The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday 8 November 2008

LEJOG Kit Review

It's now four months (and a day) since we reached John O'Groats. It must be at least three months since I wrote a brief review of each of the bits of kit that I used on the walk. Somehow I didn't get around to posting the review, so rather belatedly I'm going to do that now.

Although the review of each item is brief, it's a lengthy piece purely because of the number of different items that I carried, so I'm splitting it into three sections. Below are my thoughts on the clothes and shoes that I used:

Berghaus Paclite Extrem Jacket – Worked and worked well. I’d prefer a hood that was a bit more protective, but I’ll settle for the compromise of a lesser hood for a lower weight.

Berghaus Paclite Extrem Overtrousers – Worked and worked well.

Paramo Azuma Vent Trousers – On the plus side, I really like the feel of the material of these trousers, and they dry ridiculously quickly if they get wet. But, durability was questionable. They developed holes on both inner ankles, which were about 50p size by the time we finished. The stitching on the seat looks a bit worn now too. Disappointing when you consider that Mick’s Montane Terra Pants looked unworn at JOG.

Paramo Fuera Smock – I love my Fuera Smock! I had intended to switch to my Montane Featherlite in May, once the weather was warmer, but had decided by then that the pocket and hood on the Fuera were indispensable, so the Featherlite went back home and I stuck with the Fuera.

Smelly Helly s/s crew – It’s very light and it dries quickly, but on a long trip with limited chance to get it washed and dried, those virtues don’t outweigh the big negative of the smell.
I smelt so bad on the hot days on the Offa’s Dyke Path that the aroma actually made me feel sick as I was walking along. In early May I had Vic order an Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 for me, which (thanks to the inefficiencies of Royal Mail) then chased me around the country.

Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 s/s – When I finally got it I liked it a lot. I could have done with a size smaller, but it was very comfy all the same and as you would expect it was smell resistant. The material is so fine on the 150 that it doesn’t feel like wool at all, yet has all of the benefits of the material.

Icebreaker 200 l/s crew – I wore this for days and days at a time (over a week, at times) and it performed brilliantly. It does stretch out of shape after a couple of days, but as soon as it’s washed it goes back to its original shape and size. It’s now a bit thinner than it used to be (although I think that there’s plenty of life left in it), but I have had it for a couple of years now and it has had a lot of use.

Decathlon’s Kalenji Underpants – I cannot speak highly enough of these pants. At only £3.95 per pair (compared with £12-16 for all other outdoors brands I’ve seen) I wasn’t sure how durable they would be, so had plenty of spares in the resupply box. They weren’t needed. The original two pairs ended the three months looking as new as when they’d started. I have no complaints about them.

Bridgedale Socks – I started with two pairs of Endurance Trekkers, but decided that with the toe-eating shoe issue at the start I would prefer a thinner pair, so got a pair of Endurance Comfort. Both pairs made it the whole distance – and are still being worn now. The Comfort are right at the end of their useful life, but after a wash and a tumble dry the Trekkers look almost as good as new.

Bra – I have searched and searched for a bra that is comfortable under a backpack. There are many out there from known outdoor brands, but I’ve not yet found one that comes in my size and is comfortable – and they don’t come cheap. What I did find that met both the size and comfort requirements was a Medium Impact Sports Bra from Marks & Spencer – at the bargain price of £8. 1240 miles later and it was still comfortable. Bet they’ve discontinued that particular model now, but if they haven’t then I’ll be replacing it with another of the same.

Sun Hat – The Tilley Hat was a last minute acquisition and I was so pleased to have it. It lived on my head on every sunny day, and some rainy ones too (it’s great in light rain – it keeps the rain off without the constraints of a hood). I wouldn’t be without it. It’s not showing any signs of wear, but the outside has faded to a noticeably different colour to the underside now.

Extremities powerstretch beanie – Excellent gripiness, warm and very light. Pity that we’re ‘His & Hers Matching’, but there was definite gear-envy before I got mine.

Extremities powerstretch gloves – Not so good. Two different seams came adrift on the right gloves in their first four months of wear. I’ve sewn both back up, but it’s been enough to put me off them, even though in reality it was probably just a fault on the stitching on that one glove.

Extremities GoreTex Overmitts – Did the job and did it well. How did I ever manage before I got a pair of overmitts?

PHD Minimus down jacket – No complaints. It’s warm and light and has pockets which some would claim are handy to warm hands, but I’d say are handy as places to keep the ‘cooking hanky’.

Salomon XA Pro – If the left one hadn’t suddenly become too small for my left foot (after a not inconsiderable amount of prior use without any size issue) they probably would have been quite good. I would buy again – but half a size bigger.

Inov8 Roclite – I couldn’t understand all the hype on these. I’d had a pair of Terrocs which had holed inside of the heel within 100 miles. Now I had the Roclites and I just couldn’t see why everyone thought it was so great. Three hundred miles later, I loved them for their comfort. The downside was that they started to wear a hole on the inside of the heel within 150 miles. They did make it through 300 miles and contrary to my intentions, I didn’t bin them at the end of it – instead I thought I would see how many more miles I can squeeze out of them. I’ve read of other people having this same problem and assume that my feet aren’t quite Inov8 shaped (even though I can feel no heel movement in use). That’s a shame, because if it wasn’t for this durability problem I would now be amongst the people who rave about these shoes.

Sealskin Socks – These surprised me, because for a sock that just didn’t look like it fitted my foot (these socks don’t have the stretchiness to grip and mould to the foot) they were absolutely fine in use. They kept my feet dry most of the time and at worst they got damp (presumably from sweat, rather than leakage). Mick didn’t have such a good Sealskinz experience. One of his started leaking on its second wear, which wasn’t a happy marriage with his boots, considering that they leaked almost from the outset.

Scarpa ZG65 – Absolutely fantastic! Here’s how comfy they were:
At night, my boots tended to live under the back of the tent, so as to free up a bit more room in the porch. One evening I was sitting in front of the tent, surveying all of our kit scattered around us, my boots were missing. I hadn’t put them under the back of the tent, so asked Mick whether he had. He said he’d not touched them. “Well where are they then” I asked and we both looked around. They were finally located on my feet.

Without the rose-tinted glasses of how comfortable they were, the leather did crack on the toe crease. I blame that on myself for a woeful lack of attention to cleaning and proofing them. They also started to leak after about 800, maybe 850 miles of use. And a tiny bit of the rand came adrift from the boot after about the same amount of miles. However, for the £84 that these boots cost, I think they did pretty well. They will definitely be replaced with more of the same – although I’ve not ruled out squeezing a few more miles out of this pair first.

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