31 March 2014

FEATURE: The Great Outdoors

Far Trek.

There's a whole lot of world out there, and being stuck beyond a keyboard for the majority of our lives, we decided to get out there and see some of it. But, being the namby-pamby inside boys that we are, we needed some proper hi-tech kit before facing the wilds. And so we gathered together a selection of outdoor wear to keep us safe, warm and looking out usual cool selves, while out braving the worst nature has to offer.

And so, to outdoor types and tech-packed clothing junkies alike, may we present some fine apparel from Helly Hansen and Cotswold Outdoors.


Helly Hansen Enigma Jacket

One group of people who certainly know a thing or two about keeping out chill air are the Scandinavians. Producers of fine ski and outdoor wear, Helly Hansen are certainly a name to be trusted when considering trekking and camping kit. We were sent one of their signature products, the Enigma Jacket, and discovered that it has more uses than just keepping snowboarders warm and dry.

By far the most advanced piece of clothing we've ever tested, the Enigma looked and felt like something the astronauts on the ISS might have on stand-by in case one of their spacesuits sprang a leak. The jacket features everything you might need while outdoors in less than hospitable conditions, while also managing to keep a smart and minimalist design.

The most interesting feature of the Enigma Jacket is the use of H2Flow technology, by which your temperature is easily regulated and actually allows you control how the jacket cools or insulates. Check this out:

The Enigma also includes a multitude of useful pockets (including a ski pass lanyard), a zippable skirt to attach the jacket to trousers, an adjustable, removable hood, hand warming inner sleeves and waterproof zips all over. But, despite all that, the Enigma Jacket is surprisingly light and flexible making it perfect for sports, climbing and chasing down the last bus of the night.


Helly Hansen H2Flow Jacket
If you like the sound of the H2Flow technology featured in the Enigma Jacket, but don't fancy both the price and extra insulation, why not try the Helly Hansen H2Flow Jacket? Described as a mid-layer jacket, the H2Flow is a lightweight coat that features all the clever design and technology of the same system included with the Enigma, but in a jacket that can be easily popped on for a quick walk around town.

The H2Flow Jacket feels extremely light, and you are very aware of the "negative space" optimised by the temperature regulating system. open up the jacket and you can see the netting layers and holes - something harder to make out with the Enigma. Still, it's a snug fit and comes in some pretty bright colours (we were sent what is appropriately described as 'Bright Orange').

Although most of the YKK zips on the H2Flow open to reveal the ventilation slits, you do still get some pockets which are very useful. We found it worked best on a moderate day when the sun was shining but with an icy chill to the air. Fortunately, because it is so thin, the Helly Hansen H2Flow Jacket folds up pretty neatly and can be stored in your pack until you need it.


Rab Xiom Jacket

Looking to some home-grown talent now, we happily received the Rab Xiom Jacket from Cotswold Outdoors, purveyors of some excellent adventuring gear. Whereas the Enigma Jacket was all about keeping warm, this offering from Rab is at the very cutting edge of staying dry.

Light as a feather and easily folded up and packed away, the Xiom is the kind of jacket any serious walker should take on a rough amble through the British countryside as it is perfect for changeable weather. The skin of the Xiom is a Pertex 3-layer fabric which makes it water and wind proof, while retaining breathability. And, despite the thinness of the coat, it is fantastically good at keeping you warm.

While out on our trek we found that the Xiom was the perfect jacket for a walk around in unpredictable weather. On, the Xiom feels oddly thicker than it actually is, offering fairly good insulation, while off the Xiom rolled up tight and stowed away easily. We were particular fans of the jacket's hood which can not only accommodate a helmet, but has a wired, flexible peak and adjustable toggles. If it rains heavily, just pop it on and tighten it up... hey presto, you're dry!

All the pockets feature YKK watertight zips and are in positions to best keep things like maps and GPS gadgets handy. Great for the wild moors of Scotland and also for a rainy walk home from work.


Available from www.cotswoldoutdoor.com

Meindl Bhutan MFS Boots

It's all very well throwing on the outer layers to keep you warm and dry, but you'll soon catch your death if you slog through the Peak District in your bare feet. That is why we searched for a pair of boots that were not only hard-wearing and waterproof, but also looked pretty cool for stomping to the shops in. We found them in the Bhutan MFS Boots from Meindl.

Tough and solid looking, the Meindl Bhutans are perfect for those trekking anywhere they might encounter uneven surfaces and water... so Britain, basically. Made from leather and rubber, we've never put our feet into something so comfortable yet so mean looking. And trust us, we put our feet in it a lot.

The Bhutan Boots feature a Gore-Tex lining for added water resistance and comfort, while running the entire base of the boot is a rubber rand to keep out water from the deepest of puddles. Around the ankle (where high boots like these always used to get us) you'll find Memory Foam padding to mould to your feet. Yes, Memory Foam - the substance in your bed. For that alone we stand amazed, dreamily applauding Meindl.

With a fantastic grip, we found the boots were absolutely brilliant while in the roughest of outdoor conditions. There were times when our feet were completely submerged for a few seconds, and yet not a drop of moisture found its way through the Bhutans. Once home we discovered that all the mud we had spent the weekend adding to the boots soon dried up and fell off, and after a quick scrub down the Meindl Bhutan MFS Boots look as good as new.

So put your best foot forward and buy 'em.


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