The Summer Essentials Guide
Summer 2017 will probably go down with many UK dwellers as a mixed bag of sunshine and showers. It has been a time to be flexible in the places you go and the activities you choose. Hopefully, though, adding some flexibility into your adventures hasn’t been a negative - variety is the spice after all!
For us, it has been a great summer. Loads of mountain biking has meshed well with paddle boarding, climbing and scrambling. We’ve camped and stayed in huts and we’ve been at home and abroad. We’ve certainly tested the waterproofs at times over the last few months, but I will look back at a summer that has provided plenty of opportunities.
That is opportunities for adventures….but also opportunities for testing. Several months ago we asked various suppliers and companies to send us something that we could test out and we ended up with an eclectic mix of products. We were actually impressed with everything that was sent to us which shows, as we would expect, that we all have great equipment available to us nowadays.
However, at the risk of this being a very long blog post, we’ve decided to pick our top choices for your consideration. So, here it is. The Peak Mountaineering Summer Essentials Guide hits the internet. Happy adventures from us to you……
Primus Essentials Stove Set
I like simplicity…and so I really like the Primus Essentials Stove Set. Primus have created a stylish and compact all in one unit that is simple to use and performs really well. The stove runs off gas cartridges and the burner unit is cleverly incorporated into the windshield which makes it exceptionally stable and the shield also protects the burner in blustery conditions.
The unit comes with two 1.3 litre pans and a lid/frying pan with non stick coating. There is also a pan grip and storage bag. The unit all fits together neatly and there is everything you need for summer cooking. We’ve happily used it for four people but Primus do also make a larger one with 2.3 litre pans which would suit larger groups.
The pans provided work brilliantly with the stove but Primus have designed the stove to also be used with just about any pan you choose. It is a great set and, at a retail price of around £80, we reckon it represents excellent value for money.
Coleman Kickback Breeze Chair
You get back to your campsite from a day at the crag, beach or hill and its time to kickback with a beer. Every camper needs a comfy and well constructed apres activity chair and the appropriately named Coleman Kickback Breeze chair is definitely both.
It is a stylish chair that folds quickly and efficiently to fit into the included bag and it is, once folded, quite compact to carry. At 2.5kg it isn’t a particualrly lightweight option, but it is fine for its intended car camping role and the weight does means it won’t easily blow away on a typical breezy British campsite. The chair has a built in carry handle and seatback pocket plus a mesh ventilating back panel. It’s a great camp chair and has been very welcome on many camp nights this summer. It is also very good value at around £25.
Nikwax BaseFresh and BaseWash
Our favourite proofing brand is 40 years young this year. That’s 40 years of producing the best garment and footwear care products while also taking great care to protect the natural environment. We wholeheartedly endorse Nikwax for their enviro credentials, but above all rate them because we think their products work superbly.
We currently have a Peak Mountaineering test team that are trying out BaseFresh and BaseWash, but we have now used them for several months too and know they work really well.
BaseFresh can, very conveniently, be added to a normal washing machine load to significantly benefit your baselayers. It offers many benefits including deodorising and maintaining freshness, revitalising wicking and breathability along with helping to dry garments faster.
Basewash is best used when you have a full wash load of synthetic base layers. You can use it neat as a prewash to treat stubborn stains or load the washing machine with base layers and use 50ml of BaseWash in place of your regular detergent. It offers the same benefits as BaseFresh.
They are great products and we’ll have some to give away soon in an upcoming Peak Mountaineering Friendly Friday Giveaway. In the meantime, BaseFresh and BaseWash both cost around £4.00 for a 300ml bottle.
Goal Zero Flip 20 Battery
I use my iPhone a lot and, especially if I’m using it as a camera as well as for communicating, my battery struggles to last. The Goal Zero Flip 20 has easily solved that problem and become a permanent travel accessory.
Goal Zero are another company that I value massively for their ethical and environmental stance. They also make great products and, again, that’s essential too. The Flip 20 is a 5200mah battery weighing only 130grams and offering up to 2 full smartphone charges.
