All of the kit described below has been used and assessed against my own set of criteria. The reviews are, therefore, very personal in that they are measured against my own needs and preferences as a day-walker and occasional long distance path completer contending with a mix of terrain and conditions throughout the year.

As such they may not be as relevant to backpackers, wild campers and high mountain walkers whose needs, such as extreme light weight or technical performance, might be quite different. Nor are the reviews meant to be highly technical so they don't go into great detail about material specifications, weights, and so forth, just whether they do the job or not.

I will endeavour to follow each one up after some time to say whether my initial findings have altered after significant use.

Lowe Alpine Airzone Centro 35 - £75 – 31/3/11 (Updated 15/8/11)

A little confession here: since my initial review, based on a week of trekking in Spain, I haven’t really used this new bag very much, instead squeezing out a last few trips from my old Walkabout. Not that there was anything wrong with the Centro 35 – far from it – but because there was a bit of life left in the scruffy old one and I’m blessed with a typically Northern desire to extract every last ounce of value from it.

But a recent small group trip to Albania meant showing my pack in public, so out came the Airzone for a second airing.

As outlined in the original review, this is a pretty robust, well-thought-out, technical rucksack with a wealth of features – adjustable back length, hydration bladder pouch, hip belt, air-mesh back system, ice axe/walking pole attachment and loads of pockets for arranging your load, etc, etc, etc. Compression straps helped to cinch the load stable.

But all that really matters is how it works in use, and for me the Centro 35 is a real winner. In case you hadn’t picked up from elsewhere, it was a really hot week with temperatures in the mid-30’s °C. So, at only 1340g empty, the minimal weight was a real boon achieved, in part, by the slimmed-down profile of the webbing straps, buckles and padding. True, it might appear (in absolute terms) a bit heavy for the most committed lightweight exponent, but don’t let this put you off trying it because this pack is well made, has a wealth of features and is very comfortable to carry.

Capacity-wise, it easily fitted in all my day-walking gear – as you would expect from a 35L sack in summer use – with plenty of pockets for organisational purposes. It felt incredibly stable in use and the air-mesh back helped keep things as cool as could be expected under the circumstances. The light-but-firm padding to the shoulder straps, back system and hip-belt were very comfortable at all times, even in the new, stripped down version on offer here.

Most impressive, though, was the way it made the whole load feel so light. I guess this is down to the combination of comfort, stability and balance of the pack.

I was initially very impressed with this sack, scoring it at 18/20. With the benefit of another week of trekking by which to assess it, I am still just as impressed and consider it to be one of the best bits of kit I have bought.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 18/20

Brasher 3 x 3 Sock – £11 – 31/3/11 (Update 1 – 15/8/11)

Looking back at my original review of these socks from earlier this year, I noticed I was quite critical of some aspects of their build and performance. Some was directed at what I consider to be the general industry-wide over engineering of walking socks, and some specifically at this model.

Initially I was relatively pleased with the sock, although I did have concerns about some aspects. On the plus side they appeared to be hard wearing with a high Coolmax content, a lightly-elasticated cuff and flat toe seams, and a suitable thickness for the 3-season claim (although perhaps a bit on the warm side for summer use).

On the downside they were quite heavily elasticated in the main body of the sock and the extra padding on the toe, heel and instep didn’t seem to add any major benefit. The big problem with this is that when worn with a liner sock they grip the liner too tightly and there is no movement possible between the inner and outer pair, which is what is usually considered to prevent blisters. It also makes them difficult to put on without wrinkling the liner.

As Brasher make a liner sock, and so are presumably aware of how these things work, I think it is a significant flaw in the design of the 3 x 3. Coupled with that, my shoe size is 7 and I am testing socks sized 8-10 – they should be plenty big enough, but aren’t.

All of this I commented on after one or two wears. Since then, I have worn them a few more times but I’m afraid my opinion of them hasn’t improved. In fact it has worsened, because – believe it or not – they have shrunk badly in the wash.

I must confess to being very disappointed by Brasher over this, a company whose products have otherwise been pretty good in my experience. It’s a pity the 3 x 3 is so far off the mark – I certainly won’t be buying any more. Thankfully, they were not a particularly expensive mistake.

