What goodies will your outdoor fan find under the Christmas tree? Photo: Bob Smith/grough

What goodies will your outdoor fan find under the Christmas tree? Photo: Bob Smith/grough

December is now upon us, so we think it’s safe to mention the c-word now.

What to buy the outdoor fanatic who already has a cupboard full of clothing and gear?

We’ve scoured the outdoor retail world to try out some goodies that we think will bring a smile to that fan of the great outdoors who finds them under the tree on Christmas morning.

Outdoor Research Overdrive Convertible Gloves. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Outdoor Research Overdrive Convertible Gloves. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Outdoor Research Overdrive Convertible Gloves
Price: £45
Weight: 52g a pair

A good pair of gloves is essential for trips to the hill. These OR gloves are an interesting design, featuring an extra mitt to provide further warmth when things cool down.

The main glove is stretchy softshell with a fleece-type nosewipe section on the back of the thumb. The thumb and index finger have touch-screen compatible tips which worked well though bear in mind that modern phones with fingerprint identification will still need a bare finger to unlock.

The gloves also have small silicone strips on the palm to help grip, and the back of the glove has a reflective logo.

There’s a little loop to help pull the gloves on. But the different aspect of the Overdrive Convertible Gloves is the additional-water resistant mitt. When not in use, this tucks into the cuff of the main glove. It’s a simple operation to pull it out and slip it over the fingers and thumb to provide extra warmth.

The increase in insulation was instantly evident and, with the mitt on, the OR gloves felt very warm, even in strong winds on a cold day. You lose the touchscreen but if you need to use an electronic device it’s a simple matter of briefly slipping off the overmitt.

Nalgene OTF Bottle. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Nalgene OTF Bottle. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Nalgene OTF Bottle

The On the Fly Bottle is made from Tritan, which is free from phthalate, BPA and BPS. It holds 650ml and stands 241mm tall, with a 76mm diameter.

The cap seals well and didn’t leak. It incorporates a large plastic loop, through which you can pass a carabiner to hang it from your harness or belt.

The plastic push-lock is secured by a second wire closure to ensure it doesn’t open accidentally. The idea is that you can open the bottle single-handed. The cap closure folds right back so it doesn’t hit your nose when you’re drinking, and it also stays in place and doesn’t flop back into your face when you tip up the bottle to drink.

We really liked the actual drink spout too, which is quite large, so you can put your lips to it like a cup, rather than totally covering it. This makes for easy rehydration on the trail or crag.

The bottle comes in a choice of nine colours.

Leatherman Micra. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Leatherman Micra. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Leatherman Micra

If we’re camping or even just heading out on the hills for a walk, chances are there will be a Leatherman multi-tool in our rucksack.

This little version is small enough to attach to your keyring so its 10 different tools are always to hand.

The Micra has a pair of spring loaded scissors, along with a 4cm knife blade; a flat screwdriver blade; a small flat screwdriver designed to fit cross-head screws; a nail cleaner, with a metal nail file; a pair of tweezers; a bottle opener, with an extra-small flat screwdriver blade at its end. Along the outer edges of the multi-tool’s case are markings for measuring in centimetres and inches.

The Micra also has a split ring for attaching to your keys.

When closed up, it measures just 6.7cm x 2cm x 1cm and weighs 56g so won’t take up much space in your pack or weigh you down. Leatherman quality makes for a very solid little versatile tool, which we’ve used frequently during our trips to the outdoors. It’s much more versatile than just a penknife, and we particularly liked having the ability to use the scissors and the screwdrivers for running repairs to gear on the hoof.

Luci Pro Outdoor 2+ solar light. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Luci Pro Outdoor 2+ solar light. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Luci Pro Outdoor 2+ solar light
200g including USB lead

This is a great little gadget that both provides light and will give your phone an emergency charge.

It has a diameter of 13cm and, when deflated is just 2cm thick, so won’t take up much space in your pack.

The top of the light has a solar panel which will charge up the light in 14 hours in direct sunlight which, admittedly, is in short supply at this time of year. But the Luci Pro Outdoor 2+ can also be charged using its USB socket and there is a row of four LEDs to indicate the charge. It takes about two hours to charge the light via the USB socket, which has a plastic plug to keep out the rain.

The whole unit is waterproof to IP67 rating.

To use it, squeeze the valve and blow to inflate, which is easily accomplished. The valve then pushes back down into its housing to give a flat surface if you want to stand the light up. There’s a fixed plastic hanging strap on the bottom and a top plastic strap that’s adjustable in two positions via plastic press-studs.

The bottom strap means you can attach it with a carabiner to your pack while walking and charge it via natural light while on the move.

The light has 10 white LEDs and the case is transparent, so there’s plenty of illumination in the tent or a camp. There are three levels of increasing brightness, plus a flashing mode. Holding down the on-off button for three seconds turns off the light. The flush button is also used to cycle through the brightness modes.

Peak power is 150 lumens, which easily provided enough light in a small tent. It’s about 10cm tall when inflated. The Outdoor 2+ will provide light for up to 50 hours on its lowest setting.

For the multi-day traveller, the ability to recharge using sunlight on the move is a boon, and the fact it will provide a partial charge for a phone could be a lifesaver.

Using the fully charged Outdoor 2+, we boosted the charge of our smartphone from 34 per cent to 77 per cent in one hour, with a peak charge of 96 per cent being reached in just under two hours.

The 2,000 mAh 5V lithium-ion polymer battery has overcharge, over-discharge, short-circuit and overcurrent protection.

If you’re not on the trail, put the Luci Pro Outdoor 2+ in your home’s window and you’ve got an emergency light ready for those unexpected power cuts.

Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Travel Pillow. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Travel Pillow. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Travel Pillow
122g including stuff bag

We don’t take many luxuries on our wild camping trips or even to basecamp, but a pillow is useful for helping get a good night’s sleep.

This inflatable pillow measures only 11cm x 8cm diameter when in its little stuffsack, which has a drawcord closure.

To use, open up the twist valve and inflate by mouth. It only takes three of four breaths to fill the pillow. The Cocoon pillow has an Air-Core element with synthetic insulation above it, with a microfibre fabric on its top side. The bottom shell is nylon.

Inflated, the Ultralight Air-Core Pillow measures 37cm x 29cm, which we found ideal for using in our sleeping bag, slotting nicely into the hood section of the bag.

Fully inflated the pillow is about 11cm thick, which is just about enough for side-sleepers. We found letting just a little air out made for an even more comfortable sleep.

Should you be unfortunate enough to puncture the Air-Core, repairs are possible, as the pillow has a zip to give access to the inflatable core. In a dire emergency when you can’t repair it, you can stuff the pillow with spare clothing and still benefit from the insulating part of the shell.

