Which Christmas goodies would your outdoor fan love to find under the tree? Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Which Christmas goodies would your outdoor fan love to find under the tree? Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Christmas is fast approaching. And you’re wracking your brain for ideas for gifts for your beloved outdoors type to enhance his or her outings to the UK countryside?

Don’t panic! We’ve spent the past few weeks evaluating some stocking fillers for walking, hiking and outdoor enthusiasts to brighten up their Christmas morning.

With most High Street shops reopened and with online shopping deadlines approaching, here’s Grough’s last-minute Christmas guide.

Hydro Flask Coffee Flex Sip. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Hydro Flask Coffee Flex Sip. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Hydro Flask Coffee Flex Sip
Capacity: 473ml (16.6 fl oz)
Height: 20cm
Diameter: 7.5cm
Country of manufacture: China

The Coffee Flex Sip is great either on your countryside excursions or when you’re out and about in town.

Hydro Flask’s compact container is made with pro-grade stainless steel and has TempShield insulation to keep your hot drinks hot and your chilled drinks cool. It’s big enough to take a good mugful of coffee or tea and is designed to fit under most coffee-brewing machines found in your favourite cafes. Using the Coffee Flex Sip earns you brownie points, and possibly a discount at some coffee shops, for avoiding single-use cups.

It has a wide neck to make filling easier and the plastic cap has a rotating top section. Turning the leakproof lid a quarter turn opens the drink aperture so you can sip your favourite drink without the risk of a spill.

The lid also has a plastic carry strap. You can hook a carabiner through this to attach the flask to your pack or, if you’re in town, carry the Coffee Flex Sip on the move without the familiar post-coffee-shop shuffle with a hot cup in your hand.

We took the Coffee Flex Sip on our regular local lockdown walks and it kept our coffee nice and warm to enjoy on the hill.

The Hydro Flask container is BPA- and phthalate-free and can be cleaned in the top rack of a dishwasher. Quality is as good as you would expect from Hydro Flask.

Aquapac Topo The Ben. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Aquapac Topo The Ben. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Aquapac Topo The Ben
Size: 85mm x 165mm
Country of manufacture: UK

Aquapac’s Topo Collection have a contour design on the exterior and are all named after mountains.

The Ben is the smallest in the collection and is ideal for keeping little items dry and safe. It will hold car keys and credit cards and is made from opaque, biodegradable TPU.

It has an adjustable-length lanyard with spring-button toggle, which is larks-footed on to a loop at the top of the case. The Aquaclip seal has two plastic turn-buttons that release the case’s top closure. The Ben is waterproof to IPX8 standard – it is submersible to 10m – so can be used in activities such as kayaking, paddling white-water rafting, gill scrambling, beach outings or just walking and climbing in typical torrential UK conditions.

Its opaque material keeps contents out of view of prying eyes. As long as there’s some air in the case, it will float if dropped in water and its seams are high-frequency welded for strength.

Vango Radiate Heat Mat. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Vango Radiate Heat Mat. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Vango Radiate Heat Mat
228g (including stuffsack)
Size: 57cm x 41cm
Country of manufacture: China

For those cold nights at camp, the Radiate Heat Mat provides extra warmth in your sleeping bag.

The Vango mat uses your powerbank to provide the source to heat up the mat’s graphene element, contained in the central part of the Radiate Heat Mat. There’s a pouch to slip a powerbank in, with a USB connector on a short cord.

Once connected, you press the power button on the mat to heat things up. The heat is pretty much instant, and can be varied to four settings, by repeatedly pressing the power button. The button surround changes colour as you cycle through the settings.

You can either pre-heat your sleeping bag or keep it in position while you sleep – we found it best to take the powerbank out of its pouch and place it to the side of the bag if you do this, so there’s less chance of rolling on to it during the night.

As someone who tends to suffer from cold feet during the night at camp, my favourite position for the Radiate Heat Mat was at the bottom of the bag, keeping my tootsies toasted.

You can also use the mat in other situations such as providing warmth for the back while resting at camp. It is designed to work with powerbanks rated at 5V and 2.1A.

The material is softshell which provides a comfortable sleeping surface and the mat can be washed at 30C. It also comes with a drawstring stuffsack, packing into an 18cm x 9cm diameter pack.

The price doesn’t include a powerbank.

