherever you‘re adventures take you. I have even found myself using this in winter for more active pursuits and as you would expect it performs wonderfully.

The one negative piece of feedback that we have received from some of our customers is how the two fabrics (Pertex Equilibrium & Liner) are not bonded together, but really, when the jacket is on, you don’t notice it. Big fabric brands are striving to find and develop the lightest, most efficient and protective fabrics available, so in this sense, Vapour Rise can seem quite traditional, but when it works so well, why change?

The Verdict

Whilst the concept for Vapour Rise has been around for quite a while now, you cannot deny how effective it really is. What is perhaps considered a fairly traditional product has amassed a real following in the UK and this latest version has brought it bang up to date. It looks good, it feels good and it gets the job done.

3+ Very comfortable feel to the inner, providing a brilliant balance of warmth, wick, wind and water resistance.
+ New Twilight colour looks great with the contrast zips.
+ Superbly versatile design.
–  I am really hoping that the incident with the hood adjustment was a one off!

For 2014, both the men’s and women’s Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jackets will be available – take a look at them our website.

Osprey Raptor 10 – Our Review

Osprey Raptor 10 – Our Review

I’ve been using an Osprey Raptor 10 for the last 3 years or so now and it has become my go-to bag for a whole host of activities. The raptor bags (available in three sizes; 6, 10 and 14) are the core of Osprey’s Biking range.

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The Osprey Raptor 10 – our new go-to MTBing bag?

They have been around for 3 or 4 years now – I have actually used and abused both versions of the rucksack – the first one has travelled the world and has since been adopted by my girlfriend. The latest version is currently hanging up and drying from our latest mountain bike excursion and it is this latest incarnation that I will be reviewing today.

The Osprey Raptor 10 is a fully featured mountain biking bag, complete with a 3 litre Osprey Hydraulic Reservoir. This means that you’ll have ample space for all of your inner tubes, pumps, tools, all of your emergency layers, the odd energy bar as well as 3 litres of your favourite tipple! I have to admit, I have never been a fan of hydration reservoirs – yes, they make sense, but I just never really seem to use them.

That being said, the Osprey Hydraulic Reservoir is by far the best that I have ever come across and the way that it integrates itself into the bag is very effective. The reservoir hose that usually follows the shoulder harness has in this case been enclosed by a thin mesh. This feature has been lifted and adapted from the Osprey Kode ski bag and does a very good job at keeping everything secure and in place.

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The improved an updated Airscape back system and resevoir are very welcome changes.

The fact that the reservoir sits in a separate compartment also means that it won’t interfere with any of the other bits and bobs you might be carrying, whilst the magnetic bite valve will neatly keep the hose secure on the sternum strap. As a result, I have used the reservoir on a few routes across the Purbeck hills and whilst I’m far from converted, it did its job very well.

Another of the major tweaks that the new Raptor has undergone in comparison to the older version is the back system. Both use the Osprey AirScape backsystem – a vented foam, however the most recent version of the Raptor is far more ventilated, with large, open channels keeping your back cool. I have used both versions on long, hot rides around Dorset and Hampshire and let’s face it, the first version was good, but it has been subtly refined to improve the all-day comfort of the bag.

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Neat zippered pockets on both sides of the hip belt.

An additional feature that has been added on the latest version is the roll out ToolWrap – a convenient, secure pouch, specially designed for bike tools and spares. If you’re the kind of person who will take the entire workshop with you, you may struggle for room, but otherwise, for those of us who might be able to change an inner tube, change the saddle height or perhaps, at a push, adjust the gears and brakes, we should be ok! The zipped pocket on each side of the hip belt is a useful area to store small snacks, phones – a very useful addition!

Whilst the Raptor 10 has been designed exclusively for mountain biking, I have found that it is equally as good for using when hiking or as a small daypack when exploring cities. You may argue, that an Osprey Talon 11 may be more suitable for this – I also asked myself the same question. The Raptor just feels a little bit more stable, a bit sturdier and well, just a bit more up to the job. Because of this, it carries heavier weights much more effectively regardless of if you are walking, cycling, skiing or just mooching around Milan.

