Over the numerous years of hiking and camping we have used and experienced countless different products. Some have been great finds others not so great so we put this section together to share our personal thoughts and experience on the products we have used and hope to help others in making a better choice and perhaps help save a buck or two on not buying products that don’t deliver and getting a product that is worth its money.
Feel free to let us know about any piece of equipment that you have used whether it is great or maybe not so great. Do remember this is on personal experience and your personal opinion. I always say what is good for one isn’t always good for another but information can be a wealth of knowledge. As time goes on we will continue to add more gear up here to review so keep eyes peeled.
Now you probably all own a bandana of some sort and there are many different styles out there on the market. I personally have quite a collection and love the versatile use that they give. I use mine not only various ways on my head to keep cool or warm, protect my face if the wind is extreme or even if the rain turns to icy cold hail, I also use it as a wash cloth, eye cover for sleeping, loop it on my sternum strap of my pack and have it as a pouch to carry stuff. I have even used it as a sling for my arm and also wear as a fashion accessory when I have hiked into a town and need to look a little bit more decent the list goes on.
So what makes this Coolcore so different that I need to review it? Easy it really is COOL!
I have often wet my bandanas to try to cool down when hiking only for them to heat up quickly and this one didn’t heat up, in fact it stayed icy cold! Just wet, wring and wear is what they say and it will do the rest. As you sweat the fabric of the Coolcore starts to activate and reduces the surface temperature up to 30% and the best thing of all is it is chemical free! Unlike a lot of other products that claim to have cooling technology that comes from adding some type of chemical into the fabric that only is temporary as it will eventually wash out and surely can’t be good for you, Coolcore uses their performance fabrics that promote great moisture wicking. To learn more about this product do go to their site www.coolcore.com.
The Coolcore multi-chill can be used well for hiking, running, working outdoors, cycling and anything that makes you work up a sweat.
- Chemical Free
- Up to 30% cooler than skin temperature
- It is UPF 50+
- dries softer
- Cooling effect never washes out
I have to say this is a winner and I am now going to look at the other products that they put out, so keep an eye out for more reviews.
Arm Sleeves by ExOfficio
When hiking you are always wanting to protect yourself especially your skin. You are out in the elements for hours at a time and exposed to sun, wind, rain and insects. Not everyone likes to wear long sleeves, sun blocks and insect repellent can only go so far so what else can we do? Easy answer is wear sleeves! You can pull them on whenever you choose without having to change your top. Take them off when you choose again without having to change your top. The sleeves not only protect you from the sun but also insects, wind and cold as well as keep you cool when you need to.
We gave these a great road test for a month-long walk in Norway then a week walk in Scotland and they passed with flying colours. It was summer in both places, yes we did get a few quite warm days, and you could feel the ‘’air conditioner” from the fabric kick in. We also had cold windy days especially through the mountain passes and they just really helped keep that icy wind from making us cold. I am keen to give these a try now in the Aussie sun and see how they perform so I will get back to you on that.
So what makes them so good?
- They are rated UPF 50+,
- Built in Air Conditioning using Xylitol, this is woven into the fabric fibres to create a cooling effect on contact with moisture (sweat). This is a compound that occurs naturally in Birch trees.
- Silicone grip on the inside for the upper arms. While they held up well we did find them to be a bit tight and left marks on our arms.
- Thumb loops.
Worth a try, and they are easy to pack weighing next to nothing. We certainly have got our money worth from them.
When you hike multi days then you want a good place to sleep and rest up. Sometimes it means you might have to carry your shelter with you if there is no accommodation available. This then throws a whole new light (no pun intended) on your carry weight. You are also carrying food, water, clothes, cooking equipment and then a shelter as well!
There are so many styles of shelters out there to choose from and do you want a tent or a tarp or a Bevis? How do you decide what would work for you? We will try to break it down and look at what I have tried and hopefully it might give you a few ideas in what direction you can go. Do be aware though I have only used two brands here and it is only because I have found they had what I was looking for. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the other brands I just havn’t tried them yet, I wouldn’t rule them out either and if or when I get the chance to try other brands I will be sure to share my review.
Sea to Summit Specialist Duo
This is my latest tent that I’m using at the moment. I will start telling you how I came to the decision to get this one and it was a hard choice but the weight won me over in the end.
I was looking to upgrade from my old tent to something that wasn’t so heavy but gave me the protection that I needed. I also chose the Duo because I like a bit of room and if I need to share at any time I could. I have always carried a 2-person tent.
I have a new trip coming up where I will be walking and living on a bush trail for 53 days. This trail is in my home state and I live in a relatively warm place and it doesn’t rain a whole lot, so I wasn’t looking for a tent that could withstand any extreme conditions and on this trail, there is an option of using the camp shelters if I need to. Also, I will be carrying a fair bit of gear with me and need to be very aware of my weight in my pack.