Originally I gave these 14/20 but I have to say, with the benefit of several months’ wear, that they are probably one of my worst buys of the last few years.

Comfort: 3/10
Performance: 3/10
Overall: 6/20

Lowe Alpine Touring Pant – £20 – 31/3/11 (Update 1 – 12/8/11)

I have a couple of pairs of these that I’ve been using over the summer, a period of some 6 months. So now seems a good time to update my review …..

To recap, I had been looking for a pair of summer-weight long trousers to replace an old Lowe Alpine pair I had that were finally wearing out after some 12 years. I did some checking round and found the Touring Pant was being discontinued, hence the good price for trousers that would normally retail at £40+.

These fairly simple trousers seemed comfortable and tough right from the off, with 3 pockets, an elasticated waist and UPF rating of 50. In the main I was intending these to be for summer use, so a week of trekking in the Accursed Mountains in very hot weather was an ideal chance to assess them in tough conditions.

These trousers are light both in weight (335g) and colour, which suits me fine. I like paler colours for summer clothing, especially as they are more likely to encounter dust rather than mud, and who wants dark fabrics soaking up the heat on a hot day?

Climbing steep hills on hot days I was thankful for both those features, as well as for their overall comfort. Although they come with an elasticated waistband I am inclined to lose weight on trek, especially if it’s hot, and I originally bemoaned the lack of a drawcord adjustment. However, I added a webbing belt which worked perfectly well in allowing a wider range of adjustment.

Despite their light weight the Touring Pants are quite tough and took everything in their stride. The fabric is relatively crease-resistant and looks tidy even when pulled straight from a pack. Wicking/drying performance is very good and I imagine they would wash and dry easily overnight, although I have not tried that yet.

As mentioned before, the Touring Pant is a discontinued line and Lowe Alpine are currently producing no clothing. However, as I write, I understand the Equip Group (owners of Rab) have bought Lowe Alpine, so that situation may be remedied in the near future.

I originally gave these a score of 17/20 and see no reason to alter that at this stage.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 8/10
Overall: 17/20

Meindl Burma Pro MFS - £142 (Update 1 – 12/8/11)

As mentioned in my original review, this is the third pair of Meindl Burmas I have bought. having always been impressed with their comfort, durability and performance. However, each time I have purchased the then-current version of the Burmas they have always been noticeably different from the previous pair.

Much of this is due, I suspect, to the increasing drive for lower weights, something that seems to afflict all products these days, weather beneficial to the product and its use or not. In this respect, I blame the reviewers as much as anyone: they will almost always mark a product down for being “heavy” when most of the time its not, it maybe just weighs a bit more than the next one. It stands to reason, everything can’t be the lightest. So why berate a perfectly good product for the sake of a few grams?

Anyway, I digress. Suffice to say, this version of the Burma is different mainly – as far as I can determine – because it appears to have been engineered to be a lighter boot than before.

One of the Burmas main attributes has always been their legendary comfort, achieved through a combination of build quality, high end materials and plenty of luxurious padding to the cuff, tongue, etc, all of which added weight. So, although I was happy enough when trying the latest version on in the shops, I was keen to establish that the reduction in weight hadn’t led to a reduction in comfort and quality, especially as I had heard some less-than-fulsome reports recently, and these are not a cheap boot.

As mentioned before, I consider boots to be an area of no compromise. Comfort is essential – I know what I want and I’m happy to pay to get it – as is the capability for them to remain so given the variety of walking and terrain I cover.

So, how does the newest version compare? Well, the good thing is they still feel solid and rugged, albeit a bit stiffer than before (which I guess is a reaction to the lighter materials now used) with a distinct 3-season feel, and the sole unit has a nice blend of stiffness and flex. Although they don’t need “breaking in” in the same way boots used to do years ago, I am still wary about relying on “out-of-the-box-comfort” from the outset, and prefer to use them for a few shorter walks first until they have adapted to my feet, and vice versa. This is all I had done in them at the time of the previous review.

Recently, though, I have really put them through their paces on a week’s trekking in Albania. It was very hot (mid 30’s°C or more every day), ascents and descents were steep, and the paths were often loose and/or rocky. All in all quite testing conditions for a pair of boots.

