"Of These Wild Woods" - Kit Reviews For Blacks.co.uk

I’m often asked about my favourite wild corners of the landscape to spend a night under canvas. After a scratch of the two-day stubble and wistful gaze into the distance I usually struggle with a definitive answer. I battle between Snowdonias quieter western border where the mountains meet the sea or the jagged peaks that cradle Loch Lurgainn up in North West Scotland. Each location occupies a truly wild corner of my heart and somehow satisfies a quieter more reflective side of my nature. They also can be brutal and demand that you are prepared for what Mother Nature has in store.

In the past I’ve walked the entire length of the Outer Hebrides Islands, crossed frozen pack ice in Greenland and canoed 2000 miles of the Yukon River. Where mental, physical and logistical preparations are key, kit and clothing choices play a huge role in the success and enjoyment of any adventurous journey. Whether on a narrow mountain ridge or an ancient woodland trail we want to be comfortable and equipped. Wherever you go, some sound clothing prep and foreknowledge of local weather conditions should keep you at the very least adapted and ready for whatever challenge comes along.

With that in mind I recently partnered with Blacks, the UK’s leading outdoor retailer, to road test some of their newest items of clothing. Part of Blacks approach as well as their sound product knowledge is getting live on the ground testing and feedback of their kit. To me, this is what suppliers should be doing and is what sets them apart in the UK marketplace.

On the backseat of my 4 X4 I had an Osprey Talon 44 rucksack, a super lightweight Berghaus waterproof shell, a Mountain Equipment Astron Hoody and a Berghaus Cairngorm 2 tent. I had two days off and I wanted a short sharp hit of wildness. I decided to drop into a deep wooded pocket of the Cotswolds, a valley bowl that overlooked the Severn Estuary and the fringes of Wales.

On the pack front, the Osprey Talon 44 is one of the top technical over night packs out there. It’s light, nimble and super comfortable even when loaded heavy. The Osprey design teams always pay attention to the small details that matter – The toggle whistle on the shoulder straps, the updated airscape back pad to effectively circulate air and the continuous and smooth hip belt. These made a huge overall difference to the comfort of my journey. For me the real key additions are the trekking pole attachments and the floating lid for extra capacity. This will become my go to overnight pack.

Beneath the Talon I wore the Mountain Equipment Astron Hoody in a deep red over a standard t-shirt. My initial thoughts were that this appeared to be a multi-use spacious soft shell with a crossover sporty appeal. The two Polartec fabrics provided sound windproof ability on the high ground and I felt protected by its weatherproof DWR (durable water repellency) when the drizzle threatened. One of my big plus points were the 3 adjustment options for the hood, the smooth inner fleece fabric and its overall light weight. This is a great 3-season jacket, especially for those running the trail.

As the afternoon weather darkened and began to drizzle it was time to turn to the Berghaus Fastpacking Waterproof Shell in vibrant blue. I wasn’t sure what to make of this jacket as I held it and moved it between my fingers. The material is so fine, the product so light. As I slipped this over my lightweight down jacket it felt secure and snug, an impenetrable barrier. I found it amazing how this packed so small and packed such a waterproof punch. If a tough multi day jacket is what you’re after I’d probably go for a hard shell, yet for backpacking and a day in the mountains I wouldn’t look any further than the Berghaus Fast shell, it’s a key component to a short lightweight adventure.

As dusk landed I’d found my hidden hilltop. With 360-degree view of the valley, I pulled out the Berghaus Cairngorm 2 tent. At 3.7kg it could be considered a fraction heavy for the solo light back packer or wild camper. Having said, for an adventurous duo, this is certainly a tent to consider. The four colour coded poles were easy to assemble even in low light. Once in and the cross poles pinned the tent takes shape instantly and effortlessly. Once pegged and clipped down I noticed the feature of glow in the dark guy-lines, a thoughtful and brilliant idea. The tents dual entry at its nose and spacious porch makes kit storage well away from the inner sanctuary. What I found impressive was how rock solid this tent was; I’d certainly feel safe in tough weather. All in all first time pitch was around 10 minutes. A two-person adventure cave for under £150? This is certainly worth a serious look.

For more information and to purchase the above items please visit www.blacks.co.uk