How to choose the right tent for you? I will add a link soon to this as I write a new ‘How to Choose’ section and we can break it down for you but in short look at what you need it for, how many people and the weight.
Sea to summit have two in this series the ‘Solo’ and the ‘Duo’. Like I mentioned I have the ‘Duo’ but will give you the features on the ‘Solo’ as well.
These tents Sea to Summit say are great for the ultralight backpacker, sea kayaker and cyclists and I will tend to agree as they are compact and very light to carry.
- The shell has a 20D ‘Pertex®Endurance’, a nylon coating that supposed to incorporate an ultra-thin air permeable coating that is breathable, water and wind resistant as well as protects any insulation from the elements to retain the warmth. (20D is the thickness of the fibres, D=Denier)
- Also, a 15D waterproof Nylon fibre for the walls, floor and vestibule
- Ultra-light weight Solo (1 person), 625g (22oz). Duo (2 person), 846g (29oz)
- Solo has one entrance so only one vestibule and the Duo has two (great size for your boots but not much more)
- Has 2 x 7075 alloy poles and 6 x hard anodized 7075 alloy pegs, they say you can also pitch these tents with your trekking poles to save more weight but seriously the weight is so minor I wouldn’t go so far
- Has double stitching and bar tacked in at all stress points for extra strength and endurance
- Reflective guy lines, (really do they shine so bright!) and fully taped seams
- Internal pockets for storing stuff, I use these they are a great size
- There is an optional lightweight Tyvek® ground sheet (I would recommend this to protect the base of the tent)
To see the full breakdown do go to www.seatosummit.com.au and look at it all. There is the floor plan of the tents to help give you a better idea of its size as well as a better breakdown of the weight of all the components to these tents.
I took a few times with the tent before I fell in love with it as it is very different to my last tent. This is a ‘Single Skin’ tent so do be aware it isn’t designed for harsh conditions like snow and constant rain and I also wouldn’t recommend it for high humid areas. If you do choose to use it in those conditions you will be disappointed and I would suggest using a tarp over the top and hope for the best. If you know you are going into harsh conditions, look for a different style tent like the ‘Second Arrow’ from Wilderness Equipment. When using it in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, I experienced quite a bit of condensation but while using it in Western Australia I haven’t had that problem.
Not only is it extremely lightweight it is also extremely compact in size! This is great for a hiker especially if you are on a trail for a long time. It is very simple to erect and just as simple to pack up as well.
- Without a doubt the weight! It is so good not to lug a heavy tent
- Also, the size as it fits so nicely in the base of my pack with room to spare
- The set-up, the easiest and quickest tent I have ever set up
- The pack up, also the easiest and quickest tent I have ever packed up
- The inside pockets, not a lot of light weight tents have these and they are a size that is good to fit my bits in so they are not rolling around in the tent and easy for me to find.
- The Fluro guy lines, I was worried I would trip but they are so bright you might want your sunglasses on at night!
The Not So Good
- It does get condensation easily but it is only a single skin so I will deal with it.
Second Arrow Tent– Wilderness Equipment and Sea to Summit
This without a doubt my favourite so much so I even named my tent ‘Sunshine’. There is an updated version I believe and only through Wilderness Equipment. Sunshine has been everywhere with me and served me well though now not used so much as she isn’t the lightest but still lighter than most. I will give you the features of the new version as that is what is on the market right now.
- Double skin expedition tent.
- 5 season tent
- Lightweight and designed harsh weather conditions like snow and exposure to severe weather
- Good ventilation so works well in summer and tropical conditions
- Compact 2 persons, tapered tunnel style
- Weight packed 1860g (1.86 kg) or (35.27oz) my old one was 2080g (2.08kg) or (73.37oz)
- Outer fabric is Siliconized 30D Nylon 66, 3000mm HH sil/sil coating (This is basically to give the out tent the best possible protection from conditions while providing a lighter weight)
- Inner tent is 20D air-permeable rip-stop nylon with the 20D mesh doors
- Poles are DAC Featherlite NSL™
- Pegs 7×4 flute HT Aluminium
To see the full break down and all the features go to www.wildernessequipment.com.au
As I said earlier I have the old model but the newer on is supposed to be lighter and better performance. If that is the case it’s a winner as the older one was fantastic. I have used mine in most conditions and couldn’t be happier. I feel safe and secure inside.
