Outdoor gear reviews

February 25th, 2009

Outdoor gear is quite tricky to buy. You can go into a smart shop and spend a lot of money and come out with a lot of wizzy technical gear, but how much better is it than what you can get more cheaply? Conversely, if you get something cheap, will it actually perform, or will it let you down when you need it?

This post is a general public service aimed at recommending a few products I’ve tried and found to be worth having.

Marigold Industrial KT2 gloves
Marvellous, marvellous things, these. I first encountered them when I was issued two pairs in my Antarctic kitbag – and wondered at these odd little thin gloves in their plastic packet. They were a godsend. The gloves are soft, thin and warm, but their big win is the sheer dexterity. With these gloves on, you can carry on doing tasks that would otherwise need bare hands – I can send text messages, tie my shoelaces and (useful down south) fasten and unfasten a karabiner without taking them off. Down south we used them as a liner glove under a pair of big mittens or gloves, but here in the UK they’re great just on their own. On the boat I use them for working on the engine in cold weather!

They appear to come from the food industry (I’m guessing for workers in cold stores) and are so cheap as to be practically disposable. Bought in bulk they will cost less than £3 a pair. The weave is designed not to unravel, so if you snag them you get a hole but no further damage. They are one-size-fits-all and fit on either hand. I bought mine from McCormick Tools.

Glacier Glove Kenai neoprene gloves
These are a recent acquisition. Cycling in the rain is never terribly pleasant, and is made all the worse if your gloves absorb water. The KT2s are worse than average in this respect (so if using them out on the hills, take several pairs, they’re cheap enough!) and so I usually have a pair of waterproof gloves for wet days. Years ago I’d bought a neoprene pair from Halfords, but they were stiff and awkward, and back before Christmas I managed to drop one of them in the river on a windy morning, whereupon it drifted off towards the sea. Whilst trawling the web looking for an alternative, I happened upon a forum for window-cleaners with various squeegee-merchants discussing the merits of gloves. Now, here are some people who use waterproof gloves daily, I thought! I eventually settled on the Kenai glove (which is listed on GlacierGlove.com as the “competitive all-purpose neoprene glove”) and bought some. They’re good – very flexible, much more so than other neoprene gloves I’ve used. They’re obviously not quite as good as the KT2s, but I can still fasten my bike panniers and helmet and operate my bike lock with them on, which is excellent. I suspect that on cold wet days I’d want a pair of KT2s underneath, but they’re otherwise excellent value at £18 a pair including shipping and VAT.

RUD Bergsteiger boot chains
Another discovery from the Antarctic, and another excellent product that deserves wider attention. These are a chain that fits over your boots or shoes to give extra grip and traction on hard snow and ice. They were massively popular with my wintering colleagues, and having tried a pair out in the UK I can vouch for the fact that they work well on snow-covered pavements and on icy footpaths on Scottish hillsides. I would go as far as to say that for Scottish conditions they are considerably more useful than crampons (although obviously crampons are better when you have proper snow/ice cover) on gentle slopes and paths. Having once seen two Scottish walkers put crampons on to walk two miles down an icy forest trail to get back to their car (resulting in blunted crampons and the risk of tripping over on ice-covered rock) I would heartily recommend anyone walking on snow/ice/slush to splash out twenty quid on a pair of these.

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