Keela Expedition Socks. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Expedition Socks. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Expedition Socks
112g pair
Material: 28 per cent merino wool, 28 per cent Primaloft Silver Yarn, 29 per cent Isofil polypropylene, 8 per cent nylon, 5 per cent Cordura polyester, 2 per cent Lycra elastane
Sizes: S (3-6), M (6-9), L (9-12)
Country of manufacture: Italy

As temperatures drop, these socks from Keela will help keep your feet warm.

The Expedition Socks blend merino wool with Primaloft insulation to provide a comfortable experience on the trail.

The stretchy socks hug the foot nicely and there’s good underfoot cushioning. The Keela Expedition Socks have different left- and right-foot designs to ensure the best fit, and the heel and toe have Cordura reinforcement for better durability. The Isofil sole helps wick moisture away and there is a ventilated area along the top of the foot.

We found the merino wool content both helped keep feet at the right temperature and kept down odour.

Length is mid, coming part way up the calf, so the socks are suitable for use in winter boots.

We liked the comfort of the soft-feel Expedition Sock and its insulating properties on cold winter days on the hill.

Helinox Seat Warmer. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Helinox Seat Warmer. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Helinox Seat Warmer
Country of manufacture: Vietnam

We’ve used a Helinox Swivel Chair for some time now, and it’s a great little seat for use at camp or even as an extra chair in the home when extra guests arrived, pre-coronavirus lockdown.

The Seat Warmer is a welcome addition for cooler evenings on the campsite. It’s a padded cover that goes over Helinox’s Chair Zero, Chair One, Chair One Home, Tactical Chair, Ground Chair and the Swivel Chair. Once out of its drawcord stuffsack, the Seat Warmer simply slips over the chair and a drawstring can be tightened and locked with a spring toggle to keep the chair cover firmly in place.

The shell is a polyester and cotton mix and the insulation filling is polyester, so won’t collapse if it gets damp.

Sitting out on cool days, the Seat Warmer added to our comfort, blocking draughts and adding a nice degree of warmth to the back and backside.

The Seat Warmer can be machine washed on a cool cycle.

It’s a great addition for anyone who has one of the compatible Helinox Chairs and will be accompanying us on next year’s camping outings for those cool evenings outside the tent.

Tilley Non-Medical Face Covering. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Tilley Non-Medical Face Covering. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Tilley Non-Medical Face covering (x2)
11g each

Tilley Non-Medical Face covering Hemp/Cotton (x2)
12g each

Country of manufacture: China

Although there’s some optimism on the Covid-19 front, it’s evident we’re going to need face coverings for many situations for some time to come.

Tilley’s masks come in two forms, one in cotton and the other in a mixture of hemp and cotton.

Both come in twin packs and are machine washable. The former version has elastic ear loops with soft-touch sliding length adjusters. On the inside of the mask, there’s a pocket for you to slide in a filter if required (this isn’t supplied). The covering has a metal element sewn into the nose area, which allows a good fit to be obtained. The mask felt soft against the face and the loops were comfortable and easy to adjust for length.

The hemp and cotton model is slightly shorter in depth and has non-adjustable tube-type elastic ear loops. The two layers of fabric enable a filter to be inserted between the two. Again, this isn’t supplied.

The latter version felt a little softer than the all-cotton form, but there’s no metal strip at the nose, so the mask didn’t fit quite as snugly in that area. The blend of hemp and organic cotton makes this a more eco-friendly choice.

All the face coverings have a small Tilley label at the cheek area and the brand recommends washing them before first use. A variety of colours is available.

We found them both comfortable in use in the many situations where face coverings are now required.

Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Deluxe. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Deluxe. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Sea To Summit Aeros Down Pillow Deluxe
186g (deluxe version)
Size, inflated: 12cm x 59cm x 38cm (deluxe)
Country of manufacture: China

An inflatable pillow is one of those camping luxuries we like to pack when heading for the hills. Stuffing clothing into a sleeping bag sack is OK but we’ve found there’s no substitute for a proper pillow for helping get a good night’s rest.

The Aeros Down Pillow comes in three sizes: regular, large and deluxe. We tested the last of these. It inflates to an impressive size, with 12cm of depth. Despite this, it packs into a stuffsack only 14 x 8cm and weighs less than 200g.

The top of the pillow has down filling, providing nice warmth and insulation on cold nights under canvas. The down also wraps down the front of the pillow, giving warmth to the neck too. The baffles are arranged horizontally to prevent migration of the filling and also compression when fully inflated.

