The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dead Chuffed with Cascade

When the ThermArest Neo Air first hit the UK it was a bit of a sensation to say the least. A massive leap forward. Sheila and I both bought one in the small version. Since then we have seen an amazing revolution in sleeping mat weights, warmth and packability from lots of OEM’s. On the down side there have been durability issues and with the NeoAir we had the deflation issue.

Sheila’s mat has always held air content with very little change in comfort even when temperatures fell during the night. The slight reduction in pressure was negligible.
Mine on the other hand suffered badly. Being almost completely flat after a nights use.

I tested it in the bath to find out where it was leaking but i never found a puncture of even the smallest proportions. 

In the mean time we fell a bit out of love with the horizontal tubes because we found it quite easy to slide off the mat. I tried a number of mats with vertical tubes and preferred the support they gave. There definitely isn’t as much movement of the mat when the tubes are vertical imo.

Sheila actually found that her hips were sore in the morning when sleeping on a tubed mat, any tubed mat and eventually she decided to try a Trangoworld micro lite foam self inflating mat. This proved a success and she still prefers it although a little heavier.
She sold her NeoAir.

My NeoAir was relegated to the museum of hardly used equipment. Stored in a wardrobe in the spare room. It must have been there now for a good 3 years maybe. It was only recently when changing the room around that we had to empty the wardrobe and the NeoAir saw the light of a new day. I thought it a crying shame that such a good bit of revolutionary kit was now a discarded bit of old plastic. I was considering throwing it out or reusing it in some way or other, anyway i inflated it hoping that it had matured with age and had self healed its leaking wounds. It hadn’t, it just arched against the wall all sad and empty in the morning.

Then a couple of weeks ago i was having a chat with a member of staff in the Cotswold shop and i mentioned about my Neoair. He said he remembered sending quite a few of the early ones back  to the factory because of a fault and he suggested i email the company about it. I must admit that i didn’t hold out much hope as it’s a few years old although it probably has only about 10 nights usage all in. I should have looked into sooner i know that but i sent an email to Cascade. Well they could only say “no” at worst couldn’t they.

I was very quickly contacted by Ciamha at Cascade in Ireland. She told me that the mat would be evaluated and if it could be repaired it would cost £15. If it was beyond repair it may be replaced depending on the evaluation. 
Now as i wrote above, the mat’s condition was not an issue, and i couldn’t find a leak as to why it was deflating. So i was absolutely over the moon to receive a reply from Ciamha that Cascade are going to replace the mat FOC. Even after all this time.

What can i say except “Now that’s what i call going the extra mile service”. I will get the use of my mat back. I will have a light weight option without spending more money. I am so grateful to Cascade and my contact Ciamha for doing this and i am very pleased i had that chat in the Cotswold shop. 


Just thought i would share the experience.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Another wet Paramo day

Just Sheila and I today. I think the wet and windy weather put Dorothy off our usual Saturday walk.
Down towards Chadderton the Rochdale canal was having a bit of a facelift with certain sections being drained.
It’s quite unusual to see a canal like this so we had a mooch around looking if anything of industrial archeology was visible on the muddy bottom. Sadly nothing much was apparent.
At the lock gates the gate for the transportation of water into the lower section was open and above water. A very rare sight.

We had had a brief bit of relief from the heavy rain and it looked like we may get a break in the weather, but it wasn’t to be. Following the River Irk through Chadderton Park the water level was high and flowing fast. People were few, usually many folk are about here but not today.
The River Irk at Chadderton Park.
I was expecting to find mayhem in the park with wind damage but not much caught my eye. The odd tree here the odd branch there but nothing severe. Lots of twigs littered the walkways but not much considering the excessively high winds we have had.

Through the park we went up hill through Healds Green and Chadderton Heights entering Tandle Hill Park just at the first entrance of Ouzelwood Rd. 
Again i expected more damage than was about. This area is quite exposed and the soil is soft and waterlogged. A few large trees had come down but i had expected quite a lot worse.





Another wet day for the Paramo. Almost continuous rain for 12km. I had also layered up too much with a base layer and a fleece. I didn’t need the fleece at all, i was roasting but today i didn’t bother with a daysack and so had to endure the overheating. 
I checked for ingress of water half way through the walk and again at the end and i had none. My trust in the Paramo is starting to gain ground. But it still won’t replace my Brenig smock.
The gloves i had with me today are the OR Arete. They are a 2 part glove with a removable inner and a waterproof insulated outer. I have searched high and low this past couple of years for decent gloves and these are superb. Not the lightest outer gloves around at 157grams the pair, but sometimes that just doesn’t matter. They breath fantastic, dry quickly and keep your fingers warm. Thats what i want gloves to do.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Paramo the Enigma

About 3 years ago, maybe 4,  i went out of my way to track down a Paramo Adventure light smock in bottle green. I phoned around and eventually found one at Whalley Lancashire. When i got there i was told that the one in store had actually been sold but the assistant hadn’t realised it at the time.
However, after a bit of pleading i managed to buy it. I was over the moon.