But I have to say they passed the test with flying colours. Of course my feet sweated, but not excessively so given the conditions. The ankle support was fine, the sole gripped as well as could be expected on the loose paths, and the lacing system meant that my toes were not rammed painfully into the front of the boot on steep downhill sections and my heels weren’t skinned on steep uphill climbs. Where others had problems with blisters or sore feet, even with well-worn boots, these were the least of my worries, and I positively looked forward to putting my boots on again each morning. Also, they suffered no ill effects from the constant pummelling on rocky paths – none of the nicks or scratches to the leather often accumulated on Alpine trips.

Of course I have only worn these boots a few times so far, and I expect them to last some time – several years, in fact – so I’ll have to report again in a year or two with a further update. But for now I am very pleased with them and have no reason not to stick with my original score:

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 18/20

Jack Wolfskin Mountain Polo - £28 (Update 1 – 10/8/11)

I have had this shirt for about 1 year now, and having worn it several times on a variety of trips, I have a number of observations to make by way of a follow up to my original review.

Despite my initial enthusiasm, I must confess that it hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations. True, it is comfortable to wear, wicks and breaths well, washes and dries quickly, and feels solidly built, but there are a couple of downsides I have since discovered.

Firstly, it has snagged quite badly. I know that subjecting garments to the rigours of life under rucksack straps and hip-belts is a tough test, but I must confess I had expected more from this shirt.

Secondly, it has faded quite a bit, too, and not particularly evenly. I have noticed this before in other fabrics of a certain green shade – perhaps it is something to do with the dye? – but again I would have expected better from a quality brand and a garment of this price. Granted, it has been subject to a bit of hard wear, abrasion, and the bleaching effects of sweat and sunlight, but other similar shirts have been exposed to the same trials and haven’t suffered in the same way.

So, although the build quality appears high – it still feels like it will take a lot of knocks, the stitching is robust and the zip rugged – the fabric has rather let it down in terms of visual performance. All of which detracts from one of the primary reasons I bought the shirt – that it looks smart enough off the hill to wear in the pub at night on trekking trips. I still think it looks nicer than some body-hugging base-layer (especially on me after a large meal and a couple of pints!) as it fits well and the style – Polo shirt – is a bit better suited to public viewing, but it’s a shame the snagging and fading have let it down.

Originally I gave this 18/20, but I feel I need to noticeably modify this score in the light of the above, bearing in mind as well that at £28 it is quite expensive as such garments go.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 5/10
Overall: 14/20

Blacks Technicals T Shirt - £10 (Update 1 – 5/8/11)

I’ve worn this shirt quite a bit now, and it has become one of my favourites almost without me knowing. I still find it very comfortable to wear: the fabric is light and cool, and for me the fit is just right. It continues to work well as a base layer but has had much more use as a summer T shirt because it does a great job and looks quite good too.

Over the last few months it has really been put through its paces, most recently on a very hot week trekking in Albania. The wicking performance is fine (as good as can be expected given a perspiration overload) and I never got any chills when I stopped walking. It is easy to rinse and dry overnight, looking as if fresh on after just a drip-dry.

Also, quite importantly, it seems to resist snagging/pilling reasonably well, even when worn in conjunction with a heavier pack. OK, a pilled patch has developed in the upper back region under the point at which rucksack straps sit (which seems to happen on all my shirts) but otherwise it still looks quite new. So for £10 (an offer price, admittedly) I consider I’ve got myself a real bargain.

Last time I gave it 16/20 – with the benefit of several months of rugged use I’ve decided to give it an extra mark for performance.

Comfort: 8/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 17/20

Smartwool Hiking Liner Sock – £5 per pair (13/4/11)

I found these on offer in a closing down sale a few weeks back. Having never tried Smartwool before, I thought it was a good opportunity to give them a go.

Firstly, the technical stuff. These socks are made from a blend of 64% Merino Wool, 34% Nylon and 2% Elastic, and are described as a lightweight, non-cushioned, close fitting, sock with a flat toe seam designed to minimise friction and blisters. I have weighed them on my electronic scales at 44g for the pair.