The down is certified to Responsible Down Standard.

The top of the pillow has a 10 denier translucent fabric, with the rest of the pillow is made from 20 denier fabric.

One problem with inflatable pillows is the fact that moist air is used to blow them up. The Sea To Summit model uses an anti-hydrolysis TPU material to prevent breakdown from your exhaled moist air.

The valve is in two parts. Opening the top part allows the pillow to be inflated and works well, with filling accomplished quickly. We find it’s often more comfortable to deflate a pillow slightly for optimum cushioning, and this can be done by pressing down on the centre of the valve. The valve can then be shut by pressing down the top closure. To deflate the pillow, you open up the bottom section of the valve to allow air to be rapidly expelled.

The bottom surface of the pillow has Sea To Summit’s Pillow Lock system, which works with the brand’s sleep mats to keep the pillow in place.

We really liked the extra warmth and comfort the down top surface provided and the easy inflation and deflation system. The compact Aeros Pillow has found a permanent place in our backpacking rucksack.

Montane Bobble Beanie. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Montane Bobble Beanie. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Montane Bobble Beanie
Colour: blue-green/mustard
Country of manufacture: China

The bobble hat was once synonymous with a rambler of a certain age, but the style is back on trend, and this Bobble Beanie is a modern update on a classic design.

The double-thickness hat uses a blend of mulesing-free merino wool and acrylic. Knitted into the beanie is the brand’s name, along with double contrast bands and a single one on the turn-up. And the whole thing is topped with a bobble in matching colours.

As the temperature dropped, the Montane hat was a welcome addition to the kit, keeping the wind out and the ears protected.

Comfort was good thanks to the stretchy nature of the fabric and the Bobble Beanie felt secure on the head. It’s also a good enough size to allow longer hair to be tucked up into the hat.

Berghaus Carryall Mule 30. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Berghaus Carryall Mule 30. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Berghaus Carryall Mule 30
Colour: blue
Country of manufacture: Vietnam

This new Berghaus duffel bag is ideal for a night or two away. It’s a simple design in tough-feeling ripstop polyester with PFC-free water-resistant treatment, and has a reinforced base.

The Carryall Mule comes in three sizes: 50 litre, 30 litre and 20 litre. We tested the middle size.

A double-puller zip gives access to the good-sized main compartment. There’s also an external side pocket with zip protected by a storm flap. This is useful for items such as travel documents of your book and magazine. It also contains a plastic key loop.

The bag has two sturdy webbing grab handles on the top and there is also a similar grab handle at each end of the bag. The Carryall Mule 30 also has a detachable, adjustable-length shoulder strap with ventilated foam-filled pad for comfort.

We found the 30-litre Berghaus Carryall Mule a good size for short trips and was easy to slot on to luggage racks. The different carrying straps made the bag easy to handle.

Darn Tough Scout Boot Sock. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Darn Tough Scout Boot Sock. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Darn Tough Scout Boot Sock
96g pair (size L)
Sizes: women’s XS-L; men’s XS-XXL
Colour: grey/blue
Fabric: 65 per cent merino wool, 33 per cent nylon, 2 per cent Lycra spandex
Country of manufacture: USA

The Scout Boot Sock is a midweight model, with medium underfoot cushioning. As you’d expect from its name, the sock is mid-length too, with the upper part of the sock reaching part-way up the calf.

There are reinforced cushioning areas at the heel and the toes, with a thickened knitted section between them. The top of the socks has a good elasticated area, which kept them in position without discomfort.

The high merino wool content gives these Darn Tough socks good odour control and also helps keep the feet at the right temperature. We used them mainly in cool to cold conditions and they kept our feet warm and dry, wicking moisture away from the foot.

Comfort was good, with the elastane content enabling a good snug fit and seamless construction avoiding any rubbing points.

The Scout Boot Sock stood up to repeated use during our testing, and they come with Darn Tough’s unconditional lifetime guarantee.

Scarpa Boot Bag. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Scarpa Boot Bag. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Scarpa Boot Bag
Colour: black
Country of manufacture: Vietnam

A bag like this one from Scarpa helps protect your car boot from your muddy boots.

You get back to the vehicle from a good walk in the UK’s notorious wet and muddy countryside and instantly dirty up its boot.