The Raptor is available in three different sizes; 6, 10 and 14 litres, as well as a women’s specific version, also in 10 and 14 litres, known as the Raven. This results in a range of bags which are suitable for a huge range of cyclists – so if you’re off down your local trailway, or heading out for a 50 mile epic, you’ll be able to rely on the Osprey Raptor range to help you get there.

Without a doubt, our favourite MTB bag!
Without a doubt, our favourite MTB bag!

The Verdict

I love this little rucksack – I’ve owned the very first version for years now and quite frankly, it’s still going strong. This more recent version seems to be heading the same way and will last me for years to come. Whenever I head out to the trails on my MTB, this is the one bit of kit I will always grab and take along with me. However, this 10 litre rucksack falls into a very competitive group, with offerings from all of the big rucksack manufacturers, as well as other alternatives from Camelbak, Haglöfs and Norrøna. However, Osprey’s distinctive design and look make this stand out from the crowd. A bunch of innovative, yet truly useful features ensure you get the most from the bag, and keep on riding.

+        Very well laid out – it’s clear that there has been a lot of thought going into the bag.

+        Lots of useable, decently sized pockets.

+        Excellent hydration reservoir – even if you’re not a fan, it does work very well.

+        Very versatile design, suitable for skiing, walking, general use as well MTBing.

+        Zips pockets on the hip belt, ideal for trail side snacks.

+        The Lid Lock system, carries your bike helmet securely, perfect for those pub stops!

+        Reflective detailing and light attachment point make sure you stay safe on the roads.

+        The W’s version (Raven) features a female fit and slightly more feminine colours!

–        £85.00 is a lot of money for those who don’t want to be using a hydration reservoir.

–        It seems to be constantly muddy but perhaps that might be my fault…?

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-955-osprey-raptor-10-ltr-rucksack.aspx

Rab Infinity Endurance Jacket – Our Review

Rab Infinity Endurance Jacket – Our Review

Handy chest pockets on the outside and the inside.

Following on from our Hydrophobic Down post a few days ago, we thought we should review our favourite down jacket this winter – the Rab Inifinity Endurance Jacket! We haven’t got many left, so don’t miss out!

Christmas day started as it does every year, with a mad dash to the Christmas tree. A large, but very light parcel, addressed to me appeared beneath the other pressies. A familiar looking Rab logo emerged, followed by a bright green inner lining and at this point I realised what I was looking at – the new and updated Infinity Endurance Jacket from Rab (thank you Racheal!).

A few years ago, Rab released a very lightweight down jacket called the Infinity jacket (still available today). The following year, the Infinity Endurance jacket appeared in Rab’s winter workbook – a beefed up, more durable and probably for most people, more practical jacket. The down filling remains the same as the standard Infinity Jacket, with 210g of 850 fill power European goose down. This year, the down has had an extra special treatment – a Hydrophobic coating, which has been applied to the down at the washing/cleaning stage. This has been rolled out across all Rab down jackets this winter, with sleeping bags following suit next summer.

The differences to the standard Infinity Jacket appear on the outside. The standard jacket uses a Pertex Quantum GL – the lightest fabric Pertex make. The Infinity Endurance uses the same fabric, but, as the name suggests, one that has a Pertex Endurance coating. In reality, the standard fabric was strong and tough – but it never felt that way – I was always very conscious about using the jacket. The new endurance fabric is only 20% heavier at 30 g/m2, but it inspires a lot more confidence when you are wearing it. It comes with a hydrostatic head rating of 1000 mm, so can take a decent beating from the usual British weather. It still packs up very small into the stuff sac (included).

A very good pack size for such a warm jacket.
A very good pack size for such a warm jacket.