The Ultralight version weighs only a little over 100g, so goes with us on all our wild camping trips.

Storm Ultimate Apparel Care kit. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Storm Ultimate Apparel Care kit. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Storm Ultimate Apparel Care kit
592g (two bottles)

All those expensive waterproof garments need a little help to keep them performing properly. Hiking in the outdoors means your jacket and trousers will get dirty and they will eventually lose the durable water-resistant treatment they had when you bought them.

Storm’s kit contains one bottle of Storm Wash and one of Eco Friendly Proof, both in aluminium containers which are viewed as more easily recycled.

The kit also comes with a plastic measuring cup. Storm recommends using 75ml (three capfuls) of Wash in your machine.

To complete the treatment of your waterproofs, a similar amount of the Eco Friendly Proof is put into the conditioner compartment of your washer. You then air-dry your garment. After this, the fluorocarbon-free proofer then needs 20 minutes in the tumble dryer to activate the water repellency.

After the wash and proof treatment, our favourite jacket was ready to battle the British elements again and the rain was beading nicely on it.

Lifeventure Flip-Top Thermal Mug. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lifeventure Flip-Top Thermal Mug. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lifeventure Flip-Top Thermal Mug
Lifeventure has given its popular Thermal Mug a convenience boost with the addition of a flip top.

The 300ml capacity mug has vacuum-insulated walls and will keep your drink hot for up to three hours. The cap has a positive locking mechanism and, when flipped up, reveals a good-sized aperture with a drinking lip.

We used the mug both in the outdoors and in urban environments where you can save on disposable cups by getting your favourite coffee shop to fill the Lifeventure mug for you. You might even get a discount for this.

The Flip-Top Thermal Mug has a matt finish and stands 17cm tall, with a 68mm diameter.

GP Charge AnyWay. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

GP Charge AnyWay. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

GP Charge AnyWay
202g including USB lead

This is a neat little device that is both a battery charger and a power bank.

The Charge AnyWay comes with four AA nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries, so you can take them on board your plane without the hassle of worrying about lithium problems.

The 1m-long USB lead is plugged into any USB socket and the other end, a micro-USB connector, goes into the input socket on the unit. When charging, each of the four LEDs corresponding to the individual batteries flashes. When fully charged, the LEDs change to steady light.

One useful feature is that each charging channel can be used individually, so you don’t have to recharge in pairs. There’s a sliding translucent cover over the battery compartment.

Once fully charged, you can use the four batteries in the Charge AnyWay as an emergency power bank. GP says the ReCycko batteries the unit comes with will provide between 78 per cent and 100 per cent of a smartphone’s charge, depending on the brand of phone.

You can also put non-rechargeable alkaline batteries or zinc-carbon ones in the unit to provide a power bank, though performance is not as good as with the NiMH ones.

Charging of the four 2,600 mAh NiMH batteries to full capacity takes about six hours. The unit charges at an average of 500mA and has a safety timer, overheat and overload protection and short-circuit protection.

We used it to recharge a smartphone from 20 per cent battery capacity. After an hour the phone was up to 70 per cent, and a full phone charge was achieved in 2hrs 45mins.

AAA batteries can also be used in the unit, mixed with AA ones if necessary.

The Charge AnyWay measures 8cm x 6.3cm x 2.4cm, excluding the USB lead.

We used it at home as a conventional charger for our AA batteries, and also out on the hill as a power bank and it proved a versatile little addition to our kit.

Fjallraven Kånken rucksack. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Fjallraven Kånken rucksack. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Fjallraven Kånken rucksack

We love the retro styling of this little rucksack, which we’ve seen in use in some of the hippest neighbourhoods.

The Kånken was originally introduced by Fjallraven in 1978 for Swedish schoolchildren to use as a satchel and the brand says many of its original packs are still in use.

It’s constructed from tough-feeling Vinylon and the boxy shape makes it ideal for the daily commute or summer day trips into the hills. The Kånken has a removable foam sit mat in the back of the main compartment.

The main compartment is accessed via a double-puller zip that opens to about three-quarters of the pack’s depth. The 16-litre capacity of the Fjallraven pack made it ideal for fair-weather walks on the hills and we found it great too while biking.

The harness is a simple pair of 2.5cm-wide webbing straps, with adjustment for length via plastic buckles. A neat feature is the ability to shorten these fully and secure them with their press-studs so the pack can then be carried bag-style with its two sturdy webbing grab handles, which also have a retaining loop with press-stud to keep them together. This is also used while using the pack as a rucksack to keep them in place.

In fact, we’ve used the Kånken as a shopping bag with its grab handles, switching to rucksack-style at the end of the shop to carry our load home.

The Kånken also has two open side pockets, plus a small zipped exterior pocket.

The logo, incorporating Fjallraven’s arctic fox, is reflective. The pack comes in a choice of 43 colours.

Primus TrailBreak Vacuum Mug. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Primus TrailBreak Vacuum Mug. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Primus TrailBreak Vacuum Mug

This stainless steel insulated mug keeps your drink warm – or cool if you’re out during the summer months – on the hill.

Primus has designed the TrailBreak with a tapered shape so it slips into rucksack pockets more easily. There are indentations at the top of the mug to help your grip it.

This version came with Primus’s Click-Close lid. The top section of the lid rotates and clicks into either the open or closed position, indicated by markings on the side. It has lugs to make it easier to turn the lid while wearing gloves.

The Click-Close lid has an aperture in a recess, with a drinking lip, which worked well with no spillage or dribbles. The lid sealed well on the mug and there were no drips.

The TrailBreak Vacuum Mug stands 20cm tall with its Click-Close lid, and has a 68mm diameter at its base and 77mm at the top. It has a capacity of 350ml.

The stainless steel construction feels very sturdy and stood up to knocks on the hill.

Hydro Flask 21oz. Photo: Bob Smith/grough
Hydro Flask 21oz. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Hydro Flask 21oz

The Hydro Flask is a great looking, top quality vacuum flask that holds 620ml of your favourite drink.

The TempShield insulation will keep your coffee or tea hot for up to 12 hours and certainly our afternoon fix of caffeine was at the right temperature mid walk. In the summer months, your cold drink will stay cool in the Hydro Flask for up to 24 hours.

The stainless steel flask has a powder-coated exterior.

The flask is sturdily built and nicely finished, with good quality throughout. It came with a standard cap, which is insulated and has a flexible loop for carrying.

It holds enough for two good-sized mugs of coffee or tea and its slim design meant it slipped into our rucksack side pockets without difficulty.

It stands 247mm tall to the top of its cap and is 71mm diameter. It has a good wide mouth and the cap ensured a good, leak-free closure.