Scarpa’s boot bag is padded to protect your footwear and will accommodate a pair up to size 48 (13) and stop your vehicle or indeed your home from getting plastered in good old British mud and rain.

The bag has a zipped opening with two pullers, making it easy to slip your footwear in. The Scarpa Boot Bag has a sturdy webbing carry handle and there’s also a zipped mesh pocket running down one side – handy for stuffing your wet socks in – and a mesh pocket for a drink bottle on the other side. On the back of the bag there’s a slide-in pocket with transparent cover for an address label.

The bag is also useful if you’re heading farther afield and want to pack your boots in a case without them soiling your clothes and other contents.

The Scarpa Boot Bag has a place in the car boot for all our walking trips. Oh, and it works just fine for boot brands other than Scarpa too.

Saxx Volt Boxer Brief. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Saxx Volt Boxer Brief. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Saxx Volt Boxer Brief
82g (size M)
Fabric: 88 per cent polyester, 12 per cent elastane
Colour: black/patterned
Sizes: XS-XXL
Country of manufacture: China

We spend a lot of time considering our outer layers when out on the hill, but baselayers – the clothing that sits next to your skin – are just as important.

Saxx underwear is designed to support men’s anatomy. The Volt Boxer Brief has the brand’s 3D hammock-shaped BallPark pouch at the front to accommodate the family jewels. Out on the hill, this design ensures free movement, no matter how technical the terrain, and makes for a comfortable experience.

The Volt Boxers are made from a stretchy polyester and elastane mix, in a pin-point ventilated design, which helps keep things cool when the pace quickens. Seams are reversed, with the main stitched element on the outside, for a smoother wear and reduced chafing. The Saxx undies hug the body well without impeding movement.

The Saxx shorts are also odour resistant. Wicking was good too. The brand says it will contribute Plastic Bank in stopping 50 plastic bottles from reaching the ocean for each pair of the Washed Ashore print sold.

We wore the Volt briefs extensively and found them very comfortable and supportive, and they dissipated perspiration well when working hard on uphill sections.

Keela Neck Tube. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Neck Tube. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Neck Tube
Fabric: polyester microfibre
Country of manufacture: not stated

Keela’s neck gaiter can be worn in all sorts of ways as well as providing warmth at the neck.

The Neck Tube can be formed into a cap, head band, a hair scunchie, wrist band and, importantly in current times, a mask.

The latest version of Keela’s Neck Tube has ViralOff treatment, developed by Polygiene. This gives a 99 per cent reduction in viruses over a two-hour period. It uses titanium dioxide and silver chloride as a biocide. Although the company said it is not intended to prevent disease, it is an added protective element during the pandemic. Polygiene said the treatment means viruses won’t live on the fabric for long.

The one-size gaiter has a contour-pattern design and the two-way stretch enables a good snug fit around the neck. We’ve been wearing the Neck Tube on all our outings since the temperature dropped and found it handy for giving a little extra warmth to the face and ears, particularly when the wind picks up.

The Keela gaiter wicked moisture well and it’s light enough to keep in your pack for whenever those cold northerlies batter you. The fabric is thin enough not to hamper breathing when working hard up the hill.

Deuter Pulse 3. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Deuter Pulse 3. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Deuter Pulse 3
Capacity: 1.2 litres
Country of manufacture: Vietnam

Runners and mountain bikers will appreciate the Pulse 3, which has many of the features you’d find in a rucksack, but in a bum bag. The Deuter pack is also useful for walkers on those days when you need to go lightweight and don’t need to carry much gear.

The main compartment is accessed via a zip and can hold items such as a lightweight waterproof or extra clothing layer, plus a couple of bits and bobs. It also contains a pouch and hanger for a small hydration bladder, with drink tube exit on the right. This can then be wrapped around the front to a plastic clip on the left hip fin.

A second external zipped compartment has two mesh pockets with elasticated tops, one of which has a key loop. There’s a second zipped mesh pocket, big enough for a smartphone.

There is a compression strap on each side of the pack, useful for reducing its volume if you haven’t filled it, so things don’t bounce around inside.

The hipbelt has perforated, ventilated foam backing, and the back section has honeycomb foam padding with a mesh covering. Each fin also has a small, zipped, stretch mesh pocket for items such as energy bars.

The fabric is robust feeling 210 denier nylon and the Pulse 3 has reflective markings plus a rear-light anchor. The pack also has a webbing haul loop.