It can be used with solar panels and features a flip down USB for and easy link to a plug socket or USB port. It also features a charge level indicator and through charge capability which allows users to charge the unit and a connected appliance at the same time. You can find the Flip 20's online or in retailers for around £35.
Luci Light Solar Lantern
These ingenious solar lanterns were unknown to us only a few months ago, but now they feel like a trusted friend that has been around for ever! A Luci Light is a compact solar powered lamp that squashes to only an inch thickness for storage, but then expands to form a compact lamp to brighten every camp site.
We have been using the Outdoor 2.0 model which is waterproof, has a few brightness settings (low, bright, super bright and flashing) and an adjustable strap so it can be attached to just about anything - but like all Luci Lights it still works completely from solar energy.
The Luci will run for up to 18 hours from a full charge and they are surprisingly bright. Even better, the company that make them (Mpowered) is on a mission to provide lighting sources to millions around the world living without electricity - another ethical company that is doing great things. Luci Lights cost around £25.
Patagonia Lightweight Capliene Baselayers
Patagonia Capilene has been my baselayer fabric of choice for decades and my favourite is their lightweight model. It breathes brilliantly, wears well and is very comfortable. However, like many synthetic baselayers, it did have a tendency to start getting ponging with use.
Fortunately, Patagonia have now started treating their Capilene fabrics with Polygiene - and so, quite simply, the best base layers have now got even better. Polygiene is a bacteria inhibiting permanent treatment that we have raved about lots of times (read about the Polygiene Challenge I undertook here) it really has revolutionised the ponginess levels of synthetic fabrics.
As for the other features of the Patagonia Capilene T’s I’ve been using, they are perfect baselayers. Stripped back to basics and yet cut superbly, constructed meticulosuly and stylish enough for general use. They are also good value at about £35 for the short sleeve model.
Katadyn Be Free Water Filter
My hydration preference on mountain days is simple - I like to take a minimal amount of water and plan to top up as I pass streams or other watercourses. This minimises my pack weight and can save a stack of carried weight.
The Katadyn Be Free is a compressible bag with a filter built into the cap. Users just fill up the bottle and then drink as normal. The water travelling through the filter makes it drink safe. Simple, but very very effective.
What I have learnt to love most about the Be Free is its compactness, it’s very low weight and its robustness. It has survived being packed in a rucksack with climbing equipment and has a great flow rate so drinking out of it is as easy as from any bottle or bladder. It has completely changed my drinking strategies in the mountains and I think it’s great value at about £35.
Hydroflask Beer Growler
Now for a hydration vessel of a completely different kind! A Beer Growler, I’ve come to learn, is a purpose made vessel for storing and transporting beer - perfect for camping and picnics.
Regular readers of the blog will know that Peak Mountaineering has had a long relationship with Hydroflask and so it was no surprise that their Beer Growler was typically stylish and the usual excellent quality construction. It was down to seeing how it would keep beer ready to drink (not a test I minded undertaking at all!).
My local pub obliged by topping the growler up with Farmer’s Blonde Ale (a local favourite) straight from the tap. We sealed it up and, after a few hours, headed to enjoy sunset on MamTor. Good old Hydroflask - the beer was perfect. The growler keeps it at a perfect temperature and the sealed container also ensures it stays fresh and aerated. Beer growlers rock! Of course, a growler can be used for other liquids too! The 64oz growler we tested costs about £45.
Coleman CXS+ Headtorch
I like Coleman products. The ones we’ve used have been cleverly designed and offer great value for money. They make great general purpose equipment for those not wanting to spend a fortune. The CXS+ fits this category exactly - for the CXS+ you'll only pay about £40 (and we found them much cheaper than that with some online searching).
The CXS+ delivers big on features. It has 250 lumens maximum brightness, an innovative locking system which fully disconnects the battery to ensure maximum battery life, a KineSix system which allows adjustment simply by waving a hand across the sensor and the Coleman Reax sensor which automatically adjustments light output according to the distance to objects. Finally, the CXS+ is designed to be rugged enough for an active outdoor life.
All in all, this is a very comprehensive package that performs as well as I could have hoped. Full marks to Coleman.