My joy didn’t last long, maybe 6 months, when on a particularly wet day the left sleeve area started to leak, slowly at first until within a couple of hours my left arm base layer was wet through.

I was disappointed especially after the trouble i went to get the thing and at a cost of £180.

What was needed i thought was a reproofing. Which i did using the washing machine and low heat tumble dry method. It didn’t work. The left sleeve still leaked just as badly as if i hadn’t made any effort. Weird.

Now i have since read numerous accounts of Paramo leaking to the point of saturation and folk being highly disgruntled to say the least. And quite right i think.
One of the main points to come out of all this reading was that your washing machine must bear no trace of soap from previous washes and the garment must be cleaned with tech wash etc etc.

So not one to give up i decided to do it all by the book. I bought washing machine cleaner, tech wash, new TX direct  and set about carefully cleaning the soap box and the inlet pipe and rinsed it all thoroughly a couple of times. Then i cleaned the jacket with Tech wash and rinsed it twice. Then reproofed it and dried it with low heat tumbling.

Yep you have guessed. The left sleeve still leaked. Why just the left sleeve you may well ask. And the answer is ineffable.

I gave up with Paramo. It was unreliable and also seems to have quite an early wetting out time in comparison to other jackets i possess. It stayed in the wardrobe most months and only came out if it was a bitterly cold day with no rain forecast. I thought it a real shame as i do like the feel of Paramo and enjoy wearing it and praise it’s breathability.
What annoy's me more than anything is that some people absolutely swear by it. So why do some people find it fantastic and others find it poor? I just don’t get it and wish i had an answer because it’s £180 almost wasted.

About Mid November 2013 Sheila and i had been out for a day hike and our overtrousers were very muddy, so when i got home i soaked them in the car cleaning bucket in just warm water and left them there until the next day. After a couple of quick swills under the tap i thought it prudent to re-proof them while they were clean and wet.
I still had plenty of TX direct left and put about 50% more TX direct into the bucket of water than was instructed on the container. Well overtrousers take a bit of a bashing so i thought it would be ok.
I left them soaking for about 1/2 hr and then put them up on the line and let them dry.

The bucket was still half full of the mix and so chucked in a pair of gloves. I then thought “what about that Paramo jacket”, so i chucked that in as well. Giving it a good soaking and leaving it to sit for about 10 minutes, i then just hung it on the line.

Moving on a month or so….
The last couple of days have been very wet as all of you who read this will be aware. The UK being battered at the moment with heavy rain and high winds. Time to get the Paramo out and go for a local walk where it doesn’t matter if i get soaked or not because at worst i would only be an hour away from home. Well it rained and it battered the trees and the noise was quite deafening at times.

I was waiting for that tell tale cold arm as the jacket wetted out and water started to fill up my gloves but it never happened. Water just beaded off, except for one part of the flap which covers the chest pocket zip. I was amazed. I just couldn’t believe it, i kept checking my left sleeve for wet patches and nothing, so i stayed out longer just to see at what point it soaked through. It never did and the rain came down even harder as i walked home.

I didn’t wash the bucket out, i didn’t clean the jacket, i put too much mix into the water, i didn’t tumble dry it and it all seems to have worked.
Paramo is an enigma. I wish i understood it. Anyway lets hope all is ok on its next outing which will be another day hike, i still don’t trust it enough yet for anything longer.



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cairngorms in Winter DVD with Chris Townsend and Terry Abraham.

 My daughter asked me what i wanted for Christmas and i said Cairngorms in winter DVD please.
It deully arrived down the chimney and i couldn’t wait to play it. Unfortunately we had to wait as we were in Hamburg over Christmas.


So i pulled a rather sooty dvd out from amongst the embers and dead Starlings, dusted it off and we sat back to enjoy.
Beer in hand, lights out and home cinema system turned up it was wonderful. The atmosphere created almost made me nip upstairs and get my down jacket on. Wonderful stuff.