Of course, it’s really all about comfort and performance. Compared to older pairs of man-made fibre liners I have used in the past, they do seem a shade thicker, but they feel nice to wear and the elastic content allows for a close fit – outer socks fit over them without causing rucking.

I’ve only worn them a few times, but I’m pretty impressed. The wicking properties seem excellent and, because of the wool content, they aren’t too whiffy at the end of the day. Feet are dry and comfortable, too.

I’d like to give them a few more walks before making a final judgement, and also see how they come up after being washed a few times, but so far, so good.

Comfort: 8/10
Performance: 8/10
Overall: 16/20

Lowe Alpine Airzone Centro 35 – £75 (31/3/11)

This is another item I purchased over the winter but have only recently decided to use. My previous daysack (an old Lowe Alpine Walkabout 35) is getting very scruffy and beginning to fall to bits. It’s had a lot of wear, been hauled up and down more hills than I can remember, has been scuffed, muddied, half frozen, totally sweated-up and wet through on numerous occasions. I could probably have patched it up with duct tape, but a new one is much nicer. Frankly, the old one owes me nothing.

Lowe Alpine’s Airzone range roughly occupies the same ground as the Walkabout did, but is a much more technical pack. What with Airzone, Airzone Centro, Airzone Centro+ and ND options in a variety of sizes and colours, the range can be a bit confusing, and it is perhaps no surprise that the first package I received from the retailer contained the wrong version! However, a quick phone call and a couple of days later the right pack was duly delivered, and I have been itching to try it ever since.

I have noticed a tendency for reviewers to overlook Lowe Alpine sacks when it comes to discussing lightweight options. Considering this is a 35lt version that does not shirk on useful features, I think the 1340g it comes in at (after I removed the rain cover – I prefer to use dry bags) makes it worth a look for all but the most committed weight-saver. The 8 – 13kg load range means it would easily handle all you might need for daywalks or even a lightweight hut-to-hut trek.

It is very well built using decent quality fabrics and components. The webbing and buckles are narrower and smaller than on older packs, which is probably an improvement, although it takes a bit of getting used to at first. Many pack manufacturers now seem to have opted for this, presumably as a weight-saving measure. The padding (straps, back and hip-belt) is also much less bulky these days, and carefully sculpted to remove excess weight whilst maintaining a comfortable carry. Modern materials and manufacturing methods enable them to do this.

Make no mistake: this bag has a lot of features. Besides the main compartment there are 5 pockets (1 zipped outer lid, 1 zipped inner lid with key clip, 2 large mesh side, 1 front zipped) all of which help with organising the load, plus a front stash pocket for carrying wet gear or a helmet. It has a fully adjustable airflow back system, hip-belt, sternum strap, side entry to the main compartment, ice axe/walking-pole attachment, side compression straps, the aforementioned rain cover and an internal pouch for the addition of a hydration bladder. Like I say, not short on features!

Of course the real test of all of this is in use, and the wide-ranging conditions of my recent Spanish trip provided ample opportunity. I found it a pleasure to carry with the shoulder straps and padding proving very comfortable right from the off, and I found the adjustment of the back system and associated straps and hip-belt made it easy to get a really nice fit. The breathable back system worked fine as well, although warm sunny days were at a premium. In fact I really enjoyed carrying it since it made my usual load seem very light, stable and manageable.

Considering I had not used it before I found no trouble in packing and organising the load – the main compartment being easy to access and plenty large enough for my usual kit, and the array of pockets great for all the small bits and bobs to be both tidy and accessible. The rain cover is stashed in a pocket at the base of the sack – I removed it and used the pocket for further storage. The pouch for the hydration bladder easily swallowed my 2L Platypus Hoser, a small, shielded aperture allowing the tube to pass through to the outside.

Obviously the sack will need much more use before all the plusses and minuses become clear, but first impressions are really good and I am looking forward to using it much more in future. Some might say it has too many features and is a bit fussy and overly complicated, but there are simpler options in the range for those that want them.

On the evidence so far, I would have no qualms about recommending this heartily.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 18/20

Brasher 3 x 3 Sock – £11 (31/3/11)

I bought two pairs of these just before a jaunt to the Sierra de Aitana, and was able to give them a good run out over the course of the week. The diversity of weather encountered proved a good test just about covering the entire spectrum likely to be experienced during an English spring, summer and autumn!