The Hydro Flask is BPA-free and phthalate-free and comes in 11 colours.

LifeStraw Universal. Photo: Bob Smith/grough
LifeStraw Universal. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

LifeStraw Universal
144g (full kit)

This interesting filtration kit turns your standard drinks bottle into a safe hydration source.

The LifeStraw Universal kit consists of the dual filter, which has both a hollow fibre membrane filter which removes bacteria, parasites and microplastics, plus a carbon capsule which will filter out organic chemical matter such as pesticides and herbicides, chlorine and bad odours and tastes.

It also comes with two screw caps: one to fit standard bottle drinks bottle threads and one for wide-mouthed bottles. There are two alternative soft mouthpieces – a sports version and a standard one – both of which work by simply sucking the water up through the filter. There’s a screw cap with plastic loop top that fits over either of the two main caps, and finally a carry bag with drawcord closure.

The LifeStraw Universal is designed to fit a range of common drinks bottles from brands such as Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, Camelbak and Nalgene. It may also fit other makes with compatible mouth diameters and threads, as long as they are at least 18.5cm (7.3in) tall. It fits both the Hydro Flask and Nalgene bottles detailed in this Christmas feature.

Before use, you need to remove the carbon filter from the cap and rinse it before replacing it. The whole filter assembly is then slotted into the cap of your choice and the filter and cap are screwed on to your existing drinks bottle.

The LifeStraw cap that goes over the valve keeps things clean and stops any drips. The whole assembly is leak-proof.

Out in the countryside, you simple unscrew the filter and cap, fill your bottle from the water source available, such as stream or lake, put the LifeStraw Universal back on the bottle and you’re ready to go. You lose a little capacity because the filter sits in the water, but you do gain the assurance of clean water while on the hoof.

The hollow fibre membrane is good for 4,000 litres while the carbon one will need replacing after 100 litres. When the flow drops to a point where you can’t draw water though the LifeStraw, it’s time to replace the membrane.

The LifeStraw Universal won’t filter sea water or remove heavy metals or non-organic chemical contaminants but does give you the ability to turn your existing water bottle into a filter system for the kind of nasties that might give your digestive system problems when out on the hill.

Haglöfs Sarek Belt. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs Sarek Belt. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs Sarek Belt

We always seem to end up rifling through our gear to find a decent belt for our trousers before heading into the great outdoors, so this tough Haglöfs model is a welcome addition to the kit.

It’s a spun polyester webbing belt, 26mm wide, a good width to fit through the belt loops of most walking trousers or shorts. Its maximum length is 112cm (44in) and the Sarek has a sturdy metal buckle, which fastens by putting one half into the slots and pulling it back slightly. Unfastening is a reversal of this, pushing it slightly to free it from the slots.

Length adjustment is also incorporated into the buckle. The free end of the webbing has a plastic tab and there’s a subtle Haglöfs logo on the front of the metal buckle. The belt also has a small webbing hanging loop on its rear near the buckle.

We’ve used the belt mainly on our walking trips into the hills, but it’s stylish enough to use with your smart casual outfits when on urban outings.

The Haglöfs Sarek comes in pale grey, black or dark blue.

Aquapac PackDivider Lightweight Drysacks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Aquapac PackDivider Lightweight Drysacks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Aquapac PackDivider Lightweight Drysack 8 litres

Aquapac PackDivider Lightweight Drysack 13 litres

These drysacks are great for keeping things together and protected inside your rucksack.

The PackDividers are made from white 75 denier nylon, with a polyurethane coating inside and silicone treatment outside, making them waterproof to IPX6 standard.

The white colour makes the drysacks translucent, making it easier to see what’s in them. They’re simple to use: put in the things you need to keep together, such as dry clothing, sleeping gear, roll the top three times and fasten the buckles.

We also found them useful for putting wet clothing in before stashing back in the rucksack, stopping it making other gear damp. You can also use the PackDividers to keep things such as toiletries in with confidence, knowing any leaks will be contained within the Aquapac bag.

The ripstop fabric feels sturdy despite its light weight, and the packs come in four different sizes, each with a different coloured end panel, so you can differentiate between them in your rucksack. The end panels also have a tough built-in grab handle, which can also be used to hang the empty PackDivider up to dry if it gets wet.

We tested the 8 litre and 13 litre versions. We found the 8l pack ideal for putting a wet waterproof jacket in. The 13l bag was big enough for our sleeping bag. There are also 2- and 4-litre versions.

We use these Aquapac dividers a lot in our rucksack. They’re good quality and well designed. They’re also a great addition to your luggage when heading to the airport for that foreign jaunt.

Snugpak Luxury Wash Bag. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Luxury Wash Bag. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Luxury Wash Bag

This wash bag is a good size and easily accommodated our standard toiletries kit, plus things like contact lens solutions.

It’s a sturdy bag using 600 denier polyester PVC fabric. It has a rectangular base and a body with a rounded top, so stands up without support in the tent or on the campsite. The main compartment has a double-puller zip allowing the lid to open and fold back, giving access to the contents.

There’s a mesh front with a good sized main area. There are small pockets at each end, and two larger ones at the back, all with elasticated hems. The main area also has three elasticated loops for bottles and similar items, and there’s a cord loop too.

The lid has a zipped mesh pocket plus another zipped pocket, within which is a hanging hook. The lid also has a detachable mirror, secured via a hook-and-loop strip.

A useful feature of the Snugpak Luxury Wash Bag is the separate zipped compartment at the base, which is great for your wet flannel or small travel towel. The wash bag has a grab handle at the top for carrying.

The Snugpak bag is well designed and sturdy feeling. It’s also good value for money and comes in three different colours.

Haglöfs H Beanie. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs H Beanie. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs H Beanie

This medium-weight beanie hat is made from 50 per cent merino wool and 50 per cent acrylic.

Knitted into the design is a large self-coloured H, as featured in the Haglöfs logo. There’s a double thickness band inside the lower section of the hat, which helped keep the forehead and ears warm on our hill outings.

The merino, which comes from mulesing-free sheep, helped provide both warmth and odour resistance and the H Beanie felt comfortable next to the skin, with no itchiness.

A simple but stylish design to help keep you warm during your excursions into the outdoors or even just down the pub on winter evenings. The Beanie comes in a choice of seven colours.

Snugpak Water Resistant Notebooks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Water Resistant Notebooks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Water Resistant Notebook

This is a great little stocking-filler for the outdoor enthusiast.

The notebook comes with a plastic front and back cover in either olive or orange, and its pages can be written on when wet, using either pen or, best of all, a soft pencil.