- Weight is good especially if you are sharing with someone else and you can split the poles and tent between the two for less weight
- Easy to erect once you look at the instructions
- Brilliant for all-weather conditions and cosy to hide away from the elements
- Good size for two as you are not so cramped though need somewhere else to put the pack
The Not So Good
- Not anything I can think of
Space and weight are always for a hiker an issue. So when choosing what to take on your adventure you find yourself asking the question Do I really need that or is it just a luxury item? You pack it you carry it! Eventually everything adds up. 100g here, 1.5kg there and before you know it you have a pack that is ridiculously over weight, a bit like Cheryl Strayed’s in the movie ‘Wild’ so where do you draw the line on what to pack? Easy I always ask myself do I need it or can I make do without or use something else I already have in my pack?
When you have been out hiking all day and you get to camp for the night the last thing you want is a really uncomfortable sleep. Over the many years I have been hiking I have tried numerous sleeping mats and some are great, some well lets say the ground would be no different. Now if we could cart our own beds with us we will all be happy, but the reality is you can’t, sorry.
Lets look at what we can take and take into consideration while you plan your equipment the weight. Every bit adds up and You Pack It You Carry It! How many times I see people pack too much and end up dumping some gear cause they can’t carry it. Not only is this a waste of money on their part but a waste of gear! So Plan, Research and get it right and hopefully save some money as well as spend wisely.
Lets review my latest addition to my pack and as time goes on I will add some of the old tried and tested.
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Series
If you haven’t noticed I am a big fan of Sea to Summit. They are not the only great gear supplier out there and I will test and share other great brands as time goes on.
There are six different levels in the Comfort light series though the one I have is the Green one, Comfort Light Insulated.
- Yellow, Ultra Light,
- Orange, Ultra Light Insulated,
- Blue, Comfort Light,
- Green, Comfort Light Insulated,
- Silver, Comfort Plus,
- Red, Comfort Plus Insulated.
What these mats offer;
- ‘Air Sprung Cells’ which Sea to Summit say “operate in the same way as a pocket sprung mattress”.
- Thermo lite insulation-“engineered fibres to achieve a high CLO value with low weight. (CLO is the measure of insulation of the material to the person for level of comfort basically)
- Exkin Platinum – lightweight fabric that reflects radiant heat loss back to the body.
- 40D Nylon face fabric – this is to help prevent rips and punctures and just gives it extra strength. (What you need as nothing worse than the air coming out in the middle of the night due to a rip) also is supposed to reduce to slipperiness of the surface.
- Extra protection from TPU Lamination (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) and added to this is an anti-microbial treatment, this is to help prevent mould and fungal growth within the mattress. This can be cause due to your breath as you blow air into the mat.
- Multi Function Valve, two-part valve – one to blow up and control air pressure and the other for quick air release.
Having used the Green mat quite a few times now as well as met a few different fellow hikers on the trail who also have used the same mat and have to say it was an outstanding thumbs up for comfort and weight.
- This mat is almost like sleeping on a bed and is defiantly one of the best I have tried for comfort.
- Weight wise is good. The Green large weighs 755g. (All the mats come in small, regular and large)
- Easy to pack and carry, which is always a plus.
The Not so Good;
- Expensive, though I think if it lasts and gives you a good night sleep you can over come this and compared to others out there not a whole lot of difference in price.
- Noisy, This was unanimous from everyone as we move around in our sleep the sound of plastic is annoying.
- Slippery, the surface of the mat is plastic like and is very slippery. Have learnt very quickly not to put my tent on a slight slope as I spent a night pulling myself up the mat.
♥ Overall I do give it a Thumbs up as a good night sleep is always good and does make for a happy hiker.
For this item I always would just use my spare clothes in my dry bag as a pillow. Never occurred to me to take a pillow, let’s face it it’s a luxury item right? Not anymore I don’t think, we found a pillow that is so small and light weight to pack that the guilt of the “Luxury Item” is gone! I’m talking about the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow!
They have 3 types to choose from; Ultra lightweight Regular, Large and Aeros Premium Traveller. We have the Regular and now not only use it while hiking but for the plane, in the car (when Mark is driving and I want to snooze), when we visit and stay at friends or just chilling in the park. It is so comfortable and the size when packed is so small it even fits in your pocket! Watch the Sea to Summit video and see what you think. https://youtu.be/fuSsX2OkmgA
Let’s break it down;
- Weight; 79g
- Packed Size; ø7 x 8.5cm
- Inflated size; 34 x 24 x 11cm
- Weight; 114g
- Packed size; ø8 x 8.5cm
- Inflated size; 42 x 30 x 13cm
- Weight; 85g
- Packed size; 11 x 7 x 19cm
- Inflated size; 39 x 29 x 11cm
They have a Brushed polyester stretch knit and is soft and comfortable to lay your head on and I have discovered that in the plane I only inflate a little bit and it works better. The other great thing is you can hand wash them without destroying it. The down side is they are not cheap, they can cost up to $50AU though I think for a good night’s sleep well worth the money.