The 3 x 3 is a 3 season sock made from a blend of man-made fibres - 83% Coolmax Polyester, 15% Polyamide and 2% Lycra (Elastane) – and weigh in at around 116g per pair. I know some prefer a woollen sock – or at least one with a high wool content – but I’m not too bothered and prefer the more hard-wearing all synthetic version that are generally easier to care for.

First: the good points. The sock has a nice elasticated cuff, comfortable and not too tight, plus flat toe seams and a carefully constructed, shaped heel that sits well on the foot making for good levels of support and comfort. The weight is about right for the 3 season claim, although I think they will be plenty warm enough for summer.

The overall weave is quite dense too, and has been beefed up a bit in the heel and toe areas, as well as at the front where it will provide cushioning against a hiking boot tongue. Helpfully, they come in a range of 4 sizes so both men and women should be able to find a size that suits.

I have one slight niggle – aside, that is, from my usual complaint of modern hiking socks being too technical and over-engineered (it seems almost impossible to get a simple, quality sock these days). I always prefer to wear two pairs of socks – as do many walkers – with a close fitting pair of lightweight liners under a slightly looser, thicker outer pair. This, I think, helps to prevent blisters.

As there is a liner sock in the Brasher range, presumably they are au fait with this idea, too, but I feel the elastication round the ankle and instep is a little too tight to allow them to be easily put on without rucking the inner sock, and I feel I have to be very, very careful when putting them on so as not to get a wrinkle in the liner. And I should point out that I take a size 7 shoe, so the sizing I have (which is size 8 - 10) should be plenty big enough, but isn’t.

In conclusion, I haven’t let the over-technicality become and issue and they are, in many ways, a pretty good sock.

Comfort: 7/10
Performance: 7/10
Overall: 14/20

Lowe Alpine Touring Pant – £20 (31/3/11)

I’d been looking for a replacement for an old pair of lightweight, summer trousers that had given me years of service and were finally falling apart. This range was being discontinued and on offer at a good price, so I thought I’d give them a go.

The Touring Pant is a fairly simple pair of trousers weighing in at approximately 335g (size L). Made from Lowe Alpine’s Desertweave Nylon fabric, features include a zip and button fastening, an elasticated waistband with belt loops, a keyring loop and 3 pockets. The fabric is lightweight but durable and wicking, with a UPF rating of 50, and look quite tough given their light weight – a definite plus when pushing through patches of scrubby heather or maquis. Another plus point for me is the choice of pale colours – so much better suited to the warm conditions for which these are intended.

In use they proved very comfortable, with the size L just about right for my 35” waist. The fabric is packable, crease-resistant and non-iron, which is great for backpacking, and the trousers look good enough for the bar or restaurant at night when pulled from the rucksack. My one gripe – and it is only a minor gripe – is that I prefer to have a drawcord adjustment as well as the elasticated waist. It makes them so much more adaptable when losing weight on a long, hot trek!

Having tested them on a recent holiday to Spain they have been subjected to a wide range of climactic conditions already. The wicking/drying performance is very good – as well as coping admirably in warm conditions they dried very quickly after getting wet in drizzly rain, and never felt cold. Although not yet tried, I imagine they would wash and dry readily overnight – again, very useful for backpacking trips – and I shall be investigating this on my next multi-dayer.

So far, so good, then, for the Touring Pant. I will update this review in a while when I have had more chance to put them through their paces.

As mentioned, these are a discontinued line. On investigation, it appears that Lowe Alpine are not producing any clothing for the 2011 season, which seems odd given the popularity of their jackets and tops. So no similar product can be suggested as an alternative. Hopefully, this situation will be put right for 2012 onwards.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 8/10
Overall: 17/20

Meindl Burma Pro MFS - £142

This is the third pair of Meindl Burma’s I have bought, having been impressed from the start with their comfort, durability and performance. Admittedly, they are not a cheap boot, but their typical German build quality and comfort has always won me over and I reckon that, over their lifetime, a few pence per week outlay is a small price to pay for a quality product. For me, boots really are an area of no compromise, and I have always preferred leather, as opposed to fabric, as I believe they better suit the type of terrain we cover.