One side of the page is lined, the other has squares. There are 44 spiral-bound pages in the book, which make it easy to turn over to a new page. The back cover has measuring scales in inches and centimetres, along with conversion tables for length, weight and temperature.

We find the notebooks ideal for making notes on route details or when the need arises to take a record of other items in the outdoors. In an emergency, the Snugpak Water Resistant Notebook can be used to record vital information which can be passed on to rescuers.

The notebook measures 15.5cm x 10cm, so doesn’t take up much room in the rucksack.

Tilley Hiker's Hat. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Tilley Hiker's Hat. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Tilley Hiker’s Hat

Tilley is a byword for quality in outdoor headwear and the Hiker’s Hat, as the name suggests, is aimed squarely at walkers.

It’s made from organic cotton with the addition of 2 per cent Spandex. The hat incorporates a mesh section around the top to help ventilation and there’s also a removable Hyperkewl insert that you wet and then place back in its mesh housing at the crown, which we could definitely feel offered some cooling on warm days.

The Hiker’s Hat has a wide, soft brim that offers plenty of shade and also helps keep a rain shower off the face. It also has a hanging loop under it at the rear.

It has front and rear cords so, if the wind picks up, it can be secured to the head though, as long as you buy the correct size for your head, we found the hat stayed put very well without. There’s a soft lining band on the inside of the Tilley hat, and it was comfortable in use.

The Hiker’s Hat offers UPF 50+ protection against the sun and is a great piece of kit if you’re heading for sunny climes or indeed if we get the kind of British summers we had in 2018, where the shade and cooling properties of the Tilley headwear were appreciated.

Quality of the Canadian-made Hiker’s Hat is very good and Tilley offers a lifetime guarantee against the hat wearing out due to poor workmanship, faulty material and normal wear and tear.

Eagle Creek Wayfinder Backpack 30L. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eagle Creek Wayfinder Backpack 30L. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eagle Creek Wayfinder Backpack 30L

We spent the first 10 minutes of our first encounter with this Eagle Creek pack on a voyage of discovery searching out all the different pockets, pouches and design features of the tough little pack.

Though it’s been made with urban and commuter use foremost in mind, it’s versatile to use on hill outings too. The harness consists of wide, padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap that uses a rail system for height adjustment. There’s even a little whistle in the buckle.

The back is a nicely padded system, with an inverted y-shaped ventilation channel and a good sized padded area at the small of the back area. The main body of the rucksack is tough 500 denier ripstop material, with 300 denier diamond-patterned area on its front. The base of the covered in reinforced material.

The pack is clean in its lines, with a broadly cuboid shape. It has a very strong feeling haul loop or grab handle at the top and, as mentioned, numerous pockets and storage areas.

The main compartment is accessed by a zip with twin pullers that have loops for a padlock. The zip opens to about three-quarters of the pack’s height. Inside, there’s a fairly large zipped mesh pocket at the top, containing a key loop. The main area itself is quite roomy, thanks in part to the deep base of the rucksack.

On the front of the interior are two smaller, open, mesh pockets, plus two small fabric pockets along with two pen slots.

On the front of the exterior of the rucksack, there’s a fairly roomy pocket, zipped at the side, which can be used to stash items such as a wet waterproof. There’s also a smaller zipped pocket at the top which is microfleece lined to protect items such as sunglasses.

The front of the pack also has an attachment loop for a lamp and at the top of the pack’s front are two plastic gear attachment loops.

There’s a stretch drink bottle pocket on the side of the Wayfinder.

A water-resistant zip between the back and the main compartment gives access to the second large pocket, with a padded pouch for a laptop, plus a smaller padded pouch for a tablet computer. There’s a top cable exit which directs to the right-hand harness strap, which has a small cable holder at the shoulder level. There’s also a second cable exit to a hidden pocket in the pack’s side.

If not using the pouch for a laptop, a hydration reservoir could be place in it, using the cable exit for the drink tube.

At the left shoulder is a metal eyelet that will enable a padlock shank to be passed through.

The ‘hidden’ pocket is accessed via a zipped opening on the side of the back. It has a pouch for an item such as a power bank and there’s a webbing strap with press-stud to keep things in place. The cable exit leads into the laptop and tablet compartment of the pack, so you can charge things up while on the move without leads dangling externally.

The pack is PVC-free and uses bluesign certified materials.

Eagle Creek have thought about pretty much everything the bicycle commuter or walker needs on their way to work, with the added versatility of a pack that will also perform in the outdoors.

The Eagle Creek Wayfinder 30L Backpack comes in three colours.

Bridgedale Hike Midweight Boot socks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Bridgedale Hike Midweight Boot socks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Bridgedale Hike Midweight Boot socks
86g a pair

No Christmas stocking is complete without a pair of socks and these are ideal for the enthusiastic walker.

Seasoned Bridgedale aficionados will know the Hike Midweight Boot as the Trekker.

They’re made with 26 per cent wool; 19 per cent merino wool; 38 per cent nylon; and 17 per cent Endurofil polypropylene.

There’s plenty of padding in all the right places, including the heel, ball of the foot, instep and ankle. The sock has a flat toe seam and is designed to hug the foot to ensure it stays in place and minimise bunching, which could cause problems in the boot.

The merino wool in the Bridgedale sock helps wick moisture away from the foot and this pair of Hike Midweight Boot kept our feet dry on our hill trips.

The sock is designed to be used on long walks and military marches. It’s easy to overlook this less than glamorous area of outdoor gear, but a good pair of socks can make the difference between a pleasing walk and a painful expedition.

The Bridgedale Hike Midweight Boot socks kept our feet warm and dry on our days on the hill in cool wintry days. They’re also available in a women’s version.

Mammut Smart Wallet Light. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mammut Smart Wallet Light. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mammut Smart Wallet Light

This neat little lightweight wallet is made from splashproof material and has three compartments.

On the outside is a small zipped coin pocket on one side, and on the other a credit-card pocket with a strong press closure.

Used like this, the wallet folds in half and is secured by a small hook-and-loop strip. In this mode, it measures just 10.7cm x 10cm. But if you open it up, the wallet has a smartphone compartment with clear front that allows you to use most of the functions, except fingerprint ID and the forward-facing camera.

The phone compartment also has a strong press closure strip.

We found the Mammut Smart Wallet useful on our walks. It’s handy to be able to have phone, coins and cards in one place and for them to be protected from a shower or two.

When not used to accommodate a phone, the wallet just folds in two and slips in a pocket.

The Mammut Smart Wallet Light comes in seven colours.

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Shoe Cube. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Shoe Cube. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Shoe Cube

With the best will in the world, if you head out into the British outdoors, your footwear is going to get dirty. Even urban expeditions mean your shoes will get wet and the soles will pick up dirt.