That was until 53 minutes and 10 seconds into the journey when it froze. The dvd i mean, not the green loch or An Lochan Uaine which Chris was just explaining the myths of the depths.
Now that made us all a bit unhappy. It wouldn’t play on. I started it again and fast forwarded it to the said spot and again it froze. So i leaped ahead a chapter missing i think about 9 minutes and played on from there.

We sent it back as faulty goods (there was no soot on it honest) and received a new one. Splendid.
Unfortunately this new one stopped in exactly the same place. I couldn’t believe it, not again. It spoiled the show.
This time i jumped chapter then did a slow skip in reverse, that’s the dvd player which did the slow skip in reverse, not me you understand. Then at 53 minutes 40 seconds i stopped it and pressed play and all was fine. So in the end i only lost 10 seconds.
I’m not sending it back again as i guess there are lots made with this fault.

I think it’s a fabulous dvd. We thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a section where Terry is filming at the bottom of the mountain and then pans upwards seemingly for ever. It’s so dramatic with the crags and the snow and the wonderful music. I can watch it time and time again.

There is only one bad bit which i raise here, but i say it with positive attitude.
Chris is up on the high plateau, setting up the tent and explaining the pegging out procedure using blizzard pegs. He then looks out and says he hopes that tonight the moon will be almost full, and he is looking forward to a night looking at the stars.
Then, when you expect to see him in the tent, headlight shining and illuminating the steam from a brew and Terry filming the stars, Chris gets out of his car and explains winter equipment. This bit just didn’t work IMHO.
We looked at each other and wondered if the dvd had jumped a chapter but alas not. Sorry guys, i hope you find my comment in good faith.

All in all the Cairngorms in winter is absolute magic (Apart from the fault). Well done Terry and Chris.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Clas Ohlson Tegera 447 winter gloves by Ejendals -AB


Bought from Manchester Arndale branch 2 weeks ago.
Reason. Inexpensive waterproof winter glove, nice fit, Thinsulate warm, looked well made and the specification of "All round winter use".

First time out was in heavy continuous rain for about 2 hours. I had taken a bit of a tumble on some slippery grass and the gloves got a soaking due to my hands taking the strain of the fall. Even so they kept me warm. I let them dry out naturally as the palm and fingers are Goatskin.

I then coated the leather with some RM Williams leather treatment to give them some extra protection. I decided to turn the gloves inside out to air them properly and was shocked to see what i can only describe as totally shoddy workmanship.  Stitching adrift in numerous places and where it was attached the quality was dreadful. Obviously Quality Control was non existant otherwise these would never have left the factory like this.

The waterproof membrane was “Loose”, unattached in places and didn’t go up the fingers.
I really am speechless as to how these gloves can be classed as waterproof without some sort of label to say what that means in this instant.
They can only be waterproof until that time that water has soaked in enough to pass the fingers where there is no membrane. The time will be short.

I would not like to take these gloves out on a serious winter walk. You could end up in a bad way.
I wish i could find the receipt because i would take them back.

Here are a few images of how poor the quality is, Ejendals-AB who make the Tegera range should be ashamed.
 Poor quality stitching and finish. All round shoddy work.


 Thumb almost detached and a piece missing from the membrane.





Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Multimat Adventure Superlite 25 Sleeping Mat

 As mats go i have enough to last me a lifetime. Various types and weights. I am not going to show them here because someone might add up all the costs!

I came across this Multimat 25 and at first glance just thought that the price was good for such a mat and i was just about to move on and look elsewhere when i thought some readers might be interested.

The thing that immediately struck me, was for D of E kids or those on tight budgets or maybe even for cycle touring or even just base camping.
 No, it’s not the lightest of mats at 503grams but it’s not ridiculous either when you consider its a full length mat and it excels in the fact that the Tog rating is a high 4.02. A 4 season rating.

Now i believe that’s a decent spec. and all for the price of £24.99.
I remember my first Thermarest mat which was 3/4 length and not as warm as this one weighed almost a kilo.

The link is here if anyone is interested at all.






Monday, February 3, 2014

My hiking trousers - drying comparison test.

One of the comparative tests I have been meaning to do but never got round to doing until now, is to test the drying times of my 3 season walking trousers.
The point being that they get wet during normal use. Wet grass, crossing streams, sweat, condensation and of course rain and i wanted to see how they performed against each other under the same conditions.

It doesn't matter if they are the best designed trousers in the world if they stay wet overnight in your tent then for me they don't work. The better they dry is equally as important as the features they possess.
So today we had a rare dry day, an ideal testing day in fact.
Ambient temperature at 4 and a breeze of 6 mph. No sun and dry on the ground.