The Deuter Pulse 3 was ideal for those outings when a full rucksack wasn’t needed, either for moving at speed or on days when you don’t expect to need a load of gear.

The back’s foam and ventilation made for a comfortable experience and the bumbag stayed in place well when on the move quickly. We’ve made use of the pack on our bike and on short outings. It will also be ideal for warm summer days when a minimal amount of gear is needed. It’s robust but lightweight and has Deuter’s traditional quality.

MSR Trail Lite Duo. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

MSR Trail Lite Duo. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

MSR Trail Lite Duo
Country of manufacture: Thailand/China

This neat camp cook set comprises a deep 2-litre pot, two plastic bowls and two double-wall insulated mugs.

The bowls and mugs fit into the pan to keep things together on the trail.

The pot is made from hard-anodised aluminium and is a deep design that works well on a lightweight stove. There are inner capacity markings at 500ml intervals and the pot comes with a transparent BPA-free lid with strainer. A small recess in the lid fits under a metal lug on the lip of the pot, and the fold-out insulated handle then springs back across the lid and locks on to the central handle to keep things in place when in transit.

The deep 0.7 litre bowls, one blue one green, are good for holding a substantial meal at camp. The mugs, in the same colours, have lids with drinking apertures so you can keep your coffee or other hot liquid warm.

MSR’s folding utensils (not included) will fit inside the mugs, as will the brand’s Pocket Rocket and Micro Rocket stoves. When all’s done and the kit washed, the mugs fit neatly inside the bowls and the whole set can be stashed in the cooking pot.

We found the set ideal for two people, with a good capacity for a camp meal in the deep pan. The strainer lid worked well for getting rid of excess liquid. The bowls were a good design, with deep sides, and the mugs kept our drinks nice and warm.

Keeping the kit together neatly means everything’s to hand when you get to camp. Quality was good, as you’d expect from MSR.

Salewa Smartphone Insulator. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Salewa Smartphone Insulator. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Salewa Smartphone Insulator
Fabric: 92 per cent polyamide, 8 per cent polyester
Insulation: 60 per cent polyester, 40 per cent wool
Size: 16cm x 8cm
Country of manufacture: China

Your mobile phone’s battery’s performance will suffer as its temperature drops, so this little case from Salewa is a boon on cold days and nights on the mountain.

It will accommodate most smartphones and the mixed polyester and wool filling will help keep your phone working for longer in sub-zero conditions. The Smartphone Insulator also has a Recco reflector sewn into its base, so if you’re heading for areas of Scotland or continental Europe where rescue teams use this system, it could be a lifesaver.

The insulator has a zip opening on two sides and your phone simply slides into it. There’s also a small secondary pocket inside it for items such as cards. The Salewa Smartphone has a plastic clip on a short webbing strap to secure it to a key clip or similar, or for use with a small carabiner.

It is made with recycled content.

A mobile phone is pretty much a vital addition to mountain kit these days, and we’ve been using the Salewa Smartphone Insulator on most of our trips since the weather turned more wintry, keeping our phone warm and ready for use when needed. The padding also gives a little extra protection to your expensive smartphone.

Montane Via Trail Glove. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Montane Via Trail Glove. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Montane Via Trail Glove
48g pair (size L)
Sizes: S-XL
Country of manufacture: Vietnam

The Via Trail Glove is designed with fast movers in mind. A lightweight glove for use in cool conditions, a pair will add less than 50g to your pack but offers good warmth.

The gloves have a water-resistant back section made from Chameleon Lite fabric, which offers waterproofing to 10,000mm hydrostatic head and good breathability to 10,000 MVTR.

The palm is in soft microfleece for warmth, and the thumb and first two fingers have touch-sensitive tips for use with electronic equipment.

There’s a soft flock nose wipe on the thumbs and the cuffs extend to cover the wrist and are angled so they can be tucked into sleeves. The Via logo on the back of the gloves is reflective.

The fingers are constructed in a box-wall design and are pre-curved.

Over the past few weeks, with temperatures dropping, these gloves have become our choice for cool windy days. Wind blocking was good and the water-resistant backs have shed a shower or two. The Via Trail Gloves are nimble enough to allow continued dexterity and can be kept on while tapping on a smartphone (though obviously not for a fingerprint reader).

The Montane gloves will suit runners heading for the hills, but walkers will also appreciate the low weight and good warmth for cool days in the great outdoors.