The Eagle Creek Shoe Cube enables you to put your shoes or boots – despite its name, the cube will take a pair of men’s mid-height boots up to size 12½/46 – in your case or pack without soiling the rest of the contents.

The Tech Shoe Cube is made from 30 denier ripstop nylon with a TPU mesh lining on the bottom and sides which, as well as making it easy to wipe, gives the cube a little more structure.

The shoe cube has a self-repairing zip opening running the full length of the top and sides, which makes it easy to place your footwear in. The interior mesh is water-resistant to help keep the moisture and dirt inside, away from the rest of the contents of your case.

The Tech Shoe Cube has a fabric grab handle at one end and there are small fabric attachment loops too.

The cube is PVC free.

We liked the assurance that we could place our shoes or boots in the Eagle Creek cube and know they weren’t going to mucky up our clothes. In fact, if you like to keep a pristine car boot, they can also help keep that mud free. You may be able to squeeze in a pair or two of sandals too if you’re packing a pair of shoes smaller than large men’s sizes.

Osprey Rolling Transporter 40. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Osprey Rolling Transporter 40. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Osprey Rolling Transporter 40

Osprey has gained a top reputation for its rucksacks, and now it has introduced a range of wheeled cases aimed at travellers using trains, planes and boats.

The Rolling Transporter 40 is the 40-litre version of a series of three, which also includes 90- and 120-litre models.

This version is designed to most EU aircraft carry-on luggage dimensions, though Ryanair passengers may want to check that.

It’s made from tough 840 denier nylon with double-coated TPU, which helps give it good weather resistance.

It uses a High Road chassis with large polyurethane wheels designed to cope with rough terrain, so should work well on those last few metres of Alpine track as well as the airport asphalt. The chassis uses ABS polymer materials and feels tough. The chassis curves in slightly in a barrel shape, which helps give a little more central ground clearance when being pulled by its main handle.

The retractable handle has two extended positions and unlocks by pressing the central button.

The wheeled duffel has beefy grab handles on the top and each side and the bottom chassis also incorporates a plastic handle, which can be used with the top handle when lifting the bag into the overhead lockers.

The main compartment is accessed by a three-quarter-length zip with double pullers with plastic tabs. The pullers have eyelets for a padlock incorporated. The lid is oversized so covers the zip when closed, to keep out the rain.

There are twin compression straps with plastic buckles inside the main compartment, which can be used to secure the contents. There is also a large zipped mesh pocket on the underside of the lid.

Once zipped up, two corner buckles further secure the lid to the main body.

At the top of the Rolling Transporter 40 is a good sized zipped compartment, again protected by an external storm flap. We found this useful for stashing our travel documents. There’s also transparent label holder on the top if you want to put an identifying mark in it to help identify the duffel on the airport carousel.

Also on the top of the pack is a webbing loop, with plastic adjustment buckle, for securing a small extra item. When not in use, this is stashed away under a flap secured by a hook-and-loop strip.

The duffel also has webbing twin attachment loops on each side and at each end if you need to secure it to, for instance, a roof rack, with extra straps.

The Osprey Rolling Transport 40 has the top quality and design we’ve come to expect from the brand, and is a welcome addition to travel luggage.

If you’re considering your next flight, the maximum dimensions of the Rolling Transporter 40 are: 55cm x 36cm x 23cm.

The case comes in three different colours.

Haglöfs Neck Gaiter. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs Neck Gaiter. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Haglöfs Neck Gaiter

A good neck gaiter is a boon when you’re on the hill in winter. Anyone walking into driven rain, snow or hail or just battling an icy gale will appreciate the protection this Haglöfs gaiter gives.

The Neck Gaiter uses Polartec Power Stretch Pro, a blend of polyester, polyamide and Elastane in a stretchy fleece material.

The gaiter is scooped at the front, so it tucks nicely into your jacket top, and its back is higher to fit the neck more easily. The top hem has a drawcord to cinch it in to the face, and it has a tethered spring toggle.

We found this worked really well; with the gaiter round the neck keeping out draughts, it was very easy to pull it up higher to cover the nose and ears, with the adjustment tightened slightly keeping it in place well.

The inner face of the Haglöfs Neck Gaiter is soft and cosy fleece. The gaiter has a Haglöfs logo on the front and comes in either dark blue or black.

Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Vest. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Vest. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Vest

This lightweight insulated vest packs down small and won’t add too much weight to your rucksack.

The OR vest uses responsibly sourced 650 fill-power goose down and provides warmth to your core when that winter chill starts to bite.

The main zip is backed by a baffle to keep out draughts, and the collar is lined by soft tricot material to increase comfort. There are two handwarmer pockets with press-stud closure. The front inner face of the pockets is also tricot lined. One can also be used as a stuff sack for the vest.

There’s a good sized, zipped chest pocket which contains a smaller stretch mesh pocket.

The outer face of the Transcendent Down Vest is polyester while the lining is nylon.

Our vest came in retro coffee colour, ideal for those with fond memories of Austin Allegros and Vesta curries. It’s also available in six other colours, in sizes S-XXL. The women’s version has three colour choices in sizes XS-XL.

We found the Transcendent Down Vest a useful addition to our winter kit. Slipping it on immediately increased our core body warmth and the water-resistant finish to the face was useful in the British climate.

Quality was good, as you would expect from Outdoor Research.

Vango Photon. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Vango Photon. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Vango Photon
90g including USB lead

This neat headtorch from Vango provides illumination to the front and protection to the rear.

It uses a rechargeable lithium polymer battery and comes with a USB charging cable. The battery compartment at the rear of the elasticated headband houses both the power pack and a circular red LED that can be used either in steady or flashing mode. The red light can be turned on independently of the main white light in the front housing.

This has a single white LED and a small red one.

The Cree LED delivers 150 lumen at full power. Pressing the button on top of the front housing cycles through low, high, flashing and red modes. The red LED is a small one just below the main lamp and provides just enough red light to read a map or book by.

The main beam has a collimator lens, which concentrates the central part of the beam while maintaining a reasonable peripheral light. The full-power beam will reach about 50m into the darkness and you’ll get 3½ hours’ use out of the headtorch. Drop it to the 45 lumens setting and you’ll get about half the distance for the beam, but increase to 12 hours before the unit needs recharging. The main headtorch unit will tilt downwards and has seven click positions.

The headband was quite comfortable, with the rear battery and safety light adding some balance.

If needed, the front and rear assemblies can be fairly easily removed from the headband and clipped to other items or belts.

The Vango Photon is water resistant to IPX4, so should cope with rain.