I bought my first pair perhaps ten years-or-so ago, since which time the model has been tweaked to account for modern trends and the current drive for lighter footwear. The modern version is much less chunky than those of ten years ago, weighing in at 1656g for a pair of size 8½, but they feel solid and rugged, and the legendary comfort still there. The boot has a nubuck leather upper with a Gore-tex lining and a Vibram Multigriff sole unit, has a good combination of stiffness and flex.

The boot is designed for walking – such as day walks, LDPs, hill walking, low-level mountain hikes and easy high-mountain trekking – and, although not crampon compatible, is supportive, and has a nice rolling action more suited to a walking boot than a stiff-soled climbing boot.

I took these out for the first time today, a gentle warm up just to get used to them and to begin the process of moulding the MFS memory foam to my foot shape. They don’t need breaking in as such, but it’s always worth a couple of quick trips to get used to them before committing to a long route.

In short, these should again be ideal for most circumstances in which I intend to use them, ie: UK walking (apart from full-on winter trips), LDP’s and easier mountain trekking below the snowline.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 18/20

Jack Wolfskin Mountain Polo - £28 

I bought this shirt earlier this year (Summer 2010) as a tough but decent-looking polo with all the attributes necessary for walking but also smart enough to wear off the hill, for example when eating out.

The Mountain Polo has the understated but smart look of a classic, regular fit polo shirt – complete with short sleeves and a tidy collar – and features a zip neck rather than the more traditional button fastening. Made from Jack Wolfskin’s own 100% Polyester pique fabric with QMC (Quick Moisture Control) it feels reassuringly robust and capable of taking anything you can throw at it. At 185g it is not especially light but certainly not heavy either, and feels as though it will give years of good hard-wearing service. Again, I tested this shirt during on a fortnight’s holiday in the Swiss Alps, during which time a broad range of weather conditions was experienced.

In use, the Mountain Polo is comfortable to wear with judiciously placed flatlock seams that don’t dig in even under a pack. The pique fabric has a pleasant, cotton-like feel and the waffle texture makes it very breathable. The wicking properties are good, too, and the shirt dried quickly so I never found myself getting cold. It also meant it was easily rinsed and dried overnight and, with no ironing required, was ready for action next morning. You can pull it from your pack with no discernable creases as well, which makes it great for multi-day trips, and it doesn’t appear to get unduly smelly either.

Although the polo is definitely designed as a single layer for summer use it also worked well as a baselayer under a fleece or waterproof shell, retaining its breathability and not becoming clammy. On warmer days it remained cool to wear, the zip modifying ventilation and the collar firm enough to turn up to protect the back of the neck – useful on hot, sunny days at altitude.

In summary, this is a good top for summer use: great for day walks, but which really comes into its own during a holiday or a multi-day trip when its robust build, smart looks and easy care performance make it a versatile garment from which I anticipate years of wear. In short, everything I hoped it would be.

Comfort: 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Overall: 18/20

Blacks Technicals T Shirt - £10 

I picked this up for about £10 in the sales at the end of last summer but have only recently got round to using under walking conditions. The Technicals range still forms a central part of Black’s own range. I’m not sure of the model name (there is no info on the shirt) but there seems to be a similar version still available.

Firstly, the shirt is very comfy to wear: light and cool to the touch, with a not-too-close fitting crew neck that is ideal for summer walking. It is made from a 100% Polyester fabric with flatlock seams, similar to many shirts of this type, but is not prone to snagging like other shirts do even under a rucksack hip-belt, which is a real bonus especially as it is quite a smart looking garment.

I used this shirt during a fortnight walking in the Swiss Alps and a couple of other weekends, both as a base layer and as an outer garment, during which time it has been tested in a variety of conditions. It worked well both as a Summer T shirt and a baselayer in cooler conditions and under a waterproof. Wicking performance is good, it will rinse and dry easily overnight, requires no ironing and the anti-bacterial treatment means it doesn’t smell if you need to wear it more than once between washes, so it’s ideal for multi-day trips. Sweat dries quickly too, when in use, so no chance for chills to develop either.