Being the middle of January, I had hoped that I would have been try it out in much colder, snowier conditions – but seeing that half of the UK is under water, I have had limited chances to test the jacket. However, the last couple of days have been cold and clear and it has been great to slip this jacket on in the morning. But, this is a warm jacket – and although I feel the cold, I have had to leave it in the wardrobe most of the winter. It is a shorter cut than other Rab jackets, meaning it is as nice to wear around town as it is to wear out in the mountains.  One of my favourite features is the soft fleece chin guard – a really decent size. So many brands offer this, but to have one of this size is really great. The other massive improvement is the hood. Now this is a big thing for me, as a bad hood can wreck a jacket. Many have fallen at this hurdle, but Rab have pretty much got it spot on. A reassuringly thick wire peak top it off and had the hood had a little more in the way of volume adjustment, it would have been perfect.

My only major gripe about this jacket is the pockets. They are all present and correct, and where they should be, but the hand warmer pockets just aren’t big enough! Now, I don’t know if it is just me, but I cannot seem to fit my hands comfortably inside. They appear to taper off, meaning that whatever I have got inside my pockets (phone etc) cannot be comfortably removed – a minor flaw when you look at the jacket as a whole, but a really annoying one.

Verdict

On the whole, this jacket is one of my all-time favourites.  The cut is brilliant, the down is very high quality and has now been improved to be even more resistant than before. Fix those pockets and its perfect! If we ever get a ‘normal’ winter, this is the first jacket I’ll grab.

http://www.roughgear.co.uk/p-470-rab-infinity-endurance-jacket.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.

Haglofs Ardent MTB Shorts

Haglofs Ardent Shorts

By Colin Dennis

6020122C2_SS13_ArdentShorts

Haglofs Ardent Shorts are super-tough, comfortable and beautifully constructed All-Mountain Shorts that’ll stretch your wallet for sure, but provide you with acres of unrestricted movement and protection from the elements – no matter how gnarly the trails get.

Never Heard of Haglofs? Well, Haglofs are a Swedish outdoor clothing company that’s been kitting out hardy mountaineering types since Victor Haglof stitched together his first rucksack back in 1914; and like Abba is to pop music, Saab is to fighter jets and sturdy cars, Haglofs are a seriously big player in the Scandinavian outdoor market – but unlike Abba, they know a thing or two about clothing and dress sense.

DSC_0471 (640x456)

Mountain biking in Scandinavia is big business and they’re ardently passionate about their sport; let’s face it, they’ve got the hills and the space. Scandinavia is pretty uncompromising when it comes to terrain, weather and trails; and like I said, it’s full of mountains – big, unforgiving mountains, plus there are the seemingly endless tracts of forestry and wild, open plateaus, all which are capable of reducing you to tears, both in their stark beauty and their toughness. There’s also the underlying fact that with hardly a soul living in the hinterland you need kit and equipment that isn’t going to let you down.

This brings us to Haglofs foray into mountain biking apparel and the wonderfully constructed Ardent Shorts. The first thing you have to understand is that Haglofs don’t do anything by halves, not necessarily over engineered or anything, but the thought process, design, materials, and most definitely the construction quality, are as good as you will find anywhere – which is reflected in the price.

What materials are involved?

Haglofs use their proprietary FlexAble fabric throughout the construction of the Ardent Shorts, but then they back-up the seat and inside leg areas with laminated Soft Shell panels for further protection from the mud and grit.

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As  mentioned earlier, the Ardent Shorts are super stretchy thanks’ to the FlexAble fabric used so there is no pull against your legs when pedalling hard, this makes them extremely comfortable when riding; especially as these shorts are over-shorts and so a normal pair of lycra or liner shorts are required for practical purposes and padding.

Features

Plenty of neat features are included with the Ardent Shorts: the flat, high rear element of the waistband offers a degree of added comfort and security to you back; which is really nice, and it certainly aids the shorts to remain where they should be – around your waist – and not hanging halfway down your backside.

