We put the latest outdoor clothing and equipment to the test
1. Columbia Caldorado III UTMB Shoes, £115
I’D never worn Columbia footwear before so came totally fresh to this shoe, a limited edition version of the popular Caldorado range. A tad heavier than my regular trail shoe, and more robust – no surprise given it’s intended for the Ultra-trail du Mont Blanc – a 166km route round Europe’s tallest peak and one of the toughest races in the world. The shoe’s a good all-rounder. Uppers are seamless “soft-shell” but abrasion-proof. Comfy but a bit wide at the ball of my foot. I like heftier lugs for muddy, slippy runs but they were good on forest tracks. Great heel support and tough toe protection.
2. Keela Ladies’ Scuffer Trousers, £79.95
ICANNOT describe how much I love these hiking trousers. They’re windresistant and water-repellent, but – unlike most trousers claiming to be both – this doesn’t come with added weight or at the cost of breathability. The Stretch-tec Advance fabric is comfy and gives great ease of movement. It’s durable, too, and the knee and seat areas are doubly-reinforced. The inner lining has moisture-wicking properties, and there are added ventilation pockets. I especially like the adjustable tabs at the ankle. I’ve been trying to find a negative about these trousers, but I honestly can’t think of anything. I’m going to order another pair. Men’s sizes also available.
3. Helly Hansen Lifaloft Insulator Jacket, £160
THIS jacket really does live up to the often-made claim of being lightweight. On first trying it on I thought it was really a fashion garment and not weighty enough to withstand anything more than a stroll to the shops. But the Lifaloft technology, which makes the insulation lighter than the usual polyester, did the job perfectly on a breezy day in the hills of Galloway, and then on a chilly evening camping. Also, it is less cumbersome than a woolly jumper or sweatshirt and far easier to fold up and slot away in a rucksack without taking up too much space. I’ve had a number of top-quality jackets over the years but this is the best by far. It’ll easily cope with whatever weather the winter is going to throw at me!
4. Lifesystems Heatshield Blanket, £7.99
I’VE been carrying a one-person version of this for years. Sadly, I never had it with me on the occasions I’ve been lying in the woods waiting for an ambulance, but I wish I had. It’s amazing how cold you get after the shock of an accident wears off, and this is an inexpensive, packable and reusable way of significantly reducing that problem. This double-sized one allows you to share your body warmth with an injured party, and the bright orange colour is helpful in making sure you’re found. It’s the sort of unglamorous thing that’ll sit at the bottom of your bag for years, but if the time comes to use it you’ll not regret spending a penny of the measly asking price. Team it up with a survival bag for additional weatherproofing.