For the test I simply soaked the trousers in cold tap water all at the same time (except 1 pair *) and hung them outside on the washing line.
There's obviously about 1 minute difference between hanging up the first pair and hanging up pair 8, but i’m not bothered about 1 minute for this comparison.
I decided that they were “dry" when the bottom of the trouser leg, the hem area, was dry, as this would be the last part to drip dry.

* (I forgot my Keela Peru trousers which were in my rucksack and so they were hung out just a few minutes later)

The trousers tested are as follows.
1. A very nice designed pair which I bought from GoOutdoors. They are not a name I have come across before. Called Road Map. The material is nylon. Cost £25. Very tough and hard wearing.

2. A pair from Peter Storm. I have worn these quite a bit but lately have been relegated to around the house and garden. Still in good condition considering I have had them around 10 yrs and included here because they are still available. Pockets and zips all good. Cost £30

3. Montane Terra. These are the last model not the current style. Mine have the elasticated and fitted belt. The material is nylon Tactel with cordura reinforcements. Highly regarded by the outdoor community with good reason. Only things I have disliked was the belt and the lack of wallet pocket. Cost £65

4. Rohan Fusion. Good quality walking trouser, classed as a travel trouser by Rohan, with 1 secure front pocket and 1 insecure. 1 button and 1 zipped rear pocket. Material 100% Polyamide micro-canvas.
Cost. £57.

5. Craghoppers Kiwi. The lightweight version. Very nice trousers but lack any secure front pocket but has 1 rear secure pocket.Material 65% Polyester, 35% cotton.
Cost £25.

6. Aldi walking trousers. A simple pair of trousers, light weight and cheap. Cost £10. No front secure pockets. Rear secure pocket. 100% Polyester.

7. Rohan Trailblazers. 88% Polyamide and 12% elastane. Superb designed trousers. Perfect pockets. Everything a walking trouser should be. Feels more like a soft shell.
Cost £65 in sale. RRP £80.

8. Columbia Silver Ridge. A well designed trouser with good pockets and light in weight. Material is 100% Nylon silver ridge ripstop. Cost £40

9. Keela Peru. Nice comfortable trousers. Good pockets with front pocket security and rear wallet pocket. Material is Spandex (elastane). Cost £35



L-R. 1. GoOutdoors Road Map. 2. Aldi Crane. 3. Peter Storm. 4. Montane Terra. 5. Rohan Trailblazer. 6. Rohan Fusion. 7. Craghoppers Kiwi. 8. Columbia Silver Ridge.
The Keela hadn’t been hung on the line when i took the photo.

Ambiant temperature. 4℃.

The Results

Fastest drying by quite a margin are the Rohan Fusion at 2 hours 5 minutes. In my mind, i thought the Montane Terra’s would come first, but no, they came second at 2 hours 53minutes. I didn’t expect the Fusions to be so good. They dried remarkably well.

What also surprised me about the Fusions was that as i pulled them out from the tub of cold water the water ran off them. I checked Rohan’s web site to see if they had been treated with a DWR but the specification says not. Non of the others had a DWR treatment either.

Between my 2 pairs of Rohan’s, the Fusion and the Trailblazers, i expected a far better performance from the Trailblazers which turned out disappointing as i consider these to be a really good design. Considering that the only difference between them is that the Trailblazer are made with 12% elastane added instead of 100% Polyamide. The difference in drying time between the two pairs was 2hrs 3 minutes. The Trailblazers are almost double the length of drying time over the Fusions.

What wasn’t a surprise was the Montane Terra belt area. The trousers dried very well except for this area of the trouser. I am so pleased to see that the latest style Terra’s doesn’t include the semi fixed belt with the awful clip and has now changed to a normal loose belt design. This will enhance the drying period for the waist area because the belt is easily removed. In second place the drying time was excellent.

The Peter Storm trousers. Although the material is the same as the Crag hoppers the material thickness and the amount of double layer fabric is greater on the Peter Storms hence the faster drying of the Craghoppers.

The Keela were very disappointing. Slowest to dry at 5hrs 03minutes. I would never have thought they would be last. Just shows it is worth doing a comparative testing.

So i am now armed with important information about MY kit and which trousers to choose depending on the prevailing conditions or the type of terrain my walk will endure.

I hope some readers will find the info useful and do their own tests too.
Note! (Even Tiso’s, and any contributions or gear to test would be gratefully accepted btw).(See comments on last post to understand why this note has been included.)


All the above trousers were bought and paid for by me and i have no association with any of the company’s listed.




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