In conclusion, this is a surprisingly good bit of kit that has uses all year round, is easy to look after, comfortable and looks smart too.

Comfort: 8/10
Performance: 8/10
Overall: 16/20

Marmot Precip Jacket - £60

I bought this jacket last year when I was looking for a lightweight waterproof hardshell for Summer/warm weather use that would, with luck, spend much of the time in my rucksack but would come in handy in case of a shower. As such I was looking for something packable and lightweight with a few basic features and a moderate price tag, and a bit of research threw up the Marmot Precip jacket.

Reviews had been a bit mixed - those from the UK were generally much more favourable than the US equivalents - but I decided to give it a go. First off, it is made from Marmot’s own waterproof, breathable fabric rather than a branded one, hence the appealingly low price. At around 370g it is light enough to carry in case of that unexpected shower and packs up small, yet it boasts an impressive array of features such as a Velcro’d double storm flap, taped seams, pit zips, a roll-up adjustable hood and high-level mesh-lined pockets, plus cuff and hem adjustment.

I tested the jacket during a summer fortnight in the Swiss Alps plus a couple of other weekends, subjecting it to a variety of conditions – often in the same day – and I’m pleased to report it handled things pretty well. The mesh pockets, pit zips and Velcro’d storm flap gave a variety of venting options that worked well in warm conditions. The jacket was comfortable enough worn just over a T shirt but had sufficient room for a microfleece top or a thin fleece jacket when things got a bit cooler, with good freedom of movement. The high level pockets allowed easy access when wearing a rucksack hip-belt, and the mesh lining helps reduce weight and improve breathability.

When the rain did come, the Precip coped pretty well. True, in some of the heavier downpours, it was not 100% reliable and some water ingress occurred, but this could have just as easily been through the openings as through the fabric. Higher specification, more expensive jackets might be better suited to such conditions. Otherwise it did the job just fine during light rain and showers and dried quickly afterwards, which was what I wanted it for, and it also worked quite well as a windproof layer if called upon.

There were one or two very minor niggles: the hood was a bit floppy and only rolled up rather than stowing in the collar – presumably done to help to keep the weight and price down – and I wonder just how robust the inner fabric might be in the longer term.

Generally, though, I think this is quite an impressive jacket for the money and you might be hard pressed to get anything much better for 2 or 3 times the price. I wouldn’t rely on it in a storm – it’s not up to that - but as a packable, lightweight waterproof for summer conditions it performs admirably.

Performance: 8/10
Overall: 16/20

Berghaus Tech T Zip Neck Short Sleeve - £15

This is a shirt I bought clearance around a year ago but have only recently got round to using in earnest, so these comments need qualifying in that they may well relate to an older model.

The Tech T range still forms a central part of the Berghaus collection although there doesn’t appear to be a short sleeve version of the zip neck model in the current range. Interestingly the Tech T’s are listed under the “Base Layers” section as opposed to “Shirts & Tees” on the website.

The Tech T is fairly comfortable to wear (although nothing special in this department) and features flat seam construction. The Polyester fabric feels slightly thicker than some in similar products although with the same potential for snagging. I used this shirt during a fortnight walking in the Swiss Alps and a couple of other weekends, both as a base layer and as an outer garment, during which time it has been tested in a variety of conditions.

The zip neck version has a high collar and a long zip for ventilation which provides one of the main irritations – unless the zip is fully done up the collar is quite floppy and sits untidily round the neck. In fact, the whole design of the garment seems more suited to a cooler weather base layer than a Summer T shirt although the range is definitely marketed for multi-season use. This is confirmed by the rather uninspiring look of the shirt.

In use the shirt is quite comfortable to wear, will just about rinse and dry overnight given reasonable drying conditions and requires no ironing. Wicking performance is nothing special - in fact my other main gripe is that the fabric holds on to moisture to the extent that after excercise the shirt becomes chilly to wear, not ideal in a base layer - but it manages to remain reasonably smell-free after use.

In conclusion, this is a top I will be able to make use of but, because of a couple of significant flaws, will pick carefully what conditions I choose to use it in.

Comfort: 6/10
Performance: 5/10
Overall: 11/20

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