Therm-a-Rest Stellar Blanket. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Therm-a-Rest Stellar Blanket. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Therm-a-Rest Stellar Blanket
Size: 142cm x 191cm
Packed size: 28 x 36 cm
Country of manufacture: China

For those cool nights at camp, a blanket is a great addition to your kit. The Stellar Blanket is big enough to provide wrap-round comfort when the temperature drops.

It uses Therm-a-Rest’s eraLoft synthetic insulation and has soft-touch polyester lining.

Within moments of snuggling into the blanket we could feel the benefit. We also used the Stellar Blanket for extra warmth, thrown over our sleeping bag on nights when the weather turned cold.

The Stellar Blanket has zigzag quilting to keep the insulation in place and it also has two loops with press-stud fastening so you can attach it to other Therm-a-Rest blankets. A nice feature is the drawstring with spring toggle at the bottom of the blanket so you can wrap it round your feet and keep out any draughts.

The blanket packs into its own storage pouch, which has a zip closure and a webbing hanging loop.

The Stellar Blanket was great at camp but we also used it to keep us warm when sitting out in the garden for a socially distanced drink on cool evenings. The synthetic filling still performs well even if it gets a little damp.

Keela Merino Skull Cap. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Merino Skull Cap. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Keela Merino Skull Cap
Fabric: 80 per cent merino wool, 20 per cent polyester
Country of manufacture: not stated

This simple cap will keep out the cold when the wind whips up and the temperature drops.

The one-size hat in a stretchy merino-polyester blend is just warm enough for those cool days on the hill, and weighs little more than a standard bag of crisps.

The skull cap felt secure on the head and covers the ears to provide comfort on winter days. The merino, as well as delivering warmth, helps keep down odours.

The small bulk of the Keela cap meant we could slip it into a jacket pocket with ease so it was ready to put on when we’d gained a little altitude and the head was starting to cool.

It’s a nice, simple piece of kit that added to our comfort on winter days in the outdoors.

The Cocoon Travel Hammock. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Cocoon Travel Hammock. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Cocoon Travel Hammock
Size: 285cm x 150 cm
Packed size: 20cm x 7cm
Country of manufacture: China

A misty November afternoon is probably not the ideal time to try a hammock, but we found our little rest in the Cocoon version very pleasant.

The gentle cradling of the Travel Hammock in our local wood was a very relaxing experience and surprisingly comfortable.

The Cocoon single Travel Hammock comes with a 12KN aluminium carabiner at each end, so you need a means of suspending these from your chosen trees. You can purchase, separately, the brand’s Hammock Straps, but we improvised with a pair of tent compression straps, which worked fine.

Suspending the hammock from a couple of sturdy trees about 4m apart was simple enough, then it was just a case of climbing on to the hammock and swinging gently in the cool late autumn air.

The 70 denier ripstop nylon will support a person up to 180kg (28 stones) and the hammock felt very comfortable and secure.

The Travel Hammock packs into a 20cm stuffsack and would be an ideal addition for backpacking in countryside including woodland and forest. We can quite imagine a pleasant snooze on a lakeside as summer sunshine lulls us into slumber. As it was, given the time of testing, we had to make do with a misty recline on a hillside wood.

So we’re quite looking forward to putting the Cocoon Travel Hammock to good use when the weather’s a bit more conducive to a snooze under the stars.

Nalgene Sustain Bottle 1 litre. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Nalgene Sustain Bottle 1 litre. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Nalgene Sustain Bottle 1 litre
Country of manufacture: USA

The sturdy Nalgene bottle has a wide neck making it easy to fill at campsite taps or even from a hillside stream.

The Sustain range has improved green credentials, and is constructed from a resin that uses 50 per cent recycled content. The bottle is BPA- and BPS-free and its durability also adds to its sustainability.

The leakproof cap is tethered to the neck by a plastic strip. The bottle stands 21cm tall and has a diameter of 8.9cm. Its opening is compatible with many filtration systems, so can be used on the trail.

We’ve found the Nalgene Wide Mouth Sustain Bottle really useful on camp with its one-litre capacity and ease of use. If you want to keep your drinks cool, the wide opening also makes it possible to put ice cubes in.

Quality was good and the Nalgene bottle will stand up to prolonged use.