When hiking you need pants that are comfortable, lightweight, quick drying, versatile. When you are travelling for long periods of time and hiking you need all that and also something that can look smart for the evening and not like you have been hiking a trail all day. The type of pants we prefer to hike in are the zip off style where you can start the day with the long pant and as the day warms up you can unzip the lower legs and have shorts, or if at the end of the day the lower legs have mud on you can zip off and wash just the lower part. Some people prefer to just wear long pants all the time to protect their legs from the bushes scratching them, insects, sun or even the cold. Well we have tried all different brands of pants and over the next few weeks we will share our thoughts on them but first let’s start with a long pant that we found just before our last trip and I loved them so much I bought 3 pairs!
Kukura Pant by ExOfficio
These pants are extremely lightweight and when you put them on you really do feel the lightness. They have a 4 way stretch fabric which makes them very flexible and comfortable to move in. The fabric also has a Teflon+ treatment so it is stain repellent and it is also 50+ sun protection. We both carried a pair when we spent 6 weeks hiking and had them in our compression bags when not wearing them, when we pulled them out and put them on you would have never known they were stuffed in our packs always looking neat and smart.
The length on them is generous (we are tall people) and the size is also quite generous.
Our opinion on these pants are they’re an all-round a great pant to take travelling as well as hiking in. The downfall on them I would have to say is the size of the pockets, would be better if there were bigger pockets but not a deal breaker.
Here is the promo video for the women’s https://youtu.be/sE9oIObuW4o
Here is the promo for the men’s https://youtu.be/TYkT4J64psY
- Sizes 2 – 16 (American sizing) very generous
- Colours Back, Slate, Bay leaf
- Mid rise
- Internal elastic waistband
- Indestructible button system
- Sizes 30 – 44 (American Sizing) very generous
- Colours Black, Cigar, Bay Leaf
- Internal elastic waistband
- 2 security zip back pockets
- Floating pocket loop inside
- 1 security zip pocket on the left leg
- Indestructible button system
Rain-gear has always been a difficult one as you are always trying to find the best way to stay dry and be comfortable at the same time, sadly there isn’t a whole lot of gear that I have personally come across that works. The other issue with rain gear is it is very expensive and there is nothing worse than spending a lot of your hard-earned money on something that doesn’t work like they claim. When I say it doesn’t work I’m referring to the fact that you end up just as wet on the inside as the outside due to condensation. We have tried Jackets and Ponchos and spent quite a lot in trying to find the best way to stay dry while carrying a pack and exerting energy.
Happy to say I do believe we found it! I’m talking about a Jacket that is so soft that you wouldn’t believe it is waterproof! the water just beads off! so flexible you can move comfortably, so lightweight you are not concerned about packing it, so breathable I’m yet to feel any condensation (and I’m a hotbox when walking), it is great! I believe that the fabric it is made from has been around for a while so apologise to those who probably already know about it but we have only just happened to come across it. So what is the name of the jacket and who sells it?
The Jacket comes from Mountain Hard Wear and the name of the jacket is the Torzonic. I believe it was designed for climbers, hence the stretchy fabric and light weight material.
On the label is says ‘Light, stretchy, and tough, the Torzonic combines carefully mapped Dry Q Elite fabric, with our stretch Dry Q Active Ozonic fabric to enhance comfort while remaining light weight’.
So what does this mean? Let’s break it down.
What is Dry Q Elite? I looked up the website and watched the video, https://vimeo.com/61302218, and found it quite interesting. Dry Q is a breathable and waterproof fabric but unlike other fabric that claim this, they say that the Dry Q has an ‘Instant-on technology’ meaning it starts to breath the moment you put it on and not needing a high level of exertion before it begins working. It is also wind proof. (can defiantly agree with this as we road tested it in good old Scotland with its hard rain and wind.)
- 2 5 layer Dry Q Active fabric. This is breathable with fantastic stretch for great mobility and comfort.
- Dry Q Elite for ‘instant on’ waterproof, and breathability, No more of that clammy wet condensation!
- Two harness and pack compatible hand warmer pockets. (remember this is used for climbers)
- Helmet compatible (climbers) with an adjustable hood and very wide brim. Found that you can wear your hat but if you choose not to its ok as there is a pull cord at the back to help adjust the fit.
- Internal zip mesh pocket for your valuables. The pockets are quite large so plenty of room.
- Weight around 374g, this would vary depending on size you have.
Cost is around $360AU though we got ours on sale at $206AU. Cheap compared to the cost of some of the past jackets we have bought and remembering they really didn’t work so well.
If you want to check out more of the Mountain Hard Wear gear look at the site http://www.mountainhardwear.com/
There are more of the Dry Q gear like the Torsun rain pants that we want to try. We will keep you updated.