Nikwax UV Solar Proofing
Ultra violet rays are not the friend of coated synthetic fabrics. The UV both destroys the water repellency and also leads to a reduction in fabric tear strength. Both of which significantly shorten the lifespan of the fabric.
Nikwax say that their Tent & Gear SolarProof can as much as double the effective life of equipment by protecting against UV damage while also providing durable water repellency (DWR) to keep the rain out.
The product is best sprayed on new fabrics but it can still be used once fabrics are used (fabrics should be cleaned first). It is easy to apply and, given the cost of new products, doubling the life of your valuable synthetics makes perfect sense. We’ve been proofing like crazy this summer - it gets quite addictive! A 500ml bottle costs around £7 and that's great value compared to the price of a new tent!
Aquapac Whanganui and Trailproof Electronics Cases
We have been long term users of Aquapac products and consider them the gold standard for waterproof and protective cases. Their Whanganui and Trailproof range offers options for protecting a whole range of items and over the summer we’ve used their iPad Trailproof and Whanganui large electronics cases.
The Trailproof iPad case is made from really durable plastic (although the iPad touchscreen can still be used when it is in the case) and seals with a roll top velcro seal. The Whanganui large electronics case seals with a clamp closure seal. We can’t deny that we like the clamp seal most, but both methods offer a secure and trust inducing seal that will protect your treasured items from water, sand and dust.
Over the summer these cases have had trips to the beach and one joined us on a multi day paddle board river trip. As expected, they have both performed faultlessly. The Trailproof iPad case costs about £25 and the Whanganui costs about £30.
Smith Optics Highwire Sunglasses
Everyone needs a good pair of sunglasses (or several!) and over the summer I've been testing a great pair. I've used Smith ski goggles before but this is the first time I've tried some of their shades. In this case it was some of their Highwires.
Firstly, they are a really stylish pair of glasses (l like to call them my rock star shades!) that fit well and, I would say, suit medium to larger faces. Smith list these in their lifestyle range and, although they could be happily used for sports, they are certainly a great option for everyday use too. They are also, as you’d expect for Smith products, really well made.
Beyond the styling, though, the Highwire’s also feature some great tech in the form of Smith’s ChromaPop technology. This is a polarising process designed to enhance clarity and natural colour which in turn lets users see more detail. I was intrigued to see how well this worked and, although I can only offer a comparison conclusion when compared with other glasses I had available, the Highwires really do offer great visual clarity. They have become my go too glasses. The Highwires cost around £90 and come with a smart hard case (essential for outdoor use).
Tent Meals Dehydrated Meals
Summer adventures need quality nutrition and the superb value Tent Meals I've been using are a great option. They are simple to prepare (just add boiling water), extremely nutritious (all the options currently available are vegan meals) and, crucially, having tried all the range I can say they taste yummy.
The range currently comprises a selection of main courses, several breakfast options and a range of snack products - there is plenty of choice to feed your outdoor playtime. If you fancy Indian there is the Almond Jalfrezi or for a Moroccan style try Moroccan Mango. When you want breakfast you could consider, for example, Blueberry Burst or the yummy Super Seed and Red Berry. There are even trail snacks like my favourite Choc and Nut Jumble. Main meals cost around £4.50 and breakfasts are £3.80.
We’ll have a full review of Tent Meals coming soon and also an upcoming Peak Mountaineering Tent Meals giveaway. Watch this space.
Thermarest ZLite Sol Camping Mat
I love inflatable mats and, for many of my adventures, choose a Thermarest Neo Air. However, there are some times when I want the reliability, simplicity and durability of a foam mat. My favourite, without question, is the Thermarest ZLite Sol.
The Zlite folds up in a z pattern which minimises bulk. They also, being simple closed cell foam, are incredibly durable. Finally, they are comfortable to sleep on without waking up feeling like you have done a few rounds with Mayweather!
I also love the Sol because, by adding a bonded silver foil layer, the mat performs especially well in very cold weather conditions. The Sol is a great option for general outdoor use and will last many years. The regular length costs about £35.
Posted by Paul
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