Velcro side pull tabs add further adjustment and security while the fly zip is backed up by a wind baffle. Although the Ardent Shorts aren’t waterproof, they are given a full Durable Water Repellent coating (DWR) and in conjunction with a tight fabric weave, they really do offer a great deal of protection from the elements; and with several wet weekends on Exmoor behind them they’ve become a welcome addition to my ever-increasing armoury of all-mountain clothing.

DSC_0474 (640x419)

Weighing in at well under 1lb (370g) for a size L the Ardent Shorts aren’t much to carry and when rolled up tight, don’t take up much room in your weekend bag either. They dry extremely quickly too, which is great should the need arise to rinse them out overnight in either barn, Bothy or B&B.

One of the nicest features on the Ardent Shorts is the meshed zippered vents that run all the way across both thighs; this was a real boon when climbing and helped keep the legs from burning out too soon – to be honest I found it quite refreshing having the wind whistle through your shorts when the temperature’s up regardless of whether you’re riding up or down the hill.

The two-way zips on the vents never faltered in any situation, their action was reassuringly smooth for a stress-free operation; just what you need when the sweat is running down your back and dripping off your nose.

So what were they like in action then?

In a word (or two) very comfortable; probably the most comfortable over-shorts I’ve ever worn. Even when dropping way back off the saddle there’s endless amounts of give in them.You really can push yourself to the limits without wondering if your kit is going to restrict you’re ability. Bags of confidence too, they are such a good fit around the waist, especially at the back where the deep waistband feels like a mini back support – which it’s not, of course.

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A further bye-product of the high waistband is that it helps keep the lower back warm and prevents your base layer from riding up too much – neat!

The two bellowed zippered thigh pockets opened and closed smoothly enough and look to be able to hold plenty of loose change and other valuable items – like jelly babies. I tend not to carry anything more than paper spending notes (waterproofed of course) in side pockets though; things rattle and feel cumbersome to me in external pockets and therefore I tend to stash everything away into my backpack where it won’t annoy me.

The pre-shaped knees of the Ardent Shorts are knee-pad friendly, where again the stretchy FlexAble fabric proved to be tough but unobtrusive when fitting around knee-pads.

Endless amounts of river and stream crossings, steep climbs and rocky descents on two very wet weekend visits to Exmoor (Flora’s Ride and Horner Woods in general are still the best playground) were the perfect test ground for the Ardent Shorts where they came up trumps every time.

DSC_0470 (640x412)

One little point that might be explored though is that when riding normal cross-country routes (pads not required etc.) I felt that the hems could be tucked away, a Velcro tab on each hem would have been handy just to slim the knee area down a notch or two; but this never hindered my riding in anyway – just an observation really, and it might make the Ardent Shorts more appealing to cross-country riders.

Pros

Tough as old boots, super-stylish, quick drying, and incredibly comfortable and supportive; build quality cannot be faulted – also available in black.

Cons

Some kind of Velcro adjustment combined with a soft-dart insert would be useful to stop the hems billowing when not using knee-pads.

£125 without a liner – eek!

Contact

www.haglofs.com

UK office: 01539 822595

What the Manufacturers say

The Ardent shorts are made of a hardwearing material with laminated Soft Shell rear panels for weather and mud protection and S – shaped construction for better articulation when biking.

FlexAble™ fabric provides the optimum balance of wind and water resistance together with excellent breathability

Laminated Soft Shell rear panels for weather and mud protection

DWR treated surfaces

Gusseted crotch offset side and inner leg seams for a chafe-free comfortable fit

Comfortable flat waist band with integrated Velcro waist adjustment

Zippered fly with rear wind baffle and hook plus closure

Raised rear elasticated waist panels

2 long length leg zips for ventilation

2 bellowed zippered thigh pockets

Pre-bent knees with space for knee protection pads if needed

2 bellowed zippered thigh pockets

Reflective detailing front and rear