It’s a nicely designed headtorch at a reasonable price, in a unit that won’t add too much weight to your pack.

Buff Original. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Buff Original. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Buff Original

A Buff is another ideal stocking filler and this latest model has been updated to give four-way stretch.

We’d hesitate to describe it as a neck gaiter, which is its basic function, as the Buff can be used as a bandana, headband, mask, wristband, neckerchief, hair-band, pirate cap, balaclava, scrunchie, scarf or saharaine.

The lightweight Buff is made from recycled polyester and has a UPF 50 rating to protect you from the sun. It will also help wick sweat away and is breathable.

We used the Buff as a scarf mainly, keeping out those wintry draughts, and when the temperature dropped, it shields the face from those chilling headwinds.

A demonstration of how to turn a Buff into its various forms can be seen on the brand’s website.

Craghoppers Adventure Socks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Adventure Socks. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Adventure Socks
56g a pair

These Craghoppers socks are designed with the traveller in mind. They’re made from 67 per cent cotton, with 19 per cent polyester and 12 per cent polyamide. The 2 per cent Elastane gives them their stretchiness and helps them hug the foot.

The Adventure Socks also benefit from NosiLife, the permanent anti-insect treatment to keep those biting bugs at bay.

There’s cushioning at the heel, sole, toe and back of the calf, with ventilation at the instep and ankle.

The Craghoppers socks are also anti-bacterial, to keep down unwanted odours.

We’ve found these socks great in trail shoes and lightweight boots, where the lack of bulk made for a comfortable walk.

The socks come in three colour choices and two sizes and are suitable for men and women.

Berghaus Remote 12. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Remote 12. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Remote 12

The Remote 12 is a pared-down daysack that gives you all the quality you would expect from Berghaus in a little 12-litre capacity pack.

It’s a great choice for bike commuters of anyone wanting a small daysack for those trips when you don’t need to pack a huge amount of kit.

The Remote 12 has Berghaus’s ventilated back system, with a mesh covered, ridged soft foam. The harness straps are wide and also ventilated. There’s a webbing waist belt with plastic excess retainers, plus a sternum strap with daisy-chain height adjustment.

The pack has a grab-handle/haul loop and is hydration reservoir compatible, with internal pouch and hanging loop, and a tube exit to the right shoulder, with retaining loop on the shoulder strap.

The main compartment has a zip with double pullers opening to three-quarter depth of the rucksack, giving easy access. The pullers have sturdy plastic tabs.

The main storage area makes good use of its capacity, and there’s also a small zipped internal pocket for your bits and pieces, with a key loop.

On the pack’s exterior, there an additional small zipped pocket, plus an attachment bungee and loop for walking poles. The Remote 12 also has twin stretch mesh drinks bottle pockets on its side.

The fabric of the rucksack is tough feeling and helps give it structure. The base is reinforced for extra strength.

This little pack doesn’t scrimp on features or quality and we’ve used it for biking trips and short walks. It’ll also be useful for those summer walks when you want to keep your gear to a minimum but still want a comfortable rucksack.

Sherpa Adventure Gear Sabi Hat/ Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sherpa Adventure Gear Sabi Hat/ Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sherpa Adventure Gear Sabi Hat

No Christmas collection would be complete without a woolly hat, and this handcrafted headwear from Nepal will help keep you warm when the temperature drops.

The trendy bobble hat is made from lambswool, with a PolarFleece lining round its lower half.

The hat hugs the head nicely, covering the ears and protecting from the cold winter winds. The traditional design is produced in a women’s co-operative in the town of Bhaktapur, near the country’s capital Nepal.

We’ve used the Sabi a lot recently on our excursions to the hills and countryside, and it has kept us warm and cosy.

The Sherpa Adventure Gear hat comes in five different colours and is unisex and one-size.

Zippo 12-Hour Handwarmer. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Zippo 12-Hour Handwarmer. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Zippo 12-Hour Handwarmer
80g (unfilled, including pouch)

This little handwarmer is great if you’ve been standing around for a while at the crag, or need to put some heat back in your hands on a cold day.

Made by the people best known for their lighters, this is a slim metal device that fits in the palm of your hand.

It comes with a soft pouch, which Zippo recommends you use when the handwarmer has been lit.

The Zippo Handwarmer comes in both six- and 12-hour versions. We tested the latter. It uses a catalytic burner to produce flameless heat.

You’ll need to buy liquid lighter fuel for the handwarmer. The Zippo comes with a little plastic filling bottle with a spout and a line for 12 hours’ worth of fuel.

You then simply pull the lid off the handwarmer, and then the burner assembly, to reveal the filler hole. Pour the fuel in, put the burner back on, and leave for a couple of minutes to allow the fuel to soak through the filler material. You then use a match or lighter to apply flame to the burner for 10 seconds or so. Once lit – there’s no flame – you put the cap back on and the handwarmer in its pouch for use.

We found in use the handwarmer actually stayed warm longer than 12 hours.

The Zippo Handwarmer is sturdily built and should last years with care. It comes in black or stainless steel finish.

OMM Ultra 12. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

OMM Ultra 12. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

OMM Ultra 12

This lightweight rucksack from OMM has a rated capacity of 12 litres and is designed for both runners both training and racing, and for commuter trips.

As you’d expect from the mountain marathon brand, the pack is designed to keep weight down while offering versatility in carrying your gear – OMM says it works best with a load between 3kg and 10kg.

The main fabric of the body is ripstop nylon which feels tough despite its low weight. The base of the rucksack is reinforced. The main zip opens to three-quarter length and is covered by a baffle to help keep the weather out. The double zip pullers have natty plastic OMM logo pullers which worked easily while wearing gloves.

Inside, there’s a simple main compartment with a hook-and-loop strip giving access to the back’s foam padding, which can be removed if you want to save some extra weight. There are plastic hooks if you want to add shockcords for compression or to stop contents bouncing about when you’re running. These plastic hooks can also be passed through four cowled openings to provide external attachment points for OMM’s add-on mesh system.

The four exit points also provide possible routes for the drinking tube of a hydration reservoir. There’s a suspension loop in the main compartment to hang such a bladder from. A drinking tube can go to either shoulder or through the two lower points to route up the harness straps.

On the exterior of the front of the pack, there’s a small pocket with side zip, again with a baffle covering it.

The harness’ shoulder straps are wide and comfortable, with finer mesh covering the inner surface and coarser mesh on the outside, which made for good breathability. The left hip belt is made from similar mesh while the right-hand one has a zipped mesh pocket, big enough for a compass.

A webbing belt connects the two, with a plastic buckle clipping into the left hip belt. The sternum strap has an elasticated section and adjusts for height on a rail system. The buckle incorporates a whistle. There are two plastic loops on the harness straps for attaching accessories.