Snugpak Dri-Sak 4L. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Snugpak Dri-Sak 4L. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Snugpak Dri-Sak 4L
Colour: black
Country of manufacture: Taiwan

Very few rucksacks are waterproof and after a day in typical torrential UK weather, you’ll most likely find your pack’s contents are pretty damp.

So it’s important you keep your vital items dry. The Snugpak Dri-Sak is a sturdy roll-top bag made from 70 denier nylon with TPU film backing.

We tested the smallest pack in the range, with a capacity of 4 litres – big enough for a lightweight down sleeping bag, a compressible down jacket or your important odds and ends.

The Dri-Sak has a strong webbing closure. You put your contents inside the bag, expel any excess air and fold the top over three times. There is a robust buckle closure with two plastic d-rings, so the sack can be hung from a pack or suspended in your tent.

We always have a variety of dry sacks in our pack, and the Snugpak version feels very durable. We always carry an insulated jacket at this time of year and this size is ideal for our down coat. It can also be used to put wet gear in so it doesn’t contaminate dry contents of your rucksack. The brand says it will also keep out sand, dust and snow.

If needed, you can empty its contents, inflate it and fasten it, and use it as an emergency pillow. It can even be used as an emergency water carrier.

The Dri-Sak is available in three colours and five sizes, from 4 litres to 35 litres.

Altberg Hiking Bootcare Kit. Photo: Bob Smith/grough
Altberg Hiking Bootcare Kit. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Altberg Hiking Bootcare Kit
Country of manufacture: not stated

This care kit from boot brand Altberg will help keep your expensive leather boots in good condition.

It consists of two tins of Leder-Gris water-repellent wax-oil. The larger, 80g tin is original clear version and the smaller one, half the size, is in military brown.

There are two brushes, and the whole thing comes in a cotton drawstring bag.

The smaller brush is used to work the wax-oil into stitched seams on boots, and the larger brush for all over use on boots. Altberg says boots should be almost dry when you start treatment.

The Leder-Gris should then be buffed up with the larger brush to complete the treatment. Altberg said Leder-Gris has been developed to be used on modern leathers which are tanned in different ways from traditional leather. The wax in the compound provides waterproofing while the oil penetrates deeper and helps minimise cracking of the leather.

It can be used on all good quality leathers and nubucks.

We found it useful having brushes the right size for the different areas of boot and of the correct stiffness to treat the leather properly. And the drawstring bag kept everything together so we knew where we could find them.

Many people will spend a lot of cash on their boots, so a little extra spent on Altberg’s Leder-Gris Bootcare Kit is a sound investment.

Páramo Expedition Towel Large. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Páramo Expedition Towel Large. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Páramo Expedition Towel Large
242g including sack
Country of manufacture: Colombia

The Páramo towel is made from the brand’s Parameta fabric, which removes moisture quickly from the body and dries rapidly

We tested the large size, which measures 140cm x 80cm, big enough to use after your campsite shower. It packs into a mesh sack 13cm x 7cm diameter, so fitted neatly into our rucksack. The sack has a drawstring closure with spring toggle.

The Páramo towel worked well, drying the body quickly and wicking the wetness away efficiently. It was a good size and much less bulky than a conventional terry towel. Weight was good too, tipping the scales at less than 250g

We used the travel towel on camping trips, but it’s also a handy addition to nights away or overseas beach trips where it can double up as a mat to lie on while soaking up the sun.

Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Arches Print Mid Crew. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Arches Print Mid Crew. Photo: Bob Smth/grough

Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Arches Print Mid Crew
65g a pair
Fabric: 60 per cent merino wool, 37 per cent nylon, 2 per cent elastane, 1 per cent polyester
Women’s version: yes
Sizes: S-XL
Country of manufacture: USA

We wore these Smartwool socks extensively this year, particularly during warmer months when we were out testing trail shoes almost every day.

The USA brand uses Indestructawool technology to help durability and comfort to the heel and toe areas. The 4 Degree system uses a crossed elasticated area across the instep to prevent the sock moving out of place. Seams are kept away from areas where they are likely to cause rubbing or chafing.

The PHD socks also have a flexing area at the ankle joint. The version tested has light cushioning, which worked well in trail shoes.

The high wool content helped regulate foot temperature well and combat odour, which was very useful with repeated use.

The PHD Outdoor Light Arches Print Mid Crew provided a very comfortable walking experience and also proved durable over a good period.

Happy shopping, and happy Christmas!

  • All the samples for this feature were supplied by the brands.

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