There are two shallow mesh pockets for drinks bottles or similar on the sides of the pack and at the bottom of the rucksack’s front is OMM’s Universal Gear Rail, a daisy-chain arrangement for attaching the brand’s add-on accessories.

The Ultra 12 is a tough little pack, despite its meagre weight. It was comfortable in use and will appeal both to ultrarunners and mountain marathon participants, but also to those who want a small pack for the commute. We found it worked well while cycling and for mountain bike outings.

Coleman 2-Way Led Panel Light +. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Coleman 2-Way Led Panel Light +. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Coleman 2-Way Led Panel Light +

This is a handy camp gadget that doubles as both a torch and a lamp.

Press the switch on the side of the unit and the side lamp illuminates to its lower level. Repeated pressing cycles it through the high setting, then the torch at the end of the unit, and finally turning it off.

The Coleman Panel Light is robust, with a rating for survival of a 12m drop. It’s also splashproof to IPX4 level.

A useful feature is the Battery Lock. On the back of the light is a sliding switch that disengages the batteries when you’re not using them, so you shouldn’t suffer from inadvertently exhausted power when you need the light.

The unit came with three Duracell AA alkaline batteries, accessed in a rear compartment with good positive lock.

An innovative feature is the magnet on the back of the Panel Light. There’s a detachable magnetic panel on the back of the unit, which snaps on to another strong magnet on the main body of the light. So if, at home, you want to attach the light to a metal object, you simply take off the removable panel and the light will adhere to the metal. On camp, you can place the detachable panel on the exterior of your tent and it will then hold the magnet on the main unit through the tent material.

If you want to hang the Coleman light more conventionally, the magnet housing has a large metal loop.

Illumination for the panel light comes from eight white LEDs. On the low setting, which we found adequate in a small tent, you should get 100 hours use from a set of batteries. On the high setting, it will give 12 hours’ light.

The torch delivers 100 lumen which is good for 3m or so, ideal round the campsite, providing about 20 hours of use.

The unit measures 17cm x 6.4cm x 4.4cm so is quite a compact little addition to the basecamp kit. When we’re not using the Coleman 2-Way Led Panel Light + on camp, it’s a handy emergency light for those annoying power cuts at home.

1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock
108g a pair

These socks from 1000 Mile are an interesting addition to the winter kit.

The socks use Nilit Heat yarn, produced from the discarded outer shells of coffee beans, and said by the yarn company to offer significant heat insulation and also deodorising properties.

The Heat Walk Sock has an additional layer next to the skin using the Nilit material.

The rest of the sock is composed of 33 per cent nylon, 26 per cent polyester, 25 per cent merino wool, 10 per cent Spandex and six per cent cotton.

The result is a sock that helps keep your feet warm on cold winter days and also keeps unwanted odours to a minimum.

The 1000 Mile socks have lots of padding too, at the heel, under the foot and at the ankle. There’s a venting section at the instep to help shift any sweat that might build up.

The socks’ double-layer construction also cuts the likelihood of blister-causing friction.

The socks come a good way up the calf, so are good for use with high winter boots.

The Heat Walk Sock comes in two women’s sizes and three men’s sizes and have the 1000 Mile guarantee that the socks won’t wear out or cause blisters during 1,000 miles’ use.

Black Diamond Ion. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Black Diamond Ion. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Black Diamond Ion

This compact little headtorch still delivers 100 lumen at its maximum power and is a great addition to your pack for every excursion on to the hills.

It light weight and small size mean it’s great as that emergency headtorch to help you get off the hill if you’re delayed and get caught out by nightfall. It’s also a good choice for fast movers who want a torch that won’t weigh them down.

The Ion comes with two AAA alkaline batteries which go in a hinged compartment with a strong clasp. There’s a single button on top of the housing, which controls all functions.

Press once to turn on the main light; hold it down to make the Ion dim to its lowest level and then brighten again – it flickers momentarily when it reaches minimum and maximum brightness. A single press will turn it off again. It will turn on at the level it was switched off at.

Pressing the button three times will turn on the headtorch in its flashing mode. Pressing the button for two seconds will switch the unit into its red light mode, which can also be dimmed and brightened in the same way as the white mode.

To get back to white mode, turn the torch off and then hold the button down for two seconds to turn on the white LED.

The Black Diamond torch can be locked to prevent accidental operation by holding down the button for four seconds until the red light flashes. To turn it on when locked, press the button for four seconds until the white light switches on briefly, then press again for full functions.

The Ion has a single elastic headband, with a spring toggle to allow easy tightening.

The torch unit has three click positions for tilting down.

At its brightest, the red LED did provide enough light to illuminate a few metres ahead; at its lowest setting there was just enough light to read a map by. The white LED has a rating of 38m at its highest, which we found was about right. Turning it right down was good when gathered in a group to minimise dazzling other members.

The Ion should provide about six hours at maximum power with fresh batteries – enough to get you safely off the hill or provide some illumination for your night run.

The little Black Diamond headtorch is also waterproof to IPX8 standard which means it will survive immersion in water if you’re careless enough to drop it in a stream.

It’s a great addition to your pack to provide the assurance you’re not going to get caught out by nightfall.

Vango 500ml Vacuum Flask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Vango 500ml Vacuum Flask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Vango 500ml Vacuum Flask

On a cold winter walk it’s great to have a morale-boosting hot drink to warm you up.

This flask from Vango will hold 500ml, enough for two normal sized mugs.

It’s a stainless steel design finished in a gunmetal-colour exterior. The screw-top lid has a good deep thread to ensure there’s no leakage and the flask also comes with a small plastic-lined cup as its lid, which screws on to the flask.

Unscrewing the top a little reveals a pouring indent, so you don’t need to take the top off completely to pour out your drink.

On our hill walks, the flask kept our hot drinks warm for quite a few hours, and was the right size for two people’s drinks.

It’s sturdily made and comes at a good price – an ideal stocking filler.

Teko Merino Trekking Socks Heavy Cushion. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Teko Merino Trekking Socks Heavy Cushion. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Teko Merino Trekking Socks Heavy Cushion
114g a pair

These Teko socks are great when the temperature drops. Their thick blend of 80 per cent merino wool and 18 per cent nylon help keep your feet warm and the odour to a minimum. The two per cent elastic content gives them their stretch and helps them hug the feet.

There’s a good amount of cushioning under the heel and forefoot as well as at the toe and instep. The upper ankle area is elasticated nicely to keep the socks in place, and there’s also good warmth in the calf area.

The merino content is responsibly sourced from South America, and resists shrinkage. The Teko socks have a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects.

The unisex socks come in four sizes, for feet ranging from size 2 to 13½.

Osprey Ultralight Padded Washbag. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Osprey Ultralight Padded Washbag. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Osprey Ultralight Padded Washbag

This simple washbag has a zipped main compartment, within which are two small elasticated pockets and on the other side a zipped pocket, ideal for items such as your toothbrush.

The washbag is constructed from tough ripstop nylon and has padding on its base and side, to help keep your toiletries protected. The zip runs the full length of the bag and the padded sides fold together over this and are secured with mini compression straps with plastic buckles.

If you’re travelling extra light, there’s another pair of compression buckles lower down the side to enable the washbag to take up even less space.

There’s a grab handle-cum hanging loop at one end, and there are also small webbing loops at each end of the zip.

Quality is good, as you would expect from Osprey, and the Ultralight Padded Washbag tips the scales at just 70g. Dimensions are 21cm x 14cm x 13cm when full.

Rab Xenon Gloves. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Rab Xenon Gloves. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Rab Xenon Gloves
68g including stuffsack

The Xenon Gloves use PrimaLoft Gold insulation and it was PrimaLoft that supplied the gloves to grough.

These Rab gloves have a soft Pertex Quantum fabric on the body of the glove, and the palms and inner surface of the fingers and thumbs have a polyurethane surface which both enhances grip and gives durability.

The lining is soft nylon microfleece type fabric which was comfortable and added to the warm feeling.

The wrist is half elasticated which helps stop draughts penetrating, and there’s a fabric loop to help pull the gloves on. They also come with a Pertex Quantum stuffsack to keep them in.

On cool days, the gloves worked well. The PrimaLoft Gold insulation provided just the right amount of warmth without making them too bulky, and the Pertex Quantum shell was good at blocking the wind.

The Rab Xenon gloves are great when you want to keep the weight down. The Pertex shell has a degree of water resistance and the PrimaLoft insulation still offers a good amount of warmth even when it gets damp.

The Xenon comes in four sizes and three colours.

Katadyn BeFree water filtration system. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Katadyn BeFree water filtration system. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Katadyn BeFree water filtration system

The BeFree is a simple filtering system that rids your water of bacteria and protozoon cysts during trips in the great outdoors.

The soft flask holds 600ml and contains Katadyn’s EZ-Clean Membrane in a capsule that is attached to the lid. This uses a set of hollowfibre elements to provide clean water and is good for about 1,000 litres of treatment, depending on how dirty your source water is.

When not full, the soft, flexible bottle can be collapsed to take up less space. The cap has a good thread and was leak-free. There’s a drinking spout at the top, with a flip-top plastic cover to keep it clean.

To use, you simple fill the soft flask from a stream or other source, screw the cap on and squeeze the water out through the drinking spout. Tilting the bottle helps. The flexible nature of the Katadyn BeFree means you can use it to fill other vessels too.

The flask has capacity markings on the side, in 100ml gradations.

Regular cleaning of the filter element is recommended, which is easily achieved by filling the bottle with water and shaking it. Alternatively, you can swish the filter in lake or stream water.

We liked the simplicity of the BeFree – you can’t really go wrong with its operation – and the fact that, when not in use, or when partially full, it occupied less space due to its collapsible nature.

Quality was good too. The full flask stands 26cm tall, with a diameter of 8cm.

Exped Air Pillow L. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Exped Air Pillow L. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Exped Air Pillow L
The Air Pillow provides extra comfort in your sleeping bag, yet packs down into a small stuffsack with minimal weight.

Inflation is quick: you unclip the cover from the valve and blow into it. Three blows is usually enough to fill it, and the valve prevents air escaping.

The Air Pillow has an asymmetrical shape, with a recess at the front edge. The front is also slightly thicker than the back. Exped recommends those who sleep on their side use it this way, so the recess and raised element support the neck. Back sleepers will probably find it better to turn the pillow round and use the back element to support the head.

The top face of the Exped is finished in a honeycomb pattern in 50 denier polyester while the bottom is plain fabric that was reasonably non-slippy.

If you want a slightly softer pillow, you can let out a small amount of air to allow a little give in it.

We tested the large size, which just fit in the hood of our sleeping bag. The Air Pillow also comes in medium and extra-large sizes. The pillow also has two side grommets which you can use to attach it to your sleeping bag to keep it in place, though we found it stayed quite well in the hood of our bag without this.

The large size is 46cm x 30cm, with a maximum height of 12cm at the thicker end; 9cm at the thin end.

Deflation is by pulling off the valve cover and pressing in the little rubbery needle that protrudes, to open the valve. The pillow can then be rolled up, the air squeezed out and the deflated pillow placed in the stuff sack, which is only about 15cm long and 6cm diameter, depending on how well you’ve packed it.

We’ve found taking a pillow on our camping trips ensures a much better sleep. The Exped Air Pillow was comfortable and warm and the recess and neck support worked very well when sleeping on the side.

GSI Boulder Flask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

GSI Boulder Flask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

GSI Boulder Flask

After a long day on the trail you might be looking forward to a little tipple to reward yourself.

The GSI Boulder Flask is a new take on the traditional hip flask. It’s made of shatter resistant copolyester with a silicone bumper edging. The body of the flask is translucent so you can see how much of your beverage is left.

The stopper is hinged, with a neat arrangement where the cap rotates within the hinge housing, ensuring there were no drips. You won’t lose the cap either. When fully opened, the hinge clicks into position so it won’t fall back down.

The Boulder Flask holds 300ml or about half a pint – enough for a good serving of best malt whisky when you get to the bothy, or a couple of glasses of wine at the campsite.

It won’t add too much weight to your pack either. A neat addition to your backpacking kit.

The GSI Boulder Flask body is BPA free.

HydraPak Softflask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

HydraPak Softflask. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

HydraPak Softflask

Designed for runners with an eye on keeping things light, the Softflask holds 500ml and is collapsible, so shrinks as you drink.

The Hydrapak bottle has a plastic-coated webbing strap and a cap that locks with a simple twist of the assembly. The Softflask has a bite valve that allows a good flow of drink. The collapsing bottle stops your drink swilling around while on the move.

The filler mouth has a 35mm inner diameter, making it quick to fill at those checkpoints.

Although designed with runners in mind, the Softflask is equally suitable for other outdoor enthusiasts. We’ve used it on the mountain bike and while walking, with the bite valve useful for one-handed operation.

It’s lightweight and takes up a decreasing amount of space as you drink from it. Quality is good, with welded seams offering assurance.

The Hydrapak Softflask is BPA- and PVC-free.

The samples were provided to grough by the brands except where stated.

Figures stated were typical retail prices at